Saturday, July 25, 2009


Last week, Derek and I decided to head off on a little
road trip to celebrate his birthday. Our final
destination was San Francisco, but to break up the 8 hour drive (we refuse to take the 5) we took a pit stop in Paso Robles. Derek loves Paso Robles and always talks about it fondly but I had never been. I had drunk some of the wines and was slowly coming around with Derek's gentle urging. It has taken me a while to adapt my palate to California wines, but after 2 yeats of trying, I am starting to really like them. Our first stop was Linne Calodo, Derek's very favorite of all the wineries. He's been to their annual "Harvest Fest," party and quickly became a loyal follower. The picture on the right is of their brand new tasting room, still not quite open for business, but you can taste in the warehouse around the back. The wines were fantastic, big reds made with Zinfandel and Rhone varietals. We tasted the Sticks and Stones, Nemesis, Problem Child and The Outsider. The lovely young lady at the tasting room was nice enough to give us her suggestions for a few other wineries to visit. We got back in the car and headed off.
Our next stop was Villa Creek, at this point it was around noon and a balmy 110 degrees in Paso Robles. Certainly not optimal temperature for wine tasting, but at least we were spending most of our time in refrigerated warehouses. This picture from outside Villa Creek's winery makes Paso look like a harsh, barren desert. Combined with the heat, it really didn't seem like the kind of place that could make beautiful and balanced wines. But, luckily for us, the nights are cool and they get a bit of the ocean breeze to keep the grapes from succumbing to the blazing inferno that is summer in Paso.

The folks at Villa Creek (pictured right) were incredibly friendly as well and tasted us through 10 or 12 of their wines. Villa Creek specializes in Rhone varietals, and some of their wines were truly amazing, including a lovely white and a rich rose. We were also informed that the owners of the winery had a restaurant in town that focused on local, organic foods. Derek and I had a wonderful meal there later in the evening, though at that point we could hardly finish the one glass a piece of wine we ordered!

From Villa Creek we headed to Tablas Creek
another Paso winery that is well known for its Rhone varietal wines. Here we found another tasting room full of smiling faces. We tasted just about everything they were pouring and loved it all. Tablas Creek has some great affordable red blends as well as really nice whites. By the time we finished there we were ready to check into the hotel and have a little swim.
We refreshed ourselves and cooled off a bit, then headed to our 4th and final winery, Barrel 27. Barrel 27's tasting room is right on the edge of Paso Robles proper. It was the perfect ending for our tired and parched palates. Besides making a wonderful and extremely affordable Syrah, Barrel 27 makes some interesting blends, like their "Bull By The Horns," a blend of Syrah, Petit Verdot and Mourvedre. They also make a sparkling Moscato which was delightful.
We finished off our tasting day at The Paso Wine Center, an awesome tasting bar that features dozens of local wines. The proceeds from this hip, modern space go to Wine For Water, a charity that builds wells in Africa. We highly recommend taking a trip to Paso Robles. Besides great wines and friendly folks, the quaint little town is like a miniature Sonoma. You just may want to go when the weather cools down a bit.

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