No wine before its time at Powell Mt. Cellars

No wine before its time at Powell Mt. Cellars
Powell Mt. Vineyards owners Bill and Kim Powell visit with Ellena Cassidy, middle, of Encinitas Wine Merchants. Photo by Frank Mangio

In my wine tasting office in a serene district of busy little Encinitas, I always have an eye or two open for an out-of-town winemaker who may be stopping at a wine bar to shake the flesh and pop a cork on one or more of their latest releases. Encinitas has more than a few wine bars and all of them keep an inventory of the latest release cool whites and big, bold reds. 

Lately I’ve come to rely on a couple of new players who set up some unique features for their growing customer list and friends. Mark Dubiel and Ellena Cassidy of the recently opened Encinitas Wine Merchants offer Premium Flight Fridays, 20 every-changing wines by the glass served in a Nitrogen System so every glass is fresh, and “Cellar Gems,” select wines at nice discounts.

On a day I happened to be in town, they brought in a 3-year-old wine from Paso Robles, Powell Mountain Vineyards.

The Powells are moving up fast with a reputation for French Rhone Valley varietals.

Bill Powell is throwing his considerable talent into such lesser known wine grapes as Mourvedre, Grenache and Viognier.

If you farm a vineyard in Paso Robles, you have to make Syrah, and he does that, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon and two blends, a Bordeaux and a Rhone.

Most wines are 2010s, the year Powell was established, so this year is sort of a “coming out” party year for the Powells. The question out of the gates for me was, why Paso? “We searched up and down the coastal regions of California and thought the Central Coast, with Paso Robles, would really be the terroir for us and our desire to make Rhone wines. There were already a number of wineries doing well with this French style.” Their first year’s release produced 1,100 cases.

The Powell Mt price range is right in the current sweet spot for wine shop sales, $18 to $27 for most bottles. “We have no track record yet, but this group of wines is in favor and we were awarded a Top Ten Best Wine at the recent Family Winemaker event in San Francisco for our Ascent 2010 Rhone Blend. Its’ doing very well at $27,” he said. Powell Mt. also makes Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel.

For my taste, the 2010 Ascent Rhone Blend deserved its San Francisco acclaim. For a first effort harvest, Powell is on its way to be a remarkable premium wine, barrel aged for three years. “We will bottle when we believe our wines are ready to drink, with no wines before their time,” Powell declared. You can find Powell’s wine at Encinitas Wine Merchants. Check for wine shop times at (760) 407-4265.

Powell Mountain and over 130 other Paso Robles wineries will be pouring their best in celebration of Harvest Weekend Oct. 18 through Oct. 20.

They’re inviting wine lovers to their tasting rooms at their wineries and vineyards for the latest releases, music and winemaker dinners. A few more highlights include: blending parties, chocolate and wine pairings, folk dancing and

harvest games to name a few. You can search the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance web site and search by winery, day or activity to see what is happening throughout the weekend.

You don’t need a ticket to participate, although some wineries may require an RSVP or charge a fee, so it’s best to plan before making the half day drive from San Diego County. Paso Robles is about halfway between L.A. and San Francisco and is California’s third largest wine country, with more than 32,000 acres and 200 wineries. See


Wine Bytes

The WineSellar in Sorrento Valley San Diego is presenting a Hedges Family Wine Dinner Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m. A five-course menu includes Hedges wine pairing with ingredients direct from Washington including the wines. $65. Call (858) 450-9557 for space.

Sips for Shelter wine Tasting and Silent Auction is Oct. 12 from 7 to 10 p.m., at the Lomas Santa Fe Country Club in Solana Beach. This benefits the Interfaith Shelter Network of San Diego for homeless women with children. Cost is $45. advance and $50. at the door. Call (619) 702-5399.

Woofs and Purrs in the Vine is the theme of the benefit at Oak Mountain Winery in Temecula, Oct. 13 from noon to 4 p.m. A glass of wine, catered lunch and live music is featured, to benefit Cause for Paws medical help for animals. Details at (951) 699-9102.

The 5th annual La Jolla Art & Wine Festival is coming Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This event on Girard Avenue is free with a $5 requested donation going to local public schools. Twenty premier wines will offer tastings.

Festival website is

Frank Mangio is a renowned San Diego wine connoisseur certified by Wine Specatator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View and link up with his columns at Reach him at



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