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Vol. 8 No. 6 - Nov '00

Central Coast

Vineyards & Wineries Visited -

Wild Horse

Le Cuvier
Dover Canyon
Grey Wolf

Seven Peaks

photos courtesy of: Michael Poston

Journal and tasting notes from a three day tour of wineries in Paso Robles and the Central Coast.

Tasting Notes / Scores: Brief tasting impressions are included following the winery write-up. An "n/n" indicates that no notes were taken.

Friday, Nov 24, 2000

Time for yet another post-holiday wine tasting trip, this time with Paso Robles as the destination. We left Orange County about 8:15am, and headed up the 405 to Santa Barbara. Stopped at the Country Store in Los Olivos to pick up a couple of sandwiches for lunch, then set out for our first winery stop.

Arrived at Sanford about 11:15. There were already a few tasters inside (Sanford opens at 11:00), which would normally be unusual, except for the fact that this was the Friday after Thanksgiving. Tasted 7 wines N/C. They were obviously expecting a big crowd for the weekend and had set out two tasting stations, pouring the first 4 wines at a table to one side of the room, and the last three wines at the tasting bar. Seemed like a subdued crowd, but then again, we'd all just arrived. Wines were about as usual for Sanford, although the '98 Pinots didn't seem to have quite as much punch as in past vintages. Out at 11:40.


Tasted at Sanford:

1999 Sanford Pinot Noir Gris - Santa Barbara Co. $14.50. Crisp, lightly fruity nose and mouth. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Sanford Sauvignon Blanc - Central Coast. $14.50. Nose of sweet citrus and grass. Moderate mouthfeel; slightly grassy, in a newly mowed lawn way. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Sanford Chardonnay - Santa Barbara Co. $19. Nose of overly sweet grass, grains and toast. Smooth, slightly tart mouthfeel and finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Sanford Chardonnay - Santa Ynez Valley. $27.50. Nose of sweet grass, citrus, pears and toast. Smooth, toasty full mouthfeel, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Sanford Chardonnay - Barrel Select, Santa Barbara Co. $30. Nose of grass, citrus, and toast. Smooth, but slightly tart mouthfeel medium-long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Sanford Pinot Noir - Santa Barbara Co. $25. Nose of stemmy ripe fruit, with a light burnished quality. Young mouthfeel, slightly bitter strawberry fruit. Long slightly chewy finish. A blend of 3 vnyds - 14 mos in barrel. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Sanford Pinot Noir - Sanford & Benedict Vnyd, Santa Barbara Co. $42. Fleshy, and slightly bitter smelling fruit. Dry mouthfeel, still young, possibly a bit green. Very long slightly sweet and stemmy finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B



Arrived at our next stop, Loring, about 12:10, for an appointment with Brian Loring, of Loring Wine Co, to sample some of his new Pinots. This is a new venture for Brian, who went right from being a consumer -- a Burgundy fanatic -- to working the '97 crush at Cottonwood Cyn, to being the winemaker for his own label in '99. Brian says it took him a long time to get it through his head that California Pinot could never be "Burgundy". But, once he got it straight that his wines didn't have to be Burgundy, he embarked on a journey to make the best CA Pinot Noir that he could make, from the best fruit he could find. Brian credits Norm Beko, of Cottonwood Canyon Winery, with giving him his start and showing him the ropes (or, vines, as it were). He currently uses the Cottonwood Cyn facility to make his LWC wines. Production is at 300-400 cases, with intention to go up to about 1,000 cases. His first release will be a '99 from Sharon's Vnyd, which is part of Cottonwood Cyn Vnyd (Santa Maria Valley). The wine was still in barrel, with bottling just weeks away, and release scheduled for sometime in early 2001. After meeting Brian at the Cottonwood tasting room, we headed down the trail to the caves to taste his wines. In addition to the '99 Sharon's Vnyd, Brian has two other Pinots in barrel: a 2000 Clos Pepe Vnyd (Santa Barbara Co.), and a 2000 Garys' Vnyd (Monterey Co.). The Garys' Vnyd has an interesting lineage; it's a joint effort of Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni, using the La Tache clone. The Clos Pepe fruit is from the 667 clone. Brian expects to lose access to the Sharon's Vnyd fruit in 2001, as Cottonwood Cyn ramps up its own production. But, he has another source lined up -- an acre from Rancho Ontiveros Vnyd, a new vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. Brian's obviously excited about this venture, and his eagerness to do well is producing some nice results. Out at 1:25.

Tasted at Loring:

1999 Loring Pinot Noir - Sharon's Vnyd, Santa Barbara Co. $n/a. Nose of fleshy and steely strawberry/black cherry fruit, with oak and vanilla background notes. Astringent and slightly tart mouthfeel. Long gripping, slightly tart finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

2000 Loring Pinot Noir - Clos Pepe, Santa Barbara Co. $n/a. Nose of mocha and fleshy black cherry fruit; very Rhone-like - yet interesting. Spritzy and chewy mouthfeel (still in ML). Lush and plush, this should be a tasty one. 667 clone. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

2000 Loring Pinot Noir - Gary's Vnyd, Monterey Co. $n/a. Floral and meaty nose, with strawberry/black cherry fruit. Concentrated, lush, slightly soft mouthfeel, and very long finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+


Arrived at Wild Horse about 2:30 to a moderately busy room. Weekends are usually quite busy here, with holiday weekends being even busier. Luckily, a second tasting bar had been set up inside the tasting room, and we ambled over to bar #2 to see what damage we could do. Tasting Room Manager Barbara Smith chatted with us and graciously took us through eight of their current offerings, with the '97 Equus Syrah being the best of the bunch. Ken Volk is the owner and winemaker here. Wild Horse makes about 100,000 cases of wine per year, and is one of the area's biggest producers. They also fill a vital role as one of Paso Robles' "custom crush" facilities. In fact, both Mat Garretson (Garretson Wine Co.) and Matt Trevesan (Linne Calodo) work for Wild Horse, and make their wines here. Wild Horse produces 25 different varietal wines, and have many of them available for tasting. Out at 3:15.

Tasted at Wild Horse:

1998 Wild Horse Pinot Noir - Central Coast. $20. Nose of light strawberry fruit, with some oak notes. Light mouthfeel, slightly tart fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Wild Horse Zinfandel - Paso Robles. $14. Nose of moderately-scented raspberry fruit, with some oak and boysenberry notes. A bit light on the palate, with a crisp long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1995 Wild Horse Dolcetto - California. $13. Restrained nose, reminiscent of chianti. Largely acid-based, crisp mouthfeel,long somewhat fruity finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B

1998 Wild Horse Dolcetto - Paso Robles. $n/a.. Fresh fruity nose, with abundant fruit,and a slightly chalky or an aspirin-like quality. Rich mouthfeel, seeming more on the order of a Brunello. Tasty. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Equus Syrah - Paso Robles. $22. Nose of moderate blackberry fruit, with some oak and briar notes. Medium-full mouthfeel, slightly sweet fruit, long spicy finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1997 Wild Horse Malbec - Paso Robles. Nose of mocha and black cherry, with a touch of stems. Moderate mouthfeel, slightly tart fruit and acidic on the palate, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1998 Wild Horse Merlot - Paso Robles. Nose of fleshy cherry fruit, with a slight stemmy quality. Moderate mouthfeel, off-sweet fruit, medium-long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+B

1998 Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles. Nose of burnished cassis, with hints of oak and stems. Medium-full mouthfeel, slightly tart fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B


Arrived at Meridian at 3:40 to a fairly busy room. Founded in 1984, Meridian took over the site of the original Estrella River Winery, after the latter ran into financial problems. Part of the Beringer stable, Meridian is another volume producer, concentrating mostly on the larger selling California varietals. We tasted only the reds from the list, although the Chardonnay is usually nice and always worth a try. Often, there are few low production jewels hidden among the standard offerings. Unfortunately, I didn't find any this time. I can say that just about without exception, the staff here is always very friendly and efficient. Out at 4:05

Tasted at Meridian:

1998 Meridian Pinot Noir Reserve - Santa Barbara Co. $22. Nose of light strawberry fruit, with some oak notes. Light mouthfeel, slightly tart fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Meridian Merlot Reserve - Paso Robles. $18. Big nose of sweet cherry fruit, with some oak notes. Big mouthfeel, youthful and a bit tight, lots of fruit and a long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1998 Meridian Cabernet Sauvignon - California. $12. Nose of moderate cassis/blackcherry fruit, with a touch of beet. Full mouthfeel, slightly sweet fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Meridian Zinfnadel - Masten Vnyd, Paso Robles. $18. Nose of moderate raspberry fruit. Tough and brawny on the palate, but the off-sweet raspberry/boysenberry fruit seems a bit light. Medium-long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B


Arrived at Eberle about 4:20 to a busy room. This winery always gets busy toward the end of the day, so I'd recommend a late morning visit, if possible. Three or four staff were working the busy tasting bar, and the customers (actually, potential customers at this point) were starting to line up two deep. Our pourer was a part-time fellow who seemed to know his way around the wines and the bar. He kidded with us about his being the "token male" working the room, and the one who usually got tabbed for all of the fetch-this-fetch-that jobs. But, he seemed to take it all in good stride -- at least that's what the record will show. As always, lots of wines available for tasting here, but once again we tried only the reds. Out at 4:45.

Tasted at Eberle:

1997 Eberle Grenache - Lauridsen Vnyd, Paso Robles. $15. Semi-interesting nose of stemmy raspberry. Mostly tart and acidic mouthfeel, long finish. Light mouthfeel, slightly tart fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Eberle Zinfandel - Steinbeck Vnyd, Paso Robles. $16. Nice Zinny nose, if a bit to the alcoholic side. Fruity mouthfeel, yet the bitterness of the fruit is distracting. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1998 Eberle Zinfandel - Sauret Vnyd, Paso Robles. $18. Mostly floral nose, with some blackberry and spice aromas. Thin mouthfeel, very good balance, but just a bit too light on fruit. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Eberle Syrah - Steinbeck Vnyd, Paso Robles. $18. Dense earthy nose, with stemmy and floral qualities. Somewhat thin mouthfeel, and seems a bit over-oaked and bitter. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Eberle Syrah - Reid Vnyd, Paso Robles. $18. Stemmy, sinewy and burnished nose. Sweet/sour mouthfeel, and the fruit seems a bit tart, leading to a long hot finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles. $25. Nose of burnished fruit, smoke. Burnished mouthfeel, with a smoky, slightly veggie quality, leading to a long hot finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

Had a nice day, managing to get to 5 wineries, and taste 28 wines. Grabbed some dinner at McPhee's, in Templeton, and settled in for the evening.

Saturday, Nov 25, 2000

After breakfast, we headed out to the Westside, and up Chimney Rock Road to start off the day with some of the "Far Out Wineries," as the folks on the far west-side of Paso have come to be known. Although this is usually a very scenic drive, especially in the Fall, a moderate fog was covering the area and we weren't able to capture very much of its photogenic beauty. Arriving a little early for opening time at Justin, we continued down the road to see how far we could get before we ran out of road. (According to the map, we were several miles short of the coast, and the town of San Simeon.) Funny how a "few miles" can chew up the clock. We hadn't run out of road before we ran out of time -- and, this was, after all, a wine tasting trip; we weren't Lewis and Clark.


Arrived Justin at 10:10, and headed toward the retail room, wandering up to the small tasting bar. Normally tranquil at this time of morning, the room seemed to have a more activity than usual. A few staff members seemed occupied with tasks, and a couple of guests were checking out of the Justin Inn (the adjacent B&B owned and operated by the winery). A young gentleman behind the bar welcomed us, pouring some wine while he continued to reconcile the guest's bill. As another staff member came around behind the bar, our pourer asked the fellow to resume pouring for us while he finished with the cash register. Justin Baldwin stopped by to answer a few staff questions, and then chatted with us for awhile. Other than finding out that they were "...out of wine" (well, wines that received big Wine Spectator ratings -- like the Isosceles), there wasn't much happening to report, so we moved along to greener pastures. Out at 10:50.

Tasted at Justin:

1999 Justin Chardonnay - Paso Robles. $18. Sweet grassy nose, with a sweet fruity and textured mouthfeel and long toasty finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Justin Chardonnay Reserve - Paso Robles. $22.50. Nose of grass, citrus, and smoke. Crisp and citrusy mouthfeel, nice long toasty finish. All new French oak; 25% malolactic. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

1998 Justin Cal-Ital Blend - Paso Robles. $22.50. Nose of red and black fruits, smoke, spice, and a hint of leaf. Substantial mouthfeel of crisp, smoky fruit, with long slightly coarse and acidic finish. 74% Sangiovese, 26% Nebbiolo. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles. $20. Nose of smoky, earthy cassis. Lots of slightly austere cranberry fruit on the palate; long astringent finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B



Arrived at Carmody-McKnight at 10:52. Originally established as Silver Canyon Vineyards in 1985, this idyllically-situated winery is owned by actor Gary Conway (Burke's Law; Land of the Giants) and his wife. The winery changed its name with the '95 vintage, using a combination of Conway's real last name (Carmody), and his wife's maiden name (McKnight). Daughter, Kathleen Conway manages the property, and she, along with winemaker Greg Cropper, formerly of Justin Vineyards, are producing a wide-ranging lineup from the 100 acres planted. Producing about 3,000 cases annually, the wines have been made at local custom crush facilities. But, intending to take matters into their own hands, they have a straw-bale winery under construction, and will soon be making the wines on premises. The first Estate release will be a Pinot Noir in 2001. Out at 11:25.


Tasted at Carmody-McKnight:

1999 Carmody-McKnight Chardonnay - Paso Robles. Nose of smoky fruit. Full mouthfeel, with flavors of melon, grass, and citrus. Long toasty finish. Underwent 30% ML. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1998 Carmody-McKnight Cabernet Franc - Paso Robles. Nose of cassis and leaf, with an oaky background note. Full mouthfeel, with moderate cassis fruit and a bit of stem, leading to a long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Carmody-McKnight Merlot - Paso Robles. Slightly austere in the nose, with light aromas of candied fruit. A bit tart and acidic on the palate; long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Carmody-McKnight Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles. Slightly burnished and lean in the nose. Moderately fruity mouthfeel, with lingering acids that impart a thin, long, but balanced finish. 100% Cab.Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Carmody-McKnight Cadenza - Paso Robles. Slightly burnished and stemmy nose of cassis and leather. Medium-full mouthfeel, balanced a bit to the acid side; long finish. 58% CF, 38& Merlot, 4% CS. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Carmody-McKnight Kathleen - Paso Robles. Sweet and slightly spicy nose. Full mouthfeel, fruity mid-palate, and long finish. 17.1% alcohol. Aroma/Taste: B/B+


While on our way to Adelaida Winery, we quickly flew by a sign.. . .Screeeech! . . .What's this . . .a winery that's not on our itinerary or our map! The sign read "LeCuvier at Ramage Vineyards," and although I wasn't familiar with the Ramage name, I certainly was familiar with the LeCuvier name. It's John Munch's (formerly of Adelaida) label. Arrived at Le Cuvier at 11:32 to a rural-looking house that serves as the LeCuvier tasting room on Adelaida Rd. Our pourer, Cheryl (sp?), was just setting up a big spread of pate, cheese, and crackers when we walked in -- her first customers of the day. "Have a seat," Cheryl said motioning to a couple of bar stools at the small kitchen bar. Meanwhile, Cheryl continued to open wines and prepare the appetizers. Very homey -- it felt as though we were visiting someone's house (we probably were). Shortly after we sat down, a couple arrived to do some tasting, making it a real cozy room. Cheryl greeted them: "Hi, come on in. My name is Cheryl." "Oh, thanks. Your name is Cheryl? -- My name is Sheryl, too!" "And, I'm Nick," replied her companion. Seizing the opportunity, I found myself saying, "Hey, my name is Nick, too." (If I'd have really been thinking, I could have added: "and my buddy's name is Nick, too!) They were nice folks, and we all had a good time chatting over the wines. These were some surprisingly mature, yet tasty, wines in this lineup, indicating that Munch must like to sit on things awhile. As we were walking out to the car, we ran into John Munch; we told him how much we liked his wines, and told him to keep on keeping on. We also noticed that Sheryl and Nick were apparently travelling by livery service, as there was a big stretch limo waiting for somebody, and it wasn't us. Nice ride. We joked a bit with the driver about not getting into the wine etc., and finally left about 12:05.

Tasted at Le Cuvier:

1993 LeCuvier Pinot Blanc - James Berry Vnyd, Paso Robles. $16. Lush nose of moderately sweet melony fruit. Sweet and grassy mouthfeel, smooth and fading a bit. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1993 LeCuvier Chardonnay - McBride Vnyd, York Mtn. $12. Very sweet nose of clover, honey, butterscotch and floral aromas. Somewhat citrusy mouthfeel, with flavors of toast and grains. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1993 LeCuvier Pinot Noir - Shandon Vnyd, Paso Robles. $18. Slightly burnished cherry nose. Soft and fleshy mouthfeel, with moderately fruity flavors through long finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B

1995 LeCuvier Cabernet Franc - Carmody McKnight Vnyd, Paso Robles. $20. Big, but slightly austere nose. Full lush mouthfeel, slightly tart fruit. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1996 LeCuvier Cabernet Sauvignon - Lone Madrone, York Mtn. $22.50. Floral and peppery nose, with oak and vanilla accents. Big fleshy mouthfeel, with a slight burnished quality, and very long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+


Arrived at Adelaida about 12:15. This place was hopping. Two-three pourers working the tasting bar located inside the storage/winemaking room. A savvy gentleman took care of us, pouring 5 wines, and keeping the conversation going. Nearly all of Adelaida's production is sold out of the tasting room or from local merchants and restaurants. John Munch originated this label in 1981, and continues to consult for them. Adelaida concentrates on Zins and Cabs, with production is running about 9,000 cases, mostly from Estate fruit, as well as from other Westside growers. Munch's preference for highly extracted wines seems less evident with the last couple of vintages, but especially so with the difficult '98 vintage. We ran into Nick and Sheryl again (hey, you following us?) as we were leaving. Out at 12:50.

Tasted at Adelaida:

1997 Adelaida Chardonnay - Central Coast. $18. Smoky and leafy in the nose. Smoke and citrus flavors, with a long toasty finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B

1998 Adelaida Riesling - Paraiso Springs Vnyd, Monterey Co. $15. Dry, smoky and only lightly fruity nose. Dry smoky mouthfeel, light fruity flavors. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Adelaida Pinot Noir - San Luis Obispo Co. $18. Burnished and singed smelling in the nose, with a decent mouthfeel and some fleshy fruit. Aroma/Taste: B-/B

1997 Adelaida Pinot Noir - HRM Vnyd. $32. Very leafy and singed-smelling in the nose. Nice full mouthfeel, with a slightly acidic bent to the long finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B

NV Adelaida Zinfandel "Face Label" - Central Coast. $18. Singed and burnished nose. Slightly acidic mouthfeel, with a long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1996 Adelaida Zinfandel - San Luis Obispo. $21. Big Zinny nose, and nice full body and spicy flavors. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Adelaida Zinfandel - (barrel sample). $21. Young, somewhat restrained raspberry nose. Lots of obvious fruit on the palate, with a young astringent mouthfeel. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Adelaida Cabernet Sauvignon - Schoolhouse, San Luis Obispo. $18. Slightly burnished cassis nose. Big and briary mouthfeel, with slightly burnished flavors and an acid-induced finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Adelaida Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles. $21. Massive burnished cassis nose, with aromas of shoe polish, and olive. Full, and astringent mouthfeel, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B


Arrived at HMR 12:55 to a moderately busy room. This winery started life as Hoffman Mountain Ranch, becoming quite well-known by the acronym HMR. In the '70s, Proprietor Stanley Hoffman had enlisted the help of none other than Andre Tchelistcheff to help develop some unique HMR wines from 1200 acres of rolling hills on Paso's Westside. The results were very well received, and the star varietal was surprisingly, Pinot Noir. For a variety of reasons, the HMR Estate eventually fell into a state of neglect, and the label was gone from the marketplace for over a decade. (Adelaida Winery purchased the land with the Pinot Noir vineyards in the early '80s--- but did not buy the rights to the label itself.) Now, after a long hiatus, the label's back. In 1997, three local families banded together, resurrecting the name, the winery, and some of the vineyards. This time, however, the HMR name stands for Hidden Mountain Ranch. Very friendly staff, and two of the owners were pouring as well. Also, we ran into Nick and Sheryl once again as we were leaving. Current production is around 3,000 cases. Tailgated a bit, then out at 1:45.

Tasted at HMR:

1999 HMR Chardonnay - San Luis Obispo. $12. Sweet and grassy nose. Tasty mouthfeel, not particularly complex, but very enjoyable. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1999 HMR Chardonnay Reserve - Paso Robles. $15. Sweet, grassy and toasty nose. Toasty, citrus and pear-like flavors, toasty finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 HMR Merlot - Paso Robles. $15. Huge nose of raspberry and black cherry fruit, with a hint of stem and green apple. Fleshy mouthfeel, but aromas translated to flavors. Very interesting, almost a Nouveau-like Merlot. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 HMR Dos Vinas - Paso Robles. $12. Very fragrant nose of blackberry/raspberry. Huge mouthfeel, very chewy and fruityBlend of 85% Syrah, 15% Zin. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 HMR Cabernet Sauvignon - Simpson Vnyd, Paso Robles. $16. Nose of cassis, shoe polish, and a bit of leaf. Moderately-full mouthfeel, cassis and some leafy flavors, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 HMR Cabernet Sauvignon - Silver Horse Vnyd Paso Robles. $16. Slightly floral quality to the cassis nose. A bit acidic in mouthfeel, with a tart and somewhat leafy taste to the long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 HMR Zinfandel - Dante Dusi Vnyd, Paso Robles. $22. Huge beautiful raspberry/boysenberry nose. Very chewy mouthfeel,lots of fruit, just a bit of tartness noted on long finish. Here's another nice '98 Zin that came through the vintage. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

1999 HMR Muscat - Paso Robles. $22. Slightly sweet fruity nose. Sweet and tasty mouthfeel, with flavors of pear, apple, and spice. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1998 HMR Late Harvest Muscat - Paso Robles. Clean, sweet nose, with a flavor profile to match. Slight caramel quality to the aftertaste. Aroma/Taste: B/B+


Arrived Nadeau at 2:05. Robert and Patty Nadeau opened this new small-production winery in 1997. Located up on Peachy Cyn Rd, this is another of the "Far Out" group of wineries, and currently the only tasting room on Peachy Cyn Rd. But, the trip is well worth it. The Nadeau's have 8 acres in this location, with production at about 1,600 cases. Robert is also winemaker for Norman Vineyards, and he's using that experience to branch out into Rhones for his own label. In chatting with him, he seems very assured about his product, and I can understand why -- these wines are really nice. Interestingly, a healthy percentage of the Zin has come from old Cucamonga vineyards, which lends a smooth burnished tone to the otherwise often bright Paso fruit. Another nice stop, and we found some real discoveries. Out at 2:55.

Tasted at Nadeau:

1998 Nadeau Outback - Paso Robles. $16. Big nose of spicy cassis and blackberry. Fruity and fleshy mouthfeel, lots of boysenberry/raspberry flavors, if slightly tart on the back end. Blend of Cab-Shiraz. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1999 Nadeau RVR - Paso Robles. $24. Fleshy raspberry and blackberry aromas. Very nice mouthfeel, with lots of tasty fruit and spice, and long finish. RVR stands for Rhone Varietal Red, is the blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Durif (Petite Sirah). Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Nadeau Mourvedre - Paso Robles. $18. Nose of black cherry, leather, and a bit of leaf. Full mouthfeel, slightly tart cranberry/blueberry fruit, with some fairly stiff acids. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1999 Nadeau Zinfandel Old Vine - Paso Robles. Very Zin-like nose, with lots of spicy raspberry. Big smooth mouthfeel, nice and easy across the palate, with a long smooth finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Nadeau Zinfandel Critical Mass - Paso Robles. Wow! Huge nose of raspberry/cranberry/boysenberry fruit. Big mouthfeel, very chewy raspberry/boysenberry fruit, with very long fruit-filled finish. About 1/3 each Sauret, Norman, and Beckwith Vnyds. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-


Arrived Windward about 3:15. Founded in 1990 by Marc Goldberg and Maggie D'Ambrosia, with a fervent desire to create a property in the mold of a great Burgundy Estate, but one that would showcase California Pinot Noir. While Paso Robles may seem like an unlikely location for such a venture, they were drawing on the historical successes of Pinots made nearly 30 years earlier from plantings by HMR. Working with only the 15 acres of Estate fruit, their first vintage (1993) was very well received, as have all follow-up releases. Production is about 1,200 cases, depending upon vintage yield. Maggie tasted us through two current releases, the '97 and '98, while explaining their approach to making Pinot in Paso Robles, and the style they try to achieve with their wines. Marc joined us later in the spacious lobby/tasting room of the winery, and we chatted some more about the variety of clones he uses, and his expectations for the wine. Very nice people; very nice wine. Out at 3:44.

Tasted at Windward:

1997 Windward Pinot Noir - Paso Robles. $30. Nose of strawberry/black cherry, cinnamon, with a hint of ground meat. Big and fleshy mouthfeel, with lots of nice slightly chewy fruit, and fruit-driven finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Windward Pinot Noir - Paso Robles. $30. Nose of light strawberry fruit, with a hint of rose stem. Nice mouthfeel, strawberry fruit and spice flavors, with obvious tannins imparting a slightly bitter finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B


Arrived at Zenaida 3:46. The nice new tasting room (opened this past June) was largely empty, so it appeared that we'd arrived between the onslaughts of the usual holiday crowd. Hospitality was graciously handled by Jodie Rounds, who poured 5 wines and answered my innumerable questions. The background here is that in '89 the Ogorsolka family planted the vineyards, electing to try their hand at home winemaking in '94. Pleased with the results, Eric Ogorsolka went "live" in 1998, and opened Zenaida Cellars. Making primarily Estate wines from their 66 acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Franc, Zenaida has a current production of about 3,000 cases, but plans to ramp up production to about 10,000 cases in the foreseeable future..Out at 4:10.

Tasted at Zenaida:

1997 Zenaida Chardonnay - Paso Robles. $30.Light aromas of citrus and pear. Moderate mouthfeel, citrusy flavors, medium-long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Zenaida Chardonnay Estate - Paso Robles. $30. Grassy and slightly sweet nose. Chewy body, with nice fruity flavors and very long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Zenaida Pinot Noir - Paso Robles. $30. Lightly aromatic nose of strawberry and spice. Slightly tart mouthfeel, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1996 Zenaida Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles. $30. Slightly burnished cassis nose. Nice fleshy mouthfeel, good balance and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1999 Zenaida Late Harvest Zin - Paso Robles. $30. Nose of raspberry jam, chocolate and mocha. Slightly astringent and coarse in mouthfeel, long finish. 15.5% alcohol. Aroma/Taste: B+/B


Arrived at Pesenti 4:15. Pesenti is an old and venerable name in these parts. And, as if to bear this out, my first visit here revealed a winery that was far more reminiscent of the '40s or '50s than the current-day palces. To me, the winery buildings looked more like an old auto repair garage, or something used for farm equipment storage, rather than than a wine making facility. In addition, the old tasting room resembled a speakeasy, a feeling further enhanced by the method used for wine tasting -- small pours of wine into shot glasses! Hearing that some recent changes had taken place at Pesenti, I was looking forward to returning to here for a look.

The Pesenti winery has always been considered an somewhat of an underachiever by most Zin fans. The vineyards are highly regarded by those in the know, who believe that old-fashioned winemaking techniques have never really brought out the potential in the finished wine. Well, that's about to change. It seems that Larry Turley was very interested in the Pesenti vineyards. So, a few months back, he bought the them out, lock, stock and barrel, so to speak. Turley winemaker, Ehren Jordan, was sent down to Paso Robles to assess and oversee the operation. Although Pesenti's Frank Nerelli will continuing as hand-on winemaker, it's safe to say that the ensuing products will undoubtedly have the benefit of Ehren Jordan's experience.

Physically, the place hasn't changed very much in the past several years. It looked as though a little paint has been added here and there, and they've created a larger and more inviting tasting room. The '98 Pesenti Zin is the first to receive Jordan's influence. The wine tasting is still done in a shot glass (probably for historical as well geo-political reasons), but generally things seem to be on a new track, and there's a very friendly crew working the tasting room. Once again, we ran into Nick and Sheryl as we were leaving. It looked as though they'd been having to have a really good time on their winery-hopping schedule. "Hey you guys -- where've you been," Sheryl called out "Hey, did you like the riesling at Adelaida; I really liked the riesling at Adelaida." She mentioned that she thought the winery visits were starting to take their toll, and she was feeling a bit tipsy. But being a trooper, she seemed determined to try at least a few of the Pesenti wines. As I chatted with Nick, Sheryl got my attention again... "Hey, did you like the riesling at Adelaida; I really liked the riesling at Adelaida." (Now Sheryl, if/when you read this, we're laughing with you, not at you. Nick, tell here we're kidding.) Out at 4:45.

Tasted at Pesenti:

NV Pesenti Sauvignon Blanc - Paso Robles. $10. Slightly sweet, grassy and crisp. Nice mouthfeel, slight residual sugar quality, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

NV Pesenti Gewurztraminer - Paso Robles. $10. Hints of acetone spoil the otherwise lightly floral and spicy aromas. Slightly hot mouthfeel, with an overriding flavor of Ouzo. Yikes! Aroma/Taste: C/C-

1998 Pesenti Zinfandel Red Velvet - Paso Robles. $10. Nice raspberry nose. Full mouthfeel, smooth texture, good fruit, long finish and nice aftertaste. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1998 Pesenti Zinfandel - Paso Robles. $20. Nice cranberry/raspberry nose. Currently a bit young, tart and acidic on the palate, this may climb to a higher level given some time. Aroma/Taste: B/B-

1997 Pesenti Zinfandel Dry Late Harvest- Paso Robles. $15. Interesting nose that does seem like dried raspberry/strawberry fruit. Only slightly sweet in mouthfeel, smooth latter palate, and long finish. 13.8% alcohol. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Pesenti Ruby Zinfandel - Paso Robles. $9. n/n. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1998 Pesenti Zinfandel Port - Paso Robles. $25. Very nice candied nose, with moderately sweet fruit, and long slightly hot finish. Labeled as "3rd Estate Reserve." Aroma/Taste: B+/B+


Arrived Dover Canyon at 4:52. Moving out of their temporary location in the old JanKris tasting room (now the new JanKris tasting room) last year, Dover Cyn is now settled in their nice new location on Vineyard Drive. Owner Dan Panico purchased 10 acres that were originally planted to walnut trees, and is putting in several acres of Zin, which when mature, will augment his other sources of fruit from local growers. In addition to the mainstay Zinfandel, Dan is also aboard the local Rhone bandwagon, currently producing Roussanne, Viognier and Syrah. Tasting is complimentary, and we elected to try the 4 reds available on the list. Mary did the pouring, and chatted with us about the recent changes. Dan started his own label in '94, leaving his job as winemaker at Eberle in '97 to pursue his Dover Cyn full-time. Production is currently at 3,000 cases. Out at 5:20.

Tasted at Dover Canyon:

NV Dover Canyon Renegade Red - Paso Robles. $10. Spicy raspberry/cassis nose. Full mouthfeel, with spicy mid and latter palate. A blend of '98 & '99 vintages of Cab, Zin, Merlot and Cab Franc. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Dover Canyon Merlot - Paso Robles. $17. Light and slightly burnished nose, with a touch of stem. Nice mouthfeel; fleshy, yet a bit astringent as well. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Dover Canyon Zinfandel Reserve - Paso Robles. $22. Nose of spiced raspberry and boysenberry. Full mouthfeel, with a spicy quality to the midpalate, and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1999 Dover Canyon Zinfandel Cujo - Paso Robles. $18. Big beautiful nose of raspberry/boysenberry, pepper, and wood spices. Full on the palate, with fruit galore - good to the last drop. Classic, in-your-face Zin. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-


Arrived Grey Wolf at 5:23. Established in 1994, the Barton family operates this winery and tasting room out of an old small farmhouse on Hwy 46 West. Currently working with fruit from local sources, Grey Wolf has 11 acres under vine and are merely awaiting maturity for some Estate fruit. We decided to try just the reds from their list. Always very friendly to visitors, they seem to treat everyone as though they're a local resident, and you get the immediate sense that this is a family business. Currently producing about 3,000 cases, the Barton's are making some very good and very reasonably-priced wines. Out at 5:47.

Tasted at Grey Wolf:

NV Grey Wolf Zinful Cab - Paso Robles. $12. Burnished spiced cassis nose. Seems a little light on the palate, with a definite acidic bent through finish. 60% Cab, 40% Zin. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Grey Wolf Zinfandel - Paso Robles. $18. Lightly spicy raspberry nose, with a slightly dank undertone. Flavorful mouthfeel, with good fruit through the midpalate, and trailing a bit at the finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Grey Wolf Merlot - Paso Robles. $17. Fleshy nose, with plummy fruit and a bit of stem in the background. Somewhat tart and acidic mouthfeel, finishes with an off-sweet taste. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Grey Wolf Meritage - Paso Robles. $25. Nice complex nose of cassis, oak, toast, and a bit of leaf. Medium-full mouthfeel, with good fruit and balance, but just a bit acidic through finish. A Bordeaux blend of 64% Cab, 24% Cab Franc, 12% Merlot. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1997 Grey Wolf Cabernet Sauvignon Alpha - Paso Robles. $22. Very nice spiced cassis-filled nose, with toast and vanilla accents. Full mouthfeel, still quite young and astringent across the palate, with a bit of coarseness to the finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

Had a huge day! We visited 11 wineries, tasting a total of 61 wines. Went for dinner at Villa Creek, and congratulated ourselves on actually surviving the day. Our original itinerary had us covering 9 wineries -- an already dubious quantity. But, we ended up dropping one (JanKris), and adding LeCuvier, Nadeau, and Zenaida.

Sunday, Nov 26, 2000

Working with either old and/or inaccurate information, I had the impression that Hug at Alban would be open for visits this weekend. However, a sign at Alban said "closed," (Note to self: always call ahead.) Disappointed, we headed for Seven Peaks as a pick-up visit before Kynsi opened at11:00.



Arrived at Seven Peaks 10:35. This winery is a recent (1998) joint venture between Southcorp Wines of Australia, and the Nivens family, owners of Paragon Vnyds in the Edna Valley. The new winery has planted over 400 acres of new vineyards (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Mourvedre) in Paso Robles. A pleasant fellow named Ryan was doing the pouring, and we tried 5 of the moderately-priced wines. The grounds here are good looking, and the tasting room is nicely appointed, with a beautiful view of the vineyards. Out at 10:25.

Tasted at Seven Peaks:

1998 Seven Peaks Chardonnay - Central Coast. $13. citrusy and buttery nose. Full mouthfeel, lots of butter through the crisp toasty finish. Underwent 60% malolactic -- it shows! Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Seven Peaks Chardonnay - Edna Valley. $20. Lots of citrus fruits in this crisp nose. Smooth and refined mouthfeel, with lots of lemony citrus flavors, with a touch of grass leading to a smooth long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Seven Peaks Pinot Noir - San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara Co. $20. Slightly burnished nose of strawberry/black cherry. Fleshy and stemmy mouthfeel, moderate fruit, get a bit bitter on finish. Fruit sources: 82% SLO, 18% SBC. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1998 Seven Peaks Merlot - Central Coast. $15. Fleshy and fruity nose, with a veggie component in the background. Slightly tart mouthfeel, with a stemmy latter palate. Fruit source: Monterey and San Benito Counties. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Seven Peaks Shiraz - Paso Robles. $15. Rich, spicy fruit-driven nose. Full mouthfeel, spicy, slightly tart fruit, long finish.. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1998 Seven Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon - Central Coast. $14. Nose of slightly veggie and stemmy cassis fruit. Decent cassis fruit on the palate, full mouthfeel, long fruity finish. Fruit source: Monterey and San Benito Counties. Aroma/Taste: B-/B

1997 Seven Peaks Cab-Shiraz - Central Coast. $20. Nose of spiced cassis/raspberry, with a touch of oak and stem, and the faintest hint of veggie. Quite spicy mouthfeel, young and astringent coarsness at midpalate, but finishes nicely. 69% Cab, 31% Shiraz. Aroma/Taste: B/B


Arrived Kynsi at 11:16. Look carefully for this former dairy farm that was converted to a winery by the Othman family. Small signage makes this an easy place to miss. But, it's definitely a place well worth finding. As we arrived, a milk can with an "open" sign was being placed out near the road. Producing small amounts of local Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus Syrah from Paso Robles, this family winery is making some very impressive wines. A full-fledged family operation, the Othman's eldest daughter was doing the pouring in the small tasting room. The Othman's started making wine here 5 years ago, with '95 as the debut vintage. Future plans call for planting 30 acres in partnership with Talley, and Stephen Ross. The "Kynsi" name is the Finnish word for talon and is meant as homage to the local barn owl.


Tasted at Kynsi:

1997 Kynsi Chardonnay - Sanford & Benedict. $25. Nose is quite citrusy and lemony, with a hints of butter and pear. Full mouthfeel, delicious fruit, long smooth finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1997 Kynsi Chardonnay - Edna Ranch. $20. Fresh, crisp, and lemony in the nose. Crisp mouthfeel, with flavors of sweet lemon and pear, and long finish. 100% ML. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1996 Kynsi Pinot Noir - Edna Valley. $20. Slightly burnished cherry nose. Nice mouthfeel, cherry/cinnamon flavors, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1997 Kynsi Pinot Noir - Paragon Vnyd, Edna Valley. $25. Lovely cherry/strawberry nose, with hints of cinamon and vanilla. Full mouthfeel, nearly chewy cherry fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1997 Kynsi Pinot Noir - Julia's Vnyd. $35. Slightly restrained nose of black cherry/bing cherry. Full, slightly sweet mouthfeel, with lots of juicy fruit and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1997 Kynsi Syrah - Southridge Vnyd, Paso Robles. $24. Big blackberry jammy nose, with just a hint of spicy crispness. Full mouthfeel, young spicy and tasty fruit, very long finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

Out at 11:45, and headed for Nichols, which was due to open at Noon. We tailgated while waiting to see if someone would arrive and open the gate to the Tolosa/Nichols/Stephen Ross facility identified as the address of the Nichols tasting room. After waiting until 12:10, we figured we had more erroneous info, and gave up and headed for Santa Barbara County.



Arrived Babcock at 1:20. The driveway leading to Babcock from Hwy 246 has undergone a transformation. Gone is the old asphalt-to-dirt road, and replacing it is a nice new wide concrete driveway, shared with its neighbors, Melville Vineyards (see below). There were already several visitors in the small informal tasting room. (As a sidebar, there's a awkwardness to the tasting arrangement used here. It's similar to the old Justin setup, and I've seen it used other places as well. The pourer, working from bottles on a round table located near the center of the room, moves out to the circle of tasters with each new wine to be poured, then retreats back to his "home ground." I'm sure it was thought that visitors would tend to congregate near the table, making the relationship of visitors and staff more social. But in fact, what happens is people tend to push away from the table, seeking their own comfort zone.) So, we just assumed a position against an uninhabited wall, and staff member Fred Reed started us off with the 11 Oaks Sauvignon Blanc. Very nice fellow: polite, friendly, knowledgeable, and had a darn good memory of who had last tasted what. Fred was pouring all 9 current releases from the Babcock list, for a nominal fee. The new Troc (rhymes with Poke) label is meant to be an everyday wine. Anyway, don't let my little rant on tasting arrangements dissuade you -- the people here are nice, and the wines are all very good. Out at 1:50, and we had to drive clear over to the other side of the driveway for our visit next door.

Tasted at Babcock:

1999 Babcock Eleven Oaks Sauvignon Blanc - Santa Barbara County. $22. Carmelized citrus nose. Fat mouthfeel, slightly buttery lemon grass flavor, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Babcock Chardonnay - Santa Barbara County. $18. Light citrus, melon and pear aromas. Crisp, and citrusy mouthfeel, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Babcock Grand Cuvee Chardonnay - Santa Barbara County. $30. Plush nose of buttery citrus and pear. Full mouthfeel, with some crispness to the mid and latter palate; long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Babcock Chardonnay - Mt. Carmel Vnyd, Santa Barbara County. $30. Smoky, lemony nose, with hints of vanilla and toast. Big chewy mouthfeel, lots of smoky nuances and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Babcock Pinot Noir Tri County Cuvee. $20. Lots of floral aromas in the nose, with background notes of cherry and strawberry. Slightly tight mouthfeel, with some cranberry flavors at midpalate, and a lightly bitter finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Babcock Eleven Oaks Sangiovese - Santa Barbara County. $30. Big nose of dried strawberry, and candy-cane/cinnamon aromas. Very big mouthfeel, rich fruit through long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1999 Troc Zinfandel - California. $12. Lots of floral and bubble-gum aromas in the nose seem to cover up the raspberry fruit. full mouthfeel, raspberry flavors with a hint of stems, and a long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Troc Cabernet Sauvignon - Santa Barbara County. $14. In addition to some cassis in the nose, there is also aromas of green bean, beet, shoe polish, and some floral qualities. Full mouthfeel, stemmy and a bit bitter on the finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B

1999 Troc Merlot - Santa Barbara County. $16. Deep, floral and stemmy nose. Young mouthfeel, with a bit of spicy coarseness through latter palate, and long finishAroma/Taste: B+/B


Arrived at Melville at 1:52. This recently established winery (tasting room opened July 2000) is located right next door to Babcock, on Hwy 246. Situated on a small hill just off the highway, the Tuscan-inspired villa that serves as both the winery as well as the beautifully appointed tasting room, is an immediate attention grabber. The property looks great too, with vineyards filling the space between the road and the winery.

The Melville family brings past experience to their new venture here in the western Santa Ynez Valley. Previously, Ron Melville and family were operating a successful grape growing business in Calistoga, farming the usual Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The quality of their fruit was excellent, and much of it found its way into the reserve wines of Geyser Peak, Dry Creek Vineyards, and Chateau St. Jean -- no small feat. Deciding to relocate the family, yet continue in the grape growing business, Ron selected an 82 acre location in Lompoc, and began to pursue his interest in Pinot Noir. Recently, the project took on additional emphasis, and Ron, along with sons, Brent and Chad, became not only growers of high quality Pinot Noir, but also decided to become winemakers as well. Their 1999 debut vintage includes a Santa Maria and an Estate Pinot, as well as a Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay. A miniscule amount of Estate '99 Syrah (23 cases) was released December 1, 2000.

Melville currently has 75 acres under vine on the property, distributed to produce about 55% Pinot Noir, 30% Syrah, and 15% Chardonnay. In 1998, they added another 55-60 acres (of the 100 owned) in Cat Canyon (near Los Alamos). The Melvilles have planted 11 clones of Pinot Noir in mostly sandy and loamy soil (with some clay), as well as 3 clones of Chardonnay, and 7 clones of Syrah, on 5 different rootstocks. Although currently augmenting the fruit from outside sources while waiting for maturity of their vines, intentions call for Melville to become Estate-only with the 2000 vintage. Aside from their own production, the Melville fruit is largely committed to other local wineries: Brewer-Clifton, Babcock, Jaffurs, Santa Barbara Winery, Lane Tanner, and Ojai. Ron selected Greg Brewer as winemaker for the label, given Greg's stellar reputation and familiarity with Santa Barbara County fruit. Brewer, formerly of Santa Barbara Winery, also has his own Brewer-Clifton label, which is now utilizing the Melville facility as well.

On arriving, we first met with tasting room director, Megan Wright, who started us out with the '99 SMV Chardonnay. Chad Melville then stepped out to introduce himself, and after an in-depth description and tour of the grounds, the winery, and their winemaking approach, we proceeded to "wade into" a little barrel tasting. In expressing yields, most wineries speak in terms of tons-per-acre from the vineyard. Given the high-density plantings, Melville prefers to use pounds-per-vine as a way to express its yields. In the case of the Estate Pinot, the 1/3 ton per acre translates to 1/2 lb per plant. Chad explained Melville's current and preferred method of bin-fermenting the fruit, using extended maceration, 35% carbonic maceration, and gravity feed to minimize handling the fruit. At one point, Chad uncovered a bin of fermenting Pinot to show us the fruit and stems "cooking." By impulse, I stuck my head into the bin I took in a big wiff -- big mistake. The huge CO2 blast felt like I was drinking 7-Up with my nose! Chad's role as Assistant Winemaker keeps him involved in the day-to-day processes with Greg, something he obviously relishes. "Wanna try the 115 clone with different levels of stems," he asked, climbing up a stack of barrels with the wine thief in hand. He seemed just as fascinated as we were at discovering the results of different techniques used for each wine. Actually, one of the really interesting things about barrel tasting is the ability to taste all of these individual raw materials -- the effects of using various clones and yeasts. This is never more obvious as with Pinot Noir. Melville also appears to have all the raw materials be very successful in this venture, and we may be witnessing a rising star. Out at 4:30

Tasted at Melville:

1999 Melville Chardonnay - Santa Rita Hills (67% Sweeny Cyn; 33% Estate). $20. Smoky and crisp nose, with smoke, citrus, and sweet oaky nuances in the mouthfeel. Saw 50% new oak, 25% ML. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

-- in the winery...

2000 Melville Pinot Noir (from barrel) 777 clone - 3-yr old vines. Big, fresh, perfume-laden, candied nose. Huge young mouthfeel, with a bit of malolactic (ML) leading to a slightly chalky-fruit finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

-- tasting the 115 clone fermented with various levels of stems:

2000 Melville Pinot Noir (from barrel) 115 clone - 3-yr old vines. Fermented on 30% stems. Dark black cherry nose. Lots of sweet fruit, chewy mouthfeel, with ML largely dissapated. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

2000 Melville Pinot Noir (from barrel) 115 clone - 3-yr old vines. Fermented on 50% stems. Slightly restrained stemmy nose, with floral notes. Chewy mouthfeel, with bing and black cherry fruit, and lots of oak and toast on the palate. No ML noted on long finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

2000 Melville Pinot Noir (from barrel) 115 clone - 3-yr old vines. Fermented on 100% stems. Very floral and stemmy aromas, with a sweet black cherry and candied-cinnamon quality in the nose. Very youthful mouthfeel, with flavors of freshly crushed fruit, and plenty of astringent tannins through the long finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

-- tasting the differences using the same yeast used on different clones:

2000 Melville Pinot Noir (from barrel) 113 clone. Fermented on 33% stems. Floral and meaty nose, with some stems and toast. Full and fleshy mouthfeel, with lots of young cherry fruit, and medium-long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

2000 Melville Pinot Noir (from barrel) 114 clone. Fermented on 33% stems. Very meaty, bacon-like quality in the nose. Full mouthfeel, with lots of black cherry, cranberry, and toast. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

-- and one using just the indigenous yeast:

2000 Melville Pinot Noir (from barrel) 115 clone - indigenous yeasts. Fermented on 33% stems. Basket press; 1st crop from these vines. Very youthful mouthfeel, with largely restrained black cherry flavors, and a hint of ML on the back end, leading to a long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

... back in the tasting room...

1999 Melville Pinot Noir - Estate. $25. Smoky, black cherry nose. Medium-full mouthfeel, with Bing cherry flavors to the omewhat sweet/sour fruit, and a nice toasty finish. Mainly juice from the 115 clone, with a small amount of 114. 40% new oak used. 33% fermented with stems. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

1999 Melville Pinot Noir - Santa Maria Valley. $24. Very nice black cherry/cinnamon nose. Medium mouthfeel, fruity and slightly candied flavors, falls off a bit on the finish. From 30-yr old Santa Maria Hills Vnyd. 33% fermented with stems. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

1999 Melville Syrah - Estate. $25. Lightly fruity aromas of blackberry, boysenberry and smoke. Medium weight, somewhat fleshy mouthfeel, medium-long finish. First crop from 3-yr old vines. 23 cases made. Nice first effort. The lighter flavors and texture of this wine is no doubt due to the immaturity of the vines. I expect that future vintages will put on more weight. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

Had a very nice half-day! We visited 4 wineries, tasting a surprising total of 33 wines. Went to Hitching Post in Buelton for dinner, then headed back south.

Wrap up: what a great trip! Over the course of the long weekend, we visited 20 wineries -- tasting a total of 122 wines. We made several new discoveries, three of whom are standouts - the wines from Nadeau, Kynsi, and Melville are excellent, and bargains in the marketplace from a quality standpoint. Two relatively new ventures, Nadeau and Melville are producing fabulous stuff now, with the best probably yet to come. The Melville visit is also featured in the "Winery Spotlight," an area of individual coverage reserved for in-depth visits and tastings.

Had several nice one-on-one visits at Loring and Carmody McKnight, and enjoyed meeting the many fabulous people out there in the tasting rooms. HMR is making some very nice wines, and the staff couldn't be nicer. I'm also happy to say that Pesenti is doing a fabulous job in the tasting room -- excellent staff. Sometimes I think this would be fun even if they weren't serving wine. Naw. Then I'd have to bring my own along.



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