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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!


It had been a while since my wife Teddie and I had done a full day of tasting in Paso Robles. Our friends had told us about a developing area in an industrial park just south of Downtown called Tin City that is home to about a dozen or so boutique wineries. I did a quick search, but could not find an overall umbrella web site, but managed to put together a list by reading thru some blog posts, news articles and press releases. Most tenants are fairly new, few being there over a year.

We hit the road from Orange County at 5:40AM on a recent Friday morning, how could there be traffic at that hour? Well, the I-5 is just bad all the time I think. After the Grapevine, the traffic thinned out, and the improvements on 46 (separate lanes) really helped, so we made it up there in about 4 hours.

We never do tastings on an empty stomach, so before our first appointment, we stopped by the Subway at the 46 West just off the 101. This is about a mile up Ramada Ave from Tin City, so just perfect. Currently Tin City does not have a permanent restaurant although food trucks do make stops at Barrelhouse Brewery. After a quick healthy sandwich we drove into the complex at Marquita Crossing. There is a pretty good sized "Tin City" sign so we knew we were in the right place.


Our first visit was with Nick Elliott of Nicora. He is basically the winemaker, tasting room manager, and does anything else that needs to be done. Nick shares his space with Torrin (who do not open the winery for tasting). This is pretty common practice in Tin City, a shared winery space and equipment, then 2 separate tasting rooms under a single roof. Nick is focused on the Rhone varieties.

We started with his 2014 white Rhone, a blend of 58% Viognier from Denner and 42% Roussanne from Stolpman Vineyard called Undisclosed (99 cases produced). Beautiful nose, with plenty of stone fruit on the palate, and plenty of acidity to age.

The Single Vineyard 2013 Euphoric is a blend of 92% Grenache and 8% Syrah from the La Vista Vineyard in the Adelaide District (138 cases produced). Tons of jammy strawberry/raspberry fruit, this is a huge wine, that also weighs in at 15.9% alcohol.

Next up was the 2013 GSM (53% Grenache from LaVista, 28% Syrah from the Bien Nacito Vineyard, and 19% Mourvedre from the Russell Family Vineyard (125 cases produced). Another big wine, but a lot going on, I enjoyed just swilling and smelling, it really opened up in the glass. Lots of red fruit, a touch of oak, very nice.

Finally a huge 2013 Syrah appropriately named Buxom (198 cases produced), it includes fruit from Law, La Vista, and Russell Family Vineyards. Inky, full bodied, this is quintessential Paso Syrah. My favorite of the lineup.

Nick was a gracious host and we very much enjoyed his wines. Don't forget that Nicora is open by appointment only.


Field Recordings

We headed over one block to our next appointment at Field Recordings and met up with our friends Les and Diane. What a contrast in style, but with all the same passion. Very laid back tasting room, complete with ping pong table. The room is usually open Friday thru Sunday without an appointment. What an eclectic line up. Do you have wines in cans? Well, yes we do, check out our Alloy label. Do you have unusual varietals from lesser known vineyards, check, got those too. No big names here, but all fun and very drinkable wines.

We started with a nice 2014 Chenin Blanc from the Jurassic Park Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. Apple and lemon nose, solid fruit with lively acidity.

This was followed by their 2014 Muscat from Lost Frontier Vineyard in Paso Robles AVA.

Next we had the Alloy 2015 Grenache Rose from the Central Coast was poured from a 16 oz can. It was pretty darn tasty and the packaging is perfect for the beach, pool, or anywhere that you would need to avoid glass containers.

Some in our group also tried the Fiction Red, again packaged in a can, and it was well received.

The 2014 Pinot Noir from Derbyshire Vineyard was next. This is from another unfamiliar vineyard (for me) that is in the San Luis Co AVA. Solid red fruit-filled Pinot.

The 2014 Carignan from Camp 4 Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley actually has 25% Cinsaut. It was like a nice CDR without the barnyard.

After that, we tasted the 2014 Chorus Effect, a mostly Cab blend from the Koligian Vineyard in Paso Robles (53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petite Verdot, 14% Cab Franc, 13 Tannat). Dark with huge fruit, this was a crowd pleaser.

Last poured was the 2014 Zinfandel from the Old Potrero Vineyard in Arroyo Grande. Even with 14.9% alcohol this was really a balanced zin, with delicious berry fruit. Probably my favorite of the lineup.

Jacob Toft

Next stop was Jacob Toft. We met Jacob when he was an assistant at the old (and now out of business) Garretson Wine Company. And we had not seen him since he was working at L'Aventure, maybe 5 years ago, so it was great to see that he was doing well with his own label. (Note that Jacob is also the winemaker for Edmund August). He is sharing winery space with Caliza, but has a comfortable tasting room just outside the production area. We sat down at a really big table that was repurposed and restored by Jacob and his father in law.

Jacob was pouring 3 of his blends. First up was the 2013 Mary Jane's Cuvee, a blend of 48% Grenache from the Caliza Vineyard, 26% Mourvedre and 26% Syrah both from James Berry Vineyard. The nose on this was super ripe, pushing the limits. The palate was more refined, with delicious fruit and subtle oak.

Next was the 2013 Sarah's Cuvee, which is 34% Syrah from Caliza, 33% Syrah from Shadow Canyon, 20% Syrah and 13% Mourvedre from James Berry. Now this was amazing.

Finally we had the 2013 Maggie's Cuvee, 52% Petite Sirah from CoCaVin Vineyard, 30% Grenache and 18% Mourvedre both from the Clark Family Vineyard. Can it get better than this? I am really liking the Petite and Rhone variety combinations. This has the big fruit and tannins one would expect from PS, but the Grenache and Mourvedre make it sing.

Jacob is a wonderful host, and he has deep roots in the area, so we enjoyed his stories just as much as his wines.



I had heard some good things about Aaron Jackson's wines and since he is known for his Petite Sirah we decided to make a quick stop by the tasting room. He shares his winery space with Clos Selene (which has tasting by appointment only) but Aaron has a cozy tasting room for his Aaron and Aequora labels.

We started with an Aequora wine, the 2014 Viognier from the Spanish Springs Vineyard (131 cases produced), and was immediately impressed. This was almost like a Condrieu with a light touch, lots of floral and apricot notes, and a nice mouthfeel, not heavy or cloying. The 2014 Riesling from the Riven Rock Vineyard (55 cases) was very good as well.

Now time for the big guys, the Aaron wines. First up was the 2012 Trespasser, a blend of 69% Petite Sirah, 12% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, and 9% Grenache (270 cases produced). Again, adding the GSM to the Petite seemed to lift up all the components, very nice.

The 2014 Petite Sirah (89% Petite, with 11% Syrah (390 cases produced) was a big chewy wine, massive fruit and tannins. I think you could open this in 20 years without a problem.

Last we tried the 2013 Sand and Stone, 49% Petite Sirah, 43% Grenache, 11% Syrah (110 cases produced). Another big boy with 15.8% alcohol, the Grenache adds so much brightness to the dark Petite. Finished long and lush.



We wanted to check out another recent addition to Tin City, Levo, so we walked past the Barrelhouse Brewery to the tasting room. Winemaker Bret Urness was behind the counter with lots of wine to sample. It was unusual that all of the fruit for his wines come from Santa Barbara Co, but after learning that he got his start at Carr in Santa Barbara, it made sense. His total production currently runs about 800 cases.

We began with his 2014 VOLTs from Santa Barbara Co, a white Rhone blend (41% Roussanne, 31% Grenache Blanc, 28% Viognier). It has seen some oak, but about a third was stainless. I liked the pretty peachy apricot nose, very nice.

Next was an interesting red blend, the 2013 Smithereens with 75% Grenache, 13% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah, 2% Roussanne, 1% Viognier. Something of a kitchen sink blend, that seems to work well.

The 2013 Mint is essentially Syrah (96% with 4% Grenache) sourced from several very highly regarded Santa Barbara Co vineyards (Thompson, Whitehawk, Kimsey and Stolpman). This showed its pedigree, deep purple, meaty Syrah nose, with huge fruit and a touch of pepper on the palate.

Next we had a single vineyard Syrah, the 2013 Spot, with fruit from the Kimsey Vineyard in the Ballard Canyon AVA. I have not had a lot of wines from Kimsey, but I was impressed.

We finished with the 2013 Heavy (88% Petite from Thompson, 8% Syrah and 4% Grenache from Kimsey). This is a fun wine, big and in your face, as you might expect from mostly PS. I liked it a lot, but wondered what a little more Grenache would have done to the blend.


Wine Shine

So its close to 5 at this point, but I wanted to see what was being offered at Wine Shine, a distillery using local wine to produce their products. They have a cozy tasting room which looks out over the working area with a couple of stills and vats stacked with wine. They are open from 1pm Friday through Sunday and by appointment (or luck, as they say). The tasting room can get pretty busy, but it thinned out after 5PM, and Patrick took us back to check out the stills.

The first taste was a fig instilled brandy that was nicely flavored with just a touch of sweetness, I liked it a lot. Next was a cinnamon flavored brandy (real cinnamon sticks of course), not over the top and well executed. The orange flavored Brandy was very nice, tasted of zest and with what appeared to be a little bit of oakiness. They also make a pre-blended Manhattan cocktail called the Manhattan Project. They separately produce their own bitters and vermouth, which is blended with either whiskey or brandy, and then aged in oak for at least 3 months. Of course both the whiskey and brandy are Wine Shine distilled. We tried the brandy version, this is defiantly complex, with layers of flavor. Highly recommended, as were all their products. They produce other infusions, as well as neutral sprits, but not all are always available. It will be interesting to see what new flavors are developed in the future.

All in all, a fun day. While I enjoy the Paso country side and vineyards, it was great to have so many options all within easy walking distance. Of course we were not able to taste every producer in Tin City. We had wanted to stop by Deparada, ONX, Powell Mountain Cellars, Giornata, and Brian Benson but will have to wait for the next trip.



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Updated 3.14.16