Tag Archives: Syrah

Babcock Winery & Vineyards | Lompoc, CA

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

One of my favorite new wineries is actually not new at all. Established in 1978, Babcock Winery & Vineyards in Lompoc, CA has a rich history in the Santa Ynez Valley and is one of the best producers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir around.

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Back in 1978, Mona & Walter Babcock purchased a 110 acre property on Highway 246 near Lompoc where they planted 20 acres of Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and sold small amounts of fruit to some of the most prominent local winemakers.

The beautiful vineyards around Babcock Winery & Vineyards

The beautiful vineyards around Babcock Winery & Vineyards

The beautiful vineyards around Babcock Winery & Vineyards

The beautiful vineyards around Babcock Winery & Vineyards

As rave reviews starting pouring in for the wines produced using fruit from their vineyard, the Babcock’s decided to open a small winery and started producing their own wines.  And the rest is history.

Mona & Walter’s son, Bryan has been crafting small-lot, terroir driven wines from the gorgeous Babcock Winery in the Santa Rita Hills since the early 1980′s.  The winery is still family owned and operated to this day.

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

I just FINALLY visited Babcock for the first time about a month ago and had the good fortune of visiting during their annual open house weekend.  The first thing I noticed was the uber cool tasting room, which had a vintage, rock star vibe and was surrounded by the most gorgeous rolling vineyards.  For dog owners, Babcock is very dog-friendly as long as they are kept on a leash.

The Babcock Winery & Vineyards tasting room

The Babcock Winery & Vineyards tasting room

Inside the Babcock Winery & Vineyards tasting room

Inside the Babcock Winery & Vineyards tasting room

Inside the Babcock Winery & Vineyards tasting room

Inside the Babcock Winery & Vineyards tasting room

Inside the Babcock Winery & Vineyards tasting room

Inside the Babcock Winery & Vineyards tasting room

Inside the Babcock Winery & Vineyards tasting room

Inside the Babcock Winery & Vineyards tasting room

Since it was the annual open house, I had a rare chance to taste Babcock’s entire portfolio of wines, as well as an opportunity to try two incredible, yet-to-be-released wines at the futures barrel tasting.  I was truly blown away.

Annual open house at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Annual open house at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

I was impressed by the first few wines we tried, which included a 2012 Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc and a 2011 “Upper Crust” Syrah.  As we worked our way through the list to the “Terroir Extraordinaire” offerings, the wines became more complex and multi-layered.  Bryan’s attention to detail and winemaking expertise was evident in each and every sip.

Beautiful outdoor seating area at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Beautiful outdoor seating area at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Beautiful outdoor area at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Beautiful outdoor area at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

I would have loved to take home a bottle of each wine I tried, but I narrowed my selection to a 2012 “Microcosm” Pinot Noir for which there are simply no words, a juicy 2012 “Precocious” Pinot Noir, and a couple bottles of the yet-to-be-released 2013 “The Limit” Chardonnay from the Radian Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills.

The Soulstruck Lounge at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

The Soulstruck Lounge at Babcock Winery & Vineyards where the futures barrel tastings took place

The Soulstruck Lounge at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

The cool, mid-century inspired Soulstruck Lounge at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

The cool, mid-century inspired Soulstruck Lounge at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

The cool, mid-century inspired Soulstruck Lounge at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

The cool, mid-century inspired Soulstruck Lounge at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

The cool, mid-century inspired Soulstruck Lounge at Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

Babcock Winery & Vineyards

I honestly can’t believe it took me so long to visit Babcock Winery & Vineyards, but I’m very glad I did.  Babcock is not to be missed.

Click here to visit the Babcock Winery & Vineyards website.

BABCOCK WINERY & VINEYARDS
5175 E. Highway 246
Lompoc, CA  93436
Phone:  (805) 736-1455
Tasting room hours: 10:30AM – 5:00PM Daily

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery | Healdsburg, CA

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Over the last year or so, I’ve fallen madly in love with Sonoma County.  In particular, the area of the Russian River Valley encircled by the towns of Guerneville, Sebastopol & Healdsburg.  From the towering Redwoods to the rocky coastline and everything in between, the natural beauty in this area is unsurpassed.

Towering pines line the driveway up to Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Towering pines line the driveway up to Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

The more I explore the wines from this area, the more I realize how amazing they are as well.  This year, we decided to escape LA and ring in the new year in a cozy cabin tucked among the Sequoias in Guerneville.

With nearly all the tasting rooms closed on New Year’s Eve, we headed to the nearby Russian River Brewing Company for some outstanding beers, including a Brown Ale aged in used Pinot Noir barrels from local Sonoma County wineries called Supplication.  When the tasting rooms reopened after the holiday, I couldn’t wait to try some new wines.

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Entry to Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Entry to Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

My first wine of 2014 was at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery.  The Gary Farrell Winery is nestled among the pines on a hillside that offers sweeping views of the Russian River Valley below.  Because it was such a beautiful day, we decided to do a Terrace Tasting which included 6 wines for $25 per person.  There was also a Traditional Tasting available inside at the tasting bar for $15 per person.

Inside the tasting room at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

The tasting bar at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Inside the tasting room at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Inside the tasting room at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Stunning view from the terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Our dog Booker enjoying some shade & the stunning view from the terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Views from the terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Views from the terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Hospitality manager Lavonne Holmes was our host for the afternoon and we couldn’t have been luckier.  She walked us through a series of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs & Zinfandels while explaining the history of Gary Farrell, and sharing her rich personal knowledge and experiences in the wine industry.  Not only was she a pleasure to talk to, but she also made my passion for wine burn even brighter.

The beautiful terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

The beautiful terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

The terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

The terrace at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

All the wines we tried were beautifully crafted and very nicely balanced.  I particularly liked the 2011 Rochioli-Allen Vineyard Chardonnay, the 2011 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir, and the bold, mouth-watering 2011 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley.  

Terrace Tasting at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Terrace Tasting at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

I could have easily spent the entire day sitting on the terrace chatting with Lavonne and enjoying the delicious wines of Gary Farrell Vineyards.  It was the perfect way to kick off the new year.  We will definitely be back soon.

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Click here to visit the Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery website.

GARY FARRELL VINEYARDS & WINERY
10701 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA  95448
Phone:  (707) 473-2909
Email:  concierge@garyfarrellwinery.com
Tasting room hours: 10:30AM – 4:30PM Daily

Highlights from the 2nd Annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure”

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Last weekend, some of the finest local, small production wine making talent around gathered at the Veterans Memorial Building in Solvang, CA for the 2nd annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure“.

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

This year, a Grand Tasting was held on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon, with a different lineup each day.  With 60 wineries pouring over the course of two days, and only a limited amount of time, I feel like I only scratched the surface.

While I had a hard time choosing favorites among all the incredible wines I did get to taste, I managed to narrow my list down to a few stand-outs.   If you can get your hands on any of the wines below, I highly recommend you do…

Archium Cellars
Garagistes Zach Jarosz and Ian Sergy of Archium Cellars poured their 1st vintage at the festival, which included a delicious portfolio of Rhone varietals.  I particularly liked the Provencal-style ’13 Grenache Rosé and the juicy ’12 “Haven” Grenache.

Zach Jarosz & Ian Sergy of Archium Cellars

Zach Jarosz & Ian Sergy of Archium Cellars

Delicious '13 Grenache Rose from Archium Cellars

Delicious ’13 Grenache Rose from Archium Cellars

Archium Cellars

Archium Cellars

 

Press Gang Cellars
Press Gang Cellars is winemaker Kyle Knapp and his wife, Savanna’s labor of love and true passion.  The Press Gang Cellars portfolio included some outstanding Rhone varietals, including a ’10 Grenache and a crisp ’13 Grenache Rosé “Savanna Rhea”.

Press Gang Cellars

Press Gang Cellars

Press Gang Cellars

Press Gang Cellars

Kyle & Savanna Knapp of Press Gang Cellars

Kyle & Savanna Knapp of Press Gang Cellars

 

Roark Wine Company
Ryan Roark of Roark Wine Company takes a minimal approach to wine making and truly lets the grapes speak for themselves.  I liked his multilayered, unfiltered ’13 Sauvignon Blanc and his modestly priced ($15/bottle), non-vintage red wine blend he calls “Craigslist Cuvee #2″.

As Ryan puts it, “where do you go when you are looking for a deal?  Craigslist!  What do they have on Craigslist?  Everything!  This wine is a blend of loose ends, things that didn’t have a home but that together tasted awesome.”

Roark Wine Company

Roark Wine Company

Ryan Roark of Roark Wine Company

Ryan Roark of Roark Wine Company

Roark Wine Company's "Craigslist Cuvee" Red Wine Blend

Roark Wine Company’s “Craigslist Cuvee #2″ Red Wine Blend

 

Liquid Farm
I’m a long-time fan of Liquid Farm’s Chardonnay and Rosé, so I couldn’t resist stopping to try the latest vintage (which of course, was as good as ever).  The ’13 Mourvedre Rosé was dry, crisp, and just heavenly.

Liquid Farm

Liquid Farm

Liquid Farm's Winemaker, James Sparks

Liquid Farm’s Winemaker, James Sparks

 

C. Nagy Wines
It was difficult to pick favorites from Clarissa Nagy of C. Nagy Wines’ current portfolio.  I particularly liked her ’11 Pinot Blanc Bien Nacido Vineyard and ’12 Viognier White Hawk Vineyard – both a little taste of summer in a glass.  I also liked her ’10 Garey Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir, which had an elegant balance of vibrant fruit and spice.

C Nagy Wines

C. Nagy Wines

C Nagy Wines

C. Nagy Wines

 

a-non-ah-mus
Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus released the label’s first vintage in 2007 and he’s been producing impeccably crafted Rhone varietals ever since.  I really enjoyed the ’12 Viognier which had a beautiful, crisp acidity and the tart, juicy ’10 Alisos Vineyard Grenache.

a-non-ah-mus

a-non-ah-mus

a-non-ah-mus

a-non-ah-mus

Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus

Ron Hill of a-non-ah-mus

 

Weatherborne Wine Corp.
Winemaker Chris Carter of Weatherborne Wine Corp. was pouring his first vintage (2012) of the one & only varietal he produces (a Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir).  That being said, it was probably one of the best Pinot’s I’ve tasted – the perfect balance of juicy fruit and a hint of spice.  I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for Weatherborne…

Chris Carter of Weatherborne

Chris Carter of Weatherborne Wine Corp.

 

ONX Wines
I had the opportunity to try ONX Wines at the last Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles.  Since then, I’ve fallen in love with the unique blends ONX produces – particularly their Tempranillo based “Praetorian”.  When I found out they were debuting a ’13 Rosé of Tempranillo called “Indie”, I had to try it.

Just like all the other wines ONX produces, I can’t recommend the ’13 Indie Rosé enough.  Delicious.

Jeff Strekas of ONX Wines

Jeff Strekas of ONX Wines

The '13 "Indie" Rosé of Tempranillo by ONX Wines

The ’13 “Indie” Rosé of Tempranillo by ONX Wines

Once again, “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure” provided an invaluable opportunity to taste some outstanding, yet-to-be-discovered wines and to talk to the friendly, passionate artisans who make them.  I hope to see everyone at the next one… Cheers!

Related Posts:
2nd Annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure” Returns to Solvang…

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…

Paraiso Vineyards | Monterey County, CA

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

There is something magical about the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County, CA.  Whether it’s the cloudless blue skies, the cool breezes that float through the Salinas Valley or the sweeping views from the hillside vineyards, there’s something truly intoxicating about the area.

The view from Paraiso Vineyards

The view from Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

During my last visit, I spent an afternoon at Paraiso Vineyards.  Paraiso is one of the 13 or so tasting rooms located along the River Road Wine Trail, which is the main tasting route through the Valley.

Paraiso Vineyards is owned and operated by the Smith family – one of the first wine grape growing families in the Santa Lucia Highlands.  The Smith family settled in the area in the early 1970′s and they’ve been crafting delicious, small production wines for 40 years.

Paraiso Vineyard

Paraiso Vineyard Tasting Room

Located high above River Road, the views at Paraiso Vineyards are absolutely stunning.  We grabbed our first taste – a 2010 Chardonnay – and headed outside to sit on the deck and enjoy the gorgeous day.

Paraiso Vineyards - the perfect place for a dream wedding

Paraiso Vineyards – the perfect place for a dream wedding

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

Our tasting included 7 wines for a $5 fee.  All the wines we tried were estate grown with the exception of a juicy 2009 “Irie” Zinfandel crafted from Paso Robles grapes by third generation Smith family member, Justin Murphy.

Our dog Booker enjoying the view

Our dog Booker enjoying the view

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

Paraiso Vineyards

Not only were all the wines we tasted really good, but they were also surprisingly affordable with the most expensive bottle – the 2008 “Wedding Hill” Syrah – priced at $45.  My personal favorites were the 2010 Riesling ($16) which is made of grapes selected from 35 year old vines, and the 2009 Estate Pinot Noir ($25).

We spent nearly two hours sitting outside at Paraiso and could have easily spent another two enjoying the gorgeous views.  Paraiso Vineyards is a beautiful winery with beautiful wines to match.

Click here to visit the Paraiso Vineyards website.

PARAISO VINEYARDS
38060 Paraiso Springs Road
Soledad, CA  93960
Phone:  (831) 678-0300
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 4PM Weekdays; 11AM – 5PM Weekends

De Tierra Vineyards | Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA

De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

Carmel-By-The-Sea is by far one of my favorite places in California. During a recent visit, I had the opportunity to visit a few of the many tasting rooms located right in town.

With over 13 tasting rooms within walking distance from one another, it’s easy to leave your car behind and spend a day strolling around town sampling great Monterey County wines.

Carmel-By-The-Sea tasting rooms

Carmel-By-The-Sea tasting rooms

Not only is Carmel-By-The-Sea gorgeous and very walkable, it’s also the most dog-friendly town I’ve ever visited. Tasting rooms, restaurants, beaches and shops all seem to welcome furry friends with open arms, and often have a water bowl and some treats to share.

Booker enjoying a morning run on the Carmel-By-The-Sea beach

Booker enjoying a morning run on the Carmel-By-The-Sea beach

One particular day, we decided to try the wines of De Tierra Vineyards. We wanted to get some food first and walked to town on a quintessential Carmel-By-The-Sea morning – foggy and a bit chilly with the scent of pine permeating the air. Just perfect.

Breakfast at Katy's Place

Breakfast at Katy’s Place

We decided to grab a late breakfast at Katy’s Place – a popular local spot with great food and a dog-friendly patio. I highly recommend Katy’s Place if you’re visiting town. Just remember to stop at the ATM first as it’s “cash only”.

Our dog Booker was able to join us on the patio for Breakfast

Our dog Booker was able to join us on the patio for breakfast

After breakfast, we headed a few doors down the street to the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room. De Tierra came highly recommended by a few local wine aficionados, so I was very excited for our tasting.

De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

When we walked in, we were immediately greeted by Chris who took us through the portfolio of hand-crafted De Tierra wines.   We opted to try 6 wines for a $15 tasting fee.

De Tierra Vineyards

De Tierra Vineyards

Inside the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

Inside the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

I had a tough time choosing my favorites, but I ended up buying a couple bottles of 2011 “Vindegard” Chardonnay ($26), 2009 “Reserve” Chardonnay ($30), and 2011 “The Puzzler” – a blend of Merlot & Syrah ($26).  I’m not a huge fan of sweet wines, but I was also tempted to buy a bottle of nicely balanced 2006 EKEM Late Harvest Pinot Gris ($32).  I’ll have to save that for next time.

Inside the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room.  The Corral de Tierra area is located on the Monterey Peninsula between the Santa Lucia Highlands and Carmel Valley where winemaker Tom Russell & his wife Carol own their home & winery.

The Corral de Tierra area is located on the Monterey Peninsula between the Santa Lucia Highlands & Carmel Valley where De Tierra’s winemaker Tom Russell & his wife Carol own their home & artisan winery.

De Tierra Vineyards "Vindegard" Chardonnay

De Tierra Vineyards “Vindegard” Chardonnay

During our tasting, we also enjoyed some fresh baguette and amazing olive oil.  After raving about how good it was, we discovered the olive oil also comes from the Corral de Tierra estate of Tom Russell, owner of De Tierra Vineyards.  The olive oil is available for purchase in the tasting room for $20 per bottle.

Inside the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

Inside the De Tierra Vineyards tasting room

Overall the wines at De Tierra Vineyards were fantastic and the vibe of the tasting room was warm and welcoming.  I couldn’t think of a better place to spend an afternoon.  Be sure to stop by if you’re in town.  I’m already dreaming about my next visit…

Click here to visit the De Tierra Vineyards website.

DE TIERRA VINEYARDS
Misson Street & 5th Avenue
Carmel, CA  93921
Phone:  (831) 754-3176
Email:  info@detierra.com
Tasting room hours: 2PM – 8PM Tuesday through Thursday; 11AM – 8PM Friday through Sunday

Exploring the Lompoc Wine Ghetto – Part 1

Lompoc Wine Ghetto

Lompoc Wine Ghetto

I’ve known about the Lompoc Wine Ghetto for ages, but for some reason, I never had a strong desire to visit. I had a preconceived notion that it was an easy access, multiple tasting room destination that catered to those who prefer quantity over quality. After visiting for the first time this weekend, I could not have been more wrong.

Tucked away in an industrial park in Lompoc, the Wine Ghetto is home to nearly 20 tasting rooms. It isn’t as visually appealing as some of the picturesque wineries in the area, but that’s what I loved about it. It actually deters large groups traveling in wine tour buses and limos. After all, it’s not exactly a place where you’d want to have your bachelorette party photos taken.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the Lompoc Wine Ghetto is very serious about wine. In the casual and inviting tasting rooms, passionate wine makers are pouring some incredible, super low production wines for their equally passionate fans.

Jalama Wines

Jalama Wines

Considering the number of tasting rooms in the Ghetto, I decided to try two during this visit and will continue my exploration over the weeks to come. My first stop was Jalama Wines.

Jalama Wines

Jalama Wines

When I pulled up to the Jalama Wines tasting room, I was very happy to see one of the resident winery dogs napping on the sidewalk outside. I discovered that almost all the tasting rooms in the Wine Ghetto allow dogs as long as they’re leashed and well-behaved. It made my desire to explore the area even stronger.

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

Winery dog Oscar relaxing in the Jalama tasting room

Winery dog Oscar relaxing in the Jalama tasting room

Once inside the tasting room, I was greeted by Mark Cargasacchi – the winemaker at Jalama who was guiding tasters through his portfolio of small lot, handmade Pinot Noirs, Grenaches and Syrahs.

Jalama Wines

Jalama Wines

A nice cheese & cracker plate to accompany the line up of Jalama Wines

A nice cheese & cracker plate to accompany the line up of Jalama Wines

The tasting at Jalama consisted of six wines, all of which were seriously good – complex, well-balanced and obviously crafted with care. I took home bottles of of tart 2011 Mourvedre ($36) and full-bodied, multi-layered 2009 “El Capitan” red blend ($36). I also loved the 2011 “Clementina” white blend ($26), which was full of mouthwatering tropical fruit, and the 2010 “Carg” Pinot Noir ($46).

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

Inside the Jalama Wines tasting room

For my next stop, I decided to try Zotovich Cellars.

Zotovich Cellars

Zotovich Cellars

Booker joined me in the tasting room and immediately made himself comfortable on the cold stone floor while tasting room manager Chelsea poured my first taste.

Tasting menu at Zotovich Cellars

Tasting menu at Zotovich Cellars

Booker made himself comfy on the cool tasting room floor

Booker made himself comfy on the cool tasting room floor

The tasting at Zotovich Cellars consisted of four wines (with a bonus taste of insanely good, wine club exclusive Viognier). Honestly, I was blown away by all the wines at Zotovich. The Chardonnay was beautifully balanced, the Rosé was like a glass of summertime with lots of strawberry and a nice crispness, the Pinot Noir rivaled some of my absolute favorites from the area, and the Syrah was complex with a blend of dark berries and spice.

Chelsea guiding tasters through the Zotovich Cellars portfolio

Chelsea guiding tasters through the Zotovich Cellars portfolio

If I didn’t already have several bottles of Pinot Noir in my collection, it would have been a no-brainer to take some home. Instead, I bought a few bottles of the 2012 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($22) which will be perfect for warm summer days.

Delicious Zotovich Cellars 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir

Delicious Zotovich Cellars 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir

Zotovich Cellars

Zotovich Cellars

If you’re looking to join a wine club, the club at Zotovich Cellars was one of the most flexible I’ve seen with the option to do a yearly shipment of 3, 6, or 12 bottles AND the ability to choose your wines. I’m sure I’ll end up a member sooner than later.

Overall, my first visit to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto was such a great experience that far surpassed my expectations. If the rest of the wineries in the Ghetto are anything like Jalama Wines and Zotovich Cellars, I’m in for a serious treat…

Click here to visit the Jalama Wines website.
Click here to visit the Zotovich Cellars website.
Click here to visit the Lompoc Wine Ghetto website.

JALAMA WINES
308 N. 9th Street, Unit C
Lompoc, CA 93436
Phone: (805) 735-8937
Tasting room hours: 12PM – 5PM Thursday through Sunday, or by appointment

ZOTOVICH CELLARS
1500 E. Chestnut Court, Suite D
Lompoc, CA 93436
Phone: (805) 736-1600
Email: chelsea@zotovichcellars.com
Tasting room hours: 10AM – 5PM Thursday through Sunday, or by appointment

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

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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

2nd Annual Garagiste Festival – Paso Robles

By definition, the term “garagistes” refers to a group of innovative, renegade wine makers from the Bordeaux region who refuse to follow the strict French rules and instead, produce “Vins de garage” or “Garage wine”.

For the second year in a row, Paso Robles has celebrated the spirit of the garagiste movement by holding a festival focused solely on small production wines. Local artisan wine makers – some familiar and some unknown – gather together for a long weekend, giving wine lovers from all over an opportunity to taste the fruits of their labor.

The Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast – Per Cazo Cellars

This year was my first experience at the Paso Robles Garagiste Festival and I was thrilled to be part of it. On this particular trip, we stayed at the Creekside Bed & Breakfast at Per Cazo Cellars. I honestly can’t recommend Creekside B&B enough. From the comfy bed to host Lynn Teckman’s delicious gourmet breakfasts that were delivered to our room each morning, the entire stay was perfect. Creekside B&B was also very dog-friendly which made it extra convenient and comfortable.

The cozy Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast

The cozy Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast

The Creekside Room at Creekside Bed & Breakfast

Amazing breakfast #1: Egg & sausage scramble with fresh mixed fruit, fresh squeezed juice, and warm muffin

Amazing breakfast #2: French toast, thick bacon, and fresh berries

The Garagiste Festival opened on Thursday with a dinner at Thomas Hill Organics featuring the cuisine of celeb chef Ludo Lefevbre. Unfortunately I did not attend the dinner, but having experienced Ludo’s pop-up restaurant LudoBites in Los Angeles, I’m sure diners had an unforgettable experience.

Windfall Farms – Paso Robles

We attended the Garagiste Festival on Saturday, which was the day of the big Grand Tasting. We walked into the beautiful Stallion Barn at Windfall Farms where 48 independent and passionate wine makers were set up for tastings in the horse stalls.

Inside the Stallion Barn at Windfall Farms

It was difficult to decide where to begin, but I decided to head over to Liquid Farm. On a rare occasion, I’ve seen Liquid Farm Chardonnay and Rose on menus at some of the finer restaurants in LA, but I had yet to actually try the wine. Owners Nikki and Jeff Nelson took us through a tasting of two Chardonnays – both of which were unique and wonderfully balanced – as well as one Rose. If you can get your hands on a bottle of Liquid Farm, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Nikki & Jeff Nelson of Liquid Farm

After Liquid Farm, we headed to Nicora Wine where winemaker Nick Elliot took us through some outstanding Rhones. Right now, Nicora wines can be tasted by appointment only, but I highly recommend trying them next time you’re in Paso Robles. I can’t wait to see what else Nick comes up with in the future.

Nick Elliott of Nicora Wine

From Nicora, we headed over to Cloak & Dagger where Ray Schofield walked us through his portfolio of exceptional wines – all of which are “handcrafted in secret”. We were unsuccessful at uncovering any of the secrets of Cloak & Dagger wines, but we were very impressed with what we tasted. We tried two Pinot Noirs, as well as a delicious 2010 Illuminatus Sangiovese and a 2010 Skull & Bones Zinfandel.

Ray Schofield of Cloak & Dagger Wines

After Cloak & Dagger, we headed to Red Zeppelin Winery where the eccentric Stillman Brown introduced us to a couple really good Central Coast red wine blends. Finally, we ended our tasting with the latest offerings from our friends Lynn and Dave Teckman at Per Cazo Cellars. The 2010 Epi Telos and 2010 Zing were so good that I had to take home a couple of bottles when we checked out of the Creekside B&B.

Stillman Brown of Red Zeppelin Winery

Overall, I loved being part of the 2nd Annual Paso Robles’ Garagiste Festival and feel like there were so many more amazing wines to try. The wine makers who I met continue to inspire me and deepen my love for wine. It was so wonderful to have the opportunity to taste new wines with the passionate people who are hand-crafting them. I look forward to next year…

Wrath Wines | Monterey County, CA

Wrath Wines

Wrath Wines

The Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County was yet-to-be-explored wine country for me until a couple of weekends ago. After spending two perfect days soaking up as much of the area as I could, I found it to be a unique and very special place.

The SLH AVA sits in the Salinas Valley between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan Mountain Ranges, and enjoys a true cool climate thanks to fog and breezes blowing in from the Monterey Bay. This makes it absolutely ideal for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah – varieties that dominate in the area. As a serious fan of Pinot Noir, I couldn’t wait to taste some new wines.

Wrath Wines

We spent most of our time on the River Road Wine Trail, which is essentially the main artery through the Valley and home to approximately 13 tasting rooms. The area is covered by over 50 vineyards, but most of them are private and solely grow grapes to sell to wine makers. We stopped at many of the tasting rooms along the wine trail, but I absolutely fell in love with Wrath Wines.

Exterior of the Wrath Wines tasting room

Exterior of the Wrath Wines tasting room

Aside from the fact that it’s surrounded by gorgeous vineyards, the Wrath Wines tasting room was not an immediate stunner. That is, until we stepped inside. Once I walked through the front door, I felt like I had entered a hidden oasis.

A view of the outdoors from inside the Wrath Wines tasting room

Wrath Wines tasting room

Wrath Wines

Inside, the tasting room was modern, simple & bright. We had our dog, Booker, with us and he was immediately welcomed to join us indoors. He quickly became friends with a winery dog named Penny and the two of them chased each other through the vines the entire time we tasted. We decided to grab our first taste and join the doggies outside.

Sip Certified Wrath Wines

Wrath Wines

Wrath tasting menu

We enjoyed an outstanding line up of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and Syrahs while relaxing by the pond. We also ordered a plate of crackers with local, hand crafted Monterey Jack cheese from Schoch Family Farmstead.

The cheese is hand-made just down the road from the winery by the Schoch family who have owned and operated their small dairy since 1944. It was so yummy and paired so nicely with the wine that I hunted it down at The Cheese Shop in Carmel – right next to Wrath’s smaller Carmel tasting room.

Stunning views at Wrath Wines

Penny showing our dog Booker around the property…

Wrath Wines

Pond at the Wrath Wines tasting room

Outdoor seating at Wrath Wines

Outdoor seating at Wrath Wines

Wrath Wine & Schoch Family Farmstead Cheese

Wrath’s adorable winery dog, Penny

An incredible old building that sits next to the vineyards and can be seen on the label of every bottle of Wrath wine.

Even after spending a couple of hours at Wrath Wines, I didn’t want to leave. The stunning scenery, amazing wine, and friendly people made the whole experience unforgettable. I can’t think of a better place to lose track of an afternoon. Wrath is not to be missed.

Click here to visit the Wrath Wines website.

WRATH WINES
35801 Foothill Road
Soledad, CA 93960
Phone: (831) 678-2212
Email: info@wrathwines.com
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 5PM Friday through Monday