Research Trip to Central Coast CA- Day 5: Three Wineries and a Creamery

8 Sep

After having to walk across the street to another hotel to take a shower because there was no water at our hotel, we stopped at three wineries and a creamery in San Luis Obispo, on our way north to Paso Robles. Two of the wineries were spontaneous ones, whose wines are new to us and the other is Stephen Ross, whom we’ve known for several years (before Pairings) and have four of his wines already at Pairings.


Claiborne and Churchillcaught my eye because of their Alsatian varietals and the fact that they used 18-inch wide bales of hay to insulate their tasting room (see pic) and, as a result, don’t have to cool or heat at any time.

Brook at Claiborne & Churchill

This wouldn’t be the result in New England, but it’s a green solution to insulation. Brook very ably presented the wines…a wonderful bone dry Riesling, with floral aromas and a luscious palate with notes of honey. There’s a slightly sweet sensation from the fruit. We’d love to have this wine in the store. C&C is small, wants to be that way, and have fun. For example, their “Clueless Red” has a crossword puzzle label and no listing of varietals…one can guess, and the first one to get it right gets a magnum. Later on, the varietals become public. Their Orange Muscat is an excellent dessert wine, another that would do well in the store. We asked Brook for recommendations, and headed over to:

Chamisal, which used to be Domaine Alfred (the last time we were in the area). Their motto, on a T-shirt is “My Pinot is bigger than your Pinot”. Their Pinot Noirs truly are special. While being very big, they’re complex and layered, with blueberry preserves (in one of them), elegance, and a velvety texture. Lori doesn’t usually like big Pinot’s, but loved these….this really says something (but don’t ask me what). Their Chardonnays had a similar quality. They were bought out by a big company…and became Chamisal.


Stephen Ross Since the last time we visited Stephen Ross a few years ago in a co-op, he has moved and now has his own winery. Stephen wasn’t there when we arrived, but his wife Paula opened some wines for us (she’s more of a people person than Stephen, who’s more of a scientist in his demeanor). The Bien Nacido Pinot Noir was the highlight, as we couldn’t get that in the store through our distributor. We’ll ask about getting the Petit Syrah when we get back.

Rinconada Dairy.  We had heard about this dairy at the store C’Est Cheese when we asked if there were any dairies that were worth visiting. We called and were told that this wasn’t a good day because the owner Christine was giving a tour to 40 students from Cal Polytech but, on second thought, perhaps we would like to join in?…so we did….what fun.  The dairy is very small making goat (see pic) and sheep milk cheeses. We saw where the goats are fed and milked, the cheese making room and the storage room, learning a lot about issues a small dairy has to deal with to try and make it work finanacially. We got to taste a special cheese that Christine made for Chris Kobiyashi, the chef of Artisan. He asked her for a 100% raw goats-milk cheese and, since she didn’t make one, she decided to make one she would like and named it “Kobi”– a washed rind round.  It is wonderfully stinky, like dirty socks but oh so delicious…see pic of Christine holding it.  She also makes a raw sheep milk cheese called Pozo Tomme, Chaparral, a raw sheep and Nubian goats milk cheese, and La Panza Gold, a sheep’s milk cheese that is washed with sheep milk whey, developing a golden color.


Dinner was fabulous at Villa Creek, which we’d gone to the last time we were here…Butternut Squash Enchiladas, Morrocan Lamb Shanks, paired with a special wine: one barrel with Tablas Creek contributing the Mouvedre and L’Aventure the Syrah. 2004 and it still needed decanting to become smooth and luscious. (Also had a special chili sauce and a tuna ceviche app…a fine meal).


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