Tag Archives: artisan craftsmanship

3rd Annual Garagiste Festival – Paso Robles

3rd_Annual_Paso_Robles_Garagiste_Fest

Last weekend, some of the finest winemaking talent around gathered in Paso Robles to celebrate the 3rd annual Garagiste Festival.

Gorgeous day in Paso Robles

Gorgeous day in Paso Robles

Dedicated solely to showcasing small production wines handcrafted by talented and uber-creative artisan wine makers, the annual Paso Robles Garagiste Festival has become my favorite wine event hands-down.  Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to see what was in store this year.

Gorgeous Windfall Farms, Paso Robles

Gorgeous Windfall Farms, Paso Robles

We arrived at gorgeous Windfall Farms on Saturday morning and headed inside for our tasting.  I was particularly excited for the festival this year because I really hadn’t heard of most of the wine makers who were pouring.  In fact, half of the approximately 48 garagiste wine makers were pouring for the very first time.

This is exactly why I love the Paso Garagiste Festival so much – it’s an opportunity for undiscovered wine makers to share the fruits of their labor with those who truly appreciate unique, extraordinary wines.  The festival gives wine lovers a chance to try wines they may never hear about otherwise and offers them a rare opportunity to speak with wine makers one-on-one.

Baker & Brain Wines

Baker & Brain Wines

Our first stop was {baker & brain}.  {baker & brain} wines was founded in 2009 when two friends – Josh Baker & Matt Brain – realized they shared a common goal of creating a wine label that would highlight some of the best, consciously farmed vineyards from throughout California.  When they won a wine barrel in an industry raffle, they realized winemaking was their destiny.

Tasting at Baker & Brain Wines

Tasting at Baker & Brain Wines

We tasted three wines at {baker & brain} - a 2012 Grenache Blanc, a 2011 Central Coast Pinot Noir, and a 2011 Pendulum (60% Syrah/40% Grenache).  I personally loved the crisp, refreshing Grenache Blanc and the juicy, delicious Pinot Noir.

Our next stop was ONX Wines.  Last month, Wine Enthusiast magazine published an article titled “6 New Faces of Paso Robles” and ONX’s winemaker Brian Brown was featured.  I knew he was recognized for blending some interesting varietals and I was really excited to try his wines.

Jennifer Freck of ONX Wines

Jennifer Freck of ONX Wines

Honestly, I loved the wines of ONX.  There was not a single wine in the portfolio that I didn’t think was unique, well-balanced, and just plain tasty.  Brian uses Tempranillo and Zinfandel in a few of his GMS blends, which adds a whole new dimension to the wine.

The ONX Wines Portfolio

The ONX Wines Portfolio

We tried six different blends at ONX, all of which were outstanding.  If I really had to choose favorites, I’d probably pick the 2010 Reckoning (64% Syrah, 20% Petite Sirah, 8% Zinfandel, 4% Tempranillo, 4% Grenache) and 2010 Praetorian (64% Tempranillo, 12% Malbec, 12% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre), but they were all great.  The wines of ONX are not to be missed.

After ONX, we headed over to Dilecta Wines.  Dilecta was founded in 2011 by winemaker Orion Stang, a certified Sommelier who previously served as assistant winemaker to Eric Jensen at Booker Wines (one of my personal favorites in Paso Robles).

Dilecta Wines

Dilecta Wines

Winemaker Orion Stang of Dilecta Wines

Winemaker Orion Stang of Dilecta Wines

Very cool Dilecta Wines business cards (artwork courtesy of Orion's daughter)

Very cool Dilecta Wines business cards (artwork courtesy of Orion’s daughter)

Orion was pouring his Dilecta wines for the first time at the festival, and had two inaugural wines to try – a 2011 The Tiller (64% Grenache/36% Syrah) and a 2011 Unorthodox Syrah from Caliza & Alta Colina Vineyards.  Both wines were great, but I thought the Unorthodox Syrah was incredible.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Dilecta in the future.

Ghost Cellars

Ghost Cellars

Next we stopped at Ghost Cellars where owner James Cooper was pouring his very first vintage from a single varietal – a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Even though there was only one wine to try at Ghost Cellars, it was a pretty damn good one.  You could taste the focus and attention to detail in the glass, and James’ passion for wine was infectious.

Ghost Cellars

Ghost Cellars

After some great wine and good conversation at Ghost Cellars, we finished our tasting at Aaron Wines.  Winemaker Aaron Jackson was also featured in the recent Wine Enthusiast article and definitely has winemaking in his blood (he made his first Petite Sirah at the young age of 22).

Aaron Wines

Aaron Wines

We unfortunately ran out of time for the media tasting while we were at Aaron Wines, but we managed to squeeze in a taste of all four of his wines – a 2012 Aequorea Pinot Gris, a 2012 Aequorea Pinot Noir, a 2011 Aaron Trespasser, and a 2010 Aaron Petite Sirah.

Aaron Wines

Aaron Wines

Aaron WInes

Aaron WInes

I thought the Aequorea Pinot Noir was one of the best I’ve tried, rivaling some of my favorites from Santa Barbara, and the Aaron Petite Sirah was truly extraordinary.  You could truly taste the passion in these wines.  Aaron’s wines can be tasted at Paso Underground – a collective tasting room that features a couple other small production wine makers.

Overall the talent at this year’s Paso Robles Garagiste Festival was unparalleled. Just this week, Wine Enthusiast named Paso Robles 2013 “Wine Region of the Year” – an award the area couldn’t deserve more.  Congrats to all the Paso garagistes and thank you for sharing your outstanding wines.  I already can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year…

Terry Hoage Vineyards | Paso Robles, CA

Terry Hoage Vineyards

Terry Hoage Vineyards

Tucked away on an idyllic parcel of land on the Westside of Paso Robles lies the Terry Hoage Vineyards and tasting room. In the rustic winery perched right across the small parking lot from his home, Terry Hoage and his wife Jennifer are hand-crafting some of the finest wines to come out of Paso Robles.

Terry Hoage Vineyards Tasting Room

Terry Hoage Vineyards Tasting Room

Terry Hoage Vineyards Tasting Room

Terry Hoage Vineyards Tasting Room

Terry and Jennifer learned the art of winemaking from some of the artisan trailblazers in the area, particularly Justin Smith of the famed Saxum Vineyards. Justin made wine for Terry Hoage Vineyards and oversaw the winemaking process from 2002-2003 until Terry and Jennifer released their first vintage in 2005.

Terry Hoage Vineyards Tasting Room

Terry Hoage Vineyards Tasting Room

The Hoage’s take a very minimalist approach to making wine and do not incorporate any racking, fining or filtering. They personally oversee every step in the process, producing bold, juicy Rhone varietals that are 100% organically farmed and estate grown. You can taste the quality, creativity, and attention to detail in each sip.

Our dog Booker enjoying the beautiful grounds at Terry Hoage Vineyards

Our dog Booker enjoying the beautiful grounds at Terry Hoage Vineyards

Seating area at Terry Hoage Vineyards

Seating area at Terry Hoage Vineyards

During a pre-holiday trip to Paso, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Evan and Kellie in the Terry Hoage Vineyards tasting room. Aside from the Hoage’s, Evan and Kellie are the only other official employees at the winery, which made it feel even more like a true family style operation.

Evan & Kellie of Terry Hoage Vineyards

Evan & Kellie of Terry Hoage Vineyards

We were taken through the current tasting flight which included 4 incredible reds, and also got to try a couple of wines from the upcoming 2010 release.

Before embarking on his career as a wine maker, Terry was a professional football player and spent 13 seasons in the NFL playing for 6 different teams. He subtly pays homage to his football days through the names he give his wines (“The Pick”, “The 46″, “The Hedge”, etc).

Memorabilia from Terry Hoage's career in the NFL

Memorabilia from Terry Hoage’s career in the NFL

IMG_2727

Memorabilia from Terry Hoage’s career in the NFL

I thought all the wines at Terry Hoage Vineyards were outstanding and were on par with my favorites in the area (Booker, L’Aventure, etc). I wanted to take a bottle of each home with me, but I managed to narrow my purchases down to a 2009 “The Hedge” (a deep red Syrah named after the hedges of UGA where Terry played), a 2010 “5 Blocks” (a Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache/Cinsault blend honoring the 5 blocked field goals Terry had in his college days), and a 2011 “Pik Pool” (a white Picpoul Blanc that tasted like summertime).

The Current Tasting Flight: '08 "The Pick" Grenache Cuvee, '07 "The 46" Grenache-Syrah, '09 "The 46" Grenache-Syrah, and '09 "The Hedge" Syrah

The Current Tasting Flight: ’08 “The Pick” Grenache Cuvee, ’07 “The 46″ Grenache-Syrah, ’09 “The 46″ Grenache-Syrah, and ’09 “The Hedge” Syrah

The 2010 Release - Currently available to wine club members

The 2010 Release – Currently available to wine club members

I truly can’t recommend Terry Hoage Vineyards enough and thank Evan & Kellie for sharing their knowledge, passion, and hospitality. To quote Robert Parker, “This is the kind of wine the Central Coast should be producing more.”

The stunning views at Terry Hoage Vineyards

The stunning views at Terry Hoage Vineyards

Click here to visit the Terry Hoage Vineyards website.

TERRY HOAGE VINEYARDS
870 Arbor Road
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 238-2083
Email: info@terryhoagevineyards.com
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 4PM Thursday through Monday

Alta Maria Vineyards

Alta Maria Vineyards

It seems like every time I visit the Santa Maria Valley north of Santa Barbara, I discover an incredible wine that I’ve never tried before. On a recent visit, I not only found some new wines, but I discovered one of my new favorite wineries in the area.

Alta Maria Vineyards Tasting Room

Alta Maria Vineyards Tasting Room

Tucked away in the charming town of Los Olivos sits the new Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room. Although the tasting room is less than one year old, wine makers Paul Wilkins and James Ontiveros have been making wine for years. In fact, the Ontiveros family has a long ranching and farming history in the area. They drove thousands of heads of cattle into the Santa Maria Valley in the early 1800′s, finally settling there on the Rancho Tepusquet Land Grant of 1837.

With a rich farming history, a shared love of the land in the Santa Maria Valley, and a mutual passion for wine running through their blood, college friends Paul and James decided to turn their passions into careers. James’ expertise lies in viticulture while Paul serves as winemaker.

Pinot Noir label from Alta Maria Vineyards

Before stopping in the tasting room, I had heard about Alta Maria Vineyards and had seen their unmistakable bottles at specialty wine stores around CA.

The artwork on Alta Maria’s wines features hand-hewn iron nails used by homesteaders in Santa Maria before the Industrial Revolution. Each nail was essentially a one-of-a-kind based on the conditions in which it was made along with the expertise of the craftsman. This same idea of uniqueness and authentic, artisan craftsmanship carries seamlessly through to the wines of Alta Maria Vineyards.

Inside the Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room

Inside the Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room

When we walked into the gorgeous tasting room, we had our dog with us and assumed we would be sitting outside with him. On the contrary, he was welcomed inside with open arms and sat by us at the bar while we did our tasting.

Inside the Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room

Inside, the tasting room was warm and comfortable with natural stone floors, aged leather chairs, and a great cowhide rug. Our tasting consisted of four Alta Maria Vineyards wines: a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2009 Chardonnay, a 2009 Pinot Noir, and a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our dog Booker napping on the nice, cool floor

We also tried a 2008 and 2009 Native9 Pinot Noir, and a 2008 Autonom Rhone Cuvee. Native9 (strictly Pinot Noir) and Autonom (focused on Rhone varietals) are labels Paul and James produce in limited quantities along with the Alta Maria wines.

The wines of Alta Maria Vineyards

I truly loved all the wines we tried and could taste the attention to detail in each glass. I took home a few bottles of the crisp Alta Maria Sauvignon Blanc, the Alta Maria Pinot Noir, and the lush Autonom Rhone Cuvee – all of which I thought were really exceptional.

Alta Maria Vineyards

I’m so glad to have found Alta Maria Vineyards and recommend it to anyone visiting Los Olivos. It is officially on my list of regular go-to spots in the area.

Click here to visit the Alta Maria Vineyards website.

ALTA MARIA VINEYARDS
2933 Grand Avenue
Suite A
Los Olivos, CA 93441
Phone: (805) 686-1144
Email: aminfo@altamaria.com
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 5PM Daily