Special thanks to Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite for this Guest Post, and for road tripping to my beloved Paso Robles!
Back on January 2nd I predicted that 2011 would be the year of Syrah and if the Rhone Rangers organization has anything to do with it, every year will be the year of Syrah in addition to Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah… you catch my drift. This weekend the wife and I embarked on our first trip to Paso Robles to accompany William Allen of SimpleHedonisms.com for a weekend of Rhone wonder. Though many of my friends and readers know I am a Pinot man at heart, they may not know how much I am a lush for southern Rhone offerings including those from Gigondas and Chateneuf-du-Pape, especially.
The 4-hour drive south from Napa was easy and quite scenic as we whisked our way down I-680 then along US 101 through the Monterey AVA, passing by the Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone and Arroyo Seco AVAs as well. The morning of our travels, the mountains ranges were being hammered by some precipitation and with the temps hovering close to 41F on the highway, it was cold enough at the higher elevations to produce snow which provided a nice dusting and contrast on the horizon of green rolling hills with white caps. Coffee, Jack in the Box breakfast, uninterrupted satellite Radio, and breathtaking farmland scenery… 4 hours flew by.
Our first stop was Alta Colina where we met up with William, Maggie Tillman, Amy Butler (Ranchero Cellars) and Faith Wells (Hospice du Rhone) for a vineyard tour and a tasting. Funny how the rain finally decided to hit us when we pulled into the parking lot of the tasting room. Not ones to be deterred from geeking about vines by weather, we piled (literally) into William’s FJ and bounded up the slopes. Founding the property in 2003, their first vintage wasn’t until 2007 and now already boast an impressive list of Rhone varietals. Some of our favorites included:
- 2009 12 O’clock High – named for the orientation of the rows, this aromatic white consists of 69% Viognier, 18% Roussanne, 7% Marsanne, 6% Grenache Blanc. I’m big on floral aromatics and this wine comes through.
- 2009 Toasted Slope Syrah – this is a soon-to-be-released Syrah that will easily age for 7+ years
Next we sloshed onward to Carina Cellars where we met Nicolette and David. They were pulling out all the stops throwing down some pairings of cheese, chorizo, craisins/goat cheese and chocolate with their wares. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like, but these stood out and we ended up with more than just a few bottles.
- 2009 Grenache Blanc – From the Tierra Alta vineyards in Santa Ynez, this white was refreshing, crisp and fragrant. Sorry guys, this one is now sold out.
- 2007 Clairvoyant – This GSM (33/55/12) – awesome black and red fruits, deep color, mocha and spice.
After a brief stop at Bronco Burger for some much-needed nourishment (monster burgers – I recommend the ABC), we arrived at a business park and entered Barrel 27. This place was happening. Edgar was helping out behind the counter and has a great personality to make any tasting fun. He makes his own wine, but was just helping out the staff today. After tasting the lineup from Barrel 27 we had an opportunity to meet Russell P. From of Herman Story Wines and accompany him for a round of his juice. This guy runs his operation solo (his website is no frills, yo) and has the goatee and untucked plaid shirt to prove it. The wine is for real and is even better when shared with friends and some loud tunes in a dark barrel room somewhere.
This was just on Saturday. On Sunday we attended a wine tasting seminar, lunch and Grand Tasting with the Rhone Rangers. A post on this event is coming soon. By the way, the answer to the question regading pronunciation from an informal survey is “Pah-soo Row-blays,” however a few “locals” claim “Pa-so Ro-bulls”, but I’m going with the first for now. We’ll be going back soon.