May 25, 2007

Weekend in Paso - Part Deux

Windward has Burgundian-style Pinot Noir, which are flavorful and earthy with an amazing, food-friendly core of acidity that make these wines great for pairing. A discussion with Marc Goldberg revealed a man who is very passionate about his Pinots and whose vision is to let Americans know that a fruit-bomb Pinot is not a correct Pinot.

Castoro Cellars (1-800-DamFine – I love the phone number!) was there in full fun mode. Niels was autographing great posters (Irene is Dam Fine) while we savored their wines. They make a complete line of quality, moderately priced wines that were made for quaffing with friends. My favorite of theirs is the Rosato di Syrah (help me if I spelled it wrong!), which, unfortunately, they did not have at the Festival. It is an inky (for a Rose) wine with lots of Syrah character. I was introduced to their wines (and to Paso Robles) by a friend of mine and I have to thank her for the heads up!

It’s pretty obvious that I’m a fan of Hug Cellars. One of the reasons I became such a fan was because of his 2005 release of a Pinot from the Orchid Hill Vineyards. That wine with Thanksgiving dinner was absolute perfection. You can imagine how excited I was to find out that Orchid Hill is a winery in its own right. The only varietals they produce are Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier, and Zinfandel. Because they can focus on just a few items, they have been able to bring their entire portfolio to a very high standard. Their wines are delicious, but the Pinot (in my humble opinion) is a standout. Once again, it’s that mouth-bracing style that I like so much that makes me think immediately of Grilled Salmon with Capers as a pairing. Karen did the pouring honors and impressed me by giving kudos to Augie Hug for the fine job he did with OH grapes last year. See what I mean about Paso folks? By the way, they just opened up a new tasting room right off the park in downtown Paso. Gorgeous.

As I may have mentioned before, Villicana has the best Viognier (once again, in *my* opinion. YMMV.) and when we arrived at their tent, I quaffed a nice pour of it and once again felt that my assessment was correct. Then Alex made a challenge! He indicated that his grapes and those of Anglim Winery are from the same source. So away we marched, searching for the Anglim tent in order to do strategic Viognier testing. Um, *tasting.*

As it turned out, the particular Viognier they were pouring at that time was not from the same grape source as Villicana, but was fragrant and delicious, nevertheless. Because it was later in the day and I could feel palate fatigue creeping in, I limited my tasting to simply the Viognier and Syrah. Does anyone in Paso make a bad Syrah?

OF COURSE I had to stop by Tobin James’ booth. Toby was there in his glory, and they were pouring his wonderful wines. I took a couple of sips of Zin, a free cowboy hat, and was on my way. This is another winery that has a noticeable presence in my wine collection. My favorite (and I didn’t see it being poured), is the Fat Boy Zin, but I wouldn’t turn any of them down! Tooth-stainers, all.

There were several wineries that I tried for the first time, and there are three that really stood out. I’m not saying that the wineries are new (although I know that John Alan is relatively new), but they are new to me.

Hansen had a nice little crowd around their tent and I tasted their Syrah and Zinfandel. According to my notes, I thought their Zin was beautiful. Their website isn’t completely up yet, but promises to be up and running shortly.

John Alan himself was helping to man the pouring booth and makes a variety of very nice wines. This is a brand new winery, and John Alan is enthusiastic about his efforts. And he should be. As much as I loved his Syrah, he was very excited about the new release later this year which he stated would be even better. His Viognier had Viognier character (I’ve tasted too many that are either Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay wannabes), and his entire portfolio was promising. And yummy. Once again, we have website issues, but stay tuned for the unveiling. The website address will be

Another new winery – for me because I know they’ve been in Paso for a while – was Wild Coyote. WC had Zins, Syrahs, a Merlot, and a Zin Port that, unfortunately, was not open. When I say unfortunately, I mean unfortunately for *me* because apparently they’re about sold out of it. It’s in a wonderful bottle, and since my first real Port experience (American Port, of course) was a Zin Port, I only have love for Zin Ports! Gianni himself was there pouring, and exudes humor and friendliness. I will definitely make a point of visiting Wild Coyote next time I’m in Paso, which I hope is very soon!

Unfortunately, there were those wineries that I missed. And absolutely HATED that I missed! All of them are good, with a couple that are legendary in the world of wine. For instance, I missed both the Turley and the Linne Calodo tents. Both of these wineries produce incredible Zins and other varietals, are well-known throughout the wine world, and have a waiting list for those fans who want to be in their wine clubs.

Robert Hall is great, not only because of their nicely-priced and delicious wines, but also because of Robert Hall himself. He is quite a character, but I didn’t even get to stop by the booth to see if he was there on Saturday. I feel so ashamed! They have an expansive selection of wines, and there are several that are my favorites. By the way, they recently garnered a 93 score from Wine Enthusiast for their wonderful Vintage Port. Ha! I have a few bottles of it! By the way, when you are in Paso, you have to visit their winery. It is one of the most beautiful settings in the area.

Another booth/tent (whatever) I missed on Saturday was Carmody-McKnight. They have a very unusual history regarding the quality of their soils, and their wines reflect that quality. I own several bottles of their wine, including their new late harvest Chardonnay. Waiting for the special occasion! But I digress. They also have Pinot (which is ALWAYS gone by the time I’m ready to taste it), a great Cabernet, and Day in the Park, their unoaked Chardonnay.

And last but not least, I was able to stop by the Garretson tent, eager and excited to wrap my lips around some Celeigh – their Rhone Rosé – and was bitterly disappointed (like that?) that they had run out. Argh! As it turned out, that was the last tent anyway, and my palate had died by that time. If you’ve never checked it out, you have to check out their website. THIS IS A MUST!! Garretson wines are a love/hate relationship, and the fact that they give their wines Gaelic names makes for all kinds of pronunciation fun. The Celeigh, for instance, is pronounced “Kayley.” Their flagship Syrah, the Craic, is pronounced “Crack.” Want some Craic? LOL. This is Syrah with about 6% Viognier which makes for an amazing combination. It is a must to check out Garretson wines and decide for yourself if you love them or hate them. I love them. There’s nothing in between.

That’s about it! Whew! Obviously, I love Paso Robles. I really do … it’s my favorite, it’s local (as far as Wine Countries go), and the people are incredible.

To those of you who wanted to know, here is the link to take a look at Stanley Lambert’s Pristine Chardonnay.

Sorry about the posting being a day late. Oh, by the way - Marche Bacchus is having a Stanley Lambert tasting at their store tomorrow. Hope to see you there! Our buddy, Elliott, will be there as always.

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