Wine, Thou Art My Red Muse

I’ll probably be sharing wines I like….since all alcohol-related stories will either be too explicit or (most likely) I won’t be able to remember them.

Wine Tasting in Paso Robles Part 2

After a late breakfast at The Pony Club in Hotel Cheval, we started out for our second day of wine tasting. (If you missed the first day, go here.)

On our list to visit:

  • Epoch
  • Kenneth Volk
  • J. Dusi
  • Écluse
  • Terry Hoage

with a lunch break somewhere in between.

Epoch Winery

Epoch was the furthest away – out on Highway 46 towards the coast – so we started there in order to work our way back towards Paso Robles. We arrived a few minutes before opening time, so we walked around and enjoyed the beautiful view. A big friendly cat (“Corky”) came over and sprawled on the ground in front of us to get her belly rubbed. As soon as the clock struck eleven we went in the tasting room. We were not disappointed. Epoch made it to #25 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines last year.  We found the wine very approachable…..even first thing in the morning!

From Epoch, we drove east on 46 to J. Dusi. The J stands for Janell, who learned to how to make wine from her grandfather, Dante Dusi. Her passion is Zinfandel, and she has become quite good at it!

J. Dusi Wine

The J. Dusi tasting room was definitely one of our favorite experiences. The ladies pouring were very friendly and made us feel at home. The nibbles that accompanied the wine were also good, and beautifully served on wooden trays made from old wine kegs (trays of all sizes are for sale in the tasting room). We enjoyed the wine and atmosphere so much, in fact, we joined the wine club!

J. Dusi Tasting Room

Next on our list was Kenneth Volk, which was recommended to us the day before by Joella at Turley. Since G is German, we wanted to check out the place (“Volk” is a German name, in case you didn’t know.) The tasting room was quite charming, and we liked both the Tempranillo and the Malvasia Bianca, which is an heirloom wine with a juicy, fruity taste. Added bonus: you get to keep the glass you taste with!

Kenneth Volk Tasting Room

Kenneth Volk Tasting Room

After three tasting rooms, G and I needed to eat something. There aren’t a lot of options on Highway 46, but one of the ladies at J. Dusi had mentioned that you could eat at Kiler Ridge Olive Farm on Kiler Canyon Road. Since the last two wineries we planned to visit were near there, we decided to give it a try. It was a good decision!

Kiler Ridge Olive Farm Kiler Ridge Olive Farm

You are supposed to make a reservation if you want to eat, but since it wasn’t too busy we were lucky. We sat at a picnic table on the back patio, and took in the gorgeous views of the olive trees and distant vineyards. Everything on the menu looked good …

but we opted for the Daily Special: a flatbread pizza with roasted pepper sauce and short ribs that had been smoked overnight in the pizza oven. It was topped with arugula and accompanied by flowering kale chips, and it was a-ma-zing! We were in culinary heaven.

Kiler Ridge Pairing Menu

Then the chef sent out two little dishes of red beet sorbet drizzled with lemon olive oil. It was totally unexpected and quite tasty. We were commenting on what an adventurous chef he was to think of such a combination when the waitress brought out a tray of dessert fixings for the next table. We watched in fascination as she drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar over vanilla ice cream, then topped it with pink Himalayan sea salt. The couple tried it, then turned to us and said

You have to try this!

Dessert at Kiler Ridge

So of course we did. You won’t believe it but the taste of the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt together was just like butterscotch! Dee-licious!!

It was time to move on, so we drove the short distance to Écluse. Ecluse wines come from the limited production Lock vineyard. The winemaker himself was pouring from the different wine barrels in the tasting room. He uses American oak, French oak and Hungarian oak barrels, which impart different flavors to the wine. G and I were impressed with both the Petite Syrah and Cab. We left with several bottles to add to our wine box.

Terry Hoage Wine

Terry Hoage Tasting Room

Our last stop was at Terry Hoage. Terry was a football star at The University of Georgia in the early eighties. He went on to play with several professional teams and even won a Superbowl playing with the Washington Redskins in 1992. Of course, we didn’t know any of this before we visited the tasting room. Apparently his football fame draws a lot of visitors. I don’t know if it was because it was our last stop and we had already tasted a number of wines, or maybe we just don’t particularly care for Rhone varietals, but G and I didn’t like any of the wine we tasted.

And so ended our wine tasting in Paso Robles. All in all it was a wonderful experience. We ended the day with a refreshing beer at The Pony Club, where we ran in to one of the nice ladies from J. Dusi. Her daughter was with her, and she just happens to work at Halter Ranch. We didn’t make it there this time, but I have a feeling G and I will be returning some day soon. I’m going to keep the “Free Wine Tasting” card she gave me, just in case!

Cheers!

Make Me Wine

 

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Wine Tasting in Paso Robles Part 1

G and I were in Orange County, California last month for a friend’s birthday celebration and decided to drive up to Paso Robles for a few days. The area is popping up in articles all over the place as a hot destination, with many wineries that are producing quality wines comparable to those coming out of Napa and Sonoma. So, we decided to head up there to see what all the fuss was about.

We took Route 101, aka El Camino Real, the historic road connecting the former Alta California‘s 21 missions. It follows the Pacific coastline, occasionally winding through hills and valleys that give one the feeling of being in the old west. Before heading inland to Paso Robles, we drove out to Moonstone Beach to have lunch.

It was cool and cloudy, and the only place open for lunch was the Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill. Great location, but mediocre food. The highlight was seeing a few seals lazing on the rocks. One of them even looked up and waved at us!

Moonstone Beach Seal

From there, we made the short drive inland to Paso Robles. The first place we stopped was Turley.

Turley Wine Cellars

It was definitely one of the better tasting rooms. Joella poured a lovely selection for us, as she told us about the history of the winery. My favorite wine from the list was the 2012 Dusi Vineyard. We put together a case – including a few bottles of the Red Velvet Zinfandel, a nice table wine only sold in the tasting room – to ship home.

Turley Tasting Room

Turley Tasting Menu
Joelle suggested we head over to ZinAlley next, which is just around the corner from Turley. The gate and tasting room doors were wide open, but after standing around for several minutes we noticed a sawhorse outside with a sign that said “Tasting Room Closed” on it. Yes, we felt like idiots. What a shame, since the place was very cool.
Next stop was Thacher Winery. I attended Thacher School in Ojai my sophomore year of high school…it was founded by the winemaker’s great grandfather. We met Sherman Thacher outside and introduced ourselves. He was very friendly and escorted us into the tasting room to sample his wine, some of which have earned several gold medals. Our favorite was the Controlled Chaos, which is a nice blend of Mourvèdre, Zinfandel, and Grenache.
From there, we made our way along the winding road into Paso Robles, to check into our hotel. I admit, it was a splurge, but completely worth it! The Hotel Cheval is absolutely fabulous, with 16 suites that open onto a beautiful courtyard. The staff were all super friendly and the Pony Club Bar has a great nightly happy hour, with half price glasses of wine.
Our first day ended with dinner at Artisan, supposedly the number one restaurant in town. I loved the black truffle pizza, but G was disappointed in his steak – it was overcooked and very dry. Fortunately, the wine was good! Stay tuned for Wine Tasting in Paso Robles Part 2!
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