Paso Robles, located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles in California’s famed Central Coast, offers panoramic views of rolling hills kissed by sunshine and more than 32,000 acres of vineyards. The scenery and the wine is breathtaking. We were fortunate to participate in a pre-conference excursion to Paso Robles during the recent Wine Bloggers Conference held in Santa Barbara County.
After a bleary eyed ride to the Detroit airport at 4:30 AM, I jetted across the continent to San Jose and hooked up with about 40 fellow bloggers for our bus excursion, coordinated by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. Although I have tasted many Paso wines, this was my first visit to the area. I was anxious to arrive at our first stop: Niner Wine Estates.
At Niner (which produces their fantastic Bootjack Vineyard Cabernet), we had a presentation on the wine and terroir of the Paso Robles. The “rock star” panel included Neils Uden of Castoro Cellars, Patrick Muran of Niner Wine Estates, Augie Hug of Hug Cellars, Stephanie Terrizzi of Giornata, Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery and Jason Diefenderfer of Hope Family Wines.
Paso Robles is unique in that Rhone, Bordeaux, Spanish and Italian grape varieties flourish here. Zinfandel is a “heritage” grape, first being planted in the 1880s. As Jason said, it is the sun, sea and soil that make Paso Robles so special. It is California’s largest and most diverse AVA.
A particular treat was hearing Gary Eberle speak. A true Paso pioneer, he started in the area when there were just three wineries and helped create the AVA in 1983. Not only does he turn out fine wine, like his Eberle 2011 Estate Cabernet, but he played football for Joe Paterno too.
Joining the Eberle Cab as favorites from this stop were the 2013 Balena White Blend, Whale Rock Estate and the Hug Cellars 2011 El Magnifico Zinfandel. The Balena is a blend of Pinot Grigio, Grenache Blanc and Falanghia with a floral touch that shows the versatility of Paso winemaking. The El Magnifico is a small lot masterpiece with tart raspberry and white pepper accents.
Our next “snapshot” of Paso Robles was focused on Rhone varieties and was hosted by Tablas Creek Vineyard. Tablas Creek has one foot in Paso Robles and the other in France. A friendship between Tablas founder Robert Haas and the Perrin Family of Chateau de Beaucastel resulted in a partnership and the importing of Rhone vines. The winery is at the forefront of the Rhone Ranger movement that is popularizing these grapes in the US.
After a tour of the grounds and an orientation by general manager Jeff Haas, we enjoyed a tasting of wines from Calcareous Vineyard, Caliza Winery, Ecluse Wines and Tablas Creek. White blends featured primarily Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne. On the red side, blends highlighted Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. What a flavorful symphony of grapes!
Favorites here included the Calcareous Vineyard 2011 Tres Violet, a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah, and the Ecluse 2010 Lock Vineyard Syrah, a smoky, rich gem.
As you’ll note, this is part one of our report on Paso Robles. There is so much to cover in this magical wine region, it can’t all fit in one article. Our next installment will begin with our next stop, a true “mountain top” experience with the Paso Robles Cab Collective.