Through Our Wine Glasses


San Luis Obispo Favorite

Claiborne & Churchill Winery GlassFor those unfamiliar with San Luis Obispo County, this area is composed of a couple of micro-climates that create a variety of unique wine growing areas.  The North County, where we live, is the Paso Robles wine region and as I’ve stated in past posts this area is fertile with all Bordeaux and Rhone Valley style wines.  The South County is also does Bordeaux and Rhone style, but the coastal marine influence also makes it prime for Pinot Noir and other varietals that grow well in a milder climate. The City of San Luis Obispo (SLO) is in between the North and South County but it experiences more of the South County climate since it’s located closer to the ocean.

Large barrel at entrance of Claiborne & Churchill Winery in San Luis Obispo

We’ve visited most of the wineries in SLO in the past and today we visited our favorite (drum roll please) – Claiborne & Churchill. This winery is in an area called the Edna Valley which is in between SLO to the north and Arroyo Grande to the south.  Claiborne & Churchill specialize in Alsace region wines, and our perennial favorites are their Rieslings and Gewurztraminers. Their Pinot Noirs and dessert wines are also quite notable. Today’s tasting list is below:


Today’s offerings of Dry Gewurztraminer and Dry Riesling did not disappoint. The “dry” is what makes it notable; very light, crisp, and rich in fruit and floral notes without it being overly sweet. With the spring season upon us and summer around the corner, I can easily envision sitting on our deck and enjoying this on many warm summer nights.  We know a couple of friends who weren’t fans of white wines, but after tasting these wines they became wine club members.  If we lived in SLO we would probably belong to this wine wine club as well.


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Paso Robles Favorite

Wine glass from San Marcos Creek Vineyard

One of our favorite and most often visited wineries in Paso Robles is San Marcos Creek Vineyard.

The winery is located on the southbound side of Highway 101 a few miles north of downtown Paso Robles and well worth the drive.  We drove past the beautiful property for years before we started on our wine tasting adventures and always admired the beautiful tudor style “mansion”.   Our friends visited the tasting room and absolutely raved about it so it wasn’t soon afterwards that we made a special trip out there.  One thing I’ve learned from visiting wineries with this particular friend is that our taste for wine is completely opposite of one another so when she recommends a winery the verdict is still out until I try it myself but surprisingly we both agreed on this outstanding winery.   Every wine on their tasting list is superb and though I am a huge fan of Paso Robles wines there are less than a handful  of them that I can say that about!  The owners Brady and Cathy are almost always in the tasting room to greet you warmly with a smile and share their fabulous wines with you.   And did I mention that every wine on their tasting list is outstanding?

San Marcos Creek Vineyard wine tasting list IMG_0317

I’ve lost count of how many times we have been out to this winery and how many people we have recommended to check it out.  We’ve been out there for picnics when family is in town, we’ve told visiting friends and family to head out there and they end up becoming wine club members.  Our last big family get-together was spent at the winery for a picnic before Ray’s father passed away.  Our friends became club members long before we did and we would pay a fee to attend their pickup parties as non-members. We finally figured that since we were loved their wines and their parties it became an irresistible choice to join the club ourselves.

As you drive north on the 101 past Paso Robles you will pass Wellsona Rd, just a few miles past that you will see a turnout on the left side to cross the highway into San Marcos Creek Vineyard.  You will pass by a large pond on the right and may even see a peacock or two and a few ducks.  When you approach the front door of the tasting room you are likely to be greeted by Chloe the sweet Australian Shepherd.  I love how bright and open the tasting room is and it has some very nice wine gifts and accessories.

Mural and gift items in San Marcos Creek Winery tasting room

Mural in San Marcos Creek Tasting Room

We mentioned that this is one of our favorite picnic spots.  They have a nice shaded patio with a few tables and a nice view of the  pond and vineyards and you are likely to see a peacock up close. Although we love all of their wines, some wines of note from today’s tasting are the 2012 Merlot, 2013 Flings First Crush, and the 2012 Estate Petit Syrah was memorable. All these wines have the classic Bordeaux structure with the fruit forward complexity that this region offers. The White Merlot finally sold out but we hear their will be a new release soon,  highly recommend it!

Peacock feathers at San Marocos Creek Vineyard winery

Resident peacock at San Marcos Creek Vineyard winery

Tooth and Nail winery castle entrance

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Bookends Tastings

Bookends tasting, as in we started the weekend tasting wine at Pear Valley Winery along with some live music and delicious food and we finished the weekend with a quick trip out to taste at the new winery, Tooth and Nail where Eagle Castle Winery used to be.

We started our weekend by heading out to Pear Valley Winery for a evening of delicious wines, great company, live music and great food.  These Friday night Fireside Concerts are very popular and the main room was packed with people so we found a seat at a round table in the corner of the tasting room.  Ray and I brought our own pizza to have for dinner (we bought a bottle of the Inspiration which was a GSM blend that paired well with our pizza) but we soon became jealous of our friends who called ahead and ordered dinner from Pretty Cafe when Lisa Pretty delivered an amazing looking lasagna with salad and bread (they bought a bottle of the Zinfandel which was a winning combination).  But when Lisa mentioned that she made Tiramisu for dessert we couldn’t resist!  We were not disappointed!!  If you are ever at Pear Valley Winery and you have the opportunity to order food from Pretty Cafe I am quite confident that you will love it!

Slices of Tiramisu on plates with raspberries

The best Tiramisu I’ve ever had!

Bottle of Pear Valley Inspiration

Pear Valley Winery Inspiration, it’s a gsm blend that is always a winner and paired well with our pizza.

Friday night Fireside Concerts are always fun, this Friday duo of Billy and Charlie Foppiano, (father and son) known as “Meet the Foppers” performed some fun songs and even got a few up on the floor dancing!

We finished off the weekend by satisfying a curiosity and checking out the new Tooth and Nail Winery in Paso Robles.  Tooth and Nail moved into the old Eagle Castle Winery that closed in 2013.   The castle structure still exists and there really isn’t another building like it on the Central Coast.  It’s the only winery with it’s own “moat” and you may even feel like you are about to enter medieval times.

Tooth and Nail winery castle entrance

Grand entrance to Tooth and Nail Winery

Tooth and Nail Winery Moat

Moat around the winery looking towards the production facility

Soft leather cover for tasting list

Soft leather tasting list cover.

Tooth and Nail Rabble tasting list

Tasting List

Tempranillo wine label with art drawing

“Force of Nature” Tempranillo Label

Wine bottle label art drawing

“Stasis” Pinot Noir

Chardonnay wine label with art drawing

“Force of Nature” Chardonnay


Welcoming area by the fireplace in the tasting room


Vineyards at Tooth and Nail Winery

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Sunshine, Wine and Cheese

Warm sunny Sundays are a perfect excuse to run up to Lowes to look at tile especially if there are great wineries within a few miles of it.

Our friends Corey and Jinky drove up from San Luis Obispo to join us for our trip to Lowes with our bag of cheese, crackers and salami.  We drove out past the Paso Robles Airport and a pistachio farm to Le Vigne Winery out on Buena Vista Drive.  The tasting room was remodeled last year and it’s very open and spacious with a cheese room, a counter where you can buy panini’s and nibble on a few delicious samples of chocolate or cheese (or both).

Le Vigne Winery wine glass

Le Vigne Winery wine glass below the arbor.

A very friendly tasting room attendant named David made room for us at the handicapped counter as Ray’s mom accompanied us.  We wouldn’t have guessed it but it was only his second day working in the tasting room but not his second day in the wine industry.  We decided to go for the wine and cheese pairing, and why not with the amazing cheese selection in their cheese refrigerator chosen by the Cheese Lady, Zina.

Cheese on a plate at Le Vigne Winery

Two of the delicious cheeses paired with the wines at Le Vigne Winery

Cheeses on racks in a refrigerator

Amazing variety of cheeses!

We enjoyed our wines and cheese pairing and especially the Lamb Chopper and a delicious Bleu Cheese.  Ray enjoyed the 2009 LV Cuore Della Vigna, which was a wine made in the Super Tuscan style; this particular blend I believe used Petit Syrah with Zinfandel and Sangiovese. It’s always good to get an education in the diverse wine making styles of our area. We purchased a bottle of the Kiara California Sparkling Wine to enjoy with our picnic and Laura got a single glass of the 2012 Merlot. We settled ourselves into one of the tables out on their front patio to enjoy the warm sun and gentle breezes. We all took a moment to notice just how quiet it was out there, it was almost deafening but quite pleasant. The view just beyond the parking lot is seemingly endless vineyards where Laura has pulled over a number of times to photograph the vines in the fall.

Autumn colors of grapevines and grapes in Le Vigne vineyards

The colors in the fall in the vineyards are pretty incredible and just off the road.

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Puddles and Tasting

Rainy days are few and far between in California lately and are actually quite thrilling for most Californians.   It definitely didn’t stop us from piling into our car to head out to a couple of Paso Robles wineries last Sunday.

Looking through the large windows at Shale Oak Winery on a rainy day

Looking through the large windows at Shale Oak Winery on a rainy day

Our first stop was to Shale Oak Winery on Oakdale Road right across the street from another favorite, Red Soles Winery.  Shale Oak has set the standard in Paso Robles for sustainability. The beautiful grand windows at the tasting room let in plenty of light making the need for lighting more of a design accent than a need for illuminating the room. They also take recycling to the next level by having seeds implanted into the tasting list which can be planted to grow wildflowers!

Tasting list at Shale Oak Winery that can be planted to grow flowers

The plantable wine tasting list at Shale Oak Winery

Ray’s mother joined us for this outing and even though she has little interest in drinking wine she enjoyed sniffing our glasses and easily agreed with our taste in good wines. Our favorites this visit were the always fabulous 2011 Petite Verdot and the delicious 2011 Zinfandel.

We had hoped to head up to Rabbit Ridge Winery in Paso Robles where we are wine club members but remembered that there is a new place in downtown Paso Robles called the Rabbit Hole where they are in collaboration with Rabbit Ridge Winery and sell their wines along with a Bubbly Bar.  We were greeted by the wonderful Paula and were seated at some comfortable chairs and couch and the coffee table/foosball table with a stuffed rabbit in the chair across from us.   The tasting room is very colorful and whimsical to say the least.

Rabbit Ridge Winery glass

Looking through the Rabbit Ridge Winery glass to a stuffed rabbit

The wines were all delicious and Paula was kind enough to give a small portion of wine to my mother in law so she could sniff the wine out of her own glass and even had a couple of sips which she enjoyed.

White wine tasting list at Rabbit Hole in Paso Robles downtown

Rabbit Hole White Wines Tasting List

White wine flight tasting list at Grape Encounters Empourium wine shop

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Wine Tasting “Encounters” in Atascadero

Who knew that Atascadero had a vibrant wine tasting night life?

Laura and I along with a good friend enjoyed a fun Friday evening at Grape Encounters EmPOURium.  This great little wine shop doesn’t only carry an excellent wine selection chosen by the owner David Wilson but they also carry unique wine accessories and gifts. They also host a remarkable wine tasting experience that just might blow up into a wine tasting party full of laughter and delicious wines.   David is a wealth of knowledge and manages to combine his knowledge with such jocularity that will fill your mind and keep you laughing.  Hey, you might even learn a thing or two while your laughing!

The Wine Flights offered are a “One-Way Red”, a “One-Way White” or both.  The pours are served in small clear glass jugs arranged in a small wooden rack and you are instructed to drink from left to right and there’s a yellow sticker on the left side of the rack so you know which side is left.

The unique experience of tasting these wines is that they are from different wineries from around the world.  Many of the wines served are from local boutique wineries in the area that don’t have tasting rooms so it was a privilege to taste them.

White wine flight and small glass jugs of wine with tasting list

White Wine flight and little jugs that wine is served in. You pour the wine from these small jugs into your wine glass

Red Wine flight list for wine tasting

“One-Way Red” wine flight tasting list.

Small wooden rack with mini jugs containing the wine flight served.

The wine tasting portions were served in these cute yet functional “mini milk style” bottles

There was a delightful couple Amy and Michael enjoying the tasting at the counter who made room for the three of us at the counter who were quick to include us in the fun that had already begun before we arrived.  We managed to catch up and ended up spending the next couple hours laughing, telling stories, and enjoying the wonderful wines.  Michael happened to be a rep for Old World Vines, a company that imports “authentic old and ancient varietals from Greece, Hungary, and Slovenia”.   We embarrassed ourselves by telling Michael who is Greek with a full Greek accent in tow, that we weren’t familiar with Greek wine or their varietals.  We were quickly introduced to three of the wines that are sold at the shop and learned that some of the varietals in Greece have been around since the time of Aristotle. When Michael told me that the Chateau Porto Carras was a Cabernet Sauvignon blend that had 10% Limnio (the wine that Aristotle drank and wrote about), I had to buy a bottle. I have yet to try it, perhaps it will make me wiser : )

Bottles of Greek wine, 2013 Melissanthi,  2013 Malagouzia, 2005  Cotes de Meliton

Three Greek Wines

Grape Encounters Emporium is worth visiting for a fun afternoon or evening of discovering new wines and old favorites.  Be sure to check out the wine accessories and gift items.  Owners David and Annie Wilson are wonderful hosts and will make your visit worthwhile.  David is also host of Grape Encounters Radio. Annie is a great photographer and her beautiful images are hanging around the shop.  By the way, Laura has some of her photo gifts available in the shop as well such as pendants and gift cards with photos of the the Central Coast.

Winding dirt road through olive groves in Creston, CA

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Midweek Tastings

On occasion I will get a call from a good friend asking me if I would like to accompany her during the week to either pick up a wine club shipment or to pick up some Olive Oil out at Olivas de Oro in Creston.  There are other times that we get together for an errand in North County and somehow end up at a winery for a taste or two.

I got one of these calls the other day and yanked myself from my computer where I work at home and jumped in the car with her to pick up some of the best olive oil.  Olivas de Oro is owned by two of the nicest people you will ever meet who are very passionate about their olives and olive oils, balsamic vinegars, olive trees and herd of sheep.  It was a Chamber of Commerce kind of day in San Luis Obispo County with mild temperatures and wispy clouds when we took the 20 minute drive from Atascadero out to Creston.  We were greeted by the owners friendly daughter and the fragrance of some delicious concoction they have set up to sample their oils and seasonings.  My friend picked up her stock of olive oil and I grabbed some frozen lamb ribs.  On our way out we stopped to chat with the owner Frank Menacho while he was tending to the small herd of sheep that seemed to be very interested in what we humans were up to.

Sheep out in a green field with  clouds above

The sheep at Olivas de Oro

The drive away from the tasting room is something to behold in itself as you pass by the century old Olive trees that Frank and Marti moved from their orchard in Oroville down to Creston.

Winding dirt road through olive groves in Creston, CA

The winding road through Olivas de Oro olive trees.

Following our visit to Olivas de Oro we figured since we were already out in the area of the Creston Wine Trail we might as well find a winery we hadn’t been to in a while.  We came upon Hansen Vineyards where we had gone many years ago and really enjoyed talking with the owner and tasting his wines.  The owner was there in the tasting room and we were served by the cheerful Marina and her little dog Jules made sure we knew that he was glad we were there.  Hansen has a fabulous Viognier that I took home and their Cabernet Sauvignons are powerfully delicious!

Hansen Vineyard Tasting List

Nothing like a midweek adventure out to the Creston Wine Trail, it’s definitely worth the drive!