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Notes from the Road – L.A. & Paso Robles Visit

Recently, our travels took us to the Los Angeles market, continuing along North to Paso Robles for some wine education and experiences. While in L.A. we had the chance to visit some of the hotter spots in Santa Monica; including The Huntley ‘Penthouse’ restaurant (great for people watching) and the view of Santa Monica Beach, Robata Bar, next door to Sushi Roku (same ownership) a lot more fun as well as Bar Pintxo, for tapas and wine, very fairly priced. Before departing L.A. for wine country we were able to have breakfast at a community fixture and long time favorite, the Rose Café in Venice – where we had an absolutely outstanding Benedict made with pancetta and tarragon hollandaise sauce.

Upon arriving in Paso, we jumped right into wine tasting, visiting our good friend Stephan Asseo at L’Aventure Vineyards (www.aventurewines.com ) for barrel samples and newly bottled 2006’s. Interesting note for the 2008 vintage and moving forward, Stephan will be a complete Estate-based winery, no longer purchasing grapes from other vineyards.

After this stop, we continued to another great friend Doug Kruse at Jack Creek Vineyards & Winery (www.jackcreekcellars.com ). Doug was kind to share his 2006’s (some still in barrel) & his 2007 are resting in barrel as well as 2005’s & 2006’s in bottle. This included his 2006 Syrah, which is aging in both Hungarian (adding a more spicy component) & French Oak (all new), which should be outstanding in a few years. FYI it has a very limited distribution, but available in California and Hawaii.

The final visit of the day was to Venteux Vineyards (www.venteuxvineyards.com ) with owners Scott & Bobbi Stelzle for some newly bottled 2006’s as well as 2004’s & 2005’s. Make sure to try Scott’s Raucous blend,(sells out quickly and a local restaurateur favorite) which is basically whatever grapes he has left after making his Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, etc.

That night we stopped at Paso’s Main Square, visiting Villa Creek (www.villacreek.com ), a lively restaurant where tourists and locals gather for good food and even better wines. Villa Creek is also known for the wines that they produce, including a 2006 Pelenque (50% Grenache/50% Mourvedre) that was just released. The second stop of the evening was at the Pony Bar at (newest hotel in town) Hotel Cheval (more reserved and relaxed) for appetizers, wine and fun.

The next day included a visit to Turley Vineyards (www.turleywinecellars.com ) for their private bi-annual wine release party including barrel samples, library selections and new releases. The most interesting tasting adventure here was the Dusi Ranch Vineyard, with the 2005 & 2006’s being poured from bottle and the 2007 from the barrel – outstanding stuff!

Dinner was at Artisan (www.artisanpasorobles.com ) a farm-fresh themed restaurant catering to tourists, with more Turley, Linne Calodo wines and RN 2005 Estate Cuvee (suggest you buy some and lay it down). Their jalapeno cornbread with lavender honey butter appetizer was delicate, fresh and a wonderful way to start the meal. The nightcap was a late visit to Bella Luna Winery (www.bellalunawine.com ), run by Sherman & Laurie Smoot for a variety of wines, including Italian varietals done in American style (Barbera & Sangiovese), awaiting new release, so get on the mailing list now.

The final Paso day included a refueling stop at Hoover’s Meat Palace for breakfast where cowboys, winemakers, locals and friends gather in a no-frills, country-style diner for huge portions of home-style food, then a quick tasting at Linne Calodo Winery (www.linnecalodo.com ), run by Matt Trevisan with his newly bottled 2006 line-up. The real winners’ here were the ’06 Sticks & Stones and the 2005 Martyr (only 4 barrels made).

Stay tuned for more Notes from the Road, the next trip is to San Francisco and the Napa Valley.

blogCraig Nyman