Scott Hagner, who with his wife Nancine Hagner are Taste of Wine travel writers, is shown at Vina Robles winery in Paso Robles sampling the 2014 Petite Sirah. Photo courtesy Nancine Hagner
Columns Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: On the road again to Paso Wine Country

“Good to go!” That was the signal I was waiting for as my travel writers for Taste of Wine, Scott and Nancine Hagner, hit the road to Paso Robles, one of the most popular wine countries in California, just a short half-day’s journey halfway up the coast from San Diego.

In Paso and surrounds, you’ve got it all: more than 200 fine wineries, a historic downtown, deliciously crafted restaurants and the biggest wine country in California with breathtaking views.

Chef Roberto Gerbino of Il Fornaio in Del Mar displays a tray of Sicilian favorites at the Festa Regionale Italian food feature in September. Photo by Frank Mangio

The Hagners do it right. They drive comfortably for some of the day in a 30-foot mobile home with a panoramic view of the road and landscape around them, then stop at a reserved recreational vehicle park. They pull a four-wheel drive jeep so that they can cruise nearby wineries to pop the corks on wines they want to taste test.

“Our first winery stop, Laetitia Winery, was on the 101 north of Santa Maria on the way to Paso,” Nancine Hagner explained. “It happened that we stopped at a nearby park and discovered some really nice Pinot Noirs at Laetitia.”

Laetitia has 440 of their 625 acres devoted to Pinot Noir, with their Reserve du Domaine 2013 ($42) a Top Ten Taste in this column.

“Our plan was to arrive in Paso Robles to attend the 10th anniversary celebration at the beautiful Vina Robles Winery, and take in their events and BBQ,” Nancine added.

“We tasted their fantastic 2014 Petite Sirah ($29) and as wine club members, made sure it was in one of our next shipments,” she assured me.

This wine turned up as one of the Taste of Wine Top Ten Tastes in its most recent awards in September. Inky black and full bodied, this concentrated wine is barreled in steel tanks with regularly scheduled pump-overs for color and tannin extraction. From there it goes to oak barrels for 12 months of aging. 

The Peachy Canyon name puts a smile on my face every time I see it. One of the original wineries in Paso Robles, it was started in 1988 by Doug and Nancy Beckett on Highway 46 west, where the elevation rises and the wines get richer.  Robert Henderson is the winemaker. “Peachy Canyon is one of our must-stops,” declared Nancine. “Every time we go there we find a discovery and this time it was their 2014 Malbec, Ms Behave ($38). It’s a standout with its cutesy label of an exotic redhead inviting wine lovers to give her a try.”

Scott and Nancine wanted to let Taste of Wine readers know that Paso is very popular this time of year, especially in summer with the Mid- State Fair in the area, so make plans early for accommodations. It does get hot in late summer and early fall so use care in dealing with the heat.

Harvest Wine Weekend, the annual three-day celebration, is coming to Paso Robles Oct. 20 to Oct. 23. Enjoy grape stomps, barrel tastings, seminars and live music. Visit for more.


Sicily is rightly named the “melting pot of Italy.” My heritage is Sicilian and I’ve visited this island several times. The Mangios operate several cooking schools in Messina. The Greeks, Arabs and French Normans controlled this largest island in the Mediterranean, and its food and wine reflect these cultures.

Il Fornaio stages an on-going Festa Regionale where one by one the Italian districts are saluted in food and wine each month. Last month was Sicily, this month it’s Friuli-Venezia. Lots of delicious prosciutto sliced meats are used. Like all areas, the food is rich and robust with a hearty style. This area borders Austria and Slovenia. White wines tend to be more popular here with Pinot Blanco and Pinot Grigio dominating.

A creamy white sauce is used on pastas more than the traditional red sauces.  Fettucine with butternut squash and ravioli with roasted duck, prosciutto and asparagus are great favorites.

To check out the remaining Festa Regionale food and wine this year, visit


• Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido will present a Batasiolo Taste of Piemonte Italy, from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 14. Cost is $35. This is a two-hour class with Stefano Poggi, Italian wine specialist. Six wines to taste. RSVP at (760) 745-1200.

• Monte de Oro winery in Temecula has Salsa Dancing under the Stars with Orquestra Bonko from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Oct. 21. Two ticket prices to choose from:  General Admission and Bottle Service. All food and wine available for purchase. Call (951) 491-6551.

• Pala Casino in Pala north San Diego has an outdoor Oktoberfest Celebration Sat. Oct. 14 from 1 to 5 p.m. Enjoy 15 beer brands, authentic German food, wine and cider. Music by an authentic German polka rock band. Tickets are $45 each. Call (800) 585-3737.

• Vittorio’s Trattoria in Carmel Valley brings in Ridge Vineyards of Sonoma and a four-course dinner to pair at 6 p.m. Oct. 26. Cost is $65 per person. The Ridge signature wine, a 2015 Zinfandel, is matched up with an oven roasted beef brisket.  Call (858) 538-5884.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading commentators on the web.  View his columns at Go to menu then columnS. Reach him at

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