Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Paso Robles

Note: I will mention Rhone varietals so here is the short list Reds: Syrah (Shiraz in Australia), Petite Sirah, Grenache (Garnacha in Spain), and Mourvedre. The whites are: Marsanne, Rousanne, and Viognier. The long list is somewhere in the high twenties.

What put Paso Robles on the wine map was a group of winemakers who called themselves the Rhone Rangers. They found that Paso was well suited to grow Rhone varietals into amazing wines. Paso also has good Cabs, Merlots, and Zinfandels at lower prices than Napa and Sonoma.

The wineries also make a large amount of Late Harvest Zinfandels. I have never been a big fan of LHZs, mostly because the wineries usually like to call them Ports and they usually aren't either the style of California Ports (e.g. Charbay or Ficklin) or true Portuguese Ports. They are also often too sweet for me, but to each their own.

Paso Robles is further broken down to East and West where the East side has a warmer climate and more of the fruit forwardness that you would expect from warm climates while the West side is slightly cooler and exhibits more of the sweet tobacco flavors.

A couple of my favorites are L'Aventure for Syrah, Cass for Rhones especially Viognier, and Grey Wolf for Zins. Justin is known for high quality Cabs, but was out of my price range in college and it's at the end of a long road that always seemed too far out of the way.

Another great winery is Falcon's Nest Winery. A few years ago, I stopped there on a whim driving around wine country and somewhat lost in the beautiful vineyard covered rolling hills. I saw this small sandwich board sign for their winery. So I pulled into their gravel lot to try some wine and get directions.

What I found was an amazing mom and pop winery run by an Italian gentleman and his Hawaiian wife. He was kind of like what you would expect an Italian grandfather to be - very friendly, jovial, and knowledgeable. She was a little shy, but very warm and you could see the love they had for each other.

In their tasting room they had a small restaurant in which they served home-style Italian food that was delicious. I think the chicken cacciatore rivaled Bueno Tavola, which is an excellent restaurant in both SLO and Paso.

The wine was an old world style with minimal processing other than being filtered prior to bottling. They still used egg whites to soften the tannins; you don't get much more old world than that. (For those that don't know this used to be a very common practice. The proteins in the egg whites bind to the tannins and precipitate out. When the wine is racked the crud at the bottom is washed out.) It was clearly one of those tasting experiences that sticks with you.

This is part 2 of a series.  Part 1 is An Introduction to San Luis Obispo County
Part 3 is San Luis Obispo / Edna Valley / Arroyo Grande

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