It’s amazing to me how many wine-growing regions there are in California, and in particular, how many I have not visited in the 25+ years I’ve lived in this state. While I know I’ll never be able to visit even a fraction of all the wineries around, I would like to hit the major wine areas, however. So, after our last trip down to the LA area, I asked Mike to take 101 on the way back north and stop at Paso Robles for some wine tasting. I decided on trying the wineries on highway 46E because several of them were free, and they were conveniently located off the Freeway. I would love to try the wineries west of Paso Robles some other time.
I wasn’t overly impressed with the area of Paso Robles we visited. It wasn’t particularly scenic, the wineries were not that pretty or interesting and the wines were mediocre at best. This was a particular disappointment after the unexpectedly good wine tasting trip I had to Amador County. I was hoping that my negative preconceptions about Paso Robles’ wine would have been similarly quashed.
The first winery I visited was EOS. The tasting room was located in a small Mediterranean style villa, with a very Southern California look, and included a very large shopping area. They offer a flight of 4 regular wines for free, or estate tastings for $10. I decided to go for the free wines.
I had their 2005 Novella Uno da Tavola ($20), their 2004 EOS Zinfandel ($18), their 2005 EOS Cabernet Sauvignong ($18 or $108 for a case), their 2005 Petite Sirah ($18) and their 2007 EOS Late Harvest Moscato ($22). In general I found the wines to be table quality. They appeared young and unsophisticated, lacking subtleties. None of them had even hints of oak (and I’m definitely an oak person). The Moscato was one of the lightest wines I’ve had. In all, I wasn’t happy with the wines and wouldn’t buy them even at half their price.
EOS sells their wines through supermarkets and BevMo – some are also available at Costco and CostPlus.
Our second winery was Chumeia Vineyards – a relatively new and small family winery (you can see the owners’ home up in the hill) offering tastes from their steel-barrel room. Even so, it was pretty crowded and the lone attendant had to deal with 9 wine tasters on her own (and did an amazing job of keeping everybody content). Tastings are complimentary.
The owner is a winemaker but has a sister winery in Argentina (which made me eager to like them). Indeed, their not-quite dessertish Silver Nectar wine ($10) is made in Argentina (thus the cheap price). Steel, we found the wine too sweet for a regular white wine and not sweet enough for dessert, and saw little reason to like it.
That, unfortunately, was the case with the other wines as well. We almost spat out their 2006 Barbera ($35). It smelled and tasted like a fortified wine (and I’m not fond of spirits myself) and was somewhat piquant. I truly, truly disliked it – but the people next to me loved it and bought a bottle. According to the attendant, it goes well with tomato dishes.
I also tasted their 2006 Zinfandel ($14), the 2005 Estate Cab ($30), their 2006 Viognier ($16) and 2006 Chardonnay ($12). Once again I found the wines to have young, bold flavors, but not much in the way of finishes. They weren’t for me. One of the big problems may have been, however, that all the wines were served much warmer than they should have. It was a warm day, so it’s understandable, but I think I would have enjoyed them more a few degrees colder.
As of today Laura’s Vinyard is no more. We visited it in its last day of existence, tomorrow the tasting room will re-open as Derby’s. The wines will be different and you won’t be able to taste any of what we had. That may not be a bad thing, as while we found most of the wines satisfying and easy enough to drink, none of them was particularly interesting or delicious. We’d drink them, but not seek them out.
We tasted their 2005 Chardonnay ($18), their 2006 Rosado de Syrah ($14), their 2002 Merlot ($18), their 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20), Their 2005 Laura’s Vineyard Cabernet ($26), their 2005 Petit Sirah ($22) and their 2003 Cabernet Franc ($24). Their white and rose could have used more fruit and more sweetness, their cabs, more oak (of course). None justified their high price. We wouldn’t buy them.
The small tasting room is located in a double-wide mobile home and lacks charm. They do sell a few products, mostly t-shirts and oils, which seem to be popular with women named Laura and their friends and relatives :-). The attendant was quite knowledgeable and charismatic, and she will continue working there under their new name. Tasting was $5, you get to keep the glass.
We moved on to Eberle Winery, which has a nice picnic area with a view of rolling vineyards. They also feature a bronze statue of a boar (eberle means small wild boar) spouting water, which kids may enjoy. Inside, there is a large tasting room with a large shopping area – which Mike browsed as I wine tasted yet again. Tasting here is complementary.
I was happier all in all with the wines here – I’m not sure if this is because they seemed more balanced, more commercial or because I was tipsier by then. I’ve noticed that the more I drink, the more I buy.
I found a couple of their wines – the 2005 Cotes du Robles ($20) and their 2005 Zinfandel – too blunt for my taste, but the 2007 Estate Chardonnay ($18) was refreshing and would go well with chocolate. I almost bought a bottle for their NV Full Board Red ($15), available only a the winery, which was a nice, balanced, quiet table wine. Instead we went with the 2007 Muscat ($14), which we found fresh, not overly sweet and light. I think it’d be a good dessert wine for a summer day, and could even go well with appetizers. Let’s see if we actually drink it (we’re very bad about drinking sweet wines).
I was determined to visit five wineries on this trip – after all, taking 101 made our trip much longer and I wanted to make it be worth it – and I still had one to go to. Firestone has some vague (or not so vague) relationship with the tire maker and apparently with one of the “stars” of the TV series “The Bachelor“. It also has a pretty nice tasting room. Tastings are $5 for 6 wines and you get to keep the glass.
Once again, I thought the wines here were nice. Not nice enough to buy, but perfectly adequate for drinking.
So that was it for my brief sojourn to Paso Robles. After all that wine I fell asleep in the car 🙂
This week Mike and I took a mini-vacation to the northern California wine country. We spent three days wine tasting, in Napa, the Russian River Valley and Mendocino. Of necessity, we visited only a few wineries, but you can read my notes from them. Alas, I’m in no way a wine connoisseur and I’m completely unable to taste any of the dozens of flavors experts can discern in wine. Berries? mango? licorish? I can’t find them. So don’t take my reviews too seriously. In reality all I can say is what I liked and what I didn’t like, which may be very different from what you like. I tend to like full-bodied wines, neither light or heavy in tanins and with a well defined oakiness (which I didn’t find at all in this trip).
Anyway here is my report from Napa. Reports from the Russian River Valley and Mendocino will follow.