If you’re like the rest of us, you’re probably all Pinot’ed out. Sales for this historically mediocre grape leaped so fast and so high over a decade ago that haven’t settled down since. So, restaurants have filled their wine lists with this pale weak juice just to meet the stupefying demand.
Well, LDT doesn’t do anything weak and the proof is in their Pinot Noir. They blend grapes from Santa Lucia Highlands and Russian River to create a dark plum black cherry flavor with plenty of green herbs like sage and layers of spices. The first sniff makes you think of a roaring fire yet the beautiful balance of vibrant acidity and hearty warmth coax you to stop, sit, and savor. This wine dresses up any hearty feast but can still be the playful part of any picnic. It is a welcome reminder of the full potential of Pinot but priced to take business away from the rest.
Open in a new modern industrial tasting room a few doors down from Il Cortile, Symbiosis Wines pours “the Grenachiest Grenache” and other luscious hand crafted wines. Their Tempranillo has many layers of vibrant acidity with big full plum and licorice flavors that open like a flower and remain robust for days longer than most wines. We’ve tested. This is probably because they are currently pouring older vintages like 2010 due to longer cellar aging.
The winemaker, Glenna, would be proud to tell you why she believes in aging wines longer. They are open late so you can stop by before dinner or sip while you’re waiting for a table. Get the scoop on these luscious wines and other green wine making practices directly from the winemaker as she pours every tasting. Isn’t that why you visit wine country?!
Sounds like a unique blend but the sultry sounds of a strumming guitar do pair nicely with a relaxing springtime sipper like Albarino. Theirs is a strong vibrant white wine with flavors and richness that match creme brulee with lemon curd and a hint of early banana peel. In Gary Kramer’s tasting room, it is more like a guitar museum where you can lounge in the presence of famed and fancy guitars with their big bold Tempranillo. This red is so full of ripe plum, dark cherry, and toasted vanilla that it may make you want to walk to the square for a plate of succulent short ribs or steak but that’s what a good Tempranillo is supposed to do. Enjoy!
A family business can mean many different things. In most cases, it means a family started the business and hired others as the business grew. But they still call themselves a family business because the same family owns it. Even when a large company buys a winery, they still call themselves a family business, saying it’s just owned by a different family now. PFFFT. Rasmussen Vineyards & Winery is an actual family business, owned and operated by the members in their family.
Still that’s not the reason you should visit this tasting room. The reason to go is that supporting your local family farmers has never been more delicious. They will pour one luscious balanced wine after another. Their entire flight of wines to taste were all well-crafted each in a way that elevated the grape’s qualities.
You finish the flight with one of the most uniquely different dessertees. If you like the Thin Mint cookies from Girl Scouts, try their late harvest Merlot. It has an addictive chocolate eucalyptus character. No tasting fee! No phone either… this is not their day job.
If you’re going to venture off the beaten path, and you know you should, why not experience the wines made by a true country girl. Patti Bello, the owner and winemaker at B & E Vineyard is not only a cowgirl with cutting skills, she is an expert at cultivating balanced yet complex flavors in red wines.
Bordeaux varietals show off their vibrant flavors at this “Tasting Saloon” in the middle of rolling hills that feed their vines. A ’13 Merlot had bright cherry flavors with light berry influence. No overripe fruit here! The ’13 Rhythm blend has lush cherry, silky tannins, and lots of vanilla and spice integrated. Their ’13 Cabernet Sauvignon is a lovely wine with a deep dark cherry body and soft supple tannins that lead to a long velvet finish.
Other tasting room guests traveled from Santa Barbara just for a bottle of their ’09 Merlot, which was sold out, naturally. So, Patti opened an ’09 Rhythm blend, which contains some of this popular ’09 Merlot and it was as thick and rich as chocolate milk. Decadent rich plum and lush cherry flavors in this wine made it a great finish.
But that was not the final finish. A fortified Que Sera has the delightful richness to finish a feast yet no heavy sweetness. Not sure how they do that but this dessert wine is a find!
A visit to Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery is an experience for the palate as well as the heart. While you enjoy these fine wines of strength and character, your soul is nourished by a heartwarming story of the family rescuing and attending to airmen who parachuted out of their B-26 Marauder when it crashed 200 yards from the family home in 1956. Pieces of the plane are on display in the tasting room and the family tells stories of how they were able to reunite 2 of the crash survivors who took different paths in the military and had not spoken for 53 years. Their stories are best on their website but a blend called The Crash commemorates the event.
Their flight begins with a nice crisp Viognier that grabs you in the back of your mouth. Lively apricot and pineapple that are succulently ripe make this wine easy to pair with spicy summer salads, Thai, and Indian dishes. The Crash has aromas of bell pepper, eucalyptus, and red cherry that continue on the palate. Layers of cherry, berry, and spice unfold as you swirl. They finish with a Petite Sirah that wows with lots of pepper and a hint of cocoa as you approach it. Bright blueberry flavors swirl in your mouth while spice and structure balance it. This is one elegant wine!
Our affections for Italians never fades and now we have a new favorite in Paso. Pelletiere is not only making some distinctive California wines using famed Italian varietals like Sangiovese and Lagrein, they’re doing it with such style and elegance, you’ll want to return.
Their Viognier starts with lively apricot and pineapple joined by a bit of white pepper and soft vanilla. Then, it finishes long with a nice thick body. Their rose of Sangiovese, Viognier, and Syrah has a vibrant blend of fruit flavors with a succulent body that can star at any picnic.
Their reds are full of character and an array or layers. A Sangiovese has wonderful waves of spice that meet you at different flavor pockets and play up all the flavors in any feast. Big berry on the nose and a crimson tide of flavors that evolve in your glass, tell you this is miles above your standard pizza wine. A hint of blue fruit and vanilla make you reminisce. Finally, you may want to save a varietal like Lagrein for cult followers but this one impresses all palates. This softly bruiting powerhouse is known for its tannins and acidity but neither overwhelms because they are balanced beautifully. Instead, what you feel is its blackberry, pomegranate, and blueberry bounty with a slight coffee taste on the long finish as you admire its deep purple.
The name Deodoro may be fun to say but the wine is what speaks the symphony. Each step through their flight has rare typicity while each sip can uncover different characteristics.
As its name suggests, Euphoria can make you feel as happy as a lemon tree on a sunny day. Its bright crisp green apple awakens you while its honeydew body shines through. Take this wine to a picnic to pair all the way through succulent salads, sumptuous seafood, or sunshine and solitude.
Their Syrah has an elegant balance of red raspberry and dark blueberry without that blanket of cranberry that can overwhelm. It has brilliant layers of spices that make every sip a different experience.
Our favorite is a Cabernet Sauvignon that pairs with anything or nothing throughout an entire meal. Its dark ripe cherry and black currant layers make it a tasty sipper all by itself while you’re cooking. Silky tannins and bright acidity make it a terrific pairing for your best bold steak and creamy garlic potatoes. Finally, its soft supple leather body with remarkable coffee fragrance make it a lovely after dinner toast.
Or, LDT as it is known locally here in Paso, has an exciting new tasting room in downtown Paso just one block away from the congestion of the square yet close enough to all the restaurants to stop by for a glass of wine before or after dinner. The excitement never ends on weekends as they bring in live music and stay open a bit later than most tasting rooms.
Their flight includes such variety you’re certain to find a wine for each unique palate in your party. We began a tasting with three Chardonnays that could not be more different. The first tasted just like a Sauvignon Blanc but without the harsh grapefruit flavor or nasty minerality. Bathed in stainless steel, it had brilliantly bright crisp lemon peel and even honeydew flavors with mouthwatering acidity. The next one from Sonoma’s coast had a bit more apricot and nutmeg with a floral fragrance and still a bit of acidity. Finally, their Alexander Valley Chardonnay had much more mellow acidity with lively fruit and felt like buttery popcorn in your mouth.
A surprisingly refreshing rose made out of Merlot had a beautiful ruby color with flavors of watermelon, strawberry, and rhubarb. It makes you wish you had a barbecue or picnic to take it to. Two Pinot Noirs followed designed to please two very different types of Pinotphiles. The first Pinot had tight acidity with an herbal quality and mellow fruit yet the second was bursting with spices and equally rich in strawberries as it was in currants. Our favorite was a Sangiovese that had just a small percentage of Merlot probably explaining a nice dark cherry and plum flavor in this wine, often known for its tart red cherry characteristics. It was a lovely balanced wine that gave you a hint of vanilla on its long finish.
Rhone varietals like Syrah, Grenache, and, the cult, Mourvedre crowd the soil in Paso these days. Big fans of these grapes unite here. But, when you crave something a bit more Italian inspired, and we all do at some point, head to Pianetta for big full Italian stallions with a California style. This father-daughter fab find is a block away from the Paso square and the spot to buy wine that feeds your Italian food cravings…or any food cravings, really.
They don’t make any whites but their rose hits the spot with its chilled watermelon flavor. A bit of floral fragrance is the first thing you smell but big round refreshing strawberry, banana, and plenty of watermelon follow. This is a nice meaty rose for taco night or even a barbecue. Their Sangiovese has that bright crisp cherry flavor typical of this grape yet the long finish you’d expect from a cab or robust Merlot. Finally, they serve a very unique Petite Sirah with an earthy green lavender nose but licorice and all spice body with very smooth tannins. Savor this glass for a few minutes and you’ll smell a smoky campfire scent as you swirl.
Each wine is welcoming enough to return to a previous wine after you’ve moved on to bigger bodied wines. Check out these family operations because they are often better at passing on traditions and cross training the unique practices that give their wines character. That’s how they manage to keep their style consistent across vintages.