My recent visit to Alta Colina Estate Vineyard reminded me once again of why I love Paso Robles so much.
The area has been the center of attention recently in the wine world. This is largely due to the fact that Saxum Vineyards’ 2007 James Berry Vineyard just earned the #1 spot on the Wine Spectator top 100 most exciting wines of 2010 list, a perfect 100 score from Wine Enthusiast, and a score of 98 from Wine Spectator along with a photo of winemaker Justin Smith on the cover of the latest issue.
All the attention around Saxum has trickled down to other wineries in the area. Brian Benson, Booker, and several other local wineries were also featured with glossy photos and rave reviews in the March issue of Wine Spectator.
The great thing is that even with all the buzz, high scores, and continuous accolades the wines of Paso Robles are receiving, the area still feels unaffected. It is unpretentious, intimate, and clearly rooted in a true passion for winemaking.
Paso Robles is a place where on any given day, you may find the winemaker pouring for tasters while discussing the fruits of their labor and the process it took to get there. It’s a place where wine makers are proud of the incredible reviews and attention they’re getting, yet it’s evident reviews and scores are not the reason they make wine. Like true artists, they seem more focused on hand-crafting outstanding, expressive, world-class wines – review or no review.
This was definitely the feeling I got when I visited Alta Colina Estate Vineyard. When we walked into the small understated tasting room, the entire family was present. Winemaker Bob Tillman and his daughter Maggie were behind the tasting counter while his wife Lynn was chatting with guests.
We were immediately welcomed to the counter, which was only occupied by 2 other tasters. Both Bob and Maggie walked us through the incredible portfolio of Rhone varietals, describing each one in detail including the quality of the harvest, how the elevation of the vineyard and the type of soil impact the grapes, and how they created the blends they were pouring.
I truly can’t say there was a wine on the list that I didn’t like. Every wine at Alta Colina is 100% estate grown and produced. Furthermore, production is kept very low, which results in carefully nurtured, handcrafted wines of exceptional quality.
I very much enjoyed the 2009 12 O’Clock High ($28) which is a blend of 69% Viognier, 18% Roussanne, 7% Marsanne, and 6% Grenache Blanc – a crisp wine perfect for a summer day. Production on this wine was the second highest on the list at a mere 22o cases.
My favorite at Alta Colina was the 2008 Ann’s Block Petite Sirah ($48), of which only 125 cases were produced. This wine earned a well-deserved score of 92 points from Robert Parker and 91 points in Wine Spectator along with a photo of Lynn and Bob Tillman in the March 2011 issue. The ’08 Ann’s Block Petite Sirah is 100% estate grown Petite Sirah and has wonderful ripe dark fruit flavors balanced perfectly with a touch of smoke and spice.
One of the most memorable things about Alta Colina Estate Vineyard – aside from the wine – was the fact that it truly embodied the spirit of Paso Robles. The entire family was so welcoming and friendly. I loved having the winemaker himself pouring wine for us. It was all about passionate people sharing incredible wine in a beautiful and down to earth setting. Be sure to stop by next time you’re in Paso…
Click here to visit the Alta Colina Estate Vineyard website.
Alta Colina Estate Vineyard & Winery
2725 Adelaida Road
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 227-4191
Fax: (805) 541-8025
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 5:00PM Thursday through Sunday
* NOTE: Alta Colina is located upstairs at the Villicana Winery.