After two wonderful days in the Santa Ynez Valley, we found ourselves back in one of our very favorite spots… Paso Robles. It’s beginning to feel like a home away from home. I’ve said before we always discover one or two amazing places we haven’t visited before and we added two to the list on this visit. We began Wednesday morning with a stop at Rotta Winery. There’s no doubt in my mind that the person behind the counter plays a tremendous role in how you feel about the winery you’re visiting. Gail made our visit an absolute delight. The winery was purchased by Joe Rotta in 1908 and has remained in the family ever since. Today it is run by grandson Michael Giubbini. The wines we tasted were well balanced, fruit forward and reasonably priced: a winning combination in my book. The Black Monucca dessert wine spends two years in barrel outside in the sun. Imagine drinking crÃ¨me brÃ»lé! Gail was a hoot and we hated to leave, but we had another appointment to get to.
We took Highway 46 East, maneuvered through the road work and stopped at Vina Robles for a picnic lunch in the Huerhuero Vineyards with Vice President Marc Laderriere. We had met Marc earlier in the year and finally got the opportunity to take him up on his picnic offer. We grabbed box lunches from the kitchen, climbed into Marc’s car and drove through the vineyards, arriving at our lunch spot, a picnic table under an oak tree in the Huerhuero Vineyard. It was a crisp, blustery fall day and we ate sandwiches and drank excellent wine – Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red4, Petite Sirah and Syré. After lunch we stopped to watch the grenache grapes being harvested and sampled some of the fruit from the vines. There’s really no way to describe the sensation of eating fresh picked grapes in the vineyard. Winemaker Matthis Gubler grew up on the family’s Pinot Noir vineyard in Switzerland and is winning medal after medal for his outstanding wines.
We made a couple of quick stops after lunch. It had been a while since we visited Chumeia Vineyards so we stopped by and said hello to Kristen & Lee Nesbitt. Chumeia is a dog friendly winery and they are very involved in animal fund-raising. I’ve always loved their Zins, and enjoy their Viognier and dessert wines, too.
From there it was a quick shot to Tobin James Cellars and our favorite pourer and good friend Tim Booth. The tasting room is huge, the wine list is extensive and they boast the largest wine club in the world – 20,000+ members. A visit to Tobin James is always memorable, but it’s definitely more enjoyable during the weekdays when it’s not so crowded.
Down Union Road we went as we started making our way into town to meet Neil Roberts from Clavo. We were intrigued by the sign pointing to Falcon Nest, so we drove in. Carol was there to greet us and she’s a terrific hostess. Her husband Francesco is the winemaker and together they operate the winery. The tasting room is intimate, but opens to a much larger events room where they hold themed parties almost monthly. Carol showed us pictures of some of the events they have hosted – Arabian, Hawaiian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Portuguese, Italian, you name it – and costumes to go with the party theme. There are four wines at Falcon Nest: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel. Each was very enjoyable and after we finished tasting, Carol did a couple of her special blends for us – Cab/Merlot, Zin/Syrah. Francesco also makes sauces and salsas which are available for purchase. If you’re lucky you’ll see Peabo the peacock.
We met Edward Sellers’ winemaker Amy Butler on our next to last visit to Paso. We hadn’t yet been to their downtown tasting room, so we dropped in and did some tasting. The tasting room is light, open, contemporary and inviting. The Cuvé des Cinq (play on words for kitchen sink) is a blend of five Rhône varietals and is delicious. We also loved the Roussanne and Grenache and look forward to sitting down for a visit with Amy when we return. We walked around the corner to Vinoteca and met Midnight Cellars winemaker Rich Hartenberger and sampled some of his fine wines. Vinoteca is a lively spot with a wonderful wine selection and some very tasty food. We went back to the hotel, set the alarm for 4am and got ready to head to Napa before the crack of dawn.