Taking it all in – The Wine That Is – In Paso Robles
Described as a “boutique” winery, with an emphasis on two of my favorites: Rhone blends and Zinfandel. We found that they are one of the few wineries not pulling out their Zinfandel vines, are “the poster child for lower alcohol wines”, and “they let the varietal speak for themselves and don’t add yeast.” There wasn’t a wine we tasted that we didn’t like, include the 2018 Own-Rooted Chenin Blanc, 2015 Controlled Chaos red blend, 2015 Syrah, 2016 Zinfandel, 2015 Resident Alien blend of Tannat and Petite Sirah. The wines are mostly sold at the winery and have been for the past 10 years. We chatted with GM Tony Quealy and owner/winemaker Sherman “likes to drink beer and make wine on the side” Thacher while tasting most of their “blends with meaningful oxymoron names.”
Tablas Creek Vineyard
Sampled lots of Rhônes from Tablas Creek at wine events over the years. During our visit I learned, “Founded by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands in the limestone hills of Paso Robles’ Adelaida District, it produces estate grown Châteauneuf du Pape-style blends and Rhone varietal wines from its certified organic and Biodynamic vineyards.” This family-owned winery truly began with cuttings from Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape. Enjoyed their 2018 Picpoul Blanc, 2017 Roussanne, 2017 Mourvedre, 2018 Patelin De Tablas Rose of Grenache Noir, 2017 Mourvedre and 2018 Picpoul Blanc among others – even a Pinot Noir.
Derby Wine Estates
Brand Ambassador Danny Hill was working the day we came in and he not only offered us some outstanding tastes – they have twenty single varietals to work with so don’t miss the Pinot Noir, Project Espana in both red and white, ‘1510’ red Rhone blend, or the Implico Bordeaux blend. We also learned a bit about the history of the former Blue Diamond almond factory and the work (plus 3.5 million dollars) it took to restore it to the welcoming facility it is today. They rightly boast that they have the highest space in Paso – 84 feet above the town. Look for a bright and open tasting room up front, private tasting rooms – one is soundproof – an outdoor venue for live music, a cellar of library wines and, of course a working winery where every staff member has an opinion that counts. Their expansive vineyards include the Derbyshire Vineyard in San Simeon, Laura’s Vineyard in East Paso and Derby Vineyard in West Paso. Ninety-seven percent of their grapes are sourced out to some of the best wineries in Paso.
Cindy Steinbeck, one daughter of owners Howie and Bev Steinbeck, had offered one of their noted “Crash Course tours through the family’s expansive vineyards giving (us) an opportunity to really know the family and experience wine from the vineyard.” From their website I had learned that Steinbeck “is a boutique family owned and operated winery” and that their “family has been farming for seven-generations, since 1884. (Their) ancestors were pioneers in many aspects of farming in Paso Robles, including wine grapes and wine 135 years ago…” The wines were top notch (look for their yummy Viognier, Cabs, Zinfandel and red blends) but don’t miss at least one of the three “Crash Course” tours in the family’s Jeep that will remind you of being on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland! It was exhilarating! We watched about two dozen deer run through the vineyard – no fences here – the family dog having the time of her life just like us, learned all about the history of the property – yes a B-26 crashed there in 1956 – and how much of their grapes are sold to some of the (other) best wineries in Paso!
At a recent #SaugusStrong fundraiser at our local Wine 661 wine bar, I won a luncheon for four at Cass winery. We had heard a lot about the great lunches there – it did not disappoint! The hamburgers are made with beef from their own cattle, and the crab cakes were to die for, add in great food wines like their many Rhônes and Bordeaux blends and we were set. After lunch we walked up the hill to see their brand new event center with the biggest kitchen I’ve ever seen in a winery, and up the hill a little further are eight shipping containers being transformed into single-unit guest rooms, each with its own unique décor, due to open May of this year!
When Gary Eberle was copied on an email to me from the winery, I mentioned we’d love even just a “sighting” or “photo op” if he’s available. This wine-fan-girl does get a wee bit excited about meeting the people that have shaped our wine industry – for over four decades! And guess what? Gary did join us for a lovely tasting of about ten wines – don’t miss their 2016 Reserve Cabernet, 2017 Estate Cabernet, 2019 Muscat Canelli and 2017 Barbera. (1978 was the first vintage of Barbera and Gary’s got a few 1978 Syrah he’s holding onto.) From Gary we learned that though he was headed to med school he decided to get into the wine industry instead, now it’s been 50 years since his time at UC Davis. With a few other new winemakers he foraged his way in Paso, and by 1979 Eberle Winery was born. The winery today offers tours every half hour and tastings – at no charge. Gary quoted his mentor Robert Mondavi, “Make wine good enough and you don’t have to bribe people.” With that thought, Gary doesn’t make more than five reserve wines in a decade. Both men, Mondavi and Eberle, have been awarded lifetime achievement awards. Eberle hosts many weddings, parties and events between the grounds and the massive underground cellar.
Oso Libre Winery
During the vineyard walk we learned that of their 4,000 to 5,500 cases produced annually most are sold direct to consumer, the don’t harvest until mid to late October, there were about thirty wineries in Paso when they bought the former cattle ranch in 1996 and they use all the grapes they grow. Of their current wines we enjoyed all: 2016 Nativo Estate Primitivo (They are using an Italian root stock so though the American name for this grape is Zinfandel theirs is rightly named a Primitivo) 2015 Rojo del Patron Red Estate Blend that spent a lot of time in oak, 2014 Reserva Bordeaux Style Blend that spent four years in barrel and was just bottled last fall and then we finished up with the Azucar Late Harvest Primitivo that had not been fortified.
Allegretto Wines and Vineyard Resort by Ayres
I learned that Allegretto had been written up in Food and Wine Magazine, Sunset Magazine and others – including a nice mention in Elite from Linda Hafizi. And I was beginning to think I needed another column just on this property. But here’s a snapshot: Don’t miss the Art Tour – so much to see from Russian Impressionist paintings to sculptures and all done in respect to the relationship between Yin and Yang; the welcoming Cello Ristorante and Bar (Gary Eberle says they have the best Sazerac) and of course don’t miss the wine tasting that includes “boutique white and red wines” such as Viognier, Malbec, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon.
A few years back we stayed in a lovely farmhouse on the HammerSky property. I was smitten with the home, the wines and with owner/winemaker Douglas Hauck. I’ve been wanting to get back ever since. This time we enjoyed the outdoor patio attached to the tasting room for sips of sparkling, whites, reds and an interesting Cabernet Merlot blend called “Straight de Barrel” that had spent a few weeks in a Kentucky Bourbon barrel!
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.
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