By Jennifer Porter
With the start of fishing season, meet a few of Paso Robles Wine Country’s avid fishermen.
2013 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon
Suggested Retail: $35
TASTE News Service, July 21, 2016 - Sunset Magazine has named named Paso Robles as Anerica's Best Wine Country Town in their 2016 Travel Awards.
The region’s winemakers, restaurateurs and hoteliers are said to be thrilled to be held in the highest regard among some of the West’s most recognized wine producing regions.
Pivo Hoppy Pils
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Paso Robles, CA
Style: Dry-hopped Pilsner
Serving Style: Six-packs of cans or bottles, kegs (our sample from draft)
Availability: Widely distributed on the West Coast
Appearance: “Brilliant straw or light golden color. Big, frothy white head.”
Aroma: “For a pilsner it’s quite floral and hoppy on the nose, but in a really good way. There’s also some citrus when you waft the glass by your face a second time.”
Taste: “There’s a wonderful balance here. You still get a generous amount of hops, but it’s offset by the malt. The good carbonation gives your mouth an almost sparkley feeling. Finishes crisp and clean.”
Food Affinity: “Sautéed sand dabs with freshly made coleslaw. Simple schnitzel served with lemon wedges. Salted Marcona almonds with rosemary.”
--Guest reviewer Ginny Austin is a restaurant consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area
TASTE News Service, January 14, 2015 - San Luis Obispo County, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on California's breathtaking Central Coast, offers an assortment of locally-sourced and produced food and drink. The area's range of coastal and inland influences is demonstrated by its broad assortment of gastronomic treats ranging from fresh foods, innovative spirits, unique craft beers and much more. The destination is overflowing with an abundance of great products found only on the Central Coast.
Locally Sourced Foods Flourish in San Luis Obispo County
There are a wide variety of new and interesting farms and fisheries across San Luis Obispo County that specialize in unique foods including shellfish, meat, produce and dairy products supplying local restaurants and markets. You can taste the fresh farm fare from the producers below at one of San Luis Obispo County's restaurants or farmer's markets:
Morro Bay Oyster Company: Morro Bay holds a long-standing history as a thriving seaport with beautiful ocean views and a tranquil yet productive estuary. Morro Bay Oyster Company harvests Pacific Gold Oysters by hand directly from the pristine water, which are then sold to local restaurants and to the public at farmers markets and off its barge in Morro Bay harbor.
By Robert Henson, winemaker at Peachey Canyon Winery
August 5, 2015 - If you’re not lucky enough to be a winemaker (ahem) you probably get most of your wine from the wine sections of grocery and specialty stores. Unlike winery tasting rooms, however, stores have giant walls of wine and no friendly tasting room associates to help you navigate their depths. Plus, you’re probably in a hurry. So with that in mind, here’s some insider information about how to get the most out of that wall of wine.
Don’t limit yourself to wines at eye level
You know how it’s well-known that grocery stores put all the sugary, “kid friendly” cereals at equally “kid friendly” heights on the shelf? It should not surprise you that they do the same with just about every other kind of merchandise. What the store is trying to move is what’s going on its eye-level shelves, and while there’s nothing wrong with those wines, it’s definitely worth your time to explore the many bottles on the top and bottom rows.
Take advantage of endcaps and sales
There’s nothing wrong with a wine on sale, especially in a retail environment. I’ve had people ask me if there’s “something wrong” with wine that’s on sale… and the answer, thankfully, is no! Unlike wineries, stores can sometimes use wine as what’s called a “loss leader,” meaning they can sell wine for a loss in order to entice customers to buy. If wineries did that we’d be out of business fast, but big companies like Costco, Beverages and More, and Trader Joe’s can make up their profits outside the wine aisle.
Don’t judge a wine (only) by its label
This goes both ways: wines with old school labels showing a chateau might be great, and so might be wines with a super modern label (what the wine industry keeps referring to as ‘millennial’). A winery that chooses to invest a lot in its label isn’t necessarily ignoring its wine, they’re just also focused on enticing their customers with some great art. And a winery that hasn’t changed their label since circa 1983 might just be too busy making wine to do so… it’s hard to tell until you try the juice.
Listen to what a wine label does tell you
While the styles of wine labels vary widely, the regulatory government bodies that oversee wine production in the U.S. require a lot of things to be included on the label, and many of them are useful to consumers. Many wineries also include descriptions on their bottles to help consumers choose wines that they like. Look for varietals and blends similar to what you know you like, and try exploring regions too. Wine labels often show the wine’s AVA — like ‘Paso Robles’ — take advantage of that to try more wine from a favored region.
Rely on scores that reflect your tastes, but don’t only rely on scores
Wine scores are popular with shoppers because they’re easy. What’s easier than choosing a 93 point wine next to a wine without a score listed? Of course as a winemaker, it’s always an honor to get a good score — it means someone likes the wine, never a bad thing! The thing is, however, scoring wine is actually a complicated subject, and scores are only worth something to you if you take the “scorer” into account. Let me put it this way: do your tastes align with Robert Parker’s, or do your tastebuds have more in common with Matt Kettmann (of Wine Enthusiast)? Because they don’t have the same preferences all the time, and you probably don’t either. If you’re going to use scores when finding wines, make sure you agree with the person assigning the scores. Not to mention that not all wines are sent out for scoring — plenty of great, small lot wines aren’t sent to very many publications, so of course they get less press. It doesn’t mean the wine’s not good.
We live in an era connected by the internet and most wineries are now using websites and/or social media. Our [Peachy Canyon’s] wine labels include a link to our website, and I know that is not unique to us. Many wineries include links, QR codes, and social media indicators on their bottles now specifically to help connect to consumers. If you’re in a store and you have a question about a wine, often the winery’s website can help… and it’s conveniently right there on your phone. Some wineries, like mine, even try to answer questions on Twitter in real time. You won’t always get someone immediately, but it’s easy and worth a try.
One of your greatest resources as a wine drinker are the wineries. Most wineries — especially here in Paso Robles — want to connect with you and give you all the information you need to find what you like. Whether on Facebook or face-to-face, we want to interact with the people interested in our wines.
Editor’s note: We think Robert Henson’s article is full of good advice. If you’re thinking of visiting wineries in his part of the world (Paso Robles), we suggest you check the Central Coast listings in Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of Wineries, Lodging and Dining options, and even Craft Beer purveyors.
TASTE News Service October 10, 2014 - The United States Department of the Treasury has approved the establishment of 11 new viticultural areas (AVAs) within the greater Paso Robles AVA. The announcement concludes a seven-year process by a group of Paso Robles vintners and winegrape growers who created a unified approach to develop a comprehensive master plan for the greater Paso Robles American Viticultural Area .
These new AVAs are based on meso-climactic, geological, and historical information which highlight each individual district to be unique as a winegrape growing area. The 11 AVAs are as follows: Adelaida District, Creston District, El Pomar District, Paso Robles Estrella District, Paso Robles Geneseo District, Paso Robles Highlands District, Paso Robles Willow Creek District, San Juan Creek, San Miguel District, Santa Margarita Ranch, and the Templeton Gap District.
“These new AVAs will be a powerful tool for wineries to explain why certain grapes are particularly well suited to certain parts of the appellation, and why some wines show the characteristics they do while other wines, from the same or similar grapes, show differently,” said Jason Haas, general manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard. “Ultimately, the new AVAs will allow these newly created sub-regions to develop identities for themselves with a clarity impossible in a single large AVA.”
AVA labeling provides information to consumers and trade about what is in the bottle, helping them make a better informed buying decision based on expectations of the region. Thanks to a conjunctive labeling law spearheaded by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance in 2007, the Paso Robles AVA retains top billing on a wine label with the individual districts serving as a way to fine-tune location and potential character of wines. While Paso Robles wineries are not required to use the sub-region on the label, when they do, Paso Robles will be printed with equal or more significance.
"Our AVA is an incredibly diverse region that has taken its rightful place on the world wine stage,” said Steve Lohr, chairman and CEO of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, and former chairman of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “These sub appellations will allow growers and vintners to tell their stories more clearly, which in turn will give consumers and the trade a much greater understanding of Paso’s diversity and complexity. Prior to this, Paso Robles was the largest non-county California AVA not currently subdivided. It is also an area with more diversity of rainfall, soils and climate than almost any other comparably sized region. We have been a great believer in this initiative since the beginning, and are proud that it has been accomplished in a way that will strengthen the Paso Robles brand with conjunctive labeling."
Editor's note: If you're thinking of a visit to this beautiful wine region on California's Central Coast, we suggest you check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to Winery websites, as well as links to websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options. There's even a section of listings for craft Beer purveyors in the region.
November 25, 2013 (Paso Robles, CA) - Il Cortile’s Chef Santos MacDonal is highlighting fall flavors with his new menu, including those of white truffles.
The Paso Robles restaurant's new seasonal menu was created to emphasize locally and regionally-sourced ingredients for their homemade pastas, seafood and meats. Gnocchi and risottos are made from scratch daily. These can include Kabocha squash gnocchi (homemade kabocha squash gnocchi on a bead of parmesan fonduta with a brown butter sage sauce), Fettuccine di coniglio (fettuccine with slow roasted rabbit in a white wine herb sauce), Cervo e cotogna (pan-seared venison medallions with a red wine sauce and quince) and Vitello ai funghi porcini (veal chop with porcini mushroom sauce, finished with truffle oil).
Il Cortile is highlighting truffle season with three dishes. Their Carpaccio, made of thinly sliced sirloin, is complemented with truffle cream sauce and shaved black or white truffles over the top; the homemade fettuccine dish is made with a parmesan fonduta, a drizzle of white truffle oil and white or black shaved truffles on top; the risotto also features a parmesan fonduta, a drizzle of white truffle oil and white or black shaved truffles over the top.
" I love the white truffle season because we get the white truffles from Alba in Piedmont, Italy and you can just taste the old world influence,” said Chef MacDonal. “They are fragrant and delicate at the same time. The flavor is so unique. I like to express them in many ways, with a traditional dish like White Truffle Risotto or make them with our homemade Fettuccine. Our carpaccio dish is a different way to use the truffles and makes that dish so rich. It is real comfort food! "
Located in downtown Paso Robles, the restaurant pairs its Italian cuisine with wines from a substantial list including selections from Central Coast wineries, along with Italian, Spanish and South American varietals.
Editor's note: Before starting your trip to the Paso Robles area, or anywhere on California's Central Coast, it's a good idea to visit Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to wineries and craft beer emporiums.
October 30, 2013 – (Arroyo Grande, Calif.) Selim Zilkha has spent a lifetime searching out sustainable solutions to life’s everyday complexities. With a background in such varied industries as retail for mothers-to-be and their babies, natural gas exploration and renewable energy, Zilkha’s most pleasurable pursuit by far has been implementing sustainable methods at Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, on California’s Central Coast. Originally founded by an established French Champagne house in 1982, the Laetitia estate carries on in the longstanding traditions of Burgundy and Champagne with a focus on small-lot Pinot Noir and sparkling wines.
Born into a banking family in Baghdad, Zilkha bought the Laetitia property in 1998 with high hopes of moving the winery toward self-sufficiency. His first order of business was amassing a team of people who caught the vision, starting with his own daughter, Nadia Zilkha, in marketing.
“I grew up discussing business with my dad and learned a lot,” says Nadia, “watching him make decisions, take risks and encourage his employees to be autonomous and empowered.” Nadia has focused on marketing, conveying the Laetitia message of elegant Pinot Noir and sparkling wines crafted from the best of both ancient and modern sustainable methods.
As for sustainable farming practices, Vice President Vineyard Operations, Lino Bozzano, has worked closely with Zilkha to employ creative methods such as cover-cropping and goat grazing, which preclude the need for harmful pesticides and herbicides or tractors that run on fossil fuels. President and Head Winemaker Eric Hickey has been instrumental in completing and championing the Vineyard Team’s progressive Sustainability In Practice (SIP) certification process, of which Laetitia is a founding participant.
One of Zilkha’s next dreams for the Laetitia property is better energy efficiency. “We are always looking into various ways to grow our own energy,” he says. “Specifically, we are looking at utilizing the land between the rows to grow alternative energy crops such as Camelina to make biodiesel, which could offset our diesel usage on the ranch.”
“Other pursuits in the ways of sustainability on the ranch include a complete analysis/retrofit of our irrigation system to ensure that we are accommodating the needs of the different soil types on the ranch, as well as more mechanization (to assist in the labor shortage) and employing bio control strategies, such as raptors and falcons to hunt and feed on animals which attack the grapes.”
Today, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery and its sister brand, NADIA, are thriving benchmarks by which many producers are measured. “Differentiating our wine from others in the region while still honoring its similarity is both challenging and exciting,” says Nadia.
Since moving to New York several years ago Nadia’s role with the winery has changed slightly, though she still represents the Laetitia and NADIA brands on the East Coast. “I’ve really enjoyed working alongside my father, who has taught me a great deal. He’s fascinated with technology and encourages our team to apply it both in farming and in winemaking.”
She adds, “I also love working alongside our team, learning from Eric and Lino, and working to improve our portfolio with each vintage.”
Editor's note: Thinking of visiting the wine country of California's Central Coast? Visit the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to the sites of wineries and even craft beer specialists.
2010 Paragon Chardonnay
Edna Valley Vineyard
Appellation: San Luis Obispo County
Suggested Retail: $15.50
“This review marks a departure. In years past we would taste dozens—sometimes hundreds—of new and current releases every week. The 'Pick' was always the wine we liked best, regardless of grape variety or category. The tasting of new wines and subsequent note-taking really is time-consuming and has taken a back seat lately to other business needs. Henceforth, we'll use our 'Pick' to select a wine and discuss it, not necessarily laud it.
“To oversimplify, Chardonnay tends to reflect either crisp citrus and green apple characteristics or lush, tropical fruit qualities. We prefer the former category. This 2010 Edna Valley Chardonnay is an example of the latter. Aromas of ripe Bartlett pear and pineapple are the first impression. Flavors of pear, mango and very ripe pineapple predominate, though there is definite 'brown spice' presence reminiscent of cinnamon and/or nutmeg. The finish evokes vanilla and seems quite sweet. For our tastes, it doesn't have the qualities that would make it a good pairing with most fish or fowl dishes. Though Taste California Travel prefers leaner and more austere Chards, that doesn't mean that the Edna Valley is a bad wine or a badly-made wine. It will please many who like to drink Chardonnay in lieu of a cocktail and might even seem to be good accompaniment to dinner for those who like this style."
Food Affinity: Hard to say. Maybe with a scalding-hot Asian curry that features some mango or papaya?