From the Archives: Visiting a Taste of Paso Robles
Now called the Grand Tasting Tour, the fourth annual showcase of Paso Robles wines was held in late August of 2008 in San Jose, California. The Wineaux Guy™ and I went up there together to spend time with Bunny and to enjoy the wines. This is where I got the chance to meet more winemakers and to enjoy some pretty terrific wines. This is the post on just the tasting itself; if I think of it later, I’ll also repost the articles on the traveling we did while driving up the coast and in and around San Francisco and the Slow Food Nation Festival.
This series is one that I was particularly upset to lose with the infamous server crash of 2009, and I’m very happy to share this part of the three-parter.
I was going to write about the entire weekend in just one post and realized that was just not possible. So I did separate posts on traveling through California and the Slow Food Nation events, which makes this easier to handle. And since my “official photographer” and I snapped almost 200 pictures over the weekend, it took quite a while to go through everything and edit out the bad, the extraneous, the redundant, and the embarrassing, and put the remainder in galleries.
So this post is about A Taste of Paso Wines. Whew.
The event was held at the historic Hotel Sainte Claire in scenic downtown San Jose, and was well-planned and beautifully staged. Thirty-four Paso Robles wineries were there for the fourth consecutive year of pouring their fabulous Paso wines. The appetizers and pasta bar were supplied by Il Fornaio Restaurant, which is on-site.
The historic environs of the Sainte Claire lent itself well to the event, and it was a perfect match. Built in the 1920s, the Hotel Sainte Claire sweeps you back to the days when elegance was the norm, and you find yourself staring at the beautiful interior with jaw-dropping enthrallment.
Just a note that I already mentioned on the travels post, and that is a question that Rod posed when we stopped for breakfast earlier in the morning on our way to San Jose. He asked with total seriousness, “tell me again why we don’t drink wine at breakfast?” And, no, it wasn’t about Champagne or sparkling wine. Those are overdone and are stereotypical breakfast wines. So we took that question and posed it to several winemakers or their representatives, and received a variety of responses. But more on that later.
A quick checkin and a glass found us in the Grande Ballroom (that’s the right spelling), and I was immediately grinning ear to ear as the first people spotted were Mike and Martha James of Hidden Oak Winery. What a treat to see familiar faces!
I’m completely blaming them for ruining my resolve to simply taste and spit every wine. Especially since the first wine they showed me was their brand new Sauvignon Blanc, which had been newly bottled and resting when we visited in March. Was it worth the wait? You bet!
It was crisp and refreshing, with mineral, citrus, gooseberry, (I know what those smell like and taste like!), a touch of pineapple and herbs, with medium body and would pair well with breakfast foods.
After drinking the Sauv Blanc, Martha poured me a mega taste – an official wine term – of their Merlot, the 2006, which was as perfumey and fragrant as I had remembered. Definitely a “dab behind the ears” wine. While I was sucking down the Merlot, Rod was sipping the Encanto, their Cabernet/Merlot blend. We argued over which one was better, which made as much sense as arguing which is more valuable, a pound of gold or a pound of gold. Know what I mean?
It was such a pleasure to be able to spend some time with them. If you haven’t seen it yet, Mike is a star on a couple of my slideshows – one on the Home page and the other on the Travel, etc. page.
I spent a little time taking some photos of the room, and had a few laughs as one of the participants showed me his legs (“I have nice legs, don’t I?”) and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of him. More on him later!
Although the room was set up so that the wineries were in alphabetical order, I paid little attention to that. Because a few of my known favorites such as Opolo, J. Lohr, and Halter Ranch were already there, I decided to leave them until last.
The next winery I visited was Kaleidos, a new winery that had come highly recommended by other Paso-philes. See more about them on my posting on “New Friends.”
I stopped at EOS to visit, and met Kirsten, who was pouring. We chatted, and they were quite pleased to find out that I am the proud owner of their EOS “Tears of Dew” Late Harvest Muscato, which is rich, silky, and pretty close the perfect “Romance” wine.
We stopped at the Opolo booth, and I was a little disappointed to see that Sherri had not come to the event. However, we tasted the 2005 Opolo Rousanne, which is a Rhône-style wine with honeysuckle, apricot, and melon on the nose and palate. This Rousanne is nice and rich – it has good complexity and acid balance, and like the other breakfast wine candidates that we tasted, would pair well with an omelet.
There were several other winery booths that we visited, but quickly realized that even after the “trade” tasting, there was still a lot to cover. So we ran home to pick up Rod’s sister Bunny, get a sizeable snack, and return to the hotel, this time as “the public” to enjoy the tastings.
I’d like to say that I finally had the opportunity to relax and just drink wine with everyone else, but I’d be lying. I made more new friends, and by the time I decided to finally relax and *drink* some wine, my companions had long since faded into comas, and the event was nearly over. But boy. What fun I had!