Research Trip to Central Coast CA – Day 6: First Day at Paso Robles

9 Sep

We’re happy to be in Paso Robles….not sure what it is, but the wine scene still feels alive and friendly, just as it did a few years ago during our previous visit.

Even though we slept in and went for a 45 min walk (Ray)/jog (Lori), we were still able to visit several wineries and get back to the room early. Wineries included:

Halter Ranch

Tablas Creek

Justin

Caliza

L’Adventure

Windward and

Anglim

We started off at Halter Ranch, which we remember liking during our last visit…and nothing has changed. Not only are the wines excellent, but the value to price ratio is high…something that always go into our thinking when

Lori and Ray at Halter Ranch

bringing in new wines. The tasting room is lovely, situated in a nice “house”. A dessert wine (Vin de Paille) of Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier was so good we bought a bottle to bring back. It’s made by drying the grapes on straw mats, similar to Amarone and dessert wines from Italy.

 

Tablas Creekis famous for its connection to Beaucastel in the Rhone Valley, France, producing excellent Rhone varietals (we have their 100% Mourvedre in the store).

Tablas Creek

Although the wines are excellent, because of their fame some of them are a little costly. However, Tablas Creek now produces a couple “Patelin” wines in which they blend in some grapes from local vineyards (planted and maintained the same way Tablas Creek would, but owned by someone else) that have a lower price point. “Charlie” also poured us an excellent Cotes de Tablas from their Library. You can count on quality wines from them.

 

Justinhad been sold, but the wine is still good. The employee we talked to is happy with the new management…”good things happening”. We agree that the wines are still excellent, having brought in their cab and their premium

Justin

Isosceles recently. We’ve been trying to get some of their Cabernet Sauvignon dessert wine, Justin Obtuse, but haven’t been able to get it in MA…will try again when we get back. After tasting it, I think we can “justify” bringing in another red, their Justification, a blend of Cab Franc and Merlot. We bought a hard Buffala cheese called Gran Bu di Buffala, just to try….and it is magnificent. We’d never seen anything but Buffalo Mozzarella before. We’re going to try and track this down for the store.

 

Caliza was on our list, which Ray generated doing research before the trip. Their wines all have alcohol levels between 15 and 16%, and tasted that way. Although these wines have gotten scores in the 90’s from Wine Spectator, we found the alcohol overwhelming. We didn’t care for any of them. We were wondering if it was us; that our palates had gotten tired…but that wasn’t true, as we experienced excellent wine at the next wineries.

 

L’Aventure has a French history, with their motto “Where Bordeaux meets the Rhone”. Several of you had mentioned this winery, and half of the wonderful wine we had last night at dinner was from them, so we just had to come. Their Rose is perhaps the best of the trip so far…classic Provence style, with a “bouquet of spring red flowers”. Their wines are not inexpensive, but we’ll look into getting their Estate Cuvee for our premium wine section. It’s a unique fruity, earthy, barnyard, complex blend of Syrah, Cab Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

 

At Windward

Windward Vineyard was another on the list based on research and was fantastic. As I got out of the car it seemed a little cooler and windier….which it was…they’re in the Templeton Gap, where cool air flows in from the ocean, with fog in the morning and refreshing winds regularly. They only make Pinot Noir, and all four we tasted were excellent. We bought 2 bottles of our favorite, since it is so good, and not available in Mass. They are very small and want to stay that way. Two hospital administrators retired to open this winery 20 years ago, and run it the way they want. Good for them! They had some interesting metal sculptures that reminded us of our “pairing” of resident artists.

 

We made a dinner reservation, stopped back at the motel, and walked to Anglim, one of our favorites in our last visit….and it still is. It’s a small winery with distribution only in states where their family members live…too bad none of them live in Mass. The winemaker/owner poured for us….nice whites and reds. The Mourvedre was so good we bought a bottle to bring back….spicy white pepper framed by earthy dark berries….yum. On a general note, the weather has been cooler than usual this summer in the Central Coast, which is affecting the grapes. For instance, Anglim probably won’t get any Mourvedre this year because of the coolness. He opened the first bottle of the new vintage (2007) Cab Sauvignon, which was smooth and delicious. The port-style wine (with Portuguese varietals) is better than most ports I’ve had, and would be less expensive than any vintage port.

 

Dinner at Thomas Hill Organics was fantastic. Braised duck tacos, a salad made of Black Quinoa, shaved celery root, Enoki mushroom, pea shoot, avocado, Meyer lemon and Castelvetrano olives (which we have in the store), a thin crust arugula pizza with shaved squash, roasted bell peppers, roasted garlic cloves, Burrata cheese and prosciutto, and a Thai dish with steamed green shell mussels braised pork shoulder, lemongrass, basil, mink, cilantro, and jasmine rice. All were both delicious, had umami and were healthy (which justified Ray’s ice cream later that night). We paired glasses of wines…fun and delicious. We liked it so much we’re going back there for dinner on Saturday especially appealing since the menu changes every day as it is based exclusively on local and organic produce.  If this were close to home, this would definitely be a regular restaurant for us.

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