River Road Winery Series: Pessagno

In advance of the River Road Wine Trail’s first annual “Tunes, Trucks and Tastes” event coming up on June 12, 2015, 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!

While we were enjoying ourselves at Puma Road Winery, our pouring room attendants encouraged us to visit their sister winery, Pessagno Winery, just three miles north on River Road. Recently acquired by the Franscioni family, Pessagno has recently made improvements to its grounds, including a converted dairy barn that seats 120, the tasting rom patio and picnic grounds, and the Highlands House, private yard and ceremony gardens. 

Like its sister facility, Pessagno Winery’s tasting room attendants are knowledgable about the wines and are very happy to show you around the beautifully-manicured grounds. The venue is the perfect place for a wedding, family gathering or high school class reunion.

We elected to start our tasting with Pessagno’s 2013 Chardonnay, Intrinity. With vanilla and citrus in play on your nose, this nicely finished in oak delivers a creamy, pineapple finish in your mouth. 

Of course we had to try a Pinot, and the 2013 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir  is exactly what you expect from a Santa Lucia Highlands appellation Pinot Noir. We detected cherries and smoke/dirt on the nose, with a taste of oak, vanilla and raspberries on the palate. 

The 2013 Four Boys Pinot Noir is an unexpectedly nice pinot for our non-pinot taster. So pretty in the glass, there’s the scents of cherry and plum, with dark cherry, plum, vanilla and a pleasant earthy taste on the tongue. Not overly sweet, this could well be a Pinot that convinces your non-pinot drinker to give it a try. 

Created in the Basque style, the 2012 Tannat from Pedregal Vineyard in Paicines is created from one of the rarest red grapes in California, with only 248 acres in production. A very bold wine that is nice on the nose, there’s plum and smoke on the tongue and this wine promises to stand up to a California Santa Maria-style BBQ, or a spicy Swiss-style sausage or even a jambalaya. Decant this wine for the very best flavors.

Red blend varietal “Dué” 2011 vintage  was up next. A blend of 50-50 Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Blanc grown in the Paicines appellation, this wine tastes of spice, red currant and blackberry, and begs to be served with venison, wild game or a meatloaf wrapped in bacon. If this wine is exposed to air overnight, it acquires an earthy taste which won’t prevent you from drinking it, but you will notice a difference the next day. Best to finish this bottle in one seating. 

Another red blend varietal, 2011’s “Tre”  is also made from Paicines grapes. A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37.5% Merlot and 12.5% Petite Verdot grapes,  Tre delivers plum and spice on the nose, and a stone fruity earthiness in the mouth. Serve this wine with a lamb dish that is heavy on tarragon, thyme or just plain pepper. This wine would be lost alongside BBQ—so don’t do it! 

Next, 2011’s red blend “Quattro” is a varietal blend consisting of 62.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 6.25% Petite Sirah and 6.25% Petite Verdot. With a nice dark cherry bouquet on the nose, your mouth will enjoy the dark currant and pipe tobacco tastes. This is the wine that will stand up to your rib eye steak prepared with rosemary, a glazed skirt steak, a fatty cut of pork in a cherry reduction sauce or caramel/brown sugar glaze. Pessagno’s most popular wine, Quattro needs to be decanted for best results. 

We ended with a 2012 Zinfandel, which is a party on your nose! Light berries with a green tea scent, this wine is everything you expect in a Zinfandel. Blackberry and tannins make drinking this wine a real pleasure. Buy a bottle of this and we dare you to let it lay around for another 10 years—it will stand up to short ribs braised in stout, or a perfectly-spiced and seasoned spaghetti sauce, a traditional pizza or a grilled and marinated skirt steak. 

Pessagno’s Cellar Club is also affordable. Depending upon the club you pick, a quarterly shipment averages from $60 to $110 per shipment. Like its sister winery Puma Road, you receive a 20% discount on individual bottles, 30% off on cases, complementary tastings at both Franscioni wineries and also at the Roadhouse Wine Bar, located at 2999 Monterey-Salinas Highway. 

You can also taste Pessagno’s wines at A Taste of Monterey, located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey.

People come to Pessagno for the Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, the Intrinity Chardonnay or the Four Boys Pinot Noir. Our favorite of the day was the Quattro, but we left with a bottle of the 2014 Rosé that is on special right now for only $9. It’s a not overly-sweet dry rosé. There is also a special on a Reisling, which is mineral and dry, and what you’d expect from a Reisling, for $9. Do not let that inexpensive price deter you from taking advantage of this special!

Pessagno is also pouring at the 4th Annual Bordeaux BBQ in Paicines on June 25. This event will certainly sell out and you can get your tickets here.