If you’ve been to the Rhone region of France and enjoyed the wines, look no further than Tablas Creek. And if your palate gravitates to California wines, these Old World wines may take time to grow on you. Known for their organically grown, hand-harvested Rhone varieties of grapes, this winery produces a number of blends, including whites. My tasting included:
I'm not a huge fan of Rhone varietals, but absolutely enjoyed their white blend, Esprit de Blanc (retail @ $45 per bottle, $36 for members). The red blends are full bodied, yet smooth and elegant. When that red Rhone varietals hit the back of your mouth, and go down your throat, it's the best feeling! Even better, there is a vintage chart available on their website to tell you an optimal time to drink your wine so you can really savor every sip. By the way, they have grapevines for sale in case you’re an aspiring winemaker.
Anyone who’s been at Costco will recognize the Justin brand especially after Fiji Water acquired them in 2010. For those unfamiliar with the history of Justine wines, it was founded by former investment banker Justin Baldwin and his wife, Deborah in 1981. Six years later, their first production was introduced to the public. Their flagship wine, Isosceles, helped put Justin on the map earning it the #6 spot among Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines in 2000.
I had a chance to sample this world-class Bordeaux-blend paired with their in-house chocolates what a treat (literally!) to have their pastry chef prepare a private wine chocolate pairing. The tasting included:
I’m a huge fun of dark chocolates and Tempranillo so naturally my favorites are #4 and #6. You might find the other varietals in local stores, but the 2016 Reserve Tempranillo can only be purchased directly from the winery. What I like most about this wine is its versatility with sweets as well as with Mediterranean or Asian cuisines (Vietnamese or Thai). Now let’s talk about the gorgeous property! While it’s quite a drive from downtown Paso Robles to get to the winery, once you’re there, the views are amazing. The main buildings are surrounded by vineyards and a lovely garden (they grow their own vegetables). They have their own “Just Inn” (love the pun) and a restaurant.
If you like bold reds with character, I highly recommend you try the Austin Hope Cabernet. Voted the top 10 Cabernets of the Wine Enthusiast’s top 100 list in 2019, this is the first time a Cab from Paso Robles made the cut. This Cab is a great value compared to its counterparts on the list at $50 per bottle vs $100+ bottle. Now let’s talk about the tasting experience! For starters, I felt so at peace walking through the tranquil grounds. There’s outdoor seating so in case you need to bring your fur baby, it’s a dog-friendly winery. Once inside, I was treated to a private tasting of their 7 wines. Big shout out to Rudy, who not only went in-depth of each pour, he shared the history of the family business with Austin Hope (also the winemaker) presiding over five unique labels: Liberty School, Austin Hope, Treana, Troublemaker, and Quest. Liberty School, started by Chuck Wagner of Napa’s renowned Caymus, came under the Hope family in 1997 after a hunting trip to Mexico. The Hopes sold Wagner fruit for the label and eventually made the wine, on Creston property owned by “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek. The tasting included 7 pours:
My two favorites: 2017 Austin Hope Cab ($50) and 2015 Treana Blanc ($25). If you’re a member, it’s only $40 and $20 per bottle, respectively. From $16 to $125 per bottle (even better value when you’re a member), this winery has wine at every price point, no matter where you are in your wine tasting journey.
If you’re planning a trip to Paso Robles, there’s no more peaceful place to stay than Allegretto Vineyard & Resort . Coupled with their own wines, it feels like walking into a Mediterranean-inspired mansion versus an actual hotel. Designed like an Italian villa, this hotel's décor features an incredible art collection notably ancient Indian sculptures and entire architectural features collected from the owner, Doug Ayres’ world travels. It feels like you’re in Tuscany, but with a zen twist! After settling in, I went straight to their tasting room for a private sampling of their signature wines: 2015 Malbec, 2015 Tannat, 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Malbec paired really well with my two favorite appetizers at Cello Ristorante. The dinner menu selection isn’t expansive, but you can’t go wrong with the crispy pork belly, truffle oil squash ravioli and shortcake panna cotta. I enjoyed every bite!