Four Days in Paso Robles - Day One

Once again, it was time to take my wine club on a trip to wine country.  And, once again, we ventured up to the Central Coast of California, to Paso Robles. We chose to go a little earlier in the season, so we could spend some time with the winemakers, before harvest really got into full swing. Well, so much for plans, as most of California was experiencing and early harvest…about two to three weeks earlier than normal.

Tasting room at Barr Estate
As the “advanced party” for our group of 24 people, we headed out early on a Friday morning. Once we got through the Los Angeles traffic, it was easy cruising up interstate 5 to the 46 and into Paso Robles. Since we arrived before noon, we decided to check out a couple wineries before lunch. Our first stop was Barr Estate Winery.

I first tried Barr Estate wines at one of the family winemaker events in Del Mar, when I saw that they had hired Signe Zoller as their winemaker. I have known Signe for years, and have always enjoyed her wines. I first visited Barr Estates a little over a year ago, as we were creating educational videos about wine making and growing for a new wine education course (to be announced in the future). This time, I actually made it into their tasting room, and was greeted by Tealy Barr (the owner), serving behind the counter.  Her husband (an co-owner) Greg, also came in to greet us during the tasting. 

Barr Estate
Barr Estates grows their own grapes, and are farmers first, and winemakers second. Great wines are grown. They have 46 acres of vines, and produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Sirah, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Albarino. They also make a wonderful dessert wine with traditional Port grapes. I purchased three different wines at Barr Estate: Albarino, Grand Finale (the Port style wine made from Touriga and Souzao) and the 2007 Petite Verdot.  As I soon discovered, this weekend would lead me to a few other Petite Verdot bottlings, and my new belief that this might be the new “hip” wine for Paso Robles. The Barr Estate Petite Verdot is a smooth, dark ruby wine, with aromas of red flowers, raspberry, cherry and blackberry. At only $29, this is a no brainer purchase.

Just around the corner from Barr Estate was the Bianchi Winery, with its’ serene lake for remote control yacht racing. This is an impressive tasting room, with a mix of wine related merchandise in the main building. The large patio out front would be great for enjoying a glass of wine, or even putting on a wedding, if it weren’t so hot the day we were there. The tasting room actually had more white wines than red for customers to try. They only had one estate wine, the 2011 Syrah, which I did purchase.

After tasting a few wines, we grabbed a quick bite of lunch at Good ol’ Burger, next door to the Best Western Black Oaks (our “home base” for the next three nights).

Janelle Dusi
Our next stop was at J. Dusi winery off of Hwy 46 west. I had met Janell Dusi at the Family Winemaker event in Pasadena, earlier this year, and her Zinfandel was my pick of the tasting. The J.Dusi tasting room is fairly new, but the Dusi name is synonymous with Paso Robles Zinfindel. Janell is the grand-daughter of famed Paso Robles grape grower, Dante Dusi. Janell was in the backroom when we arrived, having been up since early that morning, harvesting grapes. She came out and shared some thoughts on the 2014 harvest, and went right back to work. I picked up both the 2011 and 2012 Zinfandel, and at Janell’s recommendation, I picked up the 2012 Carignane (this wasn’t available for tasting).

Derby Wine Estate
Our last stop before heading out to dinner was at Derby Wine Estates. While you can see their tasting room from the 101 freeway, finding the actual streets to get there was a little more challenging. This was another of the wineries we had met at the Family Winemaker event. At that time, I was very interested in their Pinot Noirs, that were grown out by the cooler coastal region. But this day, each of the Pinot Noirs we tried, seemed oxidized. Once poured, they had a noticeable brown tinge to the appearance.  The surprise find was their Rosé of Mourvedre, and at only $18 per bottle, was a nice purchase.

Our first gathering as a group was for dinner at the Grape Encounters Wine Em-POUR-ium in Atascadero. Many of you are aware that I am a frequent guest on the Grape Encounters radio program, and the host, David Wilson, has been a long-time friend. He offered to host a dinner for our group at his new shop, and radio station. The Grape Encounters Em-POUR-ium, offers all types of wine accessories,gadgets. and gift
items especially for wine lovers. From the very best in wine barrel furnishings to a huge assortment of gift items, cork cages, wine preservation systems, decanters, corkscrews of every kind, photography, artisan food and craft products and so much more.  David and his wife, Annie, are in the process of getting their liquor license, and will soon be offering wine tasting at their shop. Our dinner was catered by “Zest-it-up”, and started off with a beautiful spread of charcuterie and live music. We were able to source some wine from Burbank Ranch Winery to pair with all the courses. Our salad course was made with a lemon vinaigrette that was available in the Grape Encounter shop (and sold out quickly when our group bought everything on the shelf). The dinner continued with spicy shrimp and a mustard and panko encrusted salmon topped with aioli. We paired this with the Burbank Ranch Tempranillo. What? Tempranillo with salmon? Yep…it work due to the mustard and aioli. Nice pairing.

In studio with David Wilson of Grape Encounters Radio
The evening carried on, and the group slowly headed back up the road to Paso Robles and our waiting hotel room beds. Another full day of wine tasting and food awaited. Check in for next weeks’ blog for day two of a four day weekend in Paso Robles. And check out the wineries, shops and restaurants mentioned here.

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