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.