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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!
Elephants roaming in the vineyards?! Yes, here at Sculpterra you’ll be treated to a true art and wine experience. This beautiful winery doesn’t just offer wine tasting, the property is also a sculpture garden with one-of-a-kind pieces. Opened in 2007 and located on the east side of Paso Robles, Sculpterra is the result of visionary/founder/owner, Dr. Warren Frankel who commissioned renowned sculptor John Jagger for a five year period to produce a series of sculptors for the winery. As you walk through the grounds at Sculpterra, you’ll find a number of impressive pieces from the work of Dale Evers and Bob Bentley.
Years before any art was planted on the winery, first came the grapes! The Frankel family initially planted pistachios on a 20 acre section. Fast forward 20 years, their vineyard offerings include Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Mouvedre, Petite Sirah and Viognier. In addition to wine and art, you can also enjoy their home-grown pistachios while wine tasting. It pairs great with a chilled glass of Viognier (this is their specialty and taste full-bodied with loads of stone fruit flavors) AND so addicting!
Talk about an Instagram-worthy setting! Spectacular views, amazing wines, a gourmet charcuterie spread AND inspiring founders — Daou Vineyards checks all the boxes. Set in the hills of Adelaida district on the west side of Paso Robles at 2,200 feet elevation, this winery is still owned and operated by the Daou family with brothers Daniel and George Daou at the helm. Some history:
Born in Lebanon, raised in France and educated in America (UCSD), the brothers made their first fortune in technology taking Daou Systems public, which became one of the largest IPOs of the 1990s. In 2007, the brothers established purchased the Hoffman Mountain Ranch vineyard renaming it Daou Mountain and the rest is history! Within a decade of its founding, Daou has earned a cult following for producing high quality and age-able wines that rival Napa Valley. Daou winery primarily produces a range of single varietal wines and Bordeaux style blends. You’ll find their wines across various distribution channels from restaurants to supermarkets and Costco, but some can only be purchased directly from the winery. In total, there are four collections:
1) The Estate: Made from estate-grown grapes
2) The Discovery: Four single varietal wines and rose.
3) The Expressions: Red blends
4) The Reserve: Single varietal or blend aged in the premium French oak barrels
We tasted the following:
1) Chemin de Fleurs: A blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier [Reserve Collection]
2) Daou Pinot Noir: [Discovery Collection]
3) Estate Cuvee Lizzy: A Bordeaux-style blend [Estate Collection]
4) Unbound: A blend of 52% Petite Sirah, 36% Tannat, and 12% Tempranillo [Reserve Collection]
Our favorite was the Unbound Bordeaux Blend so we left with a few bottles since this wine is only available for purchase at the winery.
Wine? Art? Castle? Crypto? YES, the Tooth and Nail Winery checks off all. I’m standing in front of the only castle in Paso Robles. If you haven’t been, put it on your list next time you’re in Paso Robles wine country. Located in the Willow Creek District between Santa Barbara to the south and Carmel to the north, their vineyard spans 10 acres growing sixteen different varietals: from Chardonnay and Viognier to Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Zinfandel and Tempranillo. We opted for the brunch (very delicious!) and left with the 2020 Squad “Tinsel” Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the first of four labels offering an augmented reality experience when you scan the QR code. It’s an affordable ($25), easy Cabernet with juicy dark cherry fruit flavors to enjoy solo or paired with the charcuterie board and carnita tacos we ordered! And art isn’t just on the wine labels, paintings by E. Wilcox are decorated in every room and wall.
Owner/grower/winemaker, Rob Murray isn’t just an innovator when it comes to merging technology and branding to his labels, he was among the first vintner to accept digital currencies for wine purchases. If you’re curious how Rob came up with the name for the winery, it’s all about grit and determination OR fighting “tooth and nail” to create wines he could be proud of.
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