River Road Winery Series: Puma Road

 Our pick of the day: rosé made from their highly requested  Predator  blend.

Our pick of the day: rosé made from their highly requested Predator blend.

Puma Road Winery

In advance of the River Road Wine Trail’s first annual “Tunes, Trucks and Tastes” event on June 12, 2016, we are doing our best to visit those way-too-unknown but oh-so-easy to get to wineries along the western Salinas Valley, sitting at the eastern foothills of the coastal Santa Lucia Mountains. 

We have been out and about on the Wine Trail and learned that this special food, entertainment and wine event is selling out quickly! Go here to learn more and to purchase your tickets!

Everyone in the wine world knows that the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation is known for the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes and the grapes that make those wines enjoy the well-drained granite soils, sunny days, windy afternoons and evening fog. But there is so much more going than only Pinot and Chardonnays worth your attention along the River Road Wine Trail! 

Sometimes, you might find yourself driving along a sweeping back road and by chance, will pass by a stellar winery worthy of your attention. Other times you are told, repeatedly, about a winery that you’d otherwise drive right by. Puma Road Winery fits into both of those categories.  The journey off of Highway 101 to River Road is definitely worth your time, your senses will enjoy the vivid greens of the growing vines and the row crops that remain, and frankly, we find the drive itself fun!

The Franscioni Family has been farming in Soledad for several generations, and viticulture was a logical challenge for this agricultural family going into the 21st century. Puma Road Winery blends grapes grown in the Monterey and San Benito Counties American Viticultural Areas (AVA), and the Santa Lucia Highlands and Paicines appellations. When you see the signage at 32720 River Road, drive right in! The tasting room is within sight of the picturesque River Road—don’t worry that you are driving into a private residence. Park underneath the huge oak tree and come on in!

The tasting room staff is very knowledgable, pleasant and know about the wines produced under the Puma Road label. Fun fact:  the winery is named for nearby Puma Road, which was named not because there are abundant mountain lions (but they are around!) but because the original property owners’ surnames started with the letters “pu” and “ma.”

Because we are more into the reds than the whites, we started out tasting the 2014 Pedregal Vineyard Paicines Rosé on recommendation of our pourer. This surprising rosé brings a fun tickle of strawberry on the nose, but the taste is not overly sweet, slightly mineraly and the wine itself is very refreshing served slightly chilled. Though a typical rosé is made from Pinot Noir grapes, this one created with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Merlot grapes. 

Next up was a 2010 Pedregal Vineyard Paicines Merlot. With a whiff of coffee and spices and a dark cherry and a slight cedar taste, this wine screams “Drink me with a dish that is heavy on tarragon! How about a roasted leg of lamb?” You can get the 2011 vintage here.

The 2012 Predator is made from the same blend of grapes as the rosé. Its very deep flavors echo pepper, currant, and dark cherry. While the wine is still a bit young, it promises to develop into something really special if you are patient enough to care for your bottle for a year or more. 

Of course we give the most attention to the Malbec. The 2011 Malbec from Pedregal Vineyard Paicines needs to be exposed to the air for the most enjoyment, and as a glass is exposed to air, the aromas of blackberry and vanilla develop and smooth into flavors of blueberries, raspberries and spices. Open this bottle and let it hang around an hour of so, or decant for the very best flavors. 

Pedregal Vineyard Paicines’ 2011 Cabernet Franc initially gives an interesting scent sensation: that of cedar and pepper. Don’t worry, you will enjoy the hint of flavors including oak, pepper and leather.

Continuing with Pedregal Vineyard Paicines wines, the 2013 Petite Sirah is a very bold wine with smoke and pepper on the nose, with dark cherry, chocolate and pepper flavors. This wine also needs to be uncorked and then allowed to hang out in your fridge in order for its flavors to fully develop. 

We concluded with Pedregal’s 2011 Triumvirate, made with Petite Verdot, Malbec and Tannat grapes. Another flavor-forward, bold wine, the scents of dark berries, vanilla and oak will entice your nose, while the tastes of dark plum, blackberries and cinnamon. This is a perfect wine for that special celebration when prime rib or a New York steak is served. 

We left with a bottle of the 2014 Rosé, but very easily could have taken some the Malbec, Predator or Petite Sirah. We just might next time. 

Wine club costs are very reasonable, averaging between $60–$110, for three bottles four times a year. With wine club membership comes a 20% discount on bottles, 30% discount on cases, complementary tastings at Puma Road Winery, and its sister facilities, Pessagno Winery and the Monterey Roadhouse Wine Bar, and invitations to special events. One of these special events is the 4th Annual Bourdeaux BBQ at Pedregal Vineyard in Paicines in San Benito County. This event will sell out and tickets can be purchased here.

Puma Road and its sister winery Pessagno are proud to be pouring at the 10th Annual Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans' Gala on Saturday, May 14, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Mer Soleil Winery, 1290 River Road, west of Salinas, CA. Tickets can be purchased here