Day 3 in Paso Robles

11 Sep

Paso Robles is known for jammy fruity (bombs) with big alcohol, which can get tiresome. Even some of the servers and pourers have expressed this, and lamented the lack of choices from Europe. They all have their place, but we prefer more balanced wines. High alcohol levels don’t necessarily imply imbalance…the top wineries we visited have integrated, complex, balanced wines despite the high alcohol. (Note: high alcohol results from the hot weather in this area, and is indemic to the wines…otherwise the grapes aren’t fully ripe and the wine can be “green”).


Turleyis a good example of a winery that makes balanced wines where the

Turley Tasting Room

high alcohol doesn’t burn your tongue. They are a big name in Zinfandels and we’d never had their wines. We thought that at least for the experience we ought to go there…and are glad we did. This visit was another good example of why visiting a place is so much better than just trying their wines. First of all, the line-up of 5 zinfandels (of more than 20 they make) was excellent, each one different and somehow better than the last. Their Zins are from all over California, over seven different appellations, and including areas in Napa as well as Paso. Their “Juvenile” Zin is from vines about 25 years old (which some wineries call old), and their “old vines” are up to 120 years old (giving more complex and deep flavors). Their flagship Paso Zin is lush and complex, and is from a vineyard originally owned by the Nerelli family (see Zin Alley below). The rosemary crackers that were out are an excellent pairing with Ain (you will get to try this at Pairings because we have the same crackers…La Panzanella).

The high quality and care is evident in everything we saw, heard, and tasted. They do organic farming and Jeannie, who hosted us, pointed out that very few wines are truly 100% organic, as sulfites are usually added as a preservative. We love their logo, in which the sun and the moon are the husband and wife, the four stars are the children, and the outside the earth, wind, rain and fire.


Zin Alley is a winery we “discovered” in our last visit, and just had to go back. Everyone who visits has to be a hippie. Frank Nerelli is the proprietor (and entire winery)…whose family used to own the winery that Turley now owns. Frank is a character…he does things his way and wants to remain unknown. He’s not on any of the winery maps, and he was mad that Wine Spectator had somehow gotten ahold of his wine and rated it. He sells out of wine every year, and doesn’t want notoriety. His Zins are powerful, intense, well-balanced, and unique, every year is different. His dessert wines are fabulous. We bought his Nerelli After Hours, the only noble rot wine we’ve come across out here….a blend of Pinot Blanc 80% and Gewurztraminer, a delicious concoction of white peach, honey and guava.



Venteux is another winery we visited last time…when their tasting room wasn’t fully ready. They’re a young winery, but do a fabulous job. They dry farm, which makes the roots go deeper to survive and produces less (but more complex) fruit. They make a wide range of wines, including a Carignan that they opened for us…the only one we’ve seen in this area….unique. They are small at 2,000 cases, and not available in Mass…but do visit them if you’re in the area.

Red Soles was recommended to us and, liking their name, visited and tasted their wines. The owners are farmers who sell grapes, but decided to keep a small portion of the grapes and start making wine. They started out crushing grapes by foot, and kept prints from the first time, leading to their name Red Soles….so all their wines have a foot associated name…Loose Laces, Kick-off, Ruby slippers, bootlegger, etc. The wines are very nice but, once again, not in Mass. They use cut-corks as holders, and idea we hadn’t seen, and will make some ourselves.

Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines is another favorite winery from our last trip. We’ve recommended them to distributors before, but nothing’s happened. The wines are generally lovely and restrained (not the norm for this area).

We stopped in at Terry Hoag, but didn’t stay, as they are the only winery we’ve visited since being in the business (out of several hundred) that wanted us to pay to taste. Perhaps a few high wine scores from Spectator have gone to their head.

We got back early to get exercise and Lori went for a long run from the bike shop and Ray biked…Lori doesn’t love biking and Ray’s body doesn’t like jogging anymore, although his mind would love to again. See picture of a golden field (one of many in the area) from the bike ride.


For the second time in two days we had a fantastic meal at Thomas Hill Organics, which we discovered is a favorite of many of the locals we talked to. The menu is “based exclusively on local and organic produce”, and changes daily. Braised pork shoulder tacos, Roasted Eggplant, fennel and nectarine salad (see picture…an unusual and delicious combination that went well with a big fruity rose that did not go as well with the previous course….fun how the pairing can change everything), thin crust Dungeness crab pizza with curried crème fraiche, fire roasted corn salsa and pea sprouts, hazelnut semolina cake with orange water and honey yogurt sauce and a delicious berry cobbler. Our server Robin was a big plus, talking about wines and food pairings and bringing us two extra “blind” tastes. We wish this restaurant were in Winchester!

On to Carmel/Monterey tomorrow.


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