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:
- Kenneth Volk
- J. Dusi
- Terry Hoage
with a lunch break somewhere in between.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!