By Wine Legend's California Columnist Paul Santinelli
When people think of California Wine Country, they immediately think Napa. Well folks, there are many places for wine in California that meet or beat expectations set by Napa.
I saw a great tee-shirt that had me in stiches... "Napa is for auto parts. Paso Robles is for wine." San Luis Obispo County is producing some incredible wines. This county, nestled between the Central California Coast and inland valleys opened my eyes to new Rhone varietals and in some cases less bold, but more bouquet rich Zins, Cabernets and blends.
We hit five wineries yesterday off Highway 46 between Cambria and Paso Robles. If you only have time for two, Norman Vineyards and Adelaida Cellars are must visits. I'm a big fan of small, family owned estates vs. mass production. I'm also a big fan of friendly, knowledgeable staff who aren't starring down their nose at you and reminding you that tastings are $10.
Norman Vineyards was such an experience. Their tasting room and barrel room is connected and you are greeted by a sweet woman from Mansfield, MA. She poured and poured and poured. They are known for their 'Monster Zinfandel.' However, they had an outstanding reserve Cabernet and a Meritage that were nosefuls of fruit and land. Siobhan liked the Norman Viognier so much, she bought two bottles.
Adelaida has such personality. The man behind the counter, a retired stock broker from SoCal, did a fantastic job of prefacing each pour with a story. Adelaida Cellars had two wines that are must buys, even though they are a bit pricey. Their Nebbiolo was outstanding and had an incredible bouquet. It was so good that I added it to the collection of wines being sent to my childhood friend, Anthony LaVista, who writes a wine blog. They also had two Cabernet offerings that were incredible. But at $60 and $75/bottle, they were pricey alternatives to fantastic lineup of wines.
Other wineries visited and worth a mention: Opolo, Justin and Tablas Creek. All very good.
The thing I liked about Paso Robles wineries... it's not just Cabs, Zins and Chardonnays. Siobhan is a big fan of Viognier and this place had quite a selection. I'm not partial to Viognier, as it is usually too sweet for my taste buds, but some of these wines were incredible. I also found some great Rhone varietals at Tablas Creek, some spanish styled in Tempranillo and the Italian styled, Adelaida 2004 Nebbiolo.
Paso Robles is well worth a weekend adventure!