The 35th annual Paso Robles Wine Festival was blessed with our legendary gorgeous sunny but not too hot spring weather—a 180 degree contrast from the 2016 festival's unseasonable cold weather and wind. A perfect weekend for, well, tasting wine!
The festival kicks off with winemaker's dinners on Thursday night, held at several Paso Robles restaurants. Pick your cuisine—there was a meal just for you, paired with the perfect wines. Friday's event was the Reserve tasting; Saturday began with a winemaker seminar and was capped off by the Grand tasting, where wineries are arranged by wine varieties: Bordeaux, Rhône, Zinfandel, Burgundian and Italian.
Our strategy for the this year's Reserve tasting, featuring library, reserve, white/rosé and futures was to not over-visit our favorite wineries, but of course we did have to check in with our favorite special boutique wineries that may not have their own tasting rooms, or whose fare can be sampled by appointment only. What is so special about the Reserve tasting is that many of the winemakers are in attendance, and they are eager to talk about their wines. This event is the perfect opportunity to actually learn about the many different growing locations that make up the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA).
With summer rapidly approaching, we find ourselves in the search for perfect light summary wines. That pretty much puts us in the realm of whites or rosés. But you know us—we're always game for that big-bold red, and of course the search for understanding all of the fuss over Pinot Noir.
After a quick walk-around to check out the food booths (why not plan ahead?), we stopped at Treanna Wines, located off of Highway 46 West. The offering was a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend, the Treana Red. This big-bodied red is very complex on the nose and palate, with blackberry and lavender on the nose and smooth chocolate, coffee and smoky flavors on the palate. Definitely worth a second taste and a visit to the tasting room someday soon.
We stopped next at Brecon Estate Winery, a small-batch winery located on Paso Robles' east side Adeladia District. There were two offerings that could not have been more different from each other: a 2016 Viogner/Grenache Blanc blend and a 2015 Syrah.
The Viogner/Grenache blend fits the bill very nicely. Obviously served chilled, this is a clean-tasting, crisp wine with the always pleasant taste of light stone fruits, specifically peaches and nectarines—a wine that can be pulled right from your wine fridge and enjoyed without food.
The 2015 Syrah is exactly what you'd expect from a Syrah: a deep dark berry flavor, with a smoky and peppery finish—exactly the wine to drink with peppery, boldly-spiced dishes. This Syrah was a big winner in the 2017 New World International Wine Competition (NWIWC), taking home the gold medal in the Best New World Syrah, Best New World Red Wine and New World Grand Champion.
The Trés Violet blend (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) has a very pleasant mineraly finish, and begs to be put next to your favorite lamb dish.
It's pretty amazing how different Cabernet Sauvignon can be, even Paso-grown grapes from different sides of Highway 101. We readily admit we overlook west side offerings, but that's simply laziness on our part. We are going to have to try harder to do more time on the west side.
Calcareous' 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon library wine is a very limited production (less than 10 cases!) caramelly-complex full-bodied wine. The wine is extracted from the grapes using an open fermentation, with the grapes undergoing three punch-downs and two pour-overs daily during those two weeks to extract the most from the fruit.
Mitchella Vineyard and Winery brought a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2010 Innuendo Noir, their Bordeaux blend.
Mitchella's Innuendo Noir is a candidate for your first or next library wine. A taste of the 2010 reveals that this wine simply betters with age, and current releases are just fine to drink now but will make you so much happier in 8 to 10 years, as long as you properly care for the bottle. The smell of black cherry is immediately apparent, and as the wine is exposed to air, you'll begin to taste cinnamon. This is what's so much fun about some wines—some just love their time in the fresh air, and they will reward you with new tastes and textures. You can get Innuendo Noir's 2012 and 2013 vintages at the links provided.
Returning to west side wines, Caliza Winery brought two offerings: its 2011 Azimuth and 2014 Kissing' Cousins. Azimuth is Caliza's GSM blend, and gives you a ripe plum scent on the nose and the palate, with vanilla peeking through as the wine rests in the glass. The 2013 Azimuth is available here and the 2011 library edition is also available.
Of course we couldn't resist visiting with Jim and Azmia from The Farm Winery, enjoying a quick splash of The Big Game (and when we say "quick splash" we mean a very leisurely tasting of a wine that we really enjoy and hate to finish!). We can't say enough about the wines produced by winemaker Santiago Achaval and encourage you to set up a tasting at 15C Wine Shop and Bar in Templeton. Their wines are expensive but worth every penny, and are an investment for your library collection.
We said hello to owner and winemaker Michael Mooney from Chateau Margene, and as always liked what he was offering, which was the 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. A dark currant and deep blueberry taste with pleasant cedar on the nose, this is a winery that we keep coming back to and are never disappointed.
We are so easily distracted when we visit Paso, and have promised ourselves to go back out to Graveyard Vineyards. Offered today was its fantastic 2013 Dark Phantom Petite Sarah with its super-nice blackberry and licorice flavors, a wine we will have to purchase during our next visit.
Hearst Ranch Winery is another that we simply need to visit. There are two tasting rooms, one in San Simeon and the other off of Highway 46 East in Cholame. We promised winemaker Soren Christensen n that we would stop by soon to talk about what makes his wines so special.
Saturday's Grand Tasting is a much more heavily-attended event. There are more wineries in attendance, and there's more of a party vibe. Your wine choices are just as varied, though because of the crowds, it's more difficult to learn as much as one may like. We suggest that if you want to learn about the wines, definitely attend Friday's Reserve event; if you are more into tasting lots of different wines and don't care to discuss the nuances or learn about the unique qualities of the Paso Robles AVA, attend Saturday's event and taste as much as you possibly can.
We are already looking forward to 2018's event! Thank you to Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance for inviting us to attend.