Last spring a good friend of mine had a work trip to Los Angeles with one thought – make it a wine trip. Within a month we were in Paso Robles, California. Paso offers so much for the wine lover – gorgeous – and I mean – GORGEOUS views of rolling hills and historic oak trees that line the main wine routes. The weather is sunny with warm days and cooler nights. We encountered very little traffic during our travel between wineries. We booked an airbnb, reserved a rental car from San Luis Obispo Airport, and easily made dinner reservations a week out. We also were able to visit stellar wineries without a reservation. Compared with Napa and Sonoma, Paso is a laid-back and approachable place with world-class Rhone and Bordeaux varietal wines and delicious restaurants.
Halter Ranch, off Adelaida Road in the West Side of Paso wine country, makes intense Bordeaux and Rhone Blends. The stand outs for me included the zingy Grenache Blanc, with notes of white flower, green apple, pear, and lime zest. Round on the front of the palate with a lingering finish of acidity.
The flagship Ancestor red blend is a reference to the large live oak tree on the property (the tree has a canopy measuring approximately 120 feet across). Halter Ranch has worked to maintain a Sustainability in Practice vineyard (see cover photo) and took steps to preserve the largest (and one of the oldest) coastal live oak tree in the world that sits on the property. The Ancestor is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Petit Verdot and 11% Malbec. Intense red and black fruits, licorice, and bramble. I am looking forward to seeing how this ages over the next 5 – 10 years. I was disappointed that the rain kept us from hiking through the vineyard to visit the oak tree (sorry no photo!), but that is motivation to return to Paso.
A wine tasting tip – Ask your tasting host where they like to taste wine. Noah, our host at Halter Ranch, recommended we check out Paix Sur Terre, a very small winery specializing in Mourvèdre. I was smitten right away – the idea that one wine maker was making a few different bottles of Mourvèdre sounded like the perfect tasting for a wine geek like me. The wines are restrained, feminine, and eloquent. Not the usual descriptors for a varietal with high tannins and medium plus acid. No new oak is used in the wine-making process, and the wines reflect that style. The 2017 Mourvèdre is made using carbonic maceration – a technique typically used in Beaujolais to render a light and fresh quality to the wine; I am intrigued to try this style for a Mourvèdre and compare it with the two other 2017 Mourvèdre’s available. The wine’s vineyards have roots in Languedoc instead of Rhone – an interesting distinction. Languedoc is known more for quantity over quality but that has changed as younger winemakers refine their techniques. PST’s tasting room is small and beautifully situated at the top of a hill, next to a horse pasture and a vineyard. There is no pretension to distract you from the wine in your glass.
I can’t wait to return to Paso and try many more wineries. Cheers!