Since I first began my wine tasting journey as a journalist and creator of TASTE OF WINE the column, I have traveled round the wine world and tasted many wine countries. Paso Robles has always impressed me as a young, diverse, multi-faceted sense of place. And what a place it is!There are 26,000 vineyard acres producing more than 40 kinds of wine for over 200 wineries. They are an ambitious, creative group and they are coming to San Diego with a Grand Tasting Feb. 26 at the McMillin Events Center, with wine dinners Feb. 25. Paso Wine Country is halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles along Highway 101. It’s California’s fastest growing wine region.
From the downtown area, the AVA appellation is 35 miles from east to west and 25 miles from north to south. West of the 101 on Highway 46, the elevation is significant, enabling many different sub-climates with over 45 soil types, not typical of other viticultural areas. This explains why Cabernet Sauvignon can be grown successfully just a few miles away from Zinfandel.
East of the 101, the elevation drops to that of a valley and blends in with the giant San Joaquin Valley about 20 miles east to Interstate 5.
Paso Robles as a wine source was not born yesterday. Back in 1815, wine was being made by the friars of the Mission San Miguel Archangel. Commercial wines were made starting in 1882 from Ascension Winery. Today it is known as Epoch Estate Wines in the York Mountain area of Templeton, just south of Paso Robles.
Today, Paso is making an impression on the wine world by making New World wines, best described as “Paso Blends.” It is typical to taste non-traditional Bordeaux mixed with Spanish style varietals, or a Rhone varietal with a Zinfandel.
Two maverick-style wineries are Tablas Creek, run by Jason Haas, with his emphasis on Rhone style wines using vines from French Beaucastel, creating a world-class Chateauneuf-Du-Pape style of wine; and Cass Winery, specialists in Rhone varietals such as Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Syrah and Roussane.
Playful Ted Plemmons runs the show on Paso’s east side in the shadow of a huge heritage oak tree, symbolic of Paso Robles (which literally means “the Pass of the Oaks.”)
The Rhone Valley plays a big role with its French varietals, but Zinfandel is the celebrated grape in this part of the California Wine World.
March 15 to March 17, Paso invites the public to more than 130 wineries that offer barrel tastings, winemaker dinners, BBQ’s and live music. It’s called “Grow Zinfully Wild.”
But back to the Paso San Diego Road Show this month Feb. 25 and Feb. 26. I asked Communications Director Chris Taranto why a road show of this type is best for SoCal wine lovers that want to learn about Paso wines. “We have more than 30 wineries showcasing over 150 wines with many of our marquee wineries and our lesser known properties that are looking to be discovered,” he said.
I asked him what varietals he recommended. “Historically we became known for Zinfandel. Italian immigrants brought it with them as they homesteaded the area. In the ‘80s we saw a lot of Cabernet planted in the region.
Today, Paso has earned a lot of acclaim for the Rhone varietals and blends.” He went on to say “I want to encourage everyone to visit pasowine.com to learn about the event and purchase an admission to attend the winemaker dinners at select restaurants Feb. 25 and the Grand Tasting Feb. 26 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the McMillin Events Center at Liberty Station in Pt. Loma.
On Feb. 27, Wine Steals in Hillcrest and Cardiff will also be featuring wines from Paso from 5:30 to 7 p.m. We feel that our well-balanced full bodied California style wines will please your palate.” I can second that emotion.
A premium Rose’ tasting is continuing Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Addison in the Grand Resort in Del Mar. Flights of three beautiful wines for $20. More information at (877) 814-8472.
Rossi’s Pizza and Pasta in San Marcos is having a Pedroncelli Wine Dinner Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $60. Five courses with five tastings including the acclaimed Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel. RSVP at (760) 533-4486.
Movie night at Orfila Winery in Escondido Feb. 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. features Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart. Cost is $8. Wine and snacks available. Details at (760) 738-6500 ext. 22.
Davanti Enoteca in Little Italy San Diego presents an evening with Peter Neptune Master Wine Sommelier Feb. 26 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Spanish wines with a six-course dinner are featured. $ 85. RSVP at (619) 237-9606.
Il Fornaio in Del Mar hosts a Michele Chiarlo Wine Dinner Feb. 28 from 6 to 10 p.m. Cost is $55. Wines include Barolo and Barbaresco. Call for RSVP at (858) 755-8876.