Paso….the good, the bad, the ugly

Well the fan 4 ventured out for our annual Paso Robles trip. This years theme day 1 old favorites day 2 all new wineries. As you know all of our different personalities by now I will not spend much time on each sip of wine I had and the detailed tasting notes. I’m here to speak to which ones were great, fun and interesting and which ones sucked (to put it bluntly). Of course these are only all of our opinions I leave it up to you to decide for yourselves.
Day 1- of course it was amazing! Hello! They are all of our favorites and must try places! The usual suspects Terry Hoage, Kukkula, and Hearthstone. This trip I enjoyed all three very much but Kukkula was actually my favorite. This is unusual because Terry Hoage always takes the cake when we visit, don’t get me wrong it was delicious per usual but Kukkula is really doing some fantastic things with their estate wines. My favorite at Kukkula was the 2008 and 2011 Sisu. It’s just so rich and smooth drink alone or could pair with food.
My must take away from Hearthstone was their 2012 Pearl a white blend (60% Roussanne, 40% Viognier) and 100% amazing! The creaminess and apricot accents of a good Viognier with just a little extra flavor from the Roussanne. Terry Hoage must take home was the 2011 5 Blocks this is always a favorite of mine regardless of the vintage.
As we were driving back into town Brax and Doc wanted to check out Whalebone. The server was funny and more pleasant then the wine I’ll say. I wasn’t a fan of their “Bob Wine” they did have a blend that was drinkable called Boneyard. I wouldn’t go back to this place. Doc like their Bob Wine and is convinced he is going to pull a fast one on me one night and thinks ill love it in a blind tasting. We shall see I say!
We decided to keep with our tradition of cheese and bread with pizza for dinner. We stopped at Pithy Little Wine Co. It was the only shop that had cheese and was open after 5pm. Well we were robbed I tell ya! 65$ for three cheeses, a buffalo salami and a small loaf of bread. We were silly enough to purchase instead of going to Trader Joes up the freeway (to our credit we didn’t realize there was one in Paso, nor did we check). The purchases were good but again 65$ was ridiculous.
Day 2- I’ll keep this short. The good: Jada. The bad-Robert Hall, Vino Robles, Mitchella, Denner. The ugly- (this pains me to say this because of course it was MY pick!) Arroyo Robles.
Jada was good. Ari was our tasting guide. He was great and very much so added to the positive experience. They are doing interesting things with their wines. They are using the Tannat grape for blending and a new process of using cement instead of barrels to age the wine. Whatever they are doing it’s working. My favorite was their 2012 XCV unfiltered White Rhone Blend. They are ones to keep an eye on and a must visit. Not in the same category as Kukkula or Terry but I can see them doing some great things.
The bad-well they were placed in this category for various reasons. Robert Hall is big production and we all knew this going in but Hill had heard good things and we were thinking we could taste and get things that were small production that maybe you can only get at the winery. I didn’t really like anything all that much, it all seemed to tart. Christina was our host and she was really great. She gave us a tour and was very knowledgable.
Mitchella- I remember tasting some of their wine and thinking it’s ok but I was distracted by the server who was far more friendly and interested in the wine clubs members that were there tasting. If this is how they treat their visitors I don’t see how they will get any additional members. She spent enough time to pour literally a sip of wine and would walk back over to entertain this couple who obviously were members. Maybe if she had been more attentive I would not have been so turned off and liked the wine better. The thing is even if the wine is amazing it’s all part of the experience the adds to the taste….in most cases because if the wine is take your shirt off amazing and the people suck I may still like the wine the opposite is true that if the wine is so horrible you can’t even stomach it but the server is fabulous it doesn’t mean the wine will be any better. In this case the wine was ok but the experience turned it into mediocre.
Vino Robles- Let me say the tasting room is very pretty. They have a huge fire place and beautiful wood furnishings. Bob was our tasting host. He was nice but once some guy who wrote a wine book came in and introduced himself we were put to the side. He forgot about us a little but was still nice and he was apologetic for making us wait. The wine was again ok. It was not worth the price. They were priced in the 40$ range not super expensive but not worth it. Nothing was God awful but nothing was knock your socks off either. I could have done without.
Denner- Denner is simply placed in this category because of price and the snobby Napa feel it gives off. The wine was actually pretty tasty. Bold with lots of flavor. I enjoyed all of them but my favorites were the 2011 Dirt Worshipper and 2010 Mother of Exiles. You have to make an appointment to go taste, you get a code and enter via a big steel gate. All the wines are expensive and priced in the 60$ range. They just give off the Napa attitude and while, yes I admit the wine is good, it’s not good enough for the snobby attitude you get when you are there.
Ok the last category-the ugly! Again this is so painful for me because due to my competitive nature I for sure thought (secretly to myself of course) my pick is going to be the highlight of the trip and a new favorite. Well I was so so so wrong. As I stated in my last blog I picked Arroyo Robles for their variety and the bubbly. They had interesting things such as an Albariño, Tempranillo and an almond sparkling. Well all I can say is that after the first few pours it was so bad that I had to ask the guy if these bottles had been opened for a while. I seriously was not intending for it to come out wrong but I just thought these have to be spoiled. But when he replied I just opened them yesterday and then opened a new bottle right in front of us and had us taste I knew that it was just the way the wine tasted. They all just tasted like they were open for way to long. The crazy thing is red or white they all had that distinct flavor to them. The bubbly was not bad at all, and after I had made the comment about the wine being open to long I bought two bottles of the sparkling because I felt so terrible! Definitely a skip.
Dinner was at Buena Tavola. Pretty decent Italian food. Not sure if I would go back on our next trip but it was good. We all pretty much had pasta. It was not store bought that’s for sure but nothing was exceptional.
So that’s the good the bad and ugly short of it all!

Off to Paso!

We are on our way for our annual trip to our favorite place….Paso Robles! Today we are going to head to our most loved wineries Terry Hoage, Kukkula, and Hearthstone. Tomorrow we decided to try all new places. One winery picked by each of us. My pick is Arroyo Robles. I picked it because it has two sparklings and a decent variety but not too many where you wonder if they are picky with what they make or just putting everything out there that they can and hoping for a hit. We also are going to try a new restaurant for dinner to keep the theme going. Hopefully we will find new gems and new favorites to post about!

Paso Robles and Cambria June 2&3

IMG_0869Brax and I took a quick trip to Paso Robles on our way to stay at a cute little motel in Cambria I found thru Living Social. We had a wine pick up at Kukkula so of course we had to do some tasting, never a disappointment. Kevin gave us some suggestions for a couple other wineries to check out. From there we went to my other boyfriend(Troya’s BF too),Terry Hoage. Evan was pouring so he filled us in on some of the new stuff we hadn’t tasted the last time, one wine being the rose which was lovely. Needless to say we belong to another wine club. Caliza was our next stop, one of the recommendations from Kevin. Pam was great there, very informative and friendly and turned out she was from Cambria so she had some good suggestions. Caliza’s wines were very good, they had a very nice rose called Pink, very crisp, fruity but not sweet.  They also had a very good Primitivo, we bought a bottle of both. Our next stop was Epoch, another of Kevin’s suggestions. Again good wines and very friendly staff, the girls was very friendly and helpful. Epoch had a nice rose too, if you haven’t noticed I am a big fan of the rose. It’s a great summer wine! They also had a GSM that was good but I think a smidge on the pricey side at $65 a bottle. The Estate Blend was also very good and not outrageously priced at $40 a bottle.

After we left Epoch we headed to Cambria. I had never been to Cambria but have several friend’s that have stayed and really loved it so I was really looking forward to it.

We made our way to Cambria and found the Cambria Shores Inn. If you like to travel with your dogs this is a great place to stay. We brought both of our dogs and when we arrived they had a welcome basket for the them. The room was very nice, nothing fancy but neat and clean. They put a sheet over the bed so your dogs can get on the bed. There was a fireplace, small fridge and coffee pot…necessities. The shower had the large overhead shower head that was pretty awesome. The motel is located across the street from the beach so a great view. The grounds have several grass areas with chairs to relax, drink some wine and enjoy the view. Unfortunately no dogs are allowed on that beach but a few miles down at San Simeon State Beach is dog friendly. Our dogs had a blast!!

We went to the Sea Chest for dinner, they only served seafood. Lots of fresh fish choices but I ordered the shrimp scampi with pasta and Brax had the shrimp and scallop scampi with pasta. Both were very good, huge portions. We had some very yummy escargot as an appetizer too.

The next morning there was a picnic basket hanging outside our door. It had fresh fruit, OJ, yogurt, little packaged pastries, and a bagel. I really enjoyed this motel, I’d definitely come back. I think with the Living Social deal it was $129/night so I’m not sure what it normally is.

We went to breakfast at Redwood Café which was delish!!! On our way out of Cambria we went to taste at Harmony Winery. A friend of ours belongs there so we wanted to try it out. They had a Pinot Gris that was very nice as well as a rose otherwise I wasn’t impressed. Of course on our way out of Paso we had to stop at Kenneth Volk because I’m on a quest for more Blaufrankish which of course they won’t have til maybe the fall. Needless to say we found a couple others we really liked like the Mouvedre, Touriga and Syrah. By the time we headed home my liver was thanking me. Until next time…..happy eating, drinking and travels!!!






FTF goes GSM in Paso

After a year of talking about it and several weeks doing our research and speaking with those that know more than we do the FTF loaded up to start our GSM tour of Paso Robles. The idea came to us last year as we were doing some tasting and talking about all the press GSM’s were getting recently. If you know anything about GSM in Paso you know it would not be possible to taste them all in a weekend trip. We needed to do some weeding out before the trip started. We also wanted to venture out and discover some new Paso gems. After doing our homework and discussing our options we put together our highlight list.
Our excitement grew as we headed south on 101, so much so that we almost missed our turn on San Marcus Road. Actually we frequently “almost miss” this turn and after several near roll-overs have decided that it should be much better marked. It was hard to pass up some of our usual stops on our way to Kukkula, but we were on a mission. We have all been here several times before, Brax and Hill are members, but they have a great GSM and we knew they are just starting to pour some of the estate grow vintages. On this day they were pouring both the 07 and 09 sisu (technically a SGM based on percentages, but who are we to quibble). It’s always fun to taste the same wine of different vintages to experience how different wine will be year to year. These two wines were tasting quite different on this day. The 07 had a very light berry bouquet, was well balanced on the tongue with a clean, smooth start and dark berry finish. The 09 had a more inky bouquet with a hint of fruit, and was sweeter on the tongue with a clean, slightly smoky finish.
Our next stop was Alta Colina. This is a very small winery we had never been to before. The Rhone Rangers had found a GSM there that was well liked so we figured we should give it a try. Their two blends, the 09 Mourvedre (MSG-Brax was hoping we would find one of these) and the 10 Baja Colina Rhone Red (SGM) were both much more of a Bourdieu style blend then many of the other fruit forward Paso GSM’s. We all found these a little rough but they would be fun to try again in about 3-4 years.
Then it was off to Villa Creek. Without putting the two together, we had made reservations at their restaurant that evening for dinner about an hour before. Great place, wonderful food in downtown Paso. They had not quite finished the tasting room here so we tasted in the cool dampness of the wine cellar. I mention this only because it is difficult to let a wine open up when you are tasting it in a 50ish degree environment. They were pouring 3 different blends that qualified for our tour. The first, the 10 Willow Creek Cuvee, at true GSM, had a very nice dark fruit bouquet and the same qualities on the tongue with a nice clean finish. The 10 Avenger had a little inkiness to the bouquet and some cherry flavors at the back end. Both of these wines were well liked but seemed a little steep at $45 apiece. The last tasting was the $100 High Road, The End of The Road. This was a very smooth well blended wine with no rough edges but again not quite worth the price.
From there we headed down Vineyard Drive to Hearthstone. This was our first time here as well. Josslyn, one of the managers, was pouring today and gave us a wonderful reception and an even better tour of what they had to offer. To keep things fair I will only mention the GSM in this blog, but definitely look forward to a full report on all of the various wines Hearthstone has to offer. The list is long with a number of different classics and interesting blends. Their GSM offering has a very light berry bouquet and has a predominant dark fruit/berry taste with a smooth clean finish. Exactly what you look for in a GSM.
Our last stop of the day was L Adventure at the very end of Live Oak Road. Not the type of winery you expect to find at the end of a long dirt road. All of the wines they were offering this day were blends and two of them classified for the GSM tour. The first, 2010 La Suite had a more earthy bouquet then many of the others with classic dark fruit on the tongue but also a little tannin at the end. Their signature GSM blend 2010 Cote a Cote had very similar properties but a bit smoother. All of their wines were well blended and smooth, but a bit on the high end at $45-$85 per bottle.
We figured it was a good time to check into the hotel while we could still walk in a straight line and formulate sentences. We were actually all very proud of ourselves as we shared tastings all day and even after five wineries we could still distinguish the various properties of what we were tasting. On second thought maybe we should be worried, oh well. In keeping with our theme of trying new things, we had made reservations at the Paso Robles Inn. In a nutshell, comfortable, clean rooms, not a lot of fan-fare. They do offer rooms with sulfa spring tubs, which we opted for, but the heating mechanism for the water was not working so we did not get to try this experience.
We were up early the next morning (for vacation) and after a quick breakfast at Joe’s, need we say more, we were in the tasting room of Zenaida Cellars by 11:30. Having never been here either, we were again surprised at the number of wines they offered. The GSM on their list, the 10 Wonderlust was a classic, well balanced, smooth GSM with all the dark berry flavors you would expect. A very nice surprise.
After a drive up Niderer Road, with several stops to admire all the roaming deer, we came to Pipestone Vineyards. Dedicated to sustainable and organic farming, they have a pair of draft horses they use to do farming in the vineyards. I have tasted at other organic vineyards before and honestly was expecting more of the same, somewhat rough, earthy wines. Those pre-conceptions will leave as soon as you start tasting their wine. Their GSM offering, the 08 Rhone Style Red is actually a Melange/Syrah/Grenache blend. It had a light bouquet but came alive on the tongue with a clean balance of fruit and a hint of tannin on the back end. All of their wines were much cleaner and smoother than I expected.
From there, along several other dirt roads, it was on to Terry Hoage Vineyards. Which brings up the age old question, can someone go from terrorizing receivers as a defensive back in both college and the NFL to making phenomenal wine? With an N of one, I will say yes. This was definitely the find of the weekend. Troya and I almost came to blows because she wanted to dismiss our rule of not becoming members at the first tasting right there and then. All of their wines are blends, and interestingly all priced the same. The GMS blend, the 2010 The Pick was, forgive the metaphor, a pick 6. Like all the wines here, it was velvety smooth, with a light pepper bouquet and balanced dark fruit and pepper on the tongue with a clean finish that lasts. The price is a little high at $48, but these are worth it!
After checking into the Hotel Cheval we walked around town a bit and then ended the GSM tour where the whole idea was born at the Parrish Family Vineyard. As I remembered, the 08 GSM Rhone Blend had a very jammy bouquet with well blended dark fruit on the tongue and a long berry finish.
My final impressions for the Paso GSM tour of 2013. Winner for the basic, everyday GSM would be a 3 way tie with Hearthstone, Zenaida and Parrish Family, all in the mid $30 range. Overall winner and find of the weekend, Terry Hoage!


Well Paso never let’s us down. We love Paso for its down to earth mom and pop kinda feel. They have amazing wine where they have the right to be as snooty as Napa but they don’t act like it.
We embarked on a GSM tour but to be honest I fell in love with a few new wineries…….
We had a lot of tastings of some great wine but I will just discuss my favorites. First up Hearthstone vineyard and winery. We actually also bought a white (Pearl) in addition to their GSM (Lodestone). Josslyn was our host and she was fantastic! Friendly, funny and knowledgable. The wines were great and she was a great host.
Doc and I did purchase two reds (Willow Creek Cuvée and Avenger) from Villa Creek winery but they were more expensive than worth the price. Don’t get me wrong they have some nice wine but worth close to half the price. They also have a restaurant in town that we ate at for dinner……ummmm it was amazing and worth every penny. Braxs had a lamb shank that was to.die.for! My pasta dish was scrumptious! A must try in paso.
As a last minute stop on our first day we went to Windward. It’s strictly Pinot. Very delicious Pinot I must add. A must stop if you are a Pinot lover.
We also stopped by a tasting room in town that Doc and I have visited before. Parrish Family Vineyards. This is actually the first place we discovered a GSM……we had it again (2008 GSM Rhone Blend) very good but they also make a Petite Sirah and a reserve wine called Silken that is another must try!
Last but certainly not least my all time favorite of the trip…….Terry Hoage. Amazing!!! I have been anticipating the day when we open one of the bottles we bought! I wanted to join the wine club on the spot but Doc and I have this rule that we don’t join until we have come home and tried it again…..ummmm maybe with clearer taste buds :)
They were pouring four reds. I believe the whites were either sold out or close to it and reserved for wine club only. All of the wines were like a silk sateen dress dancing on your tongue as it swirled over your taste buds. If you only check out one winery while stopping by paso this is it. Evan was our tasting tour guide. He was great, but the wine was so good we could have had no one there to help us along and it would not have mattered. Did I say I liked this wine….? :)
Now where to stay….we stayed at Paso Inn. Spacious room but plainly decorated. Comfy bed.
The second night we splurged and stayed at Hotel Chaval. Fabulous! Pretty room with a comfy big bed. Great fireplace in the courtyard where you can sit, laugh and enjoy your company.