Wine & Travel

Snooth User: EMark

Trip to Central Coast Last Weekend

Posted by EMark, Dec 11, 2012.

On Saturday morning, while I was having my coffee and bagel, it occurred to me that it would be fun to drive up to the Central Coast and visit some wineries.  It took about 20 milliseconds to convince Peggy that this was a good idea.  I did have to take care of one issue at the bank.  (In fact, the bank visit was totally unsuccessful and that issue is still outstanding.)  So, we did not pull out of the driveway until about 1:15.  Over the next few days we visited and tasted at these wineries:

Ancient Peaks Winery--Tasting room is in the town of Santa Margarita, south of Paso Robles.  Tasted

  • 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2010 Zinfandel
  • 2009 Reserve Petit Verdot
  • 2009 Reserve Petite Sirah
  • 2009 Oyster Ridge (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Petit Verdot)

I may have misunderstood, but I believe the reserve wines are only available for tasting on Sundays.  So, I definitely recommend visiting on Sundays because the reserves are far superior.

All their grapes are estate grown in vineyards to the south and east of the town of Santa Margarita.  This winery emphasizes soil variations in the development of their wine styles.  There are some magnificent fossilized oyster shells in the tasting room that were unearthed when the vineyards were planted.

The tasting room was attended by three very engaging ladies who did very well with questions.

Caparone Winery--Tasting room is at the vineyard/winery site north of Paso Robles.  This winery features 100% varietal bottlings and specializes in Italian grapes.  Tasted:

  • 2009 Paso Robles Aglianico
  • 2007 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2004 Santa Maria Valley Merlot
  • 2008 Paso Robles Nebbiolo
  • 2009 Paso Robles Sangiovese
  • 2005 Paso Robles Zinfandel

All except for the Merlot are Estate Grown.  All are Unfined and Unfiltered.  The ABV of all these wines were in the range of 13.2% to 13.4%.

In the tasting room was none other than owner Dave Caparone.  We were the only ones in the room.  So, we had 100% of his attention.  It took him a few minutes to warm up to us, but it was worth the wait.

Jada Vineyard & Winery—Tasting room is at the vineyard west of Paso Robles off Highway 46.  This is a pretty magnificent estate started and built by a cardiac surgeon.  As opposed to the Caparone model, Jada tends more to blended wines.”  We tasted these wines:

  • 2011 “1149” (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah blend)
  • 2010 “XCV” (Roussanne, Viognier blend)
  • 2009 “Jersey Girl” (Syrah)
  • 2009 “Malstria (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot blend
  • 2009 “Jack of Hearts” (Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend)

Jada offers cheese matches with their tastings.  Peggy warned me that one should “Buy on bread. Sell on cheese.”  I still fell into the trap. I tried the cheese and bought some wine.

Mondo Cellars—Tasting room is at the winery/vineyard northwest of Paso Robles.  This was a pretty unusual wine tasting experience.  We walked in and oriented ourselves for a second.  To the left was a counter where you would expect to do the tasting.  There was a lady behind the counter, and she asked if we were here to taste.  Then off to the right there was a guy standing next to the cash register who told us “There really isn’t much left to taste.  So, we would not be charged the tasting fee.  Well that’s OK.  I asked if he had any inventory laying around that I could have for free, and he chuckled.  The tasting room hostess poured us a glass of what she only described as Rose.  It’s just rose.  We had two other wines:

  • 2011 “Cielo”, Paso Robles (Viognier, Rousanne, Marsanne, blend)
  • 2011 “Guido”, Paso Robles (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah blend)

She encouraged us to walk around the grounds with our taste.  “I’ll find you when you are ready for your next taste.  It’s my job.”  We went outside and sat on some furniture, listened to jazz and had a terrific view overlooking a valley.  Sure enough when our glass was empty, she was back with the next wine.  I have to comment, also, that she gave a very heavy pour.  There is a B&B at Mondo, and it is worth considering for my next trip.  It’s a very nice property.  When we told the lady what wines we wanted to buy (two of the whites and one of the red), she told us that she would give us a 10% discount.  I have no idea why, but I saw no reason to argue with her. 

Ojai Vineyard—Tasting room is in the town of Ojai, Southeast of Santa Barbara.  Fruit is sourced from various vineyards in multiple AVAs in the Central Coast.  We made our way to Ojai on Saturday afternoon.  I’ve had Ojai Vineyards wines in the past, but they are a bit hard to find.  So, I decided to take the long cut on our way up.  Here is what we tasted at Ojai:

  • 2009 Viognier, Roll Ranch—Upper Ojai
  • 2009 Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County
  • 2009 Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido—Santa Maria Valley
  • 2006 Syrah, White Hawk—Santa Barbara County
  • 2011 Riesling Dessert Wine (Botrytis), Kick On Ranch.

There were several Ojai Vineyard Wine Club members dropping by the tasting room to pick up their quarterly wine club selections.  The room was staffed by two guys who were very knowledgeable, but were somewhat hard to engage.  There was a fair amount of activity going on, so I guess they had to stretch themselves across all the customers.

Tolosa Winery—Tasting room and winery are located in Edna Valley near San Luis Obispo.  On Monday, I wanted to visit only one more place before heading home and our hotel was adjacent to Edna Valley.  We tasted four wines here:

  • 2011 “No Oak” Chardonnay
  • 2010 Chardonnay, Tolosa Vineyard, Edna Valley
  • 2010 Pinot Noir, Tolosa Vineyards, Edna Valley
  • 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles

Tolosa is an SIP certified winery and is very environmentally conscious.  Six rows of vineyard were given over to solar panels for electricity production.  The tasting room overlooks the wine production/storage areas.  While we were there we could see activity—transferring wine from steel into oak.  The tasting room host told us that that work was custom crush activity.  The guy in the plaid shirt, whose name now escapes me,  that we were watching is the winemaker for Edna Valley winery, and he uses the Tolosa facility to produce wine for his own label.

Quick notes on my trip:

  • I would not discourage anybody from visiting any of the wineries that I mentioned.  I had good wine at every winery (I bought several bottles at each one) and my knowledge was increased at every one of them. 
  • All of them had tasting fees ranging from $5 to $15.   All of them waived the fee if you bought wine.  Thankfully, none of them had tip jars on the counter. 
  • The best wine I had in the three days:  no doubt about it the 2011 Botrycized Riesling at Ojai.  I have a bit of experience with Sauternes, and this wine can stand very comfortably next to Rieussec or Suduiraut or one of those.   Velvety smooth, pleasant, not cloying, sweetness, some minerality, sufficient acid.  I can’t believe I only bought one half-bottle.  I can order more on-line.
  • The winery that I will recommend every time somebody tells me they are going to the Central Coast:  Caparone.  After going to the L’Aventures, and the Bookers and the Saxums and the other Paso wineries that have the WS/Tanzer/whatever imprimatur you have to find San Marcos Creek Road and go to Caparone.  This is a very unimposing facility.  The tasting room is in the barrel room.  I doubt if there are ever more than one or two cars parked there.  Caparone production has been intentionally reduced to 3,000 cases per year.  There are only two employees:  Dave Caparone and his son Mark.  Dave Caparone has spent over forty years learning about and producing wines.  He has the passion, and, obviously, he has the knowledge.  You will find him very opinionated, but, heck, he has walked the walk.  So, as far as I’m concerned he is entitled to talk the talk.  I learned so much just spending a little time listening to him.  His wines are great and they are not expensive—a very simple price book:  everything is $14 per bottle.  Dave Caparone’s hobby is restoring classic cars.  There was a magnificent ’34 Ford parked in front of a garage.  He said that he had two Lincoln Zephyrs in the garage.  I thought it would be impertinent to ask to see them.


Reply by JonDerry, Dec 11, 2012.

Thanks for the tip on Caparone, I'm all the more interested based on the varietals and alcohol. Have always   wanted to try Ojai vineyards wines, interesting that one of the four was Ojai fruit but makes sense I guess.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 11, 2012.

Caparone sounds a lot like Talty.  Barrel room is tasting room, just the founder, super limited production.  My kind of operation. 

Funny that you have any trouble getting Ojai Vineyards wines.  Although they aren't a mega-producer, I don't find them all that obscure. 

Emark, I envy your employment status. Just today I got to thinking that I want to retire early and spend a year in the vineyards of Piemonte, learning to grow Nebbiolo.  Why?  Just because no one in California really does that.  (Clendenen of Au Bon Climat/Los Olivos is virtually alone in growing it here--there's a patch above Bien Nacido I have read about.)  I'm a big fan of traipsing through the vineyards, and so much better to do when everyone else is out doing something else, like shopping for Christmas dreck.  Which reminds me, off to the Secret Santa threads...

Reply by napagirl68, Dec 11, 2012.

Emark,  Thanks for your review.  I was interested in Ojai Vineyards, as many of their wines "rate" highly, and I have been tempted to purchase without tasting (but have been burned many times in the past doing that!)

I have to say, while the Santa Barbara region is not my fav for pinots, while on a visit, I did have a 2009 Tolosa Edna Ranch Pinot Noir in a restaurant, that I found quite enjoyable! 

Reply by napagirl68, Dec 11, 2012.


Rodrigue Molyneaux in Livermore does a Nebbiolo, as does Tamas Estates.  I have only had the former, and it was pleasant.

Reply by JonDerry, Dec 12, 2012.

I wouldn't necessarily say Nebbiolo is coming on in the US or North America, but there's some of it around. I've noticed a couple wineries in Paso grow it, including Lone Madrone. Seems like a good deal of the experimenting being done in the US is being done in Paso and Washington, which account for most of the Tempranillo and probably most of the Tannat in the US.

Would be interesting to see some kind of ranking for the top producers of these rarely seen grapes in the US. Booker and Epoch would probably be up there for Tempranillo, and as OT and I can pretty much say would have to be Lagier Meredith for Mondeuse Noire.

Reply by napagirl68, Dec 12, 2012.

JD, there is some sort of publication that one winery had in its possession, showing who, in the US, is growing what type of grape.  I was at a winery in Lodi, and was asking about how many were growing Cinsault, and he pulled out this huge binder, flipped through it, and was able to tell me how many acres and where...

Reply by outthere, Dec 12, 2012.

Trione up in Geyserville does a Nebbiolo also.

Reply by JonDerry, Dec 12, 2012.

Not much trouble getting Ojai Fox, just like NG I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Seems like it must be solid juice, but nothing like a must have, so it's easy to put off. Would like to stop by their tasting room some time as Mark did.

Yeah, would love to get access to whatever that publication is NG...Lodi, that's another area so easy to forget. It's amazing how many areas wine is being produced in CA. They're already doing it here in LA in Malibu, but then Bel Air is where the legit wine is being made here (see Moraga).

I'm not aware of any grapes being grown or any significant production going on in Orange County, but I've often day dreamed of planting some vines in San Clemente. Wonder if anyone's ever tried? There's a new development called Talega that might fit the bill, but they just keep building there, it's a growing economy. A positive is that they have a lot of gently sloping hillsides just east of the 5.

Reply by EMark, Dec 12, 2012.

All the comments about who is doing Nebbiolo surprise me a bit.  I have always been able to find it in local retail stores if I was looking for it.

On the other hand, the Aglianico totally blew me away.  I don't think I've ever seen a California version before.  In some of the literature I was reading in the hotel room, there are 3 or 4 other Paso Robles wineries that use Aglianico.  It is not clear to me wheither they blend with it or whether they have varietal bottlings.


Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 12, 2012.

I do know there is some Nebbiolo grown in Cali, but I knew mostly about Clendenen's patch.  People know Barolo and Barbaresco, but don't really think about the grape in the way they equate merlot and cabernet with Bords and therefore drink merlot and cab as varietal wines.  In fact, I have been hunting around lately for Ghemme, which is Nebbiolo-based, to no avail.  K&L has none at all, and Enoteca Vino Nostro, an Italian specialist, doesn't have any.  Eataly's wine shop (a big disappointment) had none, either. 

JD, that Moraga wine is going to have a labeling problem if the Lamorinda AVA (Lafayette/Moraga/Orinda) is approved.  Which is where I would grow Nebbiolo--there's a plot I've been eying for years that seems suitable and cannot be developed for housing or commercial uses.

Reply by napagirl68, Dec 12, 2012.


I have had an Aglianico from a winery in Lodi called Vino con Brio, but that winery was sold this past year.

I think there are one or two Paso Robles wineries that make an single varietal Aglianico as well.

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