You might think that wineries with huge opulent estates and sprawling views ought to have delicious wine. You may assume all that money means better quality juice. You may be right but I doubt it. If you like the view, go drink it up! At the end of the day, the wine you’ll want to have is from a smaller producer like Jade Moon.
It is their careful attention to detail and fearless pursuit of flavor that make their wines balanced yet complex. Each wine is crafted with respect to the iconic traits of each varietal. Their Sauvignon Blanc has bright crisp acidity but they’ve tamed its harsh grapefruit profile, allowing slight herbal flavors of sage shine through. It makes a wonderful sipper and an even better pair to sumptuous salads or slightly spicy shellfish. Their round supple Chardonnay has a range of flavors starting with a little butter that follows with thick succulent lemon curd and a whiff of honeysuckle. It is your mate for a saucy barbecue or rich creamy lobster mac and cheese.
These whites are under their Wild Hogge label that is exported to Bermuda. But their reds under the Jade Moon label are available locally in many of California’s scrumptious restaurants. The Odyssey in Paso Robles for one has discovered how their richly textured wines unearth a bounty of flavors alongside their eclectic menu options. Each full bodied red has an amazing array of bright and dark fruit with a long finish you’ll remember. You just can’t get this flavor from a mass produced wine! If your palate is particular, find winemakers like this with the same appreciation, refined palate, and strong sense to continue feeding that brilliant passion.
The people at RiverStar Vineyards are not only blending stars. They also create new wine styles that shine. They have invented a delightful new way to end your meal. Making a dessert style wine out of plain and simple table grapes, they’ve found a slightly tart and sweet way to polish off the flavors in any dish with a blanket of white pepper atop a crème brulee body.
But, to start things off, they pour a Sauvignon Blanc with more big pineapple and subtle apple flavors than severe grapefruit. Next, a Moscato changes all the sensations in your mouth with its slight sweetness. Orange blossoms meet your nose while citrus and honeysuckle cross your tongue. Finally a very peppery Viognier finishes the whites probably because of its robust body with all that jazzy spice.
The reds are equally unique, leaving you with a different way of feeling about these varietals. Their Merlot has a brick red hue and a smoothness born of Hungarian oak barrels. It’s slightly creamy texture is evident as its cherry and plum flavors linger. An award winning Syrah represents the halfway point between a cool climate tart wine and a hot climate jolly rancher with plenty of plum, cherry, and apple yet a creamy mocha texture. But their blends are what make this tasting memorable. An Eclipse made from Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel has bright red and dark fruit all at once while smoky spices fill your senses. A Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel blend has the nice acidity you crave from these grapes with the structure you expect from a Bordeaux.
Finally, dessert arrives in the form of a lovely liquid tootsie roll. Hard to imagine yet way too easy to drink. But their Twilight is a chewy deep dark chocolate port style wine made out of a single port grape: Touriga Nacional. Its ripe plum is its only sweetness but sets the cocoa free. If you’re already too sweet for a sweet way to finish, their Syrah port style wine has the lightness of wine because they don’t add brandy. Yet, 18% alcohol may be the perfect finish for your dish or any day.
Make it happen!
Walking through the streets of Paso not only takes you back to a different time, it also makes you wish you could live in one of them. If you’ve dreamed of owning a cute little cottage in Paso but could never get a home loan because banks think “self-employed” equals “unemployed,” look into alternatives. Banks are small minded because they only loan to those with a consistent income and cannot see the potential of loaning to an indie writer or someone whose income is more like a roller coaster.
Realizing that stuffy banks are not your only option is unbelievably liberating. Consider buying a vacation rental that could practically pay for itself because it allows you to live in a portion of the property. If it’s too painful to buy an entire house, you can buy into one. Miracle of miracles, you can become part owner of a vacation rental without a home loan and a much smaller down with benefits or revenue well worth the long term investment. Another equally liberating discovery about shirking the bank shackles is that the seller can finance you. You may actually win a bidding war with another party offering all cash because the seller makes another 5% in interest from a buyer who has the seller carry papers. Really, I’ve seen it happen!
You know that fun feeling you get from wine? Of course you do! That’s why you drink it. An even better feeling is the one you get from buying wines with a good cause. A wine with a special purpose can make you buy it even if you don’t like the taste. Lots of wines taut their proceeds go to charity and buyers reach for their credit cards before they even decide if the wine is unrepugnant.
The Common Ground wine from MUST Charities delivers both on its charitable cause and quality in flavor. Its big berry, dark cherry, and plum hit you up front but it’s the many layers of cocoa, eucalyptus, and smoke that unfold later, giving it its big body and longevity. If you are in the central coast of California, check out an Albertson’s grocery store and pay less than 20 bucks for a bottle of this virtuous wine.
The newest tasting room in downtown Paso Robles is the kind of place where most patrons are greeted with a hug. LXV Wine is located one block from the square on a street with unique boutiques, restaurants, and antique stores. But what’s really unique is their wine pairings.
Even if you enjoy wine and food pairings, you’ve no doubt brought a wine home that tasted differently than it did during the tasting. While most wineries pair wines with cheese or food that can alter the way the wine tastes, LXV Wine pairs with herbs and spices that unlock the wine’s additional layers without changing its core flavor and balance. Here is where you can really explore the wine at a different level.
Their rose of Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chenin Blanc starts with crisp strawberries and bright red cherries. Then, a tiny bud of lavender mellows the acidity just enough to feel this wine’s creamy texture along with its bright red fruit. Next, a Viognier is one of the most balanced in the state and many wine experts agree if you read their awards. It begins with tropical fruit, the lightest hint of this grape’s hallmark floral fragrance, and even a whiff of orange blossom. But a nibble of pepper balances the tropical flavor allowing the thick rich creme brulee and banana to emerge.
The first sip of their Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo blend is full of cherry, berry, and plum thanks to Grenache and Syrah. Yet, a morsel of Garam Masala’s cinnamon and clove unleashes the Tempranillo’s smoke quality and soft supple leather textures. But their big bold Sangiovese Petite Sirah blend ends the lineup with a bang. While Sangiovese is not known for its boldness, the Petite Sirah emboldens it, bringing just enough blueberry to match wits with Sangiovese’s red fruit after a delightful pumpkin spice pairing. Regardless of your fondness for any of these flavors, give your senses a boost and allow them to discover more of what a wine has to offer by visiting LXV. Try to make it on “Naan Nite” when they pair with Indian bread and dips.
For those of you who love Albarino or those who are just understandably tired of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc as your white wine options, check out Chateau Lettau in Paso Robles. Adjacent to the downtown square, they’re serving an Albarino with that lively tart crisp acidity, a hint of butter, and the richness and thickness of lemon meringue. It is an absolute smash movie popcorn wine.
Viognier lovers will surely enjoy their Chardonnay for its floral fragrance. It may be its time in French oak that gives it this character but it is definitely a French style Chardonnay. Their Zinfandel is also uncharacteristic for this varietal. It may have a little of that hallmark jammy flavor just from berries but its balanced with anise and pepper. This is a smooth light zin.
Whenever you plan to visit their tasting room, make sure it’s a Friday night when they really get the room rockin with live music. They’re also open late, which means you can show up after your workday and end the work week properly.
French wine makers appear to adore Paso Robles as much as the rest of us. But they most certainly have different reasons. Anyone can tell France and Paso have similarities in climate and soil. Yet, Paso has more soil types than any other viticultural area. This allows for a diversity of grape varietals and flavors.
Sebastien Noel a Frenchman with a California winemaking soul who is most excited about the Paso Robles growing region for its many different soil types. He is in love with his California fruit yet bound and determined to bring French techniques and styles to the Central Coast.
Where can you taste wines like this? Currently, he offers tastings in the private room of a beautiful spa and bar called Twist on Spring Street. Yet, he will surely soon expand and become one of those popular tasting rooms that line the square. So, catch him while he’s hot and take advantage of the opportunity to get a fab haircut, massage, or mani/pedi, while wine tasting.
Our tasting began with one of the best rose wines found in the state. A rose wine is one that is made out of red grapes but designed as a white wine. They end up with a beautiful rose color but Sebastien’s is more of a coral or salmon color and is refreshingly absent of sweetness or a sugar aftertaste. It also has the generous big body that red wine lovers seek so it could just be the best of both worlds.
France’s best kept secret is a walnut wine that Sebastien is working to craft with the same spirit and flavor that he remembers from his homeland. This may sound sweet but it is made from the tart bitter green shell of the nut so imparts little sweetness yet the rich texture and layers of a most unique libation. I imagine this makes it an ideal pairing for rich cheeses. Be on the lookout for this walnut wine to hit the market as soon as California law figures out how to classify it.
What’s more refreshing than supporting a small business that takes pride in their products? Tasting their deliciously hand-crafted products is definitely better. Many winemakers gain their experience and hone their skills working for other people to produce wines that fit a style that may be different from their own. When winemakers branch out to build their own label, you get a taste of their personal palate and integrity of character. Adam. LaZarre’s impressive winemaking experience may have paved the way for his latest venture, LaZarre Wines, but its his brazen attitude and bold over-the-top style that brings it home. Make that, bring them home because you’ll want more than a few of these wines.
I know I just said “bold over-the-top” but his rose is light and easy, which shows the breadth and depth of his palate. It is a great start to a wonderful meal or could be a good finish, just as easily. His Sauvignon Blanc has a clean clear texture with a hint of eucalyptus or pebbles in a creek. His techniques to add thickness and richness in a wine are exploding in his Albarino. But his Merlot is what will make you think, “this is a Merlot?!” It’s got that big bowl of Bing cherry that’s such a hallmark of Merlot but this one also has badass oak, mint, and eucalyptus that contribute to its many layers of texture. Still, it is balanced in its complexity, never feeling over oaked. It’s as smooth as silk.
But it’s his bright alluring personality that may make him your favorite winemaker. Check out how much fun he has in writing about his famed products on his website. If you think more winemakers should be this hilarious, show him!
The dirt on Caliza Winery is that it’s all about the dirt. Caliza means limestone, which is what enriches their soil, allowing vines to do their best and produce grapes of distinctive character. Every wine they pour has distinguishing flavors, not just due to their creative blends but also their passion to let the grapes reach their full potential.
Kissin’ Cousins is a bright full bodied white wine for those at your table who say they only drink reds. Big flavor of stone fruits wakes up your taste buds while big body with the texture and complexity of the king of grapes might confuse selective red wine fans. An extra-long finish makes you go back to the glass or fill your mouth with equally rich food.
Their rose has some pink sweetness of strawberry yet a fresh crisp acidity that is amazingly balanced.
Reds here are mostly Rhone with a few surprises. Azimuth is a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, and Grenache with haunting deep dark flavors of licorice, tart berry and cherry, and pepper. Next, a Primitivo may steal your heart not because it is an Italian stallion but because of its California style. Its big fruit with a touch of the earth and a bounty of acidity will play with any food pairing. Think Thanksgiving wine! But their Tempranillo blended with Syrah and Grenache will keep you thinking about its silky dark texture and extremely long finish after you have left the tasting room. Enjoy!
If you are a fan of French style wines and winemaking practices yet you love Paso juice, make sure you check out Clos Solene. You can taste their wines at the Paso Under Ground tasting room right on the square in downtown Paso. Like me, you may have lasting thoughts about them for days.
One reason is their Hommage Blanc is bursting with succulent juice and has a long lingering finish. If you’ve never tried a Roussane Viognier blend, this is the place to start. But if you’re a fan of these white grapes, this is a great example of how they are best represented. Their Harmonie is not just your typical GSM. Their version of the historical blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre has pronounced fruit, vibrant acidity, and a finish you’ll remember after you’ve left the room. Finally, their Sweet Clementine is a dessert style wine without the heavy sugar aftertaste or overwhelmingly high alcohol. All these wines have the balance and elegance to epitomize French Paso style.