Winederlust: Chamisal Vineyards

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Every-now-and-again someone recommends a wine that they have recently tried and enjoyed.  But when your neighbor, (who has a strong dislike for Chardonnay), goes completely crazy for a Chardonnay something wonderful has been discovered.

And that is exactly what happened.  Our neighbor was wine tasting with friends and stopped at Chamisal Vineyard, in the Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo County, California.  To her great delight she tried the 2012 Stainless Chardonnay, hence the recommendation. Now mind you, she told us about the wine after they drank the bottle they brought home.

With piqued interest we headed off to discover this new treasure.   Upon entering the tasting room we were warmly greeted by Andrea.  We told her we were on a mission to try the Un-oaked chardonnay.  One sip later we were in love with a chardonnay.  Did we mention that we aren’t too fond of chardonnays either?  The 2012 Stainless Chardonnay is absolutely wonderful, what a concept, you taste the fruit and you don’t feel like you just chewed on an oak barrel!  We are singing the praises of this wine to anyone who will listen.  If you are in the area please stop in for a great tasting experience.

Psst…….there also is a 2012 Stainless Pinot Noir.  It’s young and very refreshing.

Winederlust: Wine Tasting in Palisade, Colorado

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Grande River VineyardsRecently, while on a four-state roadtrip, time allowed for a delightful stop in Palisade, Colorado. After many hours of driving, this valley was truly a sight to behold. It is such a contrast to the surrounding area. Palisade is 13 miles east of Grand Junction, Colorado on I-70.

The orchards, the fruit stands, and, oh, did we mention the wineries? No mirage here. We were really seeing grapes growing out there. Our first stop was at Grand River Winery ( As we cooled off in the welcoming tasting room, we reviewed the extensive wine list. We sampled and chatted with the friendly server. Since it was such a hot day we opted for a bottle of the Desert Blush. It’s a chillable rose and is said to be the color of a Western Colorado sunset. Their pairing suggestions included the following items: Grilled/BBQ Salmon, grilled meats, carne asada or Cajun foods.

St. Catherine's CellarsNext stop… the wineries next door. Under the heading of Confre Cellars, Inc. fall several wineries in one beautiful location. The first one we tried was St. Kathryn Cellars ( . They had a wonderful selection of fruit wines. There was Blueberry Bliss, Cranberry Kiss and even Strawberry Rhubarb (I think that one is definitely an acquired taste). Our purchase was the Golden Pear; it had a lovely finish and was just darn tasty. It’s said to go especially well with soft cheeses and pork. After a short walk through the tasting room, we arrived at our next tasting destination.

That was a quick transition! Now we are in the Confre Cellars. They are known for their fruit and grape wines, and honey wine, or mead. Well, we found a favorite there, and that would be the Mango wine! Yup, that’s what we said, mango. It was the most unusual and refreshing wine we’ve ever tasted. And they were right, it would go wonderfully with Mexican or Thai food.

Also located in the Confre Cellars is the Colorado Fudge Factory. The free samples were enough to tickle your taste buds. We had way too many favorites. It’s a good thing they have the “Buy 1 lb. and get _ lb. Free” offer.

By now we were hungry and know of a wonderful little place in town called the Slice of Life Bakery. They make yummy, simple sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, with fresh garden produce. And save room for dessert, they make the best ice cream sandwiches with their own cookies and homemade ice cream. And if you are really lucky, look on the counter by the register for a bottle of their special grilling sauce. That day they had the Sweet Plum Grilling Sauce, made by Palisade Garden Fruit Co. It is the best! After peach season, they have a peach grilling sauce which is out of this world as well.

Sadly it was time to get back on the road and push on east toward Silverthorne, Co. We will be back, Palisade, to enjoy the wonderful and delicious harvests of your beautiful valley.

For more on Palisade and the surrounding area, please visit and

Head Wino

Winederlust: Fair Play Area, El Dorado County

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Greetings, Fellow Closet Wino!

Recently, the Closet Wino Team revisited one of our all time favorite wine regions — the Fair Play area of El Dorado County in California. Nestled among the rolling hills in what was once the Gold Rush country, east of Sacramento off of Highway 49, it is where you will find some of the state’s finest Zinfandels. It’s scenic, historic and uncrowded.

After enjoying a restful night and a fabulous breakfast at the Grey Gables Inn in Sutter Creek. We headed off to some of our favorite wineries. But first we checked out a new place (to us) in Plymouth, called Amador Vintage Market. The deli creates the most wonderful sandwiches, so we loaded up with yummy supplies for our day of wine tasting. The store also has a wine bar, a good selection of retail wines, and they do catering and special event planning as well.

Off we headed to Latcham Vineyards and Granite Springs Winery. They are sister wineries and each has an extensive tasting list, with many award-winning wines from Chardonnay to Port. We especially love their Zinfandels (and Port brownies)! Between the two wineries there were nearly 20 pours and, as always, NO tasting fee. Best of all, most of their incredible wines are $20 or less!

Time to recharge and eat. We stopped at another secluded favorite, Oakstone Winery. We grabbed our deli lunch and sat on the covered porch and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings, just long enough to watch a gentle rain turn to hail. Quickly finishing we went into the tasting room to warm ourselves. Our pourer knew her wines well. And we enjoyed the samplings of mustards along with the delicious wines. Keeping to tradition we again purchased their crisp and unique apple wine and more of their signature Slug Gulch Red.

El Dorado County and its neighboring Amador County are wonderful areas for wine enthusiasts to visit. There are over 40 small wineries within easy driving distance. There are also many quaint bed and breakfasts for lodging, and terrific restaurants abound. It is well worth making a special trip to this yet-to-be-discovered wine region.

For more information, please visit:

Head Wino

Featured Winery: Castoro Cellars

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Well, the word is out and we are eager to share it with you. Located in the scenic Highway 46 West region of Paso Robles, sits one of the most inviting and exciting wineries around… and that would be Castoro Cellars.

Oh boy, do they have some ‘Dam Fine Wines’. Founded by Niels and Bimmer Udsen. Castoro is the Italian translation of Niels’ life-long nickname of “Beaver” – which prompted the winery’s motto of Dam Fine Wine.

Even as you pull into the parking area you know you are approaching a very special place. As you stroll beneath the grape arbor on your way to the tasting room and gift shop, the views of the vineyard and gardens set the tone for what you’re about to experience inside.

The warm and friendly greeting from behind the tasting bar is as inviting as the sofa in front of the stone fireplace. You will be taken through the tasting list, which includes their flagship wines: the Vineyard Tribute Zinfandel and Cobble Creek Vineyard Zinfandel. Their other award-winning wines include Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Rhone varietals, special blends and dessert wines. Many Closet Winos have been seen loading their trunks with cases of wine. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, the staff is knowledgeable and eager to guide you through the tasting process. You will be amazed with the quality and affordability of the Castoro wines.

If you can’t get to Castoro this weekend, you can always visit their website at

Winederlust: El Dorado County, California

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Okay, so maybe the quarterly update is not so quarterly. What were you expecting from a bunch of Closetwinos? It appears that it’s a lot easier to taste the wine, than writing about all that great juice. Our apologies to all.

So with that said, let us talk a little about the wineries of Fair Play in El Dorado County, California.

Latcham Vineyards

As noted in a previous column, Latcham Vineyards was written about with much joy. The joy and appreciation of Latcham continues. There really isn’t much not to like at this winery. And, yes the brownies were up to par, as always.

2001 was a very nice year for their Estate Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes were 100% estate grown. We were even able to pick out the pineapple flavor. Just a delight to drink. Another fun wine found here is the Goldrush Red, it is reasonably priced and not much of a risk for the rookie Closetwino. It is a blend of 40% Zin, 44% Merlot, 10% Barbera and 6% Black Muscat.

Other selections worthy of praise are the 2000 Special Reserve Zinfandel (a Gold Medal winner). This is one mighty fine Zin to drink now or try and hold on to for a little aging. The other showstopper is the 1999 Select Port. Just drop by Latcham Vineyards and work your way through the tasting list, there is no doubt you will leave with several newfound favorites.

Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards

Another delightful place to sample many award winning wines is at Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards. Well Monsieur Omo’s Red Sunshine is a wonderful drinkable red wine. As quoted on the tasting sheet, “made to be enjoyed, not discussed or collected.” Sorta says it all. It is a multiple medal winner. And rightly so.

If you enjoy Chianti of Tuscany, then this red may be for you. It is a triple medal winner and we just plain liked it.

Feeling the need for dessert? Might we recommend the Port? It may come in a 375ml. bottle, but it is a big winner in our book. You really can taste the black cherry, anise and coffee flavors. The flavors lingered on the palette all the way to the next vineyard. Glad to see it win a Gold Medal.

Oakstone Winery, Inc.

What a wonderful place to stop and take in the views of the surrounding countryside. And to be warmly greeted by the great folks manning the tasting room. You almost felt like you were visiting someone’s home.

It was fun to discover that wine made from apples can be mighty fine. The Apple Wine was a very pleasant surprise. A bottle of this and a chunk of cheddar, and dinner is served! Just kidding, sort of. If I remember correctly, the apples used are Pink Lady, Fuji and Red Delicious. You gotta try this one; you will not be disappointed.

Another well known wine here is the Slug Gulch Reds. And there is a strong following for this blended red. As each new release comes out, there is much commentary and comparison from past years. As the story goes, Slug Gulch just keeps getting better and better each time. Don’t be shy, at under $10 a bottle it is well worth joining the Slug Gulch groupies.

The 2001 Pinot Gringo (Pinot Gris)-Late Harvest was a real treat to sample. This crisp, clean dessert wine would go very well with cobbler or lemon bars. Oh, yum.

Windwalker Vineyard

Food and wine…the perfect combination. To walk into a tasting room and be greeted with the tantalizing aroma of food, you know you are in for a treat. With a warm greeting from behind the tasting counter we were off and running.

We started with a wonderful Fume Blanc, onto the Viognier, and things just continued to get better! Then came the Zinfandel…and, oh yes, along with the cooked sausage it was the ultimate combination! Several of those bottles followed us home. As did the Ruby Port! A perfect stop on our day of tasting. We shall return.

Granite Springs Winery

Now don’t be surprised if some of the faces behind the counter look familiar, there may be a very good chance you may have seen that person pouring your wine over at Latcham Winery. We were thrilled and knew we were in for some great tasting.

Not being big Chardonnay drinkers we were pleased to taste a crisp and fruity Chard. (A wonderful change from the sense of chewing on an oak barrel.) Other selections included the Sierra Reserve Red, a blend of Merlot, Zinfandel and CabFranc. The Estate Syrah was very nice and a Gold Medal winner. We continued to work our way through the reds with little or no disappointments.

The relaxed atmosphere and the wonderful spread of nibbles that were enjoyed with our wines, made our first visit to Granite Springs Winery an experience worth repeating in the future.

Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge

It was a pleasure to be served by the owners of the winery as we explored the world of organically grown wines. Natural is always best in our book. The Sauvignon Blanc was crisp with no wood taste, quite pleasant. The Sierra Dream Rose and King’s Red were fun taste experiences. Our favorite was the of course a Zinfandel. But we recommend that you stop by and pick your own favorite.

Until we taste again.


Winederlust: Paso Robles (East), California

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Ah, the California central coast, the car appears to be on autopilot. Just point the car north and we find ourselves falling in love again with this very beautiful and inviting area. There are so many great wineries, at the rate we are going it will take us two years to finish visiting the current wineries. And that wont be counting the twenty or so new ones being added at the end of this season. But we are brave and promise to keep returning for the sake of our fellow Closet Winos.

With this series we will attempt to chronicle some of our favorite and often visited wineries. (Therein lies some of our problem, we keep going back to some of the same ones again and again.)

Hardly a visit goes by without beginning the day with a hearty breakfast at Margie’s Diner. There are several locations throughout San Luis Obispo County. Diners beware, the portions are huge! They will give you a half order on just about any thing on the menu. We just love their biscuits and gravy. A fine foundation for anyone going wine tasting. If you hit them for lunch the basket of sliders and fries is mighty fine too! Enjoy!

Penman Springs Vineyard

Carl and Beth McCasland are the owners of this forty-plus acre vineyard. Carl, and Winemaker Larry Roberts, are creating some mighty fine wines. Beth runs the tasting room and she is a joy to hang out with. There is always a jig saw puzzle that is being worked on in the tasting room. And don’t mind the dogs as you enter the driveway, they do move, they have yet to be run over. Mikey and Rowdy are really cool vineyard dogs.

This is one winery where we have done some serious damage. I think there is a really good reason why they ran out of the ‘98 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was delicious and just got better and better in the bottle. It was a wonderful relationship while it lasted.

It always is hard to pick a favorite here, but I sure am glad they have the Muscat Blanc back. It is very refreshing on a hot summer day. The new Late Harvest Muscat is very yummy. Well one of us loves the Petite Syrah and the other very much enjoys the Merlot. And we both agree on the Cabernet Sauvignon. We will let you decide which you like best.

And we wish to thank Beth for being an official Closet Wino supporter.

Rio Seco Vineyard

Just a stone’s throw from Penman Springs is Rio Seco. And they are wonderful neighbors. We were served by Carol, and so enjoyed her enthusiasm for all of their wines.

If you are a fan of Zinfandels have they got one for you. The ‘99 Zinfandel, wow! This is so smooth and fruity and jammy. I had planned to save this bottle for a very special occasion. (Well, it lasted until a dear friend bought a house, just another reason to celebrate with wine!) There were 200 cases bottled in July of 2001.

The Cabernet Sauvignon was very smooth. The Multi Vintage Zinfandel was just fun to sip. The ‘99 Syrah is the first estate release for Rio Seco, with 200 hundred cases bottled in July 2001.

Tobin James Cellars

This is one high-spirited and lively bunch. If you like the feel of the rowdy old west and great wines, then this is your kind of place. The antique bar is a perfect spot to belly-up to and do some serious wine tasting. We like the fact that even when the place is packed your server stays with you through the whole tasting. And they know their wines. We like that they take the time to teach you about the wine and answer all your questions. Their enthusiasm is contagious, we always leave a little wiser and a just a wee bit sillier.

Just watch out for the Liquid Love…that stuff can sneak up on you. Oh, but what a lovely wine it is, actually it is the perfect wine for a little romance.

Well about now we have a case of the hungries. If you happen to be in Templeton around the lunch hour, we highly recommend stopping in for some of the best food around, at McPhee’s Grill. The pulled-pork sandwich with their special slaw, oh, it just melts in your mouth. We have yet to find anything on the menu that we don’t like. The desserts are all homemade and worth every calorie. The wine list is extensive with many of the local wineries represented. They are also open for dinner; reservations might be a good idea.

Back on the road…we are still on the east side of Hwy. 101.

DiCarlo Winery

This winery has much to celebrate. A new name and great wines. Formerly known as BonZarlo the change was made official in 2002. So do not panic if you have an old map as we did when we were looking for DiCarlo. They are located at 5050 Estrella Road.

We tried a few of the lesser-known wines. Two new ones for us were the ‘99 Tempranillo and the ‘99 Petit Verdot. One of us liked both and one did not. Oh, the joy of discovery, in wine tasting. Take your favorite, and sit and sip on the wonderful veranda and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

Chumeia Vineyard (koo-may-a)

There is a wonderful selection of wines to be found here. Starting off, the ‘99 Viognier was most refreshing. It is a very floral wine. We all enjoyed the 2000 Zinfandel, Paso Robles. It was so jammy; you could spread it on toast. The other crowd pleaser was the 2001 Silver Nectar. (40% Chenin Blanc, 40% Semillion, 20% Muscat). This wine is a pleasure to sniff and sip with aromas of orange blossom, honeysuckle, mango, peach and honey. We will be back to enjoy some more of these wonderful wines.

There are a few of the wineries along Hwy. 46 East that we have visited in the past and are worth mentioning, even though we haven’t tasted their current releases. The first is Meridian Vineyards. I do remember the Cabernet Franc and it was very nice. The grounds are really very beautiful, complete with an herb garden. Bring a picnic and enjoy.

Next is EOS Estate Winery. We enjoy their Chenin Blanc, which we are able to purchase at our local store. There is a racecar exhibit, gift shop and deli. This is one spectacular building complete with self-guided tours and rose garden and picnic area.

Now if you find yourself on Airport Road do stop in to the new wine center at J. Lohr Winery. They have quite a large operation going on here, 500,000 case production! Plus they have some great wine. The J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet, South Ridge Syrah, Single Vineyard Hilltop Cabernet and Los Osos Merlot are some of their big sellers and rightfully so.

If you head north on Airport Road, hang a left onto Estrella Road and right on River Road, start looking for the sign for Pretty-Smith Vineyards and Winery. Now don’t panic you are no longer in Paso Robles. You are in San Miguel. Actually you are sitting atop the San Lawrence Terrace. Oh, what a view. You can almost imagine what the area was like when the vineyards were first planted at Mission San Miguel in the 1700s.

We met Victor Smith and briefly met his wife Lisa Pretty. What a delightful couple they are and what a great place they bought. This use to be Mission View Wines, which they still carry as their value-line. In talking with Victor you could feel the excitement and passion for their winemaking.

And we are in agreement on this one; we loved all their wines. From the Fume Blanc to the Zinfandel Port. We are looking to returning here many more times.

And finally, for the east side of Hwy. 101 let us not forget a favorite of ours in Templeton, the Wild Horse Winery. This is a very popular place to visit. There usually is a pretty good crowd at the tasting counter. But squeeze on in, it is worth it. The servers really enjoy talking to you about their wine. Listen carefully they have much to tell you. They have many wines that are sold only at the winery. So if you find one those, be sure to buy now. The selection of handcrafted wines is large and we have too many favorites. We will let you pick your favorites.

This ends our brief journey to some of the wineries on the east side of Hwy. 101. The next installment on Paso Robles will include the wineries on the west side of Hwy. 101, including some more of our favorite places to seek nutrition. Until then, happy tasting.

Winederlust: Amador County California

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‘The Big Crush’ of Amador, once again was an event to behold. The Shenandoah Valley had a sense of magic in the air! We met up with our fellow winos at the Shenandoah Inn in Plymouth. After a hearty breakfast at the Gold Rush Café we walked back to the inn and awaited our limo.

Promptly at 11a.m. Jim of Foothill Limousine picked us up for our wine tasting tour. We were surprised that he took our reservation for the third year. And we have booked him for Harvest 2002.

Off we went first stop was Montevina – our tasting guide took us through an extensive tasting, with much information given rapidly for each selection. The munchies in the barrel tasting room were wonderful!

Our next stop, Story Winery, our favorite by far. And what a crowd, parking was tight especially for the limos. The setting is incredible — such views of the valley! As always the live music was so pleasant. And the wine…..well, we certainly did our part to stimulate the economy! We toyed with the idea of buying ‘Futures’, but still being a little green in that area we decided to pass. But it didn’t stop us from tasting and re-tasting from the barrel. Everyone at Story, that was helping with pouring and sales really make you feel welcome and very comfortable. It’s just a down-home place that we will continue to return to time and time again.

Our lunch stop was a picnic lunch provided by Jim our driver, on the grounds of Deaver Vineyards. The huge green lawns provide the perfect setting for a picnic. The live band was a joy to listen to and a few people were spotted dancing to their favorite tunes.

Tasting at Deaver is always an education, with many new wines to try. One we all especially enjoyed the Sangio (Rose of Sangiovese) it was so refreshing and light and fruity. And it went quite well with the complimentary BBQ’d tri-tip sandwiches. (We went back again the next day, just to make sure we liked everything from the day before. Yup, we did.)

Topping off our day with two more stops. The stop was Sobon Estate . And once again we left with an ample supply of Orange Muscat.

Our last stop of the day is Shenandoah Vineyards. With a live band playing we wandered around the grounds and much to our surprise we discovered the Shenandoah Valley Museum. What a wonderful collection of items used in daily living in the early days of the valley. The agriculture and viticulture artifacts, truly make your appreciate how hard life was and how wine making was a labor of love.

The following day we were on our own. So off we went, breakfast at Marlene & Glenn’s Diner in Plymouth. We’ve never seen such a huge breakfast menu selection.

First stop Amador Foothill Winery – a new stop for us. We tried something new and different to us. A wine called Carignane. It was great. And we became best buddies with another closet-wino named Catherine. She was having as much fun as we were.

At this point we decided to make a break for the border. We crossed into El Dorado County to their wine region called Fairplay. We quickly found our way to our beloved Latcham Winery. Not only home to fantastic wine, but is also known for its’ to-die-for brownies made by Margaret.

Not one drop of disappointment found here. Just start at the top of the wine tasting list and work your way down. Each wine seemed to get better than the last one tasted. The 2000 Sauvignon Blanc (Gold Medal California State Fair) went absolutely perfect with the out-of-the oven smoked salmon hors de’ oeuvres. We all agreed upon the fact that we were in heaven and not in a simple tasting room on earth.

But wait, somehow it did manage to get better, we got to the reds. Then came the 1999 Zinfandel Reserve. Well no wonder it won against all those other wines in San Francisco at the International Wine Competition. It took Double Gold and Best of Show (for Zinfandel).

After concluding our tasting at Latcham with brownies and the 1998 Select Port, we knew it was time to buy and say good bye.

Once in the car it came to our attention that we had one more stop to make. Back in Amador County we headed down Steiner Road to Charles Spinetta Winery.

Thank goodness for the ability to buy by the case. The Chenin Blanc is just delightful. We then had a new taste treat experience. We tried the Zinetta, A fun and yummy sweet zinfandel. Oh, was it delicious! Another case to the car. Seating was becoming a bit of an issue.

We then had the pleasure of visiting with Jeff Runquist of Jeff Runquist Wines. Jeff shares the tasting room with the Spinetta family. We sampled the 1999 ‘ Z ‘ Zinfandel and the’ R’ Sangiovese. More wine for the car.

After a well-deserved nap back in our rooms, we prepared for dinner over in Jackson. We had reservations at the Upstairs Restaurant. WOW! The atmosphere, the music, the food, Chef Layne McCollum made our evening magical. Everything from start to finish was an experience for all the senses. The pork loin stuffed with napa cabbage, cherries and walnuts in a port sauce was delicious. And the steak crusted with fresh ground coffee beans and Szechwan peppercorns was most tasty.

Ah, the dessert dilemma after a short discussion it was decided that each person would choose a different dessert. So we ended up with the following taste temptations; key lime pie in a coconut crust, chocolate torte with lingonberry sauce, lemon curd cake with fresh raspberries and a banana filled wonton with a warm homemade chocolate and caramel sauce. Need we say more? We all loved them all. We are looking forward to returning soon to the Upstairs Restaurant.

To be continued…