sky & water It’s no secret that Laura and I love Paso Robles. We paid our first visit here last May and are back in town for our seventh visit. Someone just asked me why I like Paso so much. There are several reasons. Obviously, there’s some incredible wine here. More than that, there’s magic. There’s a unique feeling, a camaraderie, that is tangible. People smile more. They’re genuine. It feels like home.

On our last visit we became one of the first 100 members of Pear Valley’s wine club. We came up for the party they hosted Saturday for their charter members. We got into town yesterday and stopped at Tobin James Cellars to visit Tim Booth, the first person we met here last year and who has since become a dear friend. After a quick visit and some tasting, it was off to Carina Cellars to meet Phil Stevens, owner and winemaker at Del Real at Starr Ranch.

Phil makes one of the best Zinfandels I’ve ever tasted. We served it recently at a dinner party and every single guest was floored by how good it was. It and his Viognier/Rousanne blend will soon be available. Keep an eye out for Phil and Del Real wines. Aside from his quality product, Phil is a terrific guy.

We had a little time before the tasting rooms closed, so we paid a visit to Wild Coyote. You almost feel as if you’re in Taos, New Mexico. We only had time for a quick tasting, but it’s a lovely facility with 100% red varietals. There’s a also a bed and breakfast on the facility. The first thing you notice is the teepee when you pull up the driveway. There’s also broken pottery pieces in the hillside. We’ll return when we have more time.

We met Donovan, owner of The Crooked Kilt, when we were at Tobin James. We stopped for a bite to eat and the first half of the Lakers’ game. Donovan took us upstairs to show us his new “Clover” lounge that he’ll be opening soon. It’s beautifully decorated and features private rooms with flat screen TVs and a bottle menu. Dinner was very tasty… we headed back to the motel and called it a night.

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Friday morning we decided to visit the Austin Hope & Treana Winery tasting room. As soon as we got close, I could tell we were in for a treat. The new tasting room is spectacular. We met Whitney Railsback, who poured us some wonderful fines. We left with a six pack of the Treana 2007 Viognier/Marsanne blend.

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vr barrel I had been in touch with Marc Ladierre at Vina Robles and we headed out to meet him and DeAnna Morrison from Wine Country Outings. Vina Robles is a gorgeous facility and Marc made us feel right at home. He had to leave for an appointment, but he left us in the capable hands of Jacob and we went through one treat after another on the tasting menus. DeAnna joined us halfway through the tasting. Their new White 4 is a blend of Viognier, Verdelho, Vermentino and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s crisp and easy drinking and they have virtually sold out of 1600 cases in less than two months. Highlights of the tasting were the 2006 Ryan Road Syrah (simply magnificent) and the 2006 Suendero (Dream Path) Meritage which picked up double gold, grand champion and best of show at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition.

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It was getting to be lunch time, but we still had one more stop to make. Our new friend Deanna took us across the street to Mitchella Vineyard and Winery. It was there we started using our new WCO journals. What a great idea. There are pages for 32 outings, with room to take note of what you tasted and how you liked what you tasted. Participating wineries will stamp your journal like a passport and it’s fun to get labels to stick on the pages as souvenirs.

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We met Darren and Angela who were excellent hosts. Darren was born and raised on the property. They poured us samples both on and off the tasting list. I found their 2006 Syrah, the 2007 Zinfandel and the 2007 Rambunctious Red (a Zin/Cab/Syrah blend) to be exceptional. It was lunchtime, so we headed downtown for a bite at Artisan.

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We had a delicious lunch and a great visit. DeAnna is a fifth generation Templeton native. It’s amazing the number of people we ran into that she knew. We finished lunch and headed for Anglim Winery at the old train depot. We met Steve Anglim last year at a tasting at The Wine Company, and met his wife Steffanie at the winery last year. They are a delightful couple and Steve produces superior wines.

The 2007 Viognier, the 2007 Bien Nacido and Fiddlestix Pinot Noirs and 2006 Zinfandel all pleased our palates. We parted ways with Deanna at that point. Laura and I took off for Villicana Winery for a visit with Alex Villicana. From there we stopped at the majestic Carmody McKnight Estate, back downtown to see Kiamie Wine Cellars, then down to Templeton for a quick stop at Pomar Junction.

When I pick up the tale again, I’ll share my visit with Alex Villicana. villicana alex