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Saturday, 14 May 2016 13:57

May 13, 2016 Beer Pick of the Week

Firestone Pale 31 Picmonkey

Pale 31

 

Firestone-Walker Brewery

Paso Robles, California

Style: California Pale Ale

Alcohol: 4.9%

IBUs: 38

Serving Style: 12-ounce cans, 12 and 22-ounce bottles and kegs (our sample from draft)

Availability: Throughout the West and most of the U.S.

Friday, 04 March 2016 12:13

March 4, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

Ecluse Ensemble Picmonkey

2013 Ensemble

 

Ḗcluse Wines & Lock Vineyard

Paso Robles

Alcohol 14.9%

Suggested Retail: $44

 

“This week’s ‘Pick’ is the product of Steve and Pam Lock, who’ve been growing fruit for other wineries for most of the last two decades. When the quality of their grapes became obvious when vinified by others, the Locks began to make a small quantity of wine under their own label. They’re red wine specialists and on their Central Coast vineyards they produce grapes native to Bordeaux and France’s Rhône Valley. They also grow Zinfandel, a relatively All-American variety. Their wines are bottled under the Écluse label, which references the French word for their surname, Lock.

Saturday, 13 February 2016 18:07

February 12, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

Ecluse 2 Picmonkey

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

Écluse Wines & Lock Vineyard

Paso Robles

Alcohol: 14.9%

Suggested Retail: $40

 

“In spite of its French-sounding name, this week’s wine ‘Pick’ comes from some very good red wine country on California’s Central Coast. Écluse is actually the French equivalent of the surname of the owners of Écluse Wines & Lock Vineyard, Steve and Pam Lock.

Saturday, 06 February 2016 22:53

February 5, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

Ecluse Rendition Picmonkey

2013 Rendition

 

Écluse Wines & Lock Vineyard

Paso Robles

Alcohol: 15.2%

Suggested Retail: $38

 

“Rendition, the identity Écluse gave to the wine we’ve chosen as this week’s ‘Pick,’ is what’s called a ‘proprietary name.’ The custom in America is to label wines by the name of the predominant grape used. Under current law, this means 75% or more of such variety. But what if a winery makes a wine that contains less than that percentage of an easily-identifiable grape variety? A wine that is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon—but less than the magical 75% standard—would have to be called ‘Meritage’ or something as prosaic as just a 'red wine' if not given one of these proprietary names.

Saturday, 16 January 2016 16:36

January 15, 2016 Beer Pick of the Week

Firestone Pivo Pils Picmonkey

Pivo Hoppy Pils

 

Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Paso Robles, CA

Style: Dry-hopped Pilsner

Alcohol: 5.3%

IBU’s: 40

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

Friday, 27 November 2015 15:56

November 27, 2015 Beer Pick of the Week

Firestone Walker Union Jack Picmonkey

Union Jack

 

Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Paso Robles and Buellton, California

Style: West Coast IPA

Alcohol: 7.5%

IBUs: 70

Serving Style: 12-ounce cans, 12 and 22-ounce bottles, kegs (our sample from draft)

Availability: Year-round in much of the U.S.

 

Appearance:   “Light amber or dark golden in color. Creamy head that dissipated quickly.”

Aroma:   “Pronounced citrus nose. Mostly grapefuity, but there seems to be some tangerine or orange notes and a bit of spice, too.”

Taste:   “Strongly-hopped, but great balance here. The malt is very welcome. Seems to be reminiscent of British IPAs, though I know it has much more hops. A lot of personality in this beer. Good carbonation, too. One pint invites a second.”

Food Affinity:   “Given the flag reference, I’d think a Scotch egg with some Colman’s mustard would be nice right now, as would some really good fish and chips done in a light, clean batter.”

  --Guest reviewer Stanley Morrison is an English ex-pat who does kitchen remodels in California.

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 17:23

Navigating a Wine Wall

winewall Picmonkeyphoto courtesy of Peachey Canyon Winery

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.

Use technology

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.

Gary Eberle photo Picmonkey

TASTE News Service March 5, 2015 – The California State Fair has announced that Gary Eberle,  founder of Eberle Winery, is being honored with the 2015 Wine Lifetime Achievement Award. Each year the California State Fair Winery Advisory Task Force puts forth recommendations and selects an honoree through an open meeting process. Gary Eberle joins the ranks of industry legends Robert Mondavi, Jerry Lohr, Mike Grgich, and Dr. Richard Peterson in receiving this prestigious honor.

“I’m honored to receive this recognition. I pursued wine enology because it fascinated me – the vineyard aspect of growing grapes and the technical art of making age-worthy wines. It’s taken me on a journey that I’m still enjoying today,” said Eberle.

Gary Eberle, who has worked for 42 years building the acclaim of the Paso Robles region through his brand, is affectionately known as the “Godfather” of the Paso Robles wine industry. He is the chief promoter for the winery and works with customers, distributors and restaurateurs to tout the virtues of the Paso Robles American Viticulture Area (AVA), which he help co-found in 1983.

Gary began his academic studies at Penn State College where he played football and earned a Bachelor’s of Science in biology. He then attended Louisiana State University before heading west to California. Gary received a degree in enology from U.C. Davis in 1971. “I chose Paso Robles based on Dr. Olmo’s recommendation that Paso Robles was the place to grow world-class Cabernet Sauvignon,” said Eberle, “And I think we’ve achieved that.”

Once in Paso Robles, the former Nittany Lion launched his career as partner and winemaker with Estrella River Winery & Vineyards. In the late 70s, he decided to pursue his own project and acquired nearly 64 acres just down the road from Estrella River Winery. Shortly thereafter, Gary released his first Eberle wine, the 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon and opened the winery and tasting room in 1983.

His contributions to the California wine trade are significant. Eberle Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon was the first wine to place the Paso Robles AVA designation on its label. Gary Eberle was also the first to plant Syrah on the Central Coast and make a 100 percent Syrah varietal wine in the United States. These milestones have proven to be important, as both Syrah and Paso Robles have become significant forces in California’s wine industry.

The State Fair awards, which also include Winery of the Year, Vineyard of the Year and Agriculturalist of the Year, will be formally awarded at the State Fair Gala on June 25 at Cal Expo in Sacramento. The California State Fair takes place July 10 – 26, 2015 in Sacramento.

 

Editor’s note: If you’re planning to visit Eberle of any of the wineries in the Paso Robles AVA, first check out the Central Coast listings in Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to websites of all the Wineries, as well as links to hundreds of nearby Lodging and Dining options.

Saturday, 28 February 2015 12:51

February 27, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

sofia red bottle shot Picmonkey

2013 Sofia Red

Francis Ford Coppola Winery

 Paso Robles

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $17

 

Named for the daughter of the famous filmmaker and winery owner, Sofia Red is put up in an unusual, and undeniably beautiful, bottle. This is the debut vintage for the red wine, though there have been earlier releases of two sparkling wines, one of them non-alcoholic, a rosé, a Riesling and a Chardonnay. 

Sofia Red’s composition is the trendy ‘GSM’ blend of Grenache (62%), Syrah (37%) and Mouvèdre (1%). These are grape varieties native to the Rhône Valley of France, though they are popular in California and Washington these days. While the Coppola winery is situated in Northern California’s Sonoma County, the fruit for this wine was grown in the warm climes of Paso Robles on the Central Coast.

Our reviewer was intrigued by this wine, but he wasn’t expecting to like it, assuming it was targeting an audience of women who drink aromatic and slightly sweet wines as their preferred cocktail. It’s likely that he guessed the audience the winery had in mind, but says he may have dismissed the wine way too early.

“Sofia Red exhibits some aromas of cherries and raspberries and gives the consumer layered berry flavors backed by a bit of spice. Tastes were light and lilting and, perhaps surprisingly, showed a hint of complexity. Finishes with a long, cherry-like conclusion that was too sweet for Taste California Travel, but probably hits right in the middle of that ‘sweet spot’ sought by the makers.”

Food Affinity: “A likely winner with Sunday brunch—French toast with cinnamon, syrup and sausage? For evening fare, baby back (pork) ribs or salmon bisque might be interesting.”

paso TTBsubavas 100914B Picmonkey

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.”

Jason and Robert Haas of Tablas Creek PicmonkeyJason and Robert Haas 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.

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