Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

WINE: Paso Robles Wineries

The Wineries of Paso Robles
(Click the picture for a few more winery photos)

On Saturday, we went to a few different wineries in the Paso Robles area. As it happened, I liked each place more than the one that came before it.

York Mountain/Martin Winery
We began at York Mountain Winery, which is now called Martin Winery due to new ownership, although all the wines are still called York Mountain for the time being. This was, relatively speaking, my least favorite of the day. The tasting room was cramped, and while there were two counterwomen, one was helping only one group of people, while the other tried to help three groups of people, making it a longer wait to get served.

The wines were hit and miss, to me. I started with a Viognier that was just kind of ... meh. It was very bland but also very acidic, so that I didn't taste much flavor but the acid kind of tickled my throat. I then tried a syrah clone (#877) that was my favorite of the bunch. It had a dark, rich berry flavor, but ended with a spicy, peppery finish that stayed on the tongue. I really liked it, and ended up taking a bottle. Plus, it was bottled on my birthday!

Next I compared a Jack Ranch pinot noir with an Edna Valley pinot noir. Most of our group prefered the Jack Ranch, but I prefered the Edna Valley. I thought it was smoother with a nicer, mellow flavor. J. thought the Jack Ranch had a bit of a sparkly mouthfeel, but I didn't feel it.

I ended with a Merlot, even though I felt like I had had enough at that point, but I couldn't pawn my last taste off on anyone. I didn't like the Merlot ... it had some kind of strange flavor running through it that I can only describe as "baby diaper." ???? Sorry, but that's what it reminded me of (I've never tasted a baby diaper, but I have smelled my fair share). My mom did not care for it either.


Our next stop was at Denner. Denner has a gorgeous tasting room and facility that I found to my surprise was designed by the architect that designed my parents' house. My parents' house is very traditional in style while this was very modern. The winery is on a hillside, and the building sweeps back in an arch over the hill. Inside it's wide open and spacious with plenty of room to accomodate lots of tasters, with homey little corners of comfortable chairs and tables where visitors can sit and relax.

The Denners sell most of their grapes, so their wines are very limited releases of only a couple hundred cases. They have an exclusive wine club that's currently on a waitlist status to ensure you get in on their wines.

Here I liked pretty much everything. I tasted a Viognier that was much nicer than the previous one. It was light and buttery with much more flavor, very fruity. Next we had the "Theresa," named after someone's mother (this is where the wine begins to effect me), I don't remember much about this one. Then there was a Syrah that was nice. Again, I don't remember particulars, but we did take a bottle home, so it must have been good. We ended with the "Ditchdigger," which is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. The description claimed there was a "dark, brooding beast," within this one, but I thought it was quite mellow although it was also complex. My dad thought he had a case of this, or else we would have bought it. Turns out he had a case of the Syrah, which we did buy. Oh well.

Grey Wolf

Finally, we ended up at Grey Wolf. This was my favorite stop of the day. We were greeted by an old German shorthair pointer named Lucy and the tasting room attendant gave me a treat to give to her, making her my new best friend. The tasting room was small, but spacious enough to comfortably accomodate several groups and was decorated with wolves all over. The attendant told me that the owner helped rescue hybrid wolves.

Here, $2 gets you approximately one million tastes of wine. By this time it was nearly over for me, so I decided to limit myself to three and try to choose wisely. But I think there were about 8 different wines that your $2 would get you. I started with a white called "The Awakening" which is a white Rhone blend. All the previous wine tasting obviously did not affect my "wine vibing" powers, because once I chose it, I was told it was a "red wine drinker's" white. Perfect. And it really was, it was very nice. Next I had a rose which was delicious. Unfortunately, by this point I was well past the point of being able to intelligently describe anything I was tasting. They had some bread and a garlic basil grapeseed oil that went well with this. I finished with a Petite Syrah and was admonished to eat chocolate with it, and a Cadbury bar shoved toward me. And it was exactly right. The chocolate added something special and we bought a bottle and I will not drink it without chocolate.

I wish I had been more attentive and less, well ... drunk for the last tasting because it really was my favorite. Next time I head up to that area, I am going there first.


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