Well, the uns have it. San Luis Obispo’s wine country brochure says it best: “un-crowded, unhurried, and un-pretentious…” Remember, you can get great wine anywhere in this state. If you’re tired of the overcrowded over-the-top tasting destinations where the attitudes outnumber the smiles, venture off the beaten path and find an oasis where you feel like you belong. There really is something for everyone.
Monthly Archives: April 2013
The first wine in Saucelito Canyon’s line up makes a big impact. You see it is a chilled white wine so you’re thinking it will be light, crisp, and refreshing. While it does get its citrus flavors and crisp acidity from Sauvignon Blanc, you initially taste the rounder flavors from Semillon with minerality, herbs, and even a hint of pepper. Your mind races at all the foods you could try with this complex combo. The blend of the two makes it a delightful poolside blonde or picnic pairing. The next white stirs your palate even more with creamy richness and a luscious playful charm you know could stand up to rich foods. The Cote de Blanc is a great choice for velvety pasta, creamy butternut squash soup, or hearty chicken or turkey.
But they are really known for their zin, a welcome beacon in a land of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their first is a cool blend that gets its red fruit of strawberries from Grenache, blue fruit from Petite Sirah, and body and structure from Zinfandel. Don’t know who brings the cocoa and licorice on the finish but maybe that’s part of the combo. The three play in your mouth at different corners and form a curvaceous body. Curvy bottle for a curvy blend.
Their next zin came from 130 year old vines that were dry farmed and hand picked. Words really can’t describe what this does to a wine so you’ll have to go taste for yourself. But old vines produce grapes that are more complex and the coastal influence makes Zinfandels more robust than jammy. This wine is a great representation of both.
I was told they’ll be releasing a Tempranillo in a week.
Even if you’ve visited the Sextant tasting room in Paso Robles, you should still visit the one in San Luis Obispo when in in the area. Not only because they have delicious wines, but also because they pour different wines at each tasting room.
The tasting room in SLO has quite a line up starting with a light crisp refreshing Grenache Blanc. Theirs has wonderful tropical fruit with lemon and green apple and thick minerality from the limestone soils. Then, their Grenache rose is a great balance of strawberry, raspberry, and cherry with a light refreshing body of thick almond milk. Next, they hit you with a big bold California style Pinot Noir bursting of red fruit from strawberry and raspberries and then blue fruit from blueberries with a hint of earth. It has so many layers you need to sip a while before you uncover its tangy fig and olive tapenade flavors. Their Syrah is just as big with blueberry raspberry and licorice. But the fave is the Wheelhouse Zinfandel which gets its plum and blackberry from zin I’m sure yet a little Tempranillo gives it other layers like cherry, smoke, leather, and sage. I hear the tasting room in Paso Robles pours even more delightful wines like Cabernet Sauvignon.
Finally a delicious Viognier! If you love Rhone white wines, you probably know how Viognier’s flowery flavor can overwhelm your palate as easily as truffle oil can overwhelm a dish. Well, Anglim found a way to tame the flowers in their Vignier but still respect them and balance that element with great acidity and structure.
Anglim’s wines take the best of the Central Coast regions to make wines quintessential for their vineyards. Their Grenache has wonderfully soft supple strawberry, cherry, and a bit of spice and earth. It’s the perfect picnic, pizza night, or Thanksgiving dinner accompaniment. Their Syrah has coastal bright fruit flavors of blueberry and blackberry with the sweet smell of cherry blossoms but the finish has long legs of chocolate. Bring it to your next barbecue. Their Zinfandel has nice acidity and bright fruit like a Pinot Noir or Sangiovese from its coastal influence. If you’ve steered away from zins because they are too jammy for you, try a coastal zin like this one.
Before the rest of the world heard of Paso Robles or even knew of wine regions in San Luis Obispo County, Rotta was a small family owned winery best known for hearty red wines. Today, Rotta is a small family owned winery best known for hearty red wines. Small in production but big on flavor and reputation. Being one of the first three wineries in this region, they are the only one that remains family owned, as of this writing.
Their vines have the grace and elegance of the wisdom in their years. Theirs is a big full bodied Merlot that reminds you what a world renowned noble grape this is. Lots of plump berry and cherry fruit with elegant smoke and oak and a long finish coalesce in this wine. Their Cabernet Sauvignon also has that ripe berry fruit with finely integrated oak that is not overwhelming. And, the consistently cool coastal breezes in the Templeton Gap keep their Zinfandel full of flavor and balanced acidity without the heavy blanket of jam. Rotta doesn’t pour a bad wine.
But the finale is also noteworthy. Their baked cream sherry has such a lengthy ageing process, it becomes a rich nutty crème brulee-like dessert wine. If you are a sherry chaser, or if you simply like rare sweet wines, this is worth a visit.
I know I’m supposed to be covering Edna Valley this month. But I had to go to Paso for a haircut and could not pass up the opportunity to taste these delicious wines. To start, their rose is a delightful and sumptuous blend of Rhone varietals with plenty of fruit like pomegranate, strawberry, and cherry but a hefty dose of acidity so it would be terrific for sipping by the pool or with a picnic. They believe in extra barrel aging so their Barbera is elegant with a rich hint of espresso, their Tempranillo has mouthwatering flavors of plum and blackberry with a hint of vanilla and tobacco. But the one that will make you say “what is this?” is their Zinfandel. Smokey lively leather gets ya first on the nose with rich ripe black cherry on the tongue and a long finish of chocolate and pepper. This is a lovely wine now and one to savor.
If you get there soon, you can taste through their lineup, including wines from 2005 and 2006 vintages. While others are tasting through their 2010 and 2011 vintages, Grizzly Republic is recovering from a paper work-red tape snafu that prevented them from pouring wines before their time. The time is now!
The place to be in Edna Valley for those who love Italian wines is Clesi. Their Malvasia Bianca is a light crisp refreshing white wine with a hint of grapefruit and tart apricot. Their Dolcetto has smooth strawberry and tart cherry while their Barbera has a little mint with a bit of cocoa. The hero of any Italian line up is the Sangiovese and theirs does not disappoint. It’s got that thick richness of berry and cherry with nice acidity that goes with acidic tomato, olives, or basil on just about anything. But the most noteworthy combo of Italian style with California fruit is an inky dark purple Montelpulciano. It’s got the fragrant violet and berry fruit with big flavor to match with steak or lamb but without the high alcohol. All of their wines are mild in alcohol, made with love the Italian way.
Pinot Noir lovers should migrate to the beautifully un-crowded Edna Valley where the coastal influence is ideal for Burgundy varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Chamisal does it with big bold intense and forward flavors. It’s clear their winemaker likes variety yet produces wines that are balanced and refined.
Chamisal Chardonnays cover the best of both worlds for those who like oaked and unoaked styles. Theirs are polar opposites. Then, their Califa (meaning “Prettiest One”) has the tangy fuit of an unoaked yet the body and structure of a lightly oaked Chardonnay. Their Pinot Noirs are great representation of the soft supple flavors of this grape with the complexity of a true Californian. Everything on the menu is well done and exemplary flavors showing off Edna Valley’s potential.
Your Mama’s 80’s Style Taco Salad at Eureka! in San Luis Obispo
Spicy ground beef, mixed greens, grape tomatoes, red onions, fried corn, kidney beans, avocado, sour cream, thousand island dressing, cheddar, cilantro, and garnished with “old school” Fritos. YEOW!
But don’t try this at home. If you’re going to reverse engineer this salad at home, try this instead. Add a little vinegar from a jar of sliced jalapenos to the dressing for a little extra zing. Soak the red onions in red wine to take the bitterness out. Mix the ground beef with taco seasonings for a little pizazz. And why not add some salty tangy black olives.
Don’t worry about taking my ideas. Please take them! I just want people to be more experimental in the kitchen… I mean with food…I mean, you know, expand their culinary sense of adventure.
Then, get yourself an old school cocktail with serious whisky!
Or just get yourself to Eureka!
No matter how your day’s going, any day that you stop at Laetitia is a good day. It’s not because of the bocce ball court, which certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s not even because of the picnic tables with an expansive view, which makes you want to grow weeds and stay a decade or two. It’s the sparklers.
Who doesn’t love wine with bubbles! One of my mentors put it best, when asked about the appropriate time to drink sparkling wine:
“I only drink champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”
Laetitia’s sparklers come in all colors, textures, and flavors. They cover dry, not too sweet, and a little sweet. There’s something for everyone and every dish in your picnic basket.