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Paso Robles Wine Road Trip Top Wine Producers

Paso Robles Wine Road Trip Top Wine Producers

Tasting and Road-Trip Notes from Top Wine Producers in Paso Robles

7 Wineries Worth the Drive

I recently went on a week long wine tasting and photo road trip to the Central Coast concentrating, visiting and interviewing vintners and vineyard owners and tasting wines in Paso Robles. Well someone has to do it. Right?  I proposed to my wife a few miles away {many years back} in coastal Cambria on Moonstone Beach and we’ve been to Paso many times on day excursions, but it was the first time I’d spent an entire week in Paso. I feel in love with Paso Robles.  The back country roads in Paso Robles are tranquil and gorgeous.  Dang they are producing some amazing wines in Paso Robles!

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During the week long journey “I dined sipped and supped at some of the most epitomable bistros”  lyrics from one of my favorite albums – Nighthawks at the Dinner – Tom Waits.  Its true I did.  I visited and interviewed:  Matt Tervisan – Linne Calodo, Ander Nelson – Rabble Wines {aka Rob Murray Vineyards}, Jason Hass & Neil Collins – Tablas Creek Vineyards, Jason Joyce – Calcareous, tasted at Herman Story, and with Scott Shirley  – Justin Winery.  Dinning included:  the Fish Gaucho – Paso Robles {twice}, La Consecha – Paso Robles, Foremost – San Luis Obispo {Rob Murray’s new place – ahhmazing!} and Hitching Post II – Beullton {from Sideways fame} amazing steaks and $10 corkage fee, I shared a glass of my Stasis- Syrah with the bartender and was comped the corkage fee.  It pays to be nice.

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So here my short list of some hard to find and some easy to find wineries worth the drive:

Calcaereous – Set back on Peach Canyon drive, high up on a hill, Jason Joyce – vintner, makes concentrated focused Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel’s.  Each one of his wines is superb. Friendly knowledgeable tasting staff and one of the best views form a winery in all of Paso Robles can be seen from their hilltop tasting room. First time I was here and I’m already a fan.  The name Calcereous is derived from the type of limestone soil found in the vineyards. Calcerous soil is calcium rich chalky soil containing shells, from sea-life once covering the hills in pre-historic times. The soil type,  the slope of the hillside combined with the weather patterns allow for Rhone, Burgundy and Bordeaux verietals to grow side-by-side.

Justin – In 2010 the folks who own Fuji water, purchased Justin winery for over $21m.  Scott Shirley took the helm as head winemaker after eight years as lead enologist at Opus One and winemaker at Hess Collection.   Justin’s flagship wine, Isosceles, earned the No. 6 spot among Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of 2000.  Recently Justin’s tasting room was renovated.  I’d never seen the original tasting room but the new one is super slick, very Apple-esque.  I had the privilege of spending an hour or so with Scott. Tasting his line of wines touring the facilities including the caves {off site} and interviewing Scott.  Each one of the Justin’s wines, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Isosceles blend are fantastic, well balanced wines worthy of the trip to their tasting room.  The grounds are gorgeous and there is ample seating on the patio overlooking manicured fields, vines and flora.  Their Wine Society is well worth joining with four different tiers to get a shipment or two of their wines with an upper tier of the Isosceles Reserve Club.  Dining is available only with advanced reservations, prixe fixe of $130 with two different levels of wine supplement starting at $60.  Its one of the few wineries that Seminar programs and their own inn….the JUST Inn.  Three private suites on property.  And they have their own concierge too.

Linne Calodo – Matt Trevisan’s wines are epic.  Six or seven years ago my wife and I were tooling around Paso and we passed a sign on a dirt road that read “Wine Tasting. ”  We hung a right and went down the dirt road and stopped at a little shack.  We tasted pure Paso Syrah was big and robust with amazing extraction….nothing short of epic!  Fast forward to 2014 Matt has a full blown winery that he built from scratch.  Matt farms his own land and is intimately involved in every facet of his wine making operation.  Linne Calodo is by appointment only and depending on the time of year you visit some of the wine will be sold out.  I recently spent the better part of the afternoon with Matt at his winery barrel tasting.  The barrel tasting was phenomenal and an indication that 2014 wines are going to rock!  The names of his wines are born organically by what he might scribble down on the side of a barrel or because a wine is having a problem – hence the name “Problem Child” 74% Zinfandel,  14% Syrah, 12% Mourvèdre.  He’s like a mad scientist, only he’s quite sane and brilliant.  I highly recommend seeking out Linne Calodo, and making an appointment to visit their tasting room.

Herman Story – You can read my review here.  A hidden gem, sleeper of a winery in Paso. Capturing #52 on the Wine Spectator Top 100, with their 2011 Grenache – California On The Road, 93 pts., Wine Spectator.  Russell P. From owner – vintner at Herman Story Wines makes delicious Rhone based wine blends from grapes sourced from Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles.  Do yourself a favor and stop by this gem of a tasting room in downtown Paso Robles.

2011 Grenache – California On The Road, 93 pts.  “A robust style, brimming with rich, juicy blackberry, wild berry and boysenberry flavors. This is intense and vibrant, featuring a dense core of fruit complemented by black licorice, cedar and spice notes. Drink now through 2022. 682 cases made.”   ~ James Laube  – Wine Spectator

Tooth & Nail Winery – I first met Rob Murray, owner partner of Tooth and Nail Winery at the Family Wine Makers Tasting in Del Mar, California a few years back.  His Syrah rocked my socks off.  Best of show IMHO. I ran into his crew again at the Family Wine Makers Tasting in Pasadena, California last summer.  Tooth and Nail is their new winery –  tasting room which just opened up last week and when I was up for a visit.  Don’t walk…run to their tasting new tasting room at the corner of 46 and Anderson Road, in Paso Robles. I spent the morning with Andrew Nelson, partner and VP of Sales and Marketing tasting the entire line up of their wines. They have four different lines of wine, Tooth & Nail, Force of Nature, Stasis and Amor Fati, with insanely cool labels, but more importantly insanely great juice.  My favorite line is their Amor Fati.  Their premier cru juice Amor Fati, especially their Syrah is everything I want from a Syrah, black olive, bacon fat with excellent extraction, great viscosity and wonderful layers of dark fruit with a lingering jammy after palate.

Tablas CreekJason Hass, owner partner and Neil Collins talented winemaker {since day one} produce decidedly French driven Rhone style wines at Tablas Creek.  In a partnership with the Perrin family , Tablas Creek produces organic wines from one of the oldest wineries {25 years old} in Paso Robles. Their soil bed sits on top of limestone rock shelves a mere six feet down and imparts an unmistakable minerality on the wines.  Tablas Creek produces whites and reds blends that are wonderfully layered.  Some  scoring consistently in the early 90’s to mid 90’s on the Parker scale.

Brewer Clifton – Not Paso Robles but, Santa Maria Valley fruit with its tasting room off the grid in Lompoc. About an hour or so South of San Luis Obispo. Had to include BC because I visited them on the way back home.  Picked up a case of wine form them for a collector friend. They boast this years #8 spot in the Wine Spectator’s Top 100.  Actually the to 10 wines of 2014.  Scoring a 94 for their Brewer-Clifton, Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills 2012, $40, 1,226 cases produced {completely sold out}.  What makes this truly fascinating for me is the fact the fruit is sourced from the AVA is Santa Rita Hills and not a single vineyard designation.  Just goes to show you that quality fruit and wine making skills yield delicious juice.

An overall observation if I may:  I found all of their wines imbued a silky, great mouth feel, wonderful aromatics and restrained elegance in their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  None we over blown or  over oaked as you often find in Central Coast wines.  Instead, you could taste the fruit.  In speaking with my tasting room host I found out that pressing and fermentation were done with the stems on to introduce some tannin and woodiness. Neutral oak is used when aging all their wines which helps bring out the characteristics of the varietal rather than conceal it.  Steve Clifton also produces wine under his Palmina label, which focuses exclusively on Italian varietals. Greg Brewer is also the winemaker at Melville, a Sta. Rita Hills winery dedicated to estate grown Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.

“Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton have maintained a consistent style across nearly 20 years of winemaking. They start with a cold soak to extract color and flavor and employ whole-cluster fermentation, which lends spicy tannins and structure, creating vibrant and distinctive reds. Absent new oak, the Pinot Noirs show off the freshness of the fruit and further highlight the Sta. Rita Hills appellation, which is particularly cool and windy. Low yields helped give this 2012 great density of color and concentrated flavors.”  ~ Wine Spectator

“…crafted by ex-surfer and rock singer Steve Clifton and ex-French professor Greg Brewer in a prefab metal shed located in an industrial park not far from the Lompoc prison. After tasting their chards I knew I had to meet these guys. It’s sort of amusing to imagine that their odd-couple chemistry has something to do with the contradictory lean/fleshy quality of their wines. Mr. Brewer is a lean, hyperactive former competitive cyclist; the Laguna-bred Mr. Clifton still seems much more like a surfer than an oenologist, brawnier and far more laid back. But both are quick to credit the unique geography of their chosen region.” ~ Jay McInerney, Wall Street Journal

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Marc Weisberg is a photographer, educator, chef, former wine buyer, cellar master; and lover of wine. Marc owns and operates a successful Southern California based photography studio, founded in 2001, and is the founder of Wine Photo Workshops. His work is widely published and sought out by luxury brands. Wine Photo Workshops are for photographer-wine-adventurers and image makers. We’ll visit and explore wineries and food destinations throughout the world. Visit with Sommeliers, wine makers, vineyard owners and restauranteurs, with special behind the scenes access. You’ll have the opportunity to learn, make new friends, have fun and raise the bar on your photography skills. Contact Marc by phone 949.494.5084, or email.

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