Spent a great couple of days in Paso Robles last week. It’s mostly known for Cabs and Rhone varietals (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier, etc), but really you can find a lot of diverse grapes being grown and in all different styles. The region gets overhsadowed by Napa and Sonoma, but it’s the next largest wine-producing area in California after those other two and actually the fastest growing AVA: in the past ten years alone it’s gone from having 35 to over 180 wineries. Plus it’s way more chill and 3 1/2 hours from both LA and San Francisco, so anyone can go. (FYI, it’s pronounced “pahso robulls” not “roblace.” I used to be a pronunciation offender – not as bad as my Cockburn’s experience, but thought I’d share.)
Anyway, got to meet a ton of great winemakers and drank a ton of their wine. Here were some of my favorites.
tablas creek mourvèdre 2010
This is one of the lightest Mourvèdre’s I’ve ever had. It’s usually part of a blend with Syrah and Grenache, but sometimes it goes solo to great results. Think ensemble Bradley Cooper in The Hangover and then complex Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. When I’ve had it solo it’s usually a heavy, inky one from Jumilla, Spain where it’s called Monastrell, but this one was really light and had great cherry and mineral notes. $40 here.
clayhouse estate cuvée blanc 2011
Loving Grenache Blanc lately. This one’s a rich blend of Grenache Blanc and some Viognier with gorgeous white florals. Definitely going on a Grenache Blanc kick for spring, and this one’s only $23 here so get on it.
eberle cabernet 1980
Gary Eberle has been in Paso since the early 70’s. He opened a 2009 Cab (which you can get here for $34) and was nice enough to bring a 1980 as well which was fantastic. He’s also a huge fan of opera, and my only regret is that we didn’t get to bust out a killer “Che Gelida Manina” together.
lazarre albariño 2011
Things Adam LaZarre has done: played in a band, been in the navy, made wine for Nigel Lythgoe, planned to run with the bulls in Pamplona this summer. Things I’ve done: drank his wine. The Albariño’s crisp and has less salinity than Rias Baixas ones but it’s cool to get good Albariño outside of Spain. The grapes are actually from cooler Edna Valley which is about 30 minutes from Paso, but I drank it in Paso so it counts. $22 here.
steinbeck the crash 2008
Love these people. Sweetest little barn house at their vineyard filled with antiques from over the decades that they’ve owned the vineyard, including some metal airplane scraps from when a B-26 crashed on their lawn in 1956. You can read the whole story here (my dad will especially love it) and then get the wine for $43 here.
jack creek “stained” pinot noir 2010
Lots of people are using these concrete eggs to age their wines lately. They give the wine texture, preserve aroma, and don’t give any oaky flavors. Doug and Sabrina Kruse use one for their Jack Creek “Stained” Pinot, so-called because of the burgundy streaks that now run down their egg from all the sampling, and it has lovely bing and black cherry flavors. Doug and Sabrina are a ridiculously good-looking couple who also happen to be super nice. As far as the winemaking, Sabrina says, “He makes it, I drink it.” I need one of these. $40 here (not a good-looking winemaker, just the wine).
starr ranch reserve syrah 2009
I love that their description is: “Dense, dark, mysterious and brooding, this wine conjures up visions of Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff wandering the Yorkshire moors” – damn if I don’t love me some Wuthering Heights! No wonder I liked it and all its blackberry, blueberry, soft cinnamon yumness. Sadly, I just went on the site and it’s sold out. If you can find it anywhere it’s $32.
brouhaha white 2010
This is a joint project by Denner Vineyards’ Anthony Yount and Ranchero Cellars’ Amy Butler (two people told me they think she’s one of the best winemakers in Paso). This wine is all tart green apples, really zippy and fun. You can get it here for only $12 or by the glass at Union Square Cafe if you’re in NYC. (PS Amy brought it out at the end of dinner and I forgot to take a pic so I just swiped this one from Facebook. A little ghetto of me but you do what you gotta do.)
mooney GSM 2009
Mike Mooney gave us a pruning show in his Chateau Margene vineyard on a stunning morning. Then we had some of this juicy, ripe, smooth GSM blend (that’s Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre for those not yet obsessed with Rhone blends and its consequent lingo) from his Rhone-centric Mooney label. $56, wine club only.
kukkula noir 2011
Full bodied, black plum Syrah with a little Counoise (another Rhone varietal that’s much lighter and acidic than Syrah). I also love that winemaker Kevin Jussila leads a double life as a financial advisor. So if you spend too much money on wine, maybe he can help you out. $45 here.
I also really liked Terry Hoage’s wine but you know I’ll cover that in Football Week. And I had a few more really good ones at the abalone farm that I’ll tell you about tomorrow!