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Another Paso Robles Winery Question (with specifics)

Hello All,

Next weekend the wife and I are going to swing by Paso Robles on the way home from a Big Sur weekend. We have only been down there once 2 years ago (live in the SF Bay Area).

We plan to go back to Denner (and have an appt) which we loved.
We went to Tablas Creek last time and weren't that impressed. It was a bit crowded and the wines weren't as solid across the board.
We wanted to go to Justin but it looks like that is their harvest weekend.

We would like to find 2 - 3 more wineries to visit in addition to Denner. We enjoy:
Syrah over Zin (though one quality Zin place isn't terrible); Pinots are also great
More European style (earthy and dry over fruity and heavy)
We also appreciate oaky chardonnays and crisp acidic sauviogon blancs
We will buy bottles in the $20 - $60 range. Denner is our $60 place so would like to find some places that had quality bottles in the lower price range too.

Any suggestions for places to go would be appreciated.



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  1. Next weekend is the Harvest Festival for Pao so expect the area to be mobbed. A list of what each winery will be doing can be found at this link


    For Justin, unless their policy has changed since they were sold, you will not be able to taste their better wines unless you are a member.

    Nomally I'd recommend Tabals Creek for Rhones, but they have had two bad harvest in a row so I don't know what to expect.

    You may consider Le Cuvier. John is a bit of a maverick in the area and he put's out plain good wines.

    For an oaky chard, try Dunning. His Chard is an oaky Napa stly.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mike0989

      What's Harvest Festival like? We tried to avoid it when we lived in Sonoma b/c we aren't really into large crowds. We more like being able to drive through the country-side sipping good wines where you can chat a bit with the people making it...

      Didn't realize Justin was sold. Has their quality changed?


      1. re: bennyscuba

        Paso is diferent than Napa\Sonoma. They have so far retained their rural feel and attitude. You will run into crowded tasting rooms. Some may be closed at specfic times for special events, so check the schedule.

        Fuji water bought Justin. To my knowledge, they still have the same winemaker.

        1. re: mike0989

          "Fuji water bought Justin."

          Did you mean Fiji Water? I cannot imagine Fuji Water (in Japan) buying a California winery.

          1. re: mike0989

            Yeah that was our impression last time we were down there - we loved how chill everything was. Also liked the fact that most of the houses were architecturally interesting and not the overtop style you often see in Napa...

            Since we will be there during Harvest Week is there a good reason to rethink "wanting to avoid crowds" and anything compelling worth checking out? Again this would be for Sunday, so the end of the week...

            1. re: bennyscuba

              First Fiji water. Bad hair day. Fat fingers and can't spell.

              Sunday things usally start winding down so the crowds won't be as bad. Most wineries are doing their big events either Friday evening or Saturday. Checkout the link in my first post. If something jumps out at you, give it a shot. About the only caveat I can add is the better wineries tend to be on the West side. Dry farmed for the most part and the terrior really comes hrough. The East side is irrigated and the soil is different.

      2. Thacher in the Far Out Wineries group - SFO wine show Best of Reds winner.

        1. I'm from the central valley and we go wine tasting over there all the time. One of our recent favorites was Oso Libre, and if you like a pretty drive on the way this one will be great. They're way down winery drive and there are a bunch of others to stop at on the way if you like (I also love opolo, which is down the same road). We know the owners at Oso and they are so nice! It may be a bit crowded because of the festival, but you'll fund that everywhere and at even when they're busy they make everyone feel at home and the wines are definitely worth it!

          1. Forgot to add that the bottles we bought were in the $30 range :)

            2 Replies
            1. re: emarie527

              Thanks - some more to add to the list..And I like that price point!

              Also should have asked at the top - any recs for a good place to pick up lunch. Thinking a picnic style lunch is a good idea so something along the lines of an Oakville Grocery where you can get nice salads, sandwhiches cheeses etc. to go...

              1. re: bennyscuba

                Try Di Raimondos on 13th street. Best cheese in town. They will ahve other provisions for you as well

            2. My absolute favorite in Paso is Adelaida - lovely tasting room and not far from downtown Paso - definitely worth a stop! It is right up your alley with what you are looking for with wine (at least reds).

              (I know what you mean about Tablas Creek - I expected to be impressed, but it fell flat for me!).

              1 Reply
              1. re: The Oracle

                second the rec for adelaida. we also enjoyed tobin james, although they are sort of the exact opposite. adelaida is elegant, old world, and tobin james is bold, in your face fruit and high alcohol. we did pick up some great wines from both places however, as well as chumeia.

              2. So after all the great tips, I think we have an itinerary for next weekend. I was curious what folks thought. As a reminder we will be coming from the south (coming from Big Sur via 46 and then heading back north to the Bay Area):

                (1) Denner (have an appt at noon - but will likely try to get there earlier)
                (2) Oso Libre - seems like a nice point for a good variety
                (3) Pick up some food at Di Raimondos (thanks mike)
                (4) Adelaida
                (5) Justin

                4 is probably a good number for us - but I was curious if there was anything else worth squeezing or replacing...

                Thanks all,


                15 Replies
                1. re: bennyscuba

                  Sounds like a plan! And I did come home from Oso Libre with a bottle of white as well as 2 reds, great variety :) they also serve some awesome cheese and crackers with your wine, but there are tables all over the place so you could bring your picnic there even.

                  1. re: bennyscuba

                    Been involved in the Paso wine industry for over two decades now and a memeber of many wine clubs there, so I'm picky where my money goes. Just my personal preference, but Oso just doesn't do it for me. Lots of tour buses and crowds at the tasting room. Big on energy but definitely much better wines and values in town.

                    Adelaida does a decent job with their wine, but again tour buses and lots of people out on a drunk fest inhabit their tasting room. Used to like their wines much better 10-15 years ago when they were smaller production.

                    Justin was bought by the evil empire, Fiji Water (Not a green company for sure). They do some pretty good wines, but again I'm not a fan of the former lawyer turned winery owner, Justin. My friends and I say that a little hate goes into every bottle.

                    IMHO the really good stuff coming out of Paso is coming from the aforementioned Denner (Anthony Yount), and Villa Creek (Cris Cherry), Booker, Epoch (Jordan Fiorintini), Hoage (terry Hoage), Linne Calodo (matt Trevesan), Tablas Creek (largest production of the group) and of course, Saxum (you probably won't be able to get in here unless you know somebody). Great zins from Dover canyon and sometimes from Nadeau, I'm of the firm opinion that great wine is made in the vineyard and all of the above source grapes from the very best vineyards in the area. Just my opinion, but make appointments to taste at any of the above wineries and ditch the tour bus wineries. . . Justin, Oso, and perhaps even Adelaida, though I do think they have some good values on moderately priced wine.

                    1. re: RhonelyInsanediego


                      Thanks for the honest feedback. We definitely prefer to avoid the "factory" style wineries - why we liked our last trip to PR so much. Considering we like to buy a few bottles when we taste would any of these fall into the < $40 range. Denner is definitely our splurge place b/c we loved it so much, but we would love to find some quality in the $20 - $30 range.

                      Last time we were down there we weren't that impressed with Tablas Creek - much too crowded, very impersonal, and wines were only so-so. But anything else in the Rhone style would be appreciated.



                      1. re: bennyscuba


                        I agree with your assessment of Tablas, except that the wines they make are pretty solid but more in the traditional French style (more subtle and harvested at lower brix), than the typical California style. At the price point you're talking about, Adelaida may be your best bet. Although I really think you should give a couple very small wineries such as Nadeau or Dover Canyon a try. Nadeau wines are hit and miss in my experience (but when they hit you can get exceptional value) and Dover for me is all about the Zin. The others on my list are probably going to be above your price point, but you often get what you pay for.

                        In my experience wineries that are able to strictly control vineyard yields by dropping green fruit etc., cost more to make, but produce a superior product. Many of my favorites are only getting around 1 ton of grapes per acre or even less (some of the high production wineries are making wine from sources producing much more than 15 tons/acre). Less grapes per acre means greater concentration and depth of flavor from the fruit. When a winery buys grapes by the ton from a vineyard, often there are two competing interests. The vineyard wants to get more tons per acre to make more money, but the better wine is usually made when the yields are lower, thus driving up vineyard costs. The best way (IMO) for a winery to purchase grapes, is to contract by the acre and to have active involvement in vineyard management.

                        Usually when wineries dramatically increase their case production, quality inevitably suffers. A vast majority of the wine I buy and enjoy is very small production (60 - 500 cases). Such wines often have a much greater depth and character, but also often cost more.

                        Bottom line though is to drink what you like. For the most part I believe that if you like it, then it's good wine. How many wines do you like that you would say are bad wines, if you get my drift? Bottom line is to drink what you like and not to give a damn about what others (like me) say!

                        ETA: At your price point there are some very good whites in the area (Look for Rhone grapes such as Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Rousanne, Marsanne, and Viognier). In fact Denner winemaker, Anthony Yount, has his own label, Kinero Cellars, that specializes in whites. For the money they are a very good value IMO.

                      2. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                        Agree pretty much across the board RI. Curious about your opinion on Mark's old world style efforts at Windward and Ken Volk's lesser known varietals. Edward Sellers in that same general area might be worth the OP's time.

                        1. re: PolarBear

                          I haven't tasted at Windward in about 5 or 6 years. At that time I was nonplussed, but have heard good things since. Stephan Asseo at L'Aventure also does an old world style and I think used to (maybe still does) share a tasting room with Windward. Good wines, but overpriced in my opinion. Still that's an opinion based on old info.

                          I think Giornata (A Cal Italia winery) is doing some really interesting things in Paso, as is Lone Madrone. Both these places are making wine with a lot of character. Unfortunately this hasn't translated into high scores, but I really like both of them.

                          Haven't tried Ken Volk's Santa Barbara stuff other than his Pinot Noir. But he's no doubt a talented winemaker and I applaud his work with little known varietals such as Malvasia and Negrette.

                          I completely forgot about this winery, but I agree that Edward Sellers is making some good value wines and may be an excellent choice for the OP at his price point.

                          1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                            Yes, Stephan's wines are excellent, sadly the price point is out of my reach. He has his own place now and had another new young talent working in his tasting room a couple of years back name of Jacob Toft who is putting out some very tasty juice.

                            Was fortunate to attend a tasting of Giornata's wines put on by Brian and Stephanie here in the central valley, hopefully folks will give them a try and forget about the 100 pt scale. I'm mostly a red wine drinker but have recently flipped over their Il Campo white blend.

                            Should also mention Macprice Meyers excellent Rhones and his second label output called Barrel 27, can't beat the QPR.

                            1. re: PolarBear

                              Thanks for all the discussion. Edward Sellers looks a good place to check out next to downtown. Maybe in place of Justin(?)

                              One other query, if we wanted to try some kick-ass wine that we weren't going to buy a bottle of but just splurge and enjoy the taste is there anywhere else you would recommend? Would that be L'Aventure (in addition to Denner - where will end up buying stuff!)?


                              1. re: bennyscuba

                                I'd drop Justin like a bad habit.

                                L'Aventure definitely for a taste of some great stuff, since the price is out your (and my) range, of course I feel the same way about Linne Calodo.

                                I'm a Tablas Creek fan but don't know if they have an upper tier library tasting or not. Kenneth Volk just for the experience of some stuff you won't find many places.

                                While not one of the "Farout" group, Mac is just 4 miles or so east of 101 right off Hwy 46.

                                Please report back on what you find.

                                1. re: bennyscuba

                                  Probably Linne Calodo. I like L'Aventure, but be aware that his wines are meant to be put down for a while. You really won't enjoy most to the fullest for seferal years.

                                  1. re: bennyscuba

                                    My advice would be to go to either Epoch, Linne Calodo, Villa Creek, Hoage, or Booker. These would be my choices to try something special.

                                    Epoch is owned by Bill Armstrong, a retired geologist and wildcatter. Had dinner with him a few years back and can say he's a real maverick. He hired the now world famous Justin Smith of Saxum as a consultant to help chose the site, the vines, vineyard management and winemaking. Basically he gave Justin an unlimited budget with the goal to create a world class winery. Jordan Fiorentini is now his winemaker and is doing a fabulous job. The wines are all solid.

                                    Booker was for many years one of the best vineyards in Paso Robles. His site vineyard management was second to none. For decades Eric Jensen provided some of the best fruit to the best winemakers in the area. In the last 5 years or so, he realized that he could make his own world class wine with such great fruit. His wines reflect some of the best grapes in the area. Other than Saxum, his wines are currently receiving the highest scores in Paso.

                                    I love Linne Calodo too. I have known Matt Trevesan for 20+ years and his wife Maureen for even longer back to my early college days. Matt cut his teeth at Justin Winery before striking out on his own with Linne Calodo. Linne Calodo began as a joint project between Justin Smith and Matt before Justin went his separate way and started Saxum. Matt has since established some really fantastic vineyards and makes some astounding wines. His new winery building is beautiful and functional and his attention to sustainable farming is second to none. That being said, while I love his wines when I taste them, they haven't all aged that well in my cellar and more than a few have been slightly fizzy. This hasn't happened with any of my other stuff. Still I opened a Linne Calodo 2001Sticks & Stones this year that was one of the best wines I have ever tasted.

                                    Villa Creek's Cris Cherry and I have been close friends for even longer. He was tutored in wine making by, you guessed it, Justin Smith od Saxum. In fact VC's first couple vintages were made out at Saxum. Cris has been sourcing his fruit from the greatest vineyards in the area such as Booker, Denner, James Berry, Bone Rock, etc. His wines are some of the best Rhones anywhere. His tasting room at the winery is unadorned and straight forward. The wines will astound you. But beware he does not tolerate people on a drunkfest and will discretely help you find someplace that may be better suited for your group if he thinks you aren't serious.

                                    Former pro football player Terry Hoage has established some great vineyards and is making some pretty phenomenal wines. In the beginning he also hired Justin Smith as a consultant for vineyard management and wine making before learning enough to take the reigns himself. The winery is one of my favorites, as it has some beautiful grounds with a nice pond and some pretty cool Bocce courts. This may be you best bet to taste something really special and to also enjoy the real beauty of the area. Great place for a picnic. Considering your limited time, I would put this at the top of your list because it offers a lot more than just great wine.

                                    1. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                      I second these recs. Linne Calodo and Booker are little too big and oaky for my tastes but for those who like the stye they are beautifully made.

                                    2. re: bennyscuba

                                      I made the trek to Justin on my last trip and was underwhelmed. My vote is to skip it!

                              2. re: RhonelyInsanediego

                                Terry isn't the only winemaker at Terry Hoage. Jen Hoage makes the excellent whites, and has a hand in the reds too. It's truly a family affair!

                              3. re: bennyscuba

                                For a pure tasting experience (bottles are above the price point you want to stay within), I'd also suggest Linne Calodo. It's not a regular destination for us, when in the area, but worth a stop, at some point in your Paso adventures.

                              4. (Specifics about Thacher - Far Out Wineries group - west of Paso Robles)

                                Tuesday, February 08, 2011

                                Thacher Winery 2008 Triumvirate Zinfandel

                                The Award-Winning Wine:
                                Thacher Winery 2008 Triumvirate Zinfandel, Paso Robles

                                Reason for Reviewing:
                                Thacher Winery 2008 Triumvirate Zinfandel was named as Red Wine Sweepstakes Winner at the recently completed 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

                                The winery's Kentucky Ranch vineyard and gardens was part of a 4,000 acre Spanish Land Grant until 1869 after which it became a thriving horse breeding operation.

                                AlaWine Notes:
                                Thacher Winery 2008 Triumvirate Zinfandel pours in the glass as a ruby-garnet color. Ripe berry aromas, bramble berry, blackberry, radiate to the nose. A satin smooth opening blossoms into a spicy berry parfait of luscious layered flavors which languish through a very long fruit and vanillin oak finish.

                                Bottom Line:

                                Sourced from three different westside Paso Robles Zinfandel vineyards, Thacher Winery 2008 Triumvirate is a very well structured and balanced Zin with an array of interesting and delicious flavors and textures. While food friendly, this wine is so well done, it deserves to be enjoyed on its own. Suggested retail price is $36. Overall composite score: 98 points.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: glbtrtr

                                  how do various zins from the Dusi Vineyard stack up these days? Dusi is old vine I believe and used to be very sought after by area winemakers.

                                  If the OP is staying in or passing through Cambria before heading inland to taste, Robin's ( sides, salads, desserts), Wild Ginger (ditto), and Indigo Moon (cheeses); and inland, Nature's Touch in Templeton (local cheeses, robust local organic fruits and veggies and breads ) will yield some varied tasty picnic treats. Di Raimundos has great cheeses and breads but not a wide variety of other prepared foods. I highly rec their fig&walnut bars! (in fact if you can score some local in-the- shell walnuts, do!) Odessey Cafe in downtown Paso also has deli salads and breads, and sandwiches for takeout.

                                  Nothing quite like Oakville Grocery (all in one spot) but some very nice vittles all the same.

                                  1. re: toodie jane

                                    The only Zin from Dusi grapes I've tried recently are South County (PIedra Creek) and they have held up quite nicely.

                                2. Wanted to thank everyone for feedback.

                                  We got back from our Big Sur/Paso weekend and I wanted to give a quick report.

                                  Started at Denner. By far the scenary for just sitting back. Our favorite was the Mourverde. Found it interesting that most of the '09 are recommended to open in '18 while the '10 which they were pouring are ready in '15. He said '09 is going to be a killer crop. I personally have no patience to wait but hope in 5-10 years I have the opportunity to try one of these as they are quite great now. Really curious about what they'll become.

                                  Next, just went up the road to Oso Libre. Very friendly place - chatted with the father and son. I guess they were slammed on Saturday but were quiet on Sunday. Compared to Denner, a lot simpler with more fruit - but also clearly ready to go now.

                                  We were caught between going to Terry Hoage and Adeliade next - equidistant from each in opposite directions. We ended up going to Adeliade figuring we may try things at a better price point first and then finish at Hoage.

                                  Adeliade had a great vibe going - a decent amount of people but a lot of space so you didn't feel it. They were tasting about 15 different wines. A combo of new release, reserve, dessert and barrel. It was a really a great variety and felt that some of their reserves matched up to Denner. Found their whites a bit disappointing but the variety of red made up for it. Their price point I found pretty reasonable, and if I lived in the area I could see joining their club (doesn't seem to make sense to join a club that I may visit 1x yr)...

                                  Given the variety we ended up spending close to 2 hours there and never made it to Hoage. Something for next time!

                                  Thanks again all for the tips and happy tasting!


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: bennyscuba

                                    I'm so glad you made it to Adeladia! I knew you'd love the reds! We are also a fan of their walnuts, when available. If you ever change your mind on the club, we love our reds only club shipments. It's only 3 bottles per shipment and are usually delightful selections.

                                    Thanks for your report! I am definitely putting Denner on my 'to visit' list. Did you have any memorable meals?

                                  2. Cass Winery in Paso Robles - http://www.casswines.com/
                                    Sculpterra Winery in Paso Robles - http://sculpterra.com/

                                    Cass Winery: Try the cheese plate paired with their wines. A great experience!
                                    Sculpterra winery has gardens and sculptures that beg for your attention! Wine is also great.