If you want a new kind of California wine adventure, then head to Pasa Robles wine country. With gently rolling hills dotted with oak trees, vineyards, olive groves and almond farms, this is a fantastic area to spend a few days exploring. The historic town of Pasa Robles is filled with great restaurants and shops housed in the old brick buildings that date back to the late 1800’s and is well known for its thermal springs.
There are over 200 wineries in the surrounding area, and home to the “Rhône Rangers,” where you will experience a taste of France in a uniquely California style. Driving along the winding country roads is half the fun, with dramatic canyons and stunning views over the 26,000 acres of vineyards, there is a surprise around every corner just waiting to be discovered. There is a relaxed feel here, no pretension just excitement and intension, a place to “Grow Wild”. With my copy of the latest Wine Spectator in hand to help guide me to the best the area has to offer I started my journey into the area where daring meets traditional.
My first stop was at Turley Vineyards, – www.turleywinecellars.com – known for their Old Vine Zinfandel and Syrah’s from some of the most historic vineyards in California. With most of the vineyards being organic and vines nearly 80 years old you can expect something special when you stop here.
2011 Turley “Old Vines,” California Zinfandel
Nice bright red in colour, with aromas and flavours of darker fruit, blackberries, cassis and liquorice which has a subtle, silky mouthfeel with a vibrant and fresh finish.
2012 Turley “Dusi Vineyard,” Pasa Robles Zinfandel
Aromas of black berries and stone fruits, sweet spice and cedar with hints of minerality. The palate is full of ripe red cherry, black raspberry, and toasted oak which is nicely balanced and has a crisp juicy finish.
2005 “Hayne Vineyard,” Napa Valley Petite Syrah
Raspberry and smoke aromas followed by full rich, flavours of sweet cherry, spice, bramble and cedar. The alcohol is a bit warm but the full body and firm, but fine grained tannins give way to a long finish.
L’Aventure; Where Bordeaux meets the Rhône – www.adventurewine.com –
2013 Rosé Estate, 39% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 26% Mouvèdre,and 8% Petit Verdot
Soft pink with a hint of orange on the rim, this is like a taste of Provence, with aromas of strawberries, peach and white flowers. With flavours of juicy red apples, strawberry and pear, the wine is soft and perfect for the summer on a patio.
2011 Cote-â-Cote, 40% Syrah, 38% Mouvèdre, 22% Grenache
Bright ruby with pronounced aromas of red berries, violets and soft mineral notes, the palate is full, soft, round and full of flavours of red fruits, black pepper, with sweet spice, cedar and a fine mineral finish.
2011 Optimus, 50% Syrah, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot
Deep purple in colour, with aromas of black fruit, berries, flint and cigar box, the flavours of dark fruits, wood and spice blend seamlessly with the alcohol and are carried off by a long lasting mineral finish.
Adelaida Vineyards -www.adelaida.com – wines are produced from 2 distinct areas which blend diversity and finesse into their big bold syrah wines and have the distinction of lying within the “Rhône Zone,” a name cast by Wine Spectator describing this part of west Pasa Robles. They also dry farm the vines and have over 750 acres of walnuts and 20 acres of almonds. On my way through the gates I came upon a small herd of sheep and llamas.
2012 Rose, Pinot Noir, Counoise, Mouvèdre, Grenache
Pale salmon colour, with aromas and flavours of peach, stone fruit, and crushed jasmine blossoms, with a crisp steely mineral finish.
2011 Syrah Anna’s Vineyard, 100% Syrah
Dark ruby colour with complex aromas of black and blue berries, black plum, white pepper and savoury notes of leather and olives. A full mouthfeel gives way to lush flavours of black fruits, plum, spice, leather, cedar and thyme. This is a wine that is big and bold and will evolve with time.
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah Reserve Chelle Mt. Vineyard
This ready to drink now this library classic is brimming with ripe flavours of cassis, blackberry, espresso, flint and cedar, with smooth tannins and a long finish.
With all of this wine tasting and only a few nibbles of breadsticks under my belt I headed back towards the town centre in search of a lovely lunch and a bit of shopping. I found a fantastic array of local restaurants, with mouth watering menus and more wine. I decided on Artisan Restaurant devouring my lovely salad of wild greens, beets and goat cheese – no wine though – I found my way to the General Store with featured local artisans and locally made olive oils.
On the east side of the valley, not far from town, is Eberle Vineyards – www.eberlewinery.com – 2013 Wine Enthusiasts “Winery of the Year.” whose vineyards have been the longest continuously owned family-run winery in the area for the past 34 years offering complimentary tastings and underground tours of their caves.
2012 Syrah Rosé
Dark pink, with aromas of tart cherry, orange zest, the flavours are focused with zesty spice and smoked cherry that offers depth and complexity with a nice mineral finish.
Aromas of creme brulée, apple tart, citrus and floral notes are complimented by flavours of lemon curd, baked coconut and red apples, full bodied, with well integrated alcohol and a steely mineral finish.
Tablas Creek – www.tablascreek.com – is a winery based on the common values of two families which began in the 1960’s. The Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel imported vines from France and have been farming organically since 2003 and now biodynamically since 2010. Dry-farming limits yields and accentuates the terroir and with the help of of alpacas, weed – eating sheep and guard donkeys this helps fertilize and build healthier soils. The wines are Rhone-style blends featuring Syrah, Mouvèdre, Grenache, Viognier and Roussanne.
2011 Esprit de Tablas Blanc, 64% Roussanne, 26% Grenache Blanc, 10% Picpoul Blanc
Lovely straw in colour. Bright citrus and peach and cream are accentuated by notes of sweet herbs, orange blossom and minerals. The palate is a blend of focused elegance, full bodied, structured with excellent acidity and a long creamy finish.
2010 Esprit de Beaucastel, 45% Mouvèdre, 30% Grenache Noir, 21% Syrah, 4% Counoise
Bright ruby colour with endless aromas of black fruits, berries, liquorice and dried herbs which compliments the full bodied mouthfeel of rich black fruit, leather and toast. This is a wine that is superbly structured layered with richness and firm tannins.
2010 Panoplie, 60% Mouvèdre, 30% Grenache Noir, 10% Syrah
Dark ruby colour, intense aromas of red and black fruits, sweet spice, crushed red blossoms, and leather complemented by a full-bodied, structured palate with rich flavours of black fruits, cedar, and ripe tannins that offer a superb complexity with an elegant finish.
Tablas Creek Estate Grown Olive Oil
A blend of Manzanilla and Mission olives grown organically, harvested by hand and stone mill crushed.
Jada Vineyards, – www.jadavineyard.com –
2012 Jada XCV Pasa Robles, 41% Roussanne, 37% Grenache Blanc, 22% Viognier
Intense aromas of peach, orange blossom, butterscotch and crème offering a concentrated palate of fresh peach, melon, lemon macaron, with a refreshing mineral finish.
Jada Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Hand harvested without the use of pesticides and herbicides, this blend of Frantoio, Manzillo, Mission, Sevillano, Maruino, & Pendolino olives offers a complex array of aromas and flavours of spice, dried herbs and a hint of grassiness.
Pasolivo Extra Virgin Olive Oils – www.pasolivo.com –
A gorgeous 45 acre organically grown farm, featuring an on-site olive mill to press the hand picked olives within a few hours to preserve the purity and freshness and offer deep flavours and complexity of the various blends.
With the upcoming Pasa Robles Wine Festival – May 14-18 – this is the perfect getaway for romance, great wine and delicious food.