Paso Robles: Kismet and Karma   2 comments


And the Award goes to... READ ON


Late last December I found myself “stranded” in LA after a snow storm hit the East Coast and grounded my flight out for a couple of days.  Pity, that.

My business in LA having been concluded, what to do…?  A couple of quick phone calls and I was on my way to Paso, as the locals call it. 

Don’t know Paso?  Here is a little promotional video that I picked up from the Dr. Vino blog:

A quick word on the topography of Paso.  As my visit was an overnight stay and I only had two days to explore the area, I found myself (quite by accident) in the part of Paso west of Highway 101.  Unlike Napa and Sonoma, which are dominated by valleys, Paso’s topography is a bit more hilly on the West side.  The result is that West Paso seems to offer a variety of microclimates which seem to benefit from the cool Pacific air currents in the evenings.  And because of the nature of the terrain, the microclimates vary depending on high ground/low ground. 

Driving through these parts of Paso, I was impressed by the amount of mature trees in the region.  Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to spend time in the vineyards.  That’s for the next visit.

Paso is home to well established producers such as J. Lohr and Robert Hall.  But this is not where I go looking for good juice, though both of these producers know what they are doing. 

Wineries to Visit

Adelaida– The folks there seem to have a reverence for the land, the fruit and their customers. Those are factors that are going to win me over when it translates into wines that speak of place. 

2007 Recess Red– more of an everyday wine and thankfully priced for the everyday.  Rated **

2007 Pinot Noir HMR Estate– Pinot from Paso?  Yes, this is grown in one of the cooler lots on the estate.  Showing good fruit and balance.  Rated ***

2007 Syrah Viking Estate– showing the richness of syrah, but still balanced with still prevalent tannins.  I would wait on this one for a few more years.  But when it’s ready watch out.  Rated *** 1/2

2006 Zinfandel– red berry flavor profile with an acidic backbone supporting the fruit.  Far from flabby, this is a nice wine I would be happy to drink most any time.  After tasting the Pinot and the Syrah this one really woke up my taste buds.  Rated ** 1/2

Denner– Young winemaker making damn good wine. 

2008 Dirt Worshipper is a must have.  95% Syrah, 5% Viognier.  Concentration, complexity, balance.  Shame that the Wine Spectator also liked it enough to give it a 97 point rating.  At $45, you’re already too late to get some.  Rated *** 1/2

Justin– Good wines, but high prices.  Knowledgeable tasting room staff.  Worth the visit.  Their wines had more presence and were more interesting than the Turley wines (see below), even if price/value ratios are also a bit off. The skinny on Justin: worth visiting and tasting for sure– worth buying, perhaps not.

Lone Madrone– This was one of my favorite places to visit. 

2007 Barfendel– seriously bad name, seriously good juice.  This one you can still buy.  Rated *** 1/2

Volk– if single varietal bottles is what turns you on, this is the place to visit.  They share a tasting room with Lone Madrone.  I especially enjoyed the Mouvedre.  Generally, the wines ranked in the ** to **1/2 range. 

Tablas Creek– this is the California outpost of Château de Beaucastel of Chateauneuf-du-Pape fame and is known for its Rhone varietals.  I came, I saw, I tasted, I left.  I have spoken to a few folks in the area about TC and they seem to have gone gaga for the place.  Sorry, I guess I didn’t see it.  Again, good wines, but I felt they were inferior to the wines at Adelaida, Denner and Lone Madrone.  This is one I really would like to retaste.

Opolo– Many wines, many boozers!  The large tasting room was staffed by two/three servers who offered unlimited tastings for a very nominal fee.  If only the wines were worth it.  Not that they were bad, but nothing really stood out as being extraordinary.  Still if you’re looking for a good time, this might be the place.   And with an all you can taste tasting fee and a few bites of their brick oven pizza, hell why not?  Overall rating on wines **

And One to Avoid

Turley– The tasting room staff were friendly enough.  The winemaker– less so– curt and dismissive of anything even mildly negative about the wines.  I decided to pay for the reserve tasting.  A fresh bottle was opened.  But I noticed that it was a bit cloudy and remarked as such to the person serving me.  She call the winemaker over to look to review the situation and in a dismissive tone, said only that the wine would clear up later.  Maybe; but I was tasting it now.  Also, there are a number of potential causes that could result in a cloudy wine– some of which may not “clear up”.  Here is a simple solution when a customer expresses concerns about a specific bottle– especially when that customer is paying a few extra bucks for the reserve tasting (as I did)– open another bottle.  Of course they did not do that– wasn’t even a thought.  I should have walked out, but I wanted to keep an open mind. 

Note to Turley: When people come to your tasting room, a bit of hospitality is a good thing.  Bad customer care = Bad Karma = Less customers no matter how good your wines.  Speaking of the wines: I did not find anything there that had the presence to justify their pricing on the higher end.  Given a cursory review of other posters on the internet, I am not alone in my impressions that Turley people specialize in being inhospitable– but hell, do I need that kind of validation?  Not really, but it still feels good to know I have not been singled out for crappy customer service.  This pattern of bad behavior won’t win you any more fans.

Second Note to Turley: Great, so you make some decent wines in Napa— it doesn’t give you the right to be an A-hole.  But, you’ve earned it, so congrats on your Award! 

Hey, obviously, there are people who will disagree with this assessment given that they regularly seem to sell out of their wines.  Better for you and me, since that leaves other wines from better producers for us to drink. 

Where to stay? 

I stayed at the aging, down-home, Paso Robles Inn which was built over sulfur springs.  Some of the rooms are designated as spa rooms with access to the sulfured water.  Not the most fabulous digs, but it was clean and how much time did I spend there anyway.  The place is famous for having hosted early 20th century glitteratti and presidents.  The breakfast at the Inn, can’t be beat.  I opted for the Jesse James Breakfast (his uncle was one of the original owners and apparently he visited there to take advantage of the sulfur springs to heal a bullet wound).  Remember, a big breakfast with carbs is the most important meal of the day in wine country!

In Town Dining
Dining on the square in town and just a short stroll from the Paso Robles Inn is Basil Thai Restaurant.  I was served a succulent shrimp dish that came in a special terra-cotta plate that looked like an egg plate with a terra-cotta cup covering each of the shrimp in the dish.  You like shrimp and Thai coconut curry?  Don’t ask me what the dish was called.  Ask them, they’ll know.  Highly recommended.
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Posted May 13, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

2 responses to “Paso Robles: Kismet and Karma

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  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed what our state has to offer!

    • My visit to Paso came at the end of what had been a challenging couple of days and the flight cancellation that kept me there was a welcome distraction. Yes, having visited a number of times, I love your state!

      I can’t wait to get back.

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