Winemaker Patrick Muran recently presented Paso Robles favorite Niner wines at Firenze in Encinitas. Photo by Frank Mangio
Winemaker Patrick Muran recently presented Paso Robles favorite Niner wines at Firenze in Encinitas. Photo by Frank Mangio
Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Rhone style wines shine for Niner

It’s a given that the Napa/Sonoma wine country in California draws more visitors than any other vineyard region.  All of us who are connected to this star-kissed industry owe it to Napa/Sonoma and the heavenly wines they have given us.  I’m one for honoring those that made history and brought California the fame and fortune it deserved, but the next chapter of the wines of California could be more exciting than ever, and it’s there we raise a toast to Paso Robles.

Cheers to “Paso” and its 26,000 acres and over 200 wineries located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles off Highway 101, the countryside amazingly produces the largest variety of red and white wines from most of the world’s grape varietals due to an extraordinary set of sub-climates. Over 40 different grape types get along with each other.

Paso’s rich history began in the 1790s and hasn’t looked back.

The area flourished when low production, boutique style, family-owned vineyards and wineries multiplied in the 1990s and early 2000s, favoring the land just east and west of the 101, just a few miles from the cool coast with its ocean breezes.

One such family saw the future in the wine industry and acted on their beliefs.  Richard and Pam Niner founded Niner Wine Estates in 2001, a 148-acre plantation, and called it Bootjack Ranch.  Later they would increase their holdings and added Heart Hill Vineyard, 46 acres west of the 101, and then recently Jespersen Vineyard, 77 acres in the south and along the coast in Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo, for the express purpose planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The present winery, off highway 46 west of the 101, was built in 2009 and is a two level, gravity-fed, all-indoor production building with natural light, is energy efficient and environmentally conscious.

Niner winemaker Patrick Muran is an avid surfer and sailor who grew up near Paso and Niner.  “I surfed all over the world and gained great respect for the raw power in nature,” he said.

“We are well known for our Cabernet, Bordeaux and Rhone Valley French blends, and we are going full throttle, romancing Pinot Noir, that we are growing in the Edna Valley. We brought in a new winemaker whose an expert on making Pinot, Molly Bohlman.  She was from Paul Hobbs Winery in Sonoma.  She is devoted to this style of grape.”

Molly Bohlman now makes Pinot Noir for Niner Wine Estates. Photo courtesy Niner wines
Molly Bohlman now makes Pinot Noir for Niner Wine Estates. Photo courtesy Niner wines

I asked Muran how the vintages were for him since he became Niner’s winemaker.  He said 2011 was a scary challenge with frost on the vines and lack of long periods of sun, adding that 2012, which is the year for most of their current releases, was a much happier time.

“There is now a Pinot Noir cycle.  We are on top of it with our 2012 from Edna Valley vineyard, and Molly’s credentials.”

The principal wine served at the recent Firenze Encinitas dinner was the 2010 Twisted Spur blend, served with Lamb Osso Buco and grilled asparagus.  It consisted of: 39 percent Merlot, 37 percent Petite Sirah, 22 percent Syrah and 2 percent Cabernet, with 18 months in oak barrel and 2,286 cases made.  I would recommend it at $35 retail.

This is a big and bold flavor with rich blueberry and plum.

Other Niner wines poured at this event were:  2012 Grenache Rose’, 2012 Edna Valley Pinot Noir and the 2012 Estate Petite Sirah. A food and wine-pairing cruise is planned for June 20 from 1 to 4 p.m. around Morro Bay.

Call (805) 226-4882 for details, or visit

Wine Bytes

Vintana Restaurant in Escondido has a total inventory discount Prime Cru wine sale May 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Light appetizers and selected wine tasting.  No admission charge and no need to RSVP.  Details are at (760) 745-7777.

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas and the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce are presenting a Wine Tasting & Car Show Sat. May 16 from 3 to 6 p.m.  Event features great food, wine and classic cars on display, with live music.  Costs are $35 in advance; $40 at the door. Call (760) 479-2500.

The Taste of the Nation Culinary Event is taking place at the Montage Resort Hotel in Laguna Beach May 17 between 3 and 6 p.m. with a celebrity chef tasting, signature cocktails, wines, a silent and live auction and live entertainment.  Cost is $200 in advance. A Meet the Chefs reception will be from 6 to 8 p.m. with VIP treatment.  Cost is $275 in advance.  This is a 100 percent benefit for Taste of the Nation NO KID HUNGRY pledging to end childhood hunger. Buy tickets at


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

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