Tag Archives: wine-ding road

Exploring Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone – Part 1

The Santa Barbara "Funk Zone"

The Santa Barbara “Funk Zone”

In what was once an old, rundown industrial area just west of Santa Barbara’s bustling shopping district, the Funk Zone has emerged as a hub of unique art, culture, food & artisan wine.  In my opinion, it’s one of the best things to happen to Santa Barbara in a long time.

The Santa Barbara "Funk Zone"

The Santa Barbara “Funk Zone”

With a number of shops, galleries, wine tasting rooms, and restaurants all within walking distance, it’s easy to spend a day roaming around and exploring.

Several of the tasting rooms that comprise Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail are located right in the Funk Zone – some of which are open late.  Buellton’s Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company also opened a second location with a great outdoor patio for microbrew-lovers (or those just needing a break from wine).

My first stop at the Funk Zone was AVA Santa Barbara – a winery dedicated to making first class wines that highlight the very best of the five distinct AVAs (or American Viticultural Areas) of Santa Barbara.

AVA Santa Barbara

AVA Santa Barbara

The AVA Santa Barbara tasting room was truly one of the coolest I’ve seen.  With the use of soil samples, incredibly detailed wall murals, and an excellent portfolio of wines, visitors get a serious education on what makes each distinct Viticultural Area unique.

Inside the tasting room at AVA Santa Barbara

Inside the tasting room at AVA Santa Barbara

Incredible wall mural in AVA Santa Barbara by artist Elkpen

Incredible wall mural in AVA Santa Barbara by artist Elkpen

AVA Santa Barbara

AVA Santa Barbara

We tasted an incredible line up of wines from cool climate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays to a Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec that thrive in the region’s warmer areas.  All the wines in this diverse portfolio were crafted from Santa Barbara grapes.

AVA Santa Barbara Wines

AVA Santa Barbara Wines

The AVA Santa Barbara tasting room is very dog friendly

The AVA Santa Barbara tasting room is very dog friendly

Outdoor patio at AVA Santa Barbara

Outdoor patio at AVA Santa Barbara

After AVA Santa Barbara, we walked up the street to check out Municipal Winemakers.

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

I absolutely loved the Municipal Winemakers tasting room.  It was creative and eclectic with just the right amount of industrial grit that makes the Funk Zone so special.

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Just like at AVA Santa Barbara, our dog Booker was invited to join us inside the tasting room while we tasted a delicious line up of wines.  My personal favorites were the mouth-watering Bright White dry Riesling and the juicy Grenache.

Booker relaxing on the cool floor at Municipal Winemakers

Booker relaxing on the cool floor at Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

Municipal Winemakers

I had such a fun day at the Funk Zone and can’t wait to head back.  Stay tuned for Part 2…

Click here to visit the Santa Barbara Funk Zone website.
Click here to visit the AVA Santa Barbara website.
Click here to visit the Municipal Winemakers website.

AVA SANTA BARBARA
116 East Yanonali Street
Santa Barbara, CA  93101
Phone:  (805) 453-6768
Email:  taste@avasantabarbara.com
Tasting room hours: 12PM - 7PM Daily

MUNICIPAL WINEMAKERS
22 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, CA  93101
Phone:  (805) 931-6864
Email:  dave@municipalwinemakers.com
Tasting room hours:
11AM - 6PM Monday through Wednesday & Sunday
11AM - 11PM Thursday through Saturday

 

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…

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

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure

As far as wine festivals go, there’s nothing quite like the annual Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles.  For the last 3 years, super small lot winemakers have descended upon Paso Robles to share the fruits of their labor with crowds of excited wine lovers.

These festivals provide a rare opportunity for wine enthusiasts to taste wines they’ve never heard of before, as well as a chance for artisan winemakers to share their passion – and often their very first vintage – with new fans face-to-face.

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Over the weekend of March 29-30, 2014, Garagiste Events brings the festival to Solvang, CA with the 2nd annual “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure”.  This year, the festival expands to 2 days and will include an outstanding lineup of high-quality, obscure, low-production wines from the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara County (as well as a few Garagistes from the Central Coast/Paso Robles).

Of the 56 or so winemakers that will be present, half are new festival discoveries, 1 in 4 will be pouring their first vintage, and 80% don’t have a tasting room.  Without these invaluable Garagiste Festivals, so much great winemaking talent would remain undiscovered.

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

This year’s Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure will feature two Grand Tastings, one on Saturday from 2PM – 5PM, and one on Sunday from 1PM-4PM.  Each day will showcase a unique lineup of winemakers.  In addition to the Grand Tastings, each day of Southern Exposure will feature one of the festival’s morning tasting seminars.

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Kaena Wine Co. at the Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

The Grand Tasting list for Saturday, 3/29 includes:  Archium Cellars, Ascension Cellars, Carucci Wines, Casa Dumetz, Cholame Vineyard, Cordon Wines, Crawford Family Wines, Dubost Ranch, DV8 Cellars, Graef Wines, Ground Effect Wines, Harrison Clarke Wines, Kaena Wine Company, Kessler-Haak Winery, Kita Wines, Larner Winery, Liquid Farm, Luminesce, Moretti Wine Co., Pence Ranch, Press Gang Cellars, Roark Wine Co., Ryan Cochrane Wines, Seagrape Wine Company, Shai Cellars, Tercero Wines, Transcendence Wines, Turiya, and Vinemark Cellars.

The list for Sunday, 3/30 includes:  a-non-ah-mus, Baehner-Fournier, Bradley Family Winery, Brophy Clark Cellars, C. Nagy, Cali Love Winery, Cloak & Dagger, Clos Des Amis, Dascomb Cellars, Desparada, Dilecta, DV8 Cellars, Fontes & Phillips, Frequency Wines, Gioia Wines, Guyomar Wine Cellars, J. Wilkes Wines, La Fenetre Wines, LaZarre Wines, Montemar Winery, Nicora Wines, ONX Wines, Plan B Cellars, Refugio Ranch, Scott Cellars, Solminer Wine, STANGER Vineyards, Weatherborne Wine Co. and Zinke Wine Company.

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure (photo courtesy of Tom Lake)

Tickets to the Garagiste events are very limited, so be sure to purchase yours soon.  The Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure is a non-profit event with all proceeds benefiting the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture program.

Needless to say, I can’t wait for the festival and will do a post-fest write-up on my favorite wines.  Hope to see everyone there!

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

Law Estate Wines | Paso Robles, CA

Law Estate Wines

Law Estate Wines

During my last visit to Paso Robles, I had the honor of visiting the soon-to-be-open Law Estate Winery.  From the modern, architecturally stunning winery & tasting room to the impeccably crafted wines, I was blown away by the experience.

Making our way up the gravel drive to Law Estate Wines

Making our way up the gravel drive to Law Estate Wines

Perched high above Peachy Canyon Road on the westside of Paso Robles, the Law Estate Winery offers visitors picture-perfect views of the sweeping Law Family Vineyards below.  When we arrived, we were greeted by general manager Oliver Esparham, who guided us through a tasting of the Law Estate wines.

Sweeping views at Law Estate Wines

Sweeping views at Law Estate Wines

Views at Law Estate Wines

Views at Law Estate Wines

Views at Law Estate Wines

Views at Law Estate Wines

Currently, the portfolio includes four wines from the winery’s first vintage, 2010.  We tried the Audacious (44% Grenache, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, 10% Petit Sirah), Beguiling (94% Grenache, 6% Syrah), Sagacious (44% Grenache, 42% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre), and Intrepid (100% Syrah).

Our "tasting room" for the afternoon with a beautiful view

Our “tasting room” for the afternoon with a beautiful view

Winemaker Scott Hawley is known for making wines that are an expression of their place, showcasing the very best of what the vineyard has to offer.  His passion for winemaking and meticulous attention to detail is evident in the final product, as each of these wines was truly exceptional.

The current Law Estate Wine portfolio

The current Law Estate Wine portfolio

The current Law Estate Wine portfolio

The current Law Estate Wine portfolio

I personally loved the Audacious, which had an elegant hint of acidity, the Sagacious with a perfect marriage of ripe juiciness and spice, and the complex yet wonderfully balanced Intrepid Syrah.

After tasting the wines and learning more about the incredible dream proprietors Don and Susie Law are turning into a reality, we were taken on a tour of the property.

Exterior view of the kitchen

Exterior view of the kitchen

Exterior view of the three story production facility

Exterior view of the three story production facility

Exterior view of guest entry at Law Estate Wines

Exterior view of guest entry at Law Estate Wines

More exterior views at Law Estate Wines

More exterior views at Law Estate Wines

More exterior views at Law Estate Wines

More exterior views at Law Estate Wines

When construction is completed, Law Estate will include a tasting room with panoramic estate vineyard views, a wine garden and outdoor fireplace, a kitchen where Orion Stang of Dilecta Wines will showcase his culinary skills, and a state of the art production facility which was completed just in time for the 2013 harvest.  It really is a contemporary architectural masterpiece.

State of the art fermentation tanks

State of the art fermentation tanks

State of the art fermentation tanks

State of the art fermentation tanks

Stainless steel tanks

Stainless steel tanks

Concrete fermenter

Concrete fermenter

Oliver explained that tastings at Law Estate will be unique in that visitors will make an appointment and will be given individualized attention by a member of the tasting room staff.  This means no crowding around a tasting counter with staff trying to remember which wine to pour next.  I personally love the idea and think it will elevate the entire tasting experience.

Barrel aging at Law Estate WInes

Barrel aging at Law Estate Wines

Oliver Esparham discussing barrel aging

Oliver Esparham discussing barrel aging

Blending room where the delicious Law Estate wines are perfected

Blending room where the delicious Law Estate wines are perfected

Beautiful late afternoon views at Law Estate Wines

Beautiful late afternoon views at Law Estate Wines

After our tour came to an end, we purchased a few bottles (all of which are priced equally at $62/bottle) and thanked Oliver for showing us around.  Thanks also to tasting room manager Kathleen Naughton for helping make our visit possible.

I truly can’t recommend Law Estate more and am so excited to see the property when construction has ended.  Stay tuned for the official opening, which will hopefully be in December or early 2014.  Law Estate is not to be missed.

Click here to visit the Law Estate Wines website.

LAW ESTATE WINES
3885 Peachy Canyon Road
Paso Robles, CA  93446
Phone:  (805) 226-9200
Email:  info@lawestatewines.com
* Tasting room is not yet open for visitors.

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…

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

Dog Friendly Wineries in Paso Robles – Part 2

In my ongoing quest to have our dog with us on most – if not all – of our wine tasting adventures, I’ve uncovered more incredible, dog-friendly wineries in Paso Robles. As a rule of thumb when tasting with dogs, always bring a leash, make sure the dogs remain well-behaved, and remember to be respectful of other tasters.

Below is a list of some of my recent favorite dog-friendly spots…

Alta Colina

Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery

  • Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery
    2725 Adelaida Road
    Paso Robles, CA 93446
    Phone: (805) 227-4191
    Fax: (805) 541-8025
    email: info@altacolinawine.com
    Tasting room hours: 11AM – 5:00PM Thursday through Sunday
    Notes: At Alta Colina, dogs are very welcome inside the tasting room while their owners try some of the winery’s award-winning wines. If the tasting room is crowded or there are tasters who have allergies, you may be asked to taste outside as a courtesy.
Our happy dog Booker relaxing on the cool tasting room floor at Edward Sellers

Our happy dog Booker relaxing on the cool tasting room floor at Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines

  • Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines
    1401 West Highway 46
    Paso Robles, CA 93446
    Phone: (805) 239-8915
    Email: info@edwardsellers.com
    Tasting room hours: 11AM – 5PM Daily
    * UPDATE 8/13: CLOSED. The tasting room is now owned by J Dusi Wines
    Notes: Edward Sellers is a very dog-friendly winery where our dog Booker was invited inside the tasting room with us. He was given a bowl of water and quickly made friends with one of the resident tasting room dogs. The two of them played inside as well as outside on the beautiful grounds.
Booker & Per Cazo's resident winery dog,

Booker & Per Cazo Cellar’s resident winery dog Rosie playing tug of war

  • Per Cazo Cellars
    5325 Vineyard Drive
    Paso Robles, CA 93446
    Phone: (805) 227-4949
    Fax: (866) 252-5962
    email: dteckman@percazocellars.com OR lteckman@percazocellars.com
    Tasting room hours: BY APPOINTMENT. Wine tasting is complimentary.
    Notes: Our dog absolutely loves Per Cazo Cellars. Not only is their gorgeous Creekside Bed & Breakfast dog-friendly, but Booker had a blast playing with the winery’s resident dog Rosie while we tasted some delicious wine outside.
Our dog Booker enjoying the beautiful grounds at Terry Hoage Vineyards

Our dog Booker enjoying the beautiful grounds at Terry Hoage Vineyards

  • 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
    Notes: At Terry Hoage Vineyards, dogs are welcome inside the tasting room as long as they remain leashed and are well-behaved. There is also a beautiful outdoor area where owners sip wine while their dogs watch water birds swimming in the pond.

More to come!…

Related Posts:
Dog Friendly Wineries in Paso Robles
Dog Friendly Wineries in Santa Barbara Wine Country

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

Sparkling Wines for the New Year – Vertuze & Louis Bouillot Sparkling Rosé

With all the celebrating that goes on at this time of year, I find myself enjoying a lot more sparkling wine and champagne than I usually do.

Since I have less time to travel to wine country over the holidays, I’ve been exploring the world of sparkling wine at home with friends and family. I recently tried a couple of bottles of sparkling Rosé that I thought were excellent and deserving of attention right before we ring in the New Year.

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rose

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

The first bottle I tried was a brut sparkling Rosé by Vertuze. It is produced in the Arroyo Grande Valley in California’s Central Coast from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. Made in the traditional French méthode champenoise, the Vertuze Rosé had a very pale pink hue and a nice touch of sweetness.

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

For those who are unfamiliar, the méthode champenoise is the oldest and most traditional way of making sparkling wine. It involves a long, detailed process which includes blending wine (typically some combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir) followed by a fermentation period that requires a secondary in-bottle fermentation that can last up to 6 years.

True Champagne comes exclusively from the Champagne region of France while bubbly from anywhere else in the world is referred to as sparkling wine.

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

Back to Vertuze. Though I typically enjoy a drier sparkling wine, the Vertuze sparkling Rosé was nicely balanced, very easy to drink, and easy on the wallet at about $19 per bottle. I could see this being a hit for sparkling wine drinkers with a wide variety of palates.

The second bottle I tried was a brut Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé called “Perle d’Aurore” by Louis Bouillot. Cremant de Bourgogne is the appellation (or defined geographical area) for the Rosé and white sparkling wines of Burgundy in France.

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé "Perle d'Aurore"

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé “Perle d’Aurore”

The Louis Bouillot “Perle d’Aurore” Rosé is a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay. On the palate, it started with lots of strawberry, but finished drier than the Vertuze with a slightly finer effervescence and a nice minerality. I could see this appealing to sparkling wine drinkers who prefer less sweetness. Also crafted in the méthode champenoise, the Louis Bouillot Cremant du Bourgone “Perle d’Aurore” Rosé was a steal at $14.

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé "Perle d'Aurore"

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé “Perle d’Aurore”

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé "Perle d'Aurore"

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé “Perle d’Aurore”

Grab a bottle (or several bottles) of Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé and Louis Bouillot “Perle d’Aurore” Sparkling Rosé for your next holiday party. I guarantee either sparkler will be a hit. Cheers & Happy New Year!