Through Our Wine Glasses


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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:

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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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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

Fireplace

Welcoming area by the fireplace in the tasting room

Vineyards

Vineyards at Tooth and Nail Winery

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!

Looking through a Pelletiere Winery wine glass towards the barn door at the winery


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A New Favorite and an Old One

We had the privilege of visiting Pelletiere Winery today in the Willow Creek area of Paso Robles that just opened on Friday January 16th.  The tasting room is gorgeous with a fabulous granite counter and a beautiful farm table with great wood accents on the walls.  The grand barn door is from wood from a great local barnwood company called American Barn and Wood.

Pelletiere Winery wine glass

There’s a tasteful display of pendants, keychains and scarves for purchase.  We were greeted by the delightful owner Janis Denner and her friendly tasting room attendants.   Oh yeah, and there’s the wines….we started off with a delicious Viognier that was crisp and creamy.  The Sangiovese was spicy yet smooth and their Lagrein (lah-Grine) was the darkest wine I’ve ever seen and it’s delicious.  We ended up going home with a bottle of the Montepulciano which is as fun to drink as it is to say.

Pellletiere Winery tasting list

We finished our visit with a tour led by Janis of the impeccably decorated and completely remodeled inn next to the tasting room.  It’s a two-story place with gorgeous views from most of the rooms and a fireplace.   The kitchen is a nice space that features a vintage oven.  It is the perfect place for family and friends who are visiting the area.

Photo of Pelletiere Winery Inn  view from living roomPhoto of view vineyard view from living room at Pelletiere winery inn

Following our enjoyable visit to Pelletiere Winery we all piled into our Toyota Highlander for the quick drive over to Croad Vineyards for their Kiwi Hour.

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Croad Vineyards has some of the best views in Paso Robles and the wines never disappoint

We strategically arrived during Kiwi Hour which is between 2pm and 3pm every day when glasses of wine are 1/2 off.  I got a glass of 2010 Ariki which is a delicious blend of 58% Syrah, 32% Grenache and 10% Mouvedre and my husband had the 2010 Zinfandel Pure which is a 100% estate dry farmed Zinfandel in new French Oak that lives up to the distinguished Paso Robles Zinfandel reputation.

We enjoyed a picnic on the patio with our friends next to the hypnotizing sounds of the tiered fountain.  Thankfully the weather was a perfect companion to our enjoyable afternoon with temperatures in the 70’s and a light breeze.

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Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir Quest

As we’ve been tasting wines mainly from the Paso Robles region in California. We’ve occasionally come across Pinot Noir wines from the Santa Lucia highlands. Since Pinot Noir is not big in the Paso area we became more intrigued and wanted to know more. Again we used Laura’s birthday as an occasion to take a trip to Monterey so we can visit the wineries in the Santa Lucia Highlands.  We visited 4 places – 2 on the way to Monterey, 2 on the way back – Paraiso Vineyards, Wrath Wines, Talbott Vineyard, Boekenoogen Winery. This post summarizes our “findings”

We did some research and chose Paraiso Vineyards as our first stop (http://www.paraisovineyards.com/). We were not disappointed. The tasting room attendant Jeff was helpful and knowledgeable of wines of this region. We told him we were on a Pinot Noir quest. See the picture of the wine list. And some of the pictures of the winery. The winery tasting room in Soledad was in a vineyard setting and very beautiful. All of these were delicious along with the Pinots on the list.

Wine tasting link to Alexander Smith Paraiso winery in Soledad, CA

Looking through a Paraiso wine glass over the Santa Lucia Highlands

As we were at Paraiso, Jeff recommended we visit Wrath Wines since we were interested in visiting boutique wineries. As the picture shows, the winery has a nice pond and provides a scenic view.

Pond next to Wrath Winery tasting room

Pond at Wrath Winery

The wine list consisted of several Pinots and all were memorable. Our tasting room attendant Michelle was both helpful and knowledgeable and made us feel at home.

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After visiting these two wineries, we called it a day. In our experience, since we don’t spit out the wine, two wineries in an afternoon are good (and enjoyable). We headed off to Monterey where we spent the night in a hotel. And took some time enjoying Monterey (you can ask us about our Monterey experience but for the purposes of this post, I’m keeping it to our wine trip).

On our way home, drove down Carmel Valley road and made our first stop at Talbott Vineyards. This was a busy tasting room that was decorated with a vintage motorcycles. The Pinots were good. But what got our attention was the 2012 Audrey Chardonnay that smelled like burnt popcorn but was creamy delicious to the taste.

Talbot Winery tasting listTalbot Winery tasting list

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was Boekenoogen Winery which was down the road from Talbott. Boekenoogen was recommended at every winery we visited, so we were compelled to stop here. This place did not disappoint. We tasted the reds only – the Pinots were delicious and the Zin, Syrah, and Petite were memorable.

Boekenoogen Winery tasting listBoekenoogen winery tasting list

Sunlight shining through Boekenoogen wine glass sitting atop a wood table

Laura’s “Through our wine glass” picture was the inspiration for the name of our blog

Overall our wine tasting trip through the Santa Lucia Highlands was fun and memorable and a place we would visit again. We obviously only scratched the surface. All the SLH Pinots were fruit forward, and balanced (right amount of acidity, tannin, alcohol) and more complex than what we normally taste in our area. The prices (on the high side like around $50) clearly reflected the craftsmanship involved in making these wines. The wines we bought are something we would definitely save for special occasions.

 

 

 

 

 


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11 years of tasting…and we aren’t done yet!

Glass of red wine overlooking crashing waves.Eleven years ago my wife Laura wanted to celebrate her birthday by going wine tasting! She figured wine country was in our backyard and we kinda liked wine and I did a lot of civil engineering work with wineries.

So first weekend of January 2004, we went on our first wine tasting trip and we went to Rabbit Ridge Winery.

As you can predict, we really loved the experience and for the last eleven years, we’ve gone on weekly (almost weekly) wine tasting trips on Sunday afternoons, as we’ve discovered quickly that this is the time when the tourists are all gone and we’ve had great one on one conversations with the owner and/or wine maker.

We’ve visited almost all the wineries in the Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo area.  We’ve been partial to the Paso Robles region. The many great wines of the world are represented in the Paso region – Bordeaux blends, Rhone blends, Italian varietals, California Zinfandel, among others…

Although we’ve developed a good foundation for tasting and appreciating good wine, we are always learning….and enjoyed the learning experience. We hope to share the experiences we’ve learned along the way.