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by Steve Christle

Steve's appreciation for wine started in the 80's when introduced to some of the premier Napa Cabs of the day, and soon he was exploring different varietals and wine producing regions. He discovered the French Rhone and Bordeaux regions and became an enthusiastic fan. For the last 12 years, he has tasted extensively throughout California, and has volunteered at several Central Coast wineries. Steve even makes a half barrel of Syrah every year from west-side Paso Robles fruit!


While most of Orange County was sweltering in record breaking high 90s temperatures, it was quite pleasant at the St. Regis in Monarch Bay where some 30 wineries were pouring at the Stars of Paso Robles tasting. This was another exceptionally well produced event hosted by LearnAboutWine. Held Thursday, July 15, 2010, the LearnAboutWine group put on a small and intimate tasting of some of the "old guard" from Paso, as well as some of the new people on the scene.


Bodegas M

First stop was Bodegas M, which specializes in Spanish varieties. They are currently very small production, with their wine being made at Calcareous, under a custom crush arrangement by winemaker Alan Kinne.

2008 Albarino Jack Ranch, Edna Valley
Spanish cuttings from the Galicia region of Spain are the source bud wood for the 2008 Jack Ranch Albarino. Nice floral and citrus nose, with crisp peach and citrus fruit, and bright acidity. Very easy to drink!
160 cases produced.

2007 Tempranillo
The fruit for this comes from the Booker Vineyard, in west side Paso Robles. Dark purple and nearly opaque, with warm toasty oak on the nose, rich and concentrated, and a hint of espresso on the finish.
400 cases produced.


Caliza, which means “limestone” in Spanish, is run by husband and wife team of Carl and Pam Bowker. Their 20 acre vineyard was planted in 2003, and they have ramped up to all estate fruit in 2009.

2008 “Kissin’ Cousins”
Retail $28
This white Rhone blend of 47% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc, and 23% Roussanne is crisp and refreshing. Mango/citrus/honey notes, great mouthfeel, and a lingering finish.
240 cases produced.

2006 “Azimuth”
Retail $45
The “Azimuth” is a blend of 51% Syrah, 19% Grenache, 14% Mourvédre, 8% Tannat, and 8% Alicante Bouschet. Beautiful dark purple color, black/blueberry/plum fruit with great structure, and a long finish.
275 cases produced.

2006 “Companion”
Retail $38
This is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvédre, and 10% Tannat. This is a big boy, dense, and chewy, with just enough oak/earthiness to balance the huge fruit. Delicious.
250 cases produced.

2007 Syrah
Retail $45
Full bore, 100% Syrah, this will please anyone that likes big, lush, jammy style. Plenty of dark fruit and some pepper, soft tannins, and a great finish.
220 cases produced.

Alta Colina

Maggie, daughter of the vineyard owner, was enthusiastically pouring at the Alta Colina table. She is often at their tasting room at the Villacana Winery, which is also where they make their wines. All of the fruit for their wines comes from the Alta Colina Vineyard.

2008 “Claudia Cuvee”
Retail $28
This is a white Rhone blend of 58% Marsanne, 21% Roussanne, and 21% Grenache Blanc. Nice pear and apple notes with just a touch of oak, crisp and clean, perfect for a summer evening.
248 cases produced.

2009 “12 O’Clock High”
Retail $28
Viognier is added to Roussanne, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc for this killer blend. White stone fruit, apricot, some minerality, crisp acidity, this is a delicious white.

2007 GSM
Retail $40
50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre were used in this blend. Pepper, tobacco and blue/black fruit notes, layers of fruit on the palette, fairly aggressive tannins, and a lush finish.
106 cases produced.

2007 Syrah
Retail $38
Dark purple, big and ripe, lush with serious fruit, pepper, toasty oak and firm tannins. Long finish.
143 cases produced.

2008 Petite Syrah
Retail $48
Only 48 cases of this huge, inky monster were produced. Violets, blue/black fruit, good strong tannins, and a finish that goes on for at least a minute.

Cerro Prieto

Husband and wife team of Larry and Teresa Stanton sell most of the fruit from their 20 acre west-side Cerro Prieto Vineyard. But they make around 300 cases of wine from some of their best rows. Winemaking is done at The Crush @ Paso Robles, a custom crush facility on the east side of Paso Robles.

2007 Merlot Reserve
This is 100% Merlot, full bodied, with delicious cherry, black fruit and cedar notes, no rough edges.

2006 Bordeaux Rhone Blend
85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah, this has great red/purple color, ripe plum/blueberry, oak, a rich mouthfeel, and a hint of chocolate on the long finish.


Another small family owned winery, Mitchella has a 20 acre vineyard that was planted in 1997.

2009 “Innuendo”
Retail $20
A pleasant, bright, white blend of Viognier, Roussanne, and Sauvignon Blanc with pear/orange/herbal notes, stone fruit and nice acidity, medium finish.
82 cases produced.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate
Retail $25
Dark red, with blackberry/cherry/tobacco, medium tannins, and a solid finish.
228 cases produced.

2007 Syrah Estate
Retail $22
The Estate Syrah is what I would call a food wine, it is not a huge fruit bomb, but rather is medium bodied, with good structure and acid. Black fruit, pepper and earth notes, and toasty oak on the finish.
116 cases produced.

2007 “Shameless” GSM Estate
Retail $24
This is a blend of 40% Syrah, 32% Grenache, and 28% Mourvedre. Not as big as some GSMs, this had a nice Cote du Rhone feel to it. Lots of earthiness, pepper, and herbs, good structure, and good finish.
164 cases produced.

Terry Hoage Vineyards

It is always fun to talk to Jennifer Hoage about her and her husband Terry’s wines, which are consistently some of the best in the area.

2007 “The Pick”
This is a blend of 54% Grenache, 23% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre and 8% Counoise. Dark purple, and what a great nose, blackberry and herbs de Provence just leaps out of the glass, with more black/red fruit, a touch of oak and gaminess on the palette.
310 cases produced.

2007 “46”
Equal parts Syrah and Grenache are used in this blend. Lots going on in the glass, ripe plum/black fruit, herbs, and earthiness, with plenty of tannins, and a rich, long finish.
485 cases produced.

2007 “5 Block”
I liked this a lot, a blend of 57% Syrah, 29% Grenache, 7% Mourvedre and 7% Cinsault.
Dark purple, with great berry fruit, earth, and leather notes, this has tons of fruit on the palate, firm tannins, and an amazing finish.
365 cases produced.

First Crush

First Crush is not a winery per se, but rather offers an authentic, complete winemaking experience. They take customers into the vineyard to harvest grapes and then the fruit is crafted into wine by a professional winemaker. First Crush is based out of the Silver Horse winery in Paso Robles – a small, family owned winery that also offers custom crush services. Stephen Kroener, the winemaker for Silver Horse, is the winemaker for First Crush. When ready, customers can then bottle, cork, and label their own wine.

I tasted their 2008 Bordeaux style blend, and it was very good, dark red/purple color, toasty oak and black fruit, firm tannins, and a long finish. Minimum commitment is only 2 cases, so this can be a very affordable way to gain some understanding and hands-on experience in the art of making wine. They also offer winemaking workshops once a month. Check them out at www.firstcrushwinemaking.com.



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Updated 8.10.10