Sideways in Paso Robles

My dear Cuban amigo and muy talented artist Iggy-tones writes: “Lately I’ve been traveling up to Shell Beach in the Central Coast because I currently have for sale a two bedroom house that I own. The house is a block and a half from the shore. The whole area of the Central Coast is growing grapes. Do you have some recommendation of interesting wines and wineries to visit on one of my trips there?”
Toss a 70 mph pitch down the middle to Barry Bonds and he couldn’t hit it as far as I can unload on this topic. Paso Robles is my favorite California wine country tour. I love to visit. Consider this. Paso was the up and coming wine region in the state until sidewaystasters.jpgSideways. Miles puked in the Fess Parker tasting room (it was the Fess Parker winery wasn’t it?) and everyone forgot about Paso. Like the 101 just ended in the Santa Rita HIlls AVA. Why oh why do I love Paso? Because it has been somewhat forgotten, cut off at the knees by Santa Barbara. Paso got all the way to the altar and the bride (all us consumers) took off. But the wine did not change in Paso Robles. The changeover that has been taking place in Paso ever since Tablas Creek arrived has continued without interruption. I am talking about dumping the cab and chard and replanting with syrah, grenache, mourverdre, grenache blanc, rousanne, marsanne and every other southern France cutting the folks at Tablas Creek could bring into the country legally with full papers and full quarantine. No mongrels in the Tablas Creek nursery. They are the modern Library of Alexandria for Southern France vinifera.
Tablas Creek is the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of wineries with production facilities, tasting rooms, storage..the whole mushpucha. Consider Justin who still makes a very popular and Napa-priced cabernet named Isoceles. Then there is Pipestone which is a 10 acre site planted, owned and operated by a wonderful couple who abandoned careers in environmental law and biochemistry to live in the middle of nowhere and learn how to make wine and live peaceably with the cougars. Justin, TC and Pipestone are part of the Far Out Wineries contingent. They are located at the greatest distance from Paso Robles. Well worth the ride for the terrain, the wines and the hospitality. This ain’t Napa. Or Santa Barbara/Solvang.
And how about Clautiere? They made lingerie before turning their attention to wine. If wine can be sexy then it will be a Clautiere wine. Their parties sure look like a lot of fun. Clautiere is located on the unfashionable East Side of the 101. Where the Westside has rolling hills and deep pockets of microclimate bounty the unfashionable Eastside has low hills and hot dry dusty roads…with some very old Italian farmer fields (another kind of bounty). Clautiere makes very good wine at very attractive price points. Finally, the best indicator that Paso is still developing as a region of repute, the sourcing wineries (e.g., those wineries without walls) are growing in number…like Anglim of whom I have written before.
I have not hit every one of the Far Out Wineries. I have to mention Saxum and Linne Calodo, two notable wineries who are not Far Out even if their wines are pretty heavy dude. I will also mention another highly reputed winery L’Aventure however I have not tasted their wines. Sadly, few of these wineries produce much wine under $20. Tablas Creek, Clautiere and Pipestone are exceptions. Of course, I am a wine club member with each.
Paso has not stopped being the next big thing for want of its own very funny movie. It is well worth a visit. They have their wine festivals. Summer is blistering hot. We like to stay in Cambria and drive up to Paso for the day returning to the cool ocean air for the evening.
2005 Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc ~$15: This is my third vintage of this wine. As with the red (named just Cotes de Tablas) the wine is ready to drink right away. Nose is summer melon. Flavors are fresh, light fruit, well balanced. 75% viognier and Rousanne. A small does of Grenache Blanc adds a little backbone. The sweet-ish viognier fruit really stands out making this a wonderful summer evening wine with a meal of salmon. Hey- that’s what we had!
espritblanc05_bottle.jpg2005 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc $9 in split: I bought this from Jim Ruxin. More on Jim later. Best kept wine secret in LA and beyond. Grenache Blanc dominant so the smoke is in your face but not quite like standing over my BBQ. 70% Rousanne and 25% GB. A young wine that needs at least a year. Even in the split. Serious wine.
The Tablas Creek Wine Club is the best deal I know. They make great wines without exception. They discount generously to club members. And the pedigree is peerless. This is the best of southern France in California.

1 Comment

  1. Wavatar
    Dionysus says:

    Alrighty, two things.

  2. The Clautiere Rose you mentioned in this post had a certain luminescence that one would normally expect to see only in the finer brands of motor oil.
    That’s not a criticism of its taste, viscosity, or miles between oil changes, but solely a statement of appreciation of its intrinsic beauty.
  3. As for Sideways taking all the wind out of the Pasa Robles sails, I can only say that for every fad, there is an echo. Perhaps Angelinos and Southern Californians can’t make it any further north than Santa Barbara, but just the fact that the poetry of wine tasting has entered the mass consciousness, so it is that eventually those who fall in love with wine tasting will make it up just a further north to PR and discover what you’ve mentioned in this entry.
    I’m free next weekend. :)

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