Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Paso Robles Wines tasting weekend, Day 2

We spent this past weekend in the Paso Robles area enjoying the fine wines and visiting some new wineries. Here is my review of the wineries and the wines we enjoyed. Today we visited mostly west-side wineries.

Maloy O’Neill- One of my Paso Robles favorites. I love their Lagrein, and Cabs, and their dark and rich Bordeaux style blends. My favorite this trip was the 2007 Enzo, ($36) 54% Sangiovese, 40% Lagrein, 6% Petit Verdot, with the Lagrein taking charge- as it should. This wine brings everything to life and when I got home I realized I had 4 more bottles in my cellar from a previous trip! I also purchased a bottle of 2007 Petite Sirah ($50), A beautifully inky colored wine that had hints of blueberries and toasted oak. I also stop at Maloy O’Neill on mu visits to the area. Unfortunately their 2011 crop was way under expected totals and they will not be making any wine from the 2011 harvest.

Tackitt- Owner/Winemaker Leon Tackitt and his wife greeted us Sunday morning with wonderful appetizers in their tasting room. I have become a big fan of the wines here. If you are looking for the perfect holiday wine, look no further, their 2010 Gew├╗rztraminer, is the signature wine of Tackitt Family Vineyards. At $19 a bottle you can’t go wrong. I bought 6 bottles and plan on enjoying them with my holiday turkey.  I also enjoyed his 2008 Rolling Hills Merlot ($28) and his 2008 Melange ($28) which is a marvelous blend of 62% Cab, 21% Petite Verdot, and 17% Merlot. Do you enjoy port wines? Then you need to try Dream Tyme, ($38) made from late harvest Zinfandel and aged in a solera for 6 years. Located up in San Miguel, they are a bit off the beaten track, but I highly suggest you take the time and drive up there your next time in the area.

Graveyard- Also located in the San Miguel area is Graveyard Vineyards, driving through the gate you pass a Graveyard- hence the name. They just opened up a new tasting room and it is very nice. Located near the lake on their property, bring your fishing pole and catch some largemouth bass while tasting the wines. I did what I always do here; I walk out with a case of wine! Their Tombstone labeled White, Pink and Red wines are well worth the $14 a bottle price. I also enjoyed their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($38), a beautiful wine, with hints of green bell pepper, rose and a lingering finish. Well worth the price. Graveyard also has a marvelous port wine called Deliverance, this Syrah dessert wine has natural chocolate flavors infused creating the perfect LPR wine!

Daou- This is a newer winery in the West side. Located on top of a mountain with a beautiful tasting room, that has as its centerpiece is a white Onyx lighted counter. Looking at their tasting list, it listed wines all over $32. I have to tell you, walking into this place I felt like I was entering the snootiest tasting rooms of Napa Valley.  I did enjoy their oaky-buttery 2010 Chardonnay, but again, looking at the price $42… I did feel like I had left Paso Robles and Napa… this wasn’t a good thing. Yes the grapes were from Paso….not Napa, so why the high price? Aged for 15 months… French oak… nothing too special. Yes I did enjoy the wine. I bought a bottle, but for me this was almost too much. I also enjoyed their Micho ($42), and Cab/Merlot blend. But part of the wine tasting experience for me is the experience in the tasting room. I missed the warmth, and personal feeling that you get in most of the other Paso Robles tasting rooms. Yes I bought four bottles of wine, but for me I probably won’t be back, if I want more of their wines I would buy it online.

Twilight- Now as for a total contrast to Daou, we ventured down the mountain and decided to try Twilight (one of our group is a Twilight fan- so we had to stop there.) When we got there, I remembered being here years before but it wasn’t called Twilight. It was Thunderbolt! The “meatball winery”. Years ago we went there and they were serving meatballs with their wines, we all walked out with cases of wine- when we got home we tried the wines and we didn’t care for them…. Must have been the meat balls! Well they were sued by Thunderbird, so they changed their name to Twilight…. Same wine. We didn’t buy anything here- but they again were serving food paired with each wine.

Villacana- Not wanting Twilight to be our last winery of this trip, we decided on one more- taking a chance I pulled into Villacana. We walked in and were greeted with a smile. Ahhh I made a good choice. This small production family owned and operated winery is no frills but good wines. We enjoyed the tasting of all of their wines. I purchased the Viognier ($18) which was the best Viognier of the trip, full bodied, great fruit, nice clean finish. The Estate Cabernet ($28), which made me laugh actually, because it knocked the socks off of the one at Daou, at almost half the price. (I bought two). But the wine from Villacana that I will remember is the Mourvedre ($35).  Very rarely do you see Mourvedre as a stand-alone wine; it is usually blended with Syrah. But this stands alone easily and it actually shines. Rich with black cherries and a nice toast, this is a perfectly balanced wine. The finish I swear, I still had on my pallet when we stopped for lunch an hour later.

Great trip, great wines, great friends….. let’s do it again soon!



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Paso Robles Wines tasting weekend, Day 1

We spent this past weekend in the Paso Robles area enjoying the fine wines and visiting some new wineries. Here is my review of the wineries and the wines we enjoyed.

Dark Star Cellars- I am a big fan of Norm and Susan Benson's winery, Dark Star Cellars, so much so we served their Ricordati ($32) at our wedding.
During this visit I once again enjoyed the Ricordati as well as the Anderson Road ($28), a nice wine that is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (45%), Syrah (45%) and Petite Syrah (10%).  Be sure to say hi to Gracie their dog too while you are there.

Attached to Dark Star Cellars is their son’s tasting room, Brian Benson.
Brian has a completely different style of wine making that his father does and he is doing it very well. The two tasting rooms are a perfect contrast to wine styles. Brian’s wines are big, bold, mouthfuls of flavor. He has experimented as well; to his credit he has a Syrah that he aged for 40 months in French Oak barrels and it is a delicious wine that shows well, and has a tremendous finish.
But I have to say the wine that totally knocked my socks off was his 2008 Zinfandel ($40). It was my favorite wine of the entire weekend. For me it was a classic California Zinfandel. It had bright fruit, balanced acidity and notes of blackberry, anise and pepper. It is a beautiful wine that had me thinking about it the entire weekend.

Justin Winery- Our next stop was Justin, while we were there because they had a Holiday Party Open House, where we could tour the Justin home (which is beautiful) we also had tasting of some of their fine wines. My favorites were Isosceles ($63) and Justification ($45). We also had tasting so the Reserve Isosceles ($75), not my favorite and I really do not see much difference in the two Isosceles available; I would much rather drink the regular and save some money.

kukkula- Following Justin we headed down the road to a new winery for me, kukkula, a winery from a Finish family. In September of 2010, kukkula completed construction on their winery and tasting room. The modern structure is partially dug into the hillside and incorporates innovative materials, such as rust colored insulated panels, and gabion rock cages. The vineyard uses dry farming to bring out the most in the fruit, and the wines show that character. My favorite wine was their GSM, called sisu ($30). It was a typical GSM (which I love) with notes of blackberry, cherry, violet.

Mondo- It was getting late in the day and we decided to hit one more. One couple in our group is a wine club member of Mondo, so we ventured to their beautiful tasting room. If you like inexpensive Rhone and Bordeaux style wines, and then I suggest Mondo. The wines ranged in price from $16 to $24 a bottle and you can’t go wrong with any of them. If you want easy drinking every day wines, then I suggest the The Truck ($18) a blend of 25% Zinfandel, 13% Syrah, 13% Merlot, 13% Petite Sirah, 12% Mourvedre, 12% Tempranillo and 12% Tannat.  Or the La Rocca ($20)  a smooth, velvety red Rhone blend of 56% Grenache, 16% Mourvedre, 15% Petite Sirah and 13% Syrah. 

For dinner we ended up at Chico’s Caffe in downtown Paso Robles, it was nice that they could get us in on a short notice with our party of 9. I highly recommend Chico’s for seafood. The prices were right and the wine list (yes after wine tasting all day we were able to kill off two more bottles) is excellent.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Robert Parker's latest.... what do you think?

US wine critic Robert Parker has admitted to Wine Future Hong Kong that his star may be on "wane" but that his influence has always been greatly over played. 

In a press conference prior to his public tasting Parker was in relaxed mood telling journalists that he was now just a "fat old happy Buddha" who they could come to for some "wisdom".

He said he hoped the high prices surrounding recent Bordeaux vintages "had now run their course". "For all the things that have been written about me I am a consumer of wine and drink wine every day" and that it was not in his desire to see prices out of touch with the market.

Really? Do you really believe this?

How often has the wine rating influenced your decision to buy a particular wine? Come on be honest here…



Monday, November 7, 2011

We're (California) #1.... who is #2?

New York sits in the number two spot for domestic wine production. California is number one. Each year New York's wine production brings in more than 20 million dollars - an amount state officials would like to increase.

Recently the New York State Liquor Store Association mailed out posters to stores kicking off the "Fall in love with NY wines" promotion.

Have you had a NY wine recently? If so tell me about it.