It’s no secret that Paso Robles is one of our favorite destinations. When we stopped on the way to Napa last October, we were invited to a winemaker dinner as a kick-off to this year’s Zinfandel Festival. We joined our friends Howard and Lynda Howell at their home along with their daughter Deanna, several of their friends and Aram and Patty Deirmenjian from Kiamie Cellars. Aram graciously brought several bottles of Kiamie wine, the R’Own Blend, Meritage and Kiamie Kuvée. The wines are each exceptional with the Kuvée stealing the show. Dinner was delicious, the company was excellent and we retired to Shanagolden Retreat, our home away from home during our four day visit.
The next morning, we joined friends Denny and Jodi Jones at Tablas Creek Vineyards. I had met sales manager Tommy Oldre at the Family Winemakers Tasting in Del Mar a few weeks ago. We recognized each other from twitter (@tommytablas) and had a good visit. I told him we were heading up and he invited us to take a tour of the winery. Tablas Creek is a sister winery of Domaine de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. We walked the vineyards and learned a lot of the history of Tablas Creek. The owners have been on a mission to import all of the varietals from the Chateauneuf region to Paso Robles. They have, for the most part, succeeded. They still have a few vines in quarantine and when they’re released, they will have them all. Tablas Creek is one of the major suppliers of cuttings for wineries and they are responsible for bringing in many grapes mostly unknown outside of France. Tommy also showed us the grafting process which is truly amazing to witness. We finished with a tasting of many their outstanding wines. I wound up taking home a Grenache and a Roussanne vine which are now planted in our backyard.
We took a short drive to Carmody McKnight Estate Wines. This magnificent winery was one of the first places we stopped on our first visit to Paso nearly two years ago. We ran into Wine Maker Greg Cropper and Kathleen Carmody in the parking lot. Greg told us they had recently come across a few bottles of their ’03 Cheval Rouge and made sure a bottle got opened for us to taste alongside the ’05 vintage when we went in. We also got a chance to visit with owner Gary Conway and admired some of his new pieces of art. This winery is gorgeous, set on a piece of land with a beautiful lake near the end of Chimney Rock Road. Their tasting room/gallery is a must if you visit Paso. Gary and Greg are passioniate about and proud of the wines they make and with good reason. They’re among the best we have tasted in the region.
The last stop on Chimney Rock is Justin Vineyards and Winery. Justin has earned a reputation as one of the finest wine producers in the state. We received a warm welcome and were escorted to a table where we were guided through a tasting by four different people in their lovely tasting room. The wines were outstanding, especially the Tempranillo, Savant and Isoceles and I was fortunate enough to grab one of the two remaining 3 liter bottles of Isoceles Reserve, number 7 of 26. I love their whimsical “no parking” sign.
Another favorite stop of ours is the relatively new Dubost Winery. Jacob Raines is one of the young gun wine makers in Paso Robles and he is producing stellar wines. His mom Kate Dubost greeted us with a barrel sample of Jake’s 1st vintage of Zinfandel and he has produced a winner out of the gate. We also enjoyed the Viognier/Roussanne blend Alexandrine, the Homestead Red Tempranillo/Grenache/Syrah and Petite Sirah blend and the ’06 Carmenere. As always during festival weekends, there was a plethora of food including grilled sausages and bacon wrapped dates which we enjoyed at a picnic table in the sunshine.
Judy Starr is Kate and Jake’s neighbor and we made a visit to Starr Ranch our last stop of the day. Judy not only grows some of the finest grapes in Paso, she produces outstanding wines and lends her facilities to up and coming ultra small production wine makers. Two of those were on hand when we visited. Bob Fuller is producing DeoDoro wines and Glenna Tompson is crafting Symbiosis Wines. I tasted through Bob’s and Glenna’s wines and got a chance to visit with both of them. The wines produced at Starr Ranch have yet to disappoint me. We nibbled on dried persimmons and smoked salmon, chatted with Judy and drank some of her wines and called it a day. Next up, we stop at RN Estate, Anglim Winery, Kiamie Cellars, EOS Winery, Zenaida Cellars, Gray Wolf and the Zinfandel Festival.
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