View Blog Archive California Directory of Fine Wineries ••• Wine Country Blog > Paso Robles Wine Festival is Coming ••• May 14-17, 2015

Category - General
Posted - 05/09/2015 07:41pm
Paso Robles Wine Festival is Coming ••• May 14-17, 2015
PASO ROBLES, CA— This is one of the big ones in California Wine Country. An annual showcase held in the rustic town square in Downtown City Park. The public is invited to come celebrate the triumphs of this world-class wine region. Paso Robles has grown into one of California’s most dynamic wine sectors. A decade or so back there were about 35 wineries here. Today there are more than 200 and the quality of wines has proved nothing short of amazing.

More that 70 wineries will participate in the Grand Tasting on Saturday May 16 and be complemented by “local epicurean delights”. This year the wineries will be arranged by regions: Bordeaux-style, Rhone-style, Zinfandel, Burgundian-style, Italian-style and more. But do look outside of the park during the festival weekend and you'll also find winemaker dinners, BBQs, live music, wine education seminars, and barrel samplings… It’s a fun-filled weekend party not to be missed. For those who want to delve deeper into what the Paso Robles wineries can achieve when they go full throttle, there will be a late afternoon Reserve Tasting event held at City Park on Friday May 15.

To get more insight into what visitors can expect at the Grand Tasting (and the Reserve Tasting), I spoke with several acclaimed winemakers and owners to find out what they’ll be pouring at the festival.

Rotta Winery winemaker Jeff Branco 

Location: Templeton, CA
Appellation: Paso Robles
Annual Production: 20,000 cases
Winemaker: Jeff Branco
Owner: Jason Shorrock

Zinfandel and Cabernet vineyards plunge precipitously toward the tasting room at Rotta Winery one of the Central Coast’s oldest vineyard properties. The gnarled vines, “head trained” old Europe-style rather than trellised, look like mini Joshua trees, arms outstretched haphazardly. Only the widely spaced rows lend order to this tumultuous tableau, whose origins date back to the tectonic shifts that elevated the ocean floor and crated the Santa Lucia Range. 

Rotta Winery entered a new era in 2013 when Jason Shorrock purchased the brand and brought on respected winemaker Jeff Branco who previously worked at nearby Justin Vineyards & Winery and holds a master’s degree in viticulture and enology from the University of Bordeaux. A Bordeaux blend, Branco’s specialty, will anchor the winery's new lineup, also slated to include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, a Rhone-style red, and a cold-climate Syrah.

When asked about what makes the Grand Tasting so unique among industry events, Branco said, “For me, its kind of like a family reunion between the winery and consumers. It’s a cross between Thanksgiving and Cinco De Mayo. We get to socialize with other wineries and see a lot of familiar faces. It is a time to renew old friendships and a great opportunity to make new friends too.”

Grand Tasting — What they’ll be pouring:
2013 Rotta Rosé
2013 Rotta Chardonnay
2013 Rotta Red
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Reserve Tasting — What they’ll be pouring:
2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2013 SRB (Siot Bordeaux Reserve)

Opolo winemaker Chris Rougeot

Location: Paso Robles, CA
Appellation: Paso Robles
Annual Production: 40,000 cases
Winemaker: Chris Rougeot
Owners: Rick Quinn and David Nichols

Heading through the gate at Opolo Vineyards, visitors enter a viticultural wonderland anchored by an unassuming tasting room: a converted tractor barn decorated to inspire guests to relax and have fun. Famed for its loyal fans and weekend festivities, often featuring grilled delicacies—from sausage and lamb to Cevapcici, a Serbian– style role of minced beef—this event-driven destination serves up a lively mix of food, wine, and convivial pleasure. Guests can sip wine on the covered deck while taking in the vineyard views, or they can step inside, where giant posters brighten the walls and stacked barrels share space with cases of wine. At wooden planks laid atop oak barrels, friendly staffers pour the listed wines, and then, based on each taster’s preferences, suggest others from the winery's thirty-some offerings.

I had the chance to talk with winemaker Chris Rougeot the other day about the upcoming festival. “This event is one of my favorites,” he said. “You get a cross section of the wines from the entire Paso Robles region. There are no restrictions. There will be lots of eclectic wines to try too – so you can see the wide range of what the area has to offer. Cabs, Zins, Rhones… it’s all here to taste in one place.”

Although Opolo is perhaps best known for its Zinfandel, Rougeot wants to encourage festival attendees to try Opolo’s lessor known Bordeaux blends, some of which he says, are “phenomenal!” 

Additional Festivities: As with many other wineries during Festival Weekend 2015, Opolo kicks off the festivities with a fiesta dinner on Friday May 15 at 6:30 p.m.  Authentic Mexican cuisine, live music, and, of course, their wines will be served. $60 per person. (tickets still available as of this posting). On both, Saturday and Sunday May 16 & 17 from 11-4 you can attend their acclaimed BBQ — ...whole roasted lamb and carnitas with frijoles puercos and all the fixings —($15/pp; wine tasting is $10). During the weekend, Opolo will also offer Barrel Tastings. Check their website or call the tasting room for details.

Grand Tasting — What they’ll be pouring:
2013 Chardonnay
2013 Viognier
2014 Alabarino
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
2012 Sangiovese
2012 Tempranillo
2013 Mountain Zinfandel

Reserve Tasting — What they’ll be pouring:
2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2012 Reserve Zinfandel
2012 Reserve Rhapsody (Bordeaux Blend)

Owners Pam and Ray Derby

Location: Paso Robles, CA
Appellation: Paso Robles
Annual Production: 4,000 cases
Winemaker: Tiffinee Vierra
Owners: Pam and Ray Derby

Before moving to San Luis Obispo County in 1991, Ray and Pam derby maintained a small Southern California avocado orchard as a hobby. It wasn’t until after selling their automotive fastener business that their casual interest in farming blossomed into a major postretirement project. In 1998 the couple bought a 632-acre cattle ranch, complete with avocado orchard, near San Simeon. Recognizing viticulture’s pivotal role in the region, they did extensive research before planting 65 acres of grapes on the ranch. Despite chilly weather and marauding zebras from nearby Hearst Ranch, the coastal Derbyshire Vineyard produces exquisite Pinot Noir. 

Today, the Derbys grow twenty-four grape varieties and sell 95 percent of their highly regarded fruit to renowned California producers. The remaining 5 percent is reserved for their own label. In 2010 they bought the Farmers Alliance Building, which is among the significant historic landmarks in Paso Robles. The 1922 Art Deco warehouse boasts an 82-foot-tall cupola-topped tower, the city’s tallest structure. The couple spent three years meticulously restoring the cupola and finishing the exterior with salmon-colored stucco to match the original. Their exquisite new winery and tasting room opened in 2014 and is a must-see Paso Robles destination.

Pam Derby, who will be pouring their wines at the Reserve event on Friday afternoon, says that she truly enjoys the Reserve event because it's “a smaller and more intimate group, so we always have more time to interact with wine tasters.”

Grand Tasting — What they’ll be pouring:
2011 “Fifteen 10” White Rhone Blend
2014 100% Mourvedre Rosé
2010 “Fifteen 10” Red Rhone Blend*
2011 Mourvedre

*Tasting Room Manager Shirona Thomas says that they are particularly pleased to present this wine, not only because it scored 91 points with Wine Enthusiast, but also because it was chosen in a blind tasting of over 20 blends by the Rhone Rangers as the best Red Rhone Blend and earned Derby’s winemaker, Tiffinee Vierra, a spot on a panel discussing the Rhone Varietals at the Paso Rhone Rangers Experience last March.

Reserve Tasting — What they’ll be pouring:
2006 “Implico” Bordeaux Blend
2007 “Fifteen 10” Red Rhone Blend

Additional weekend activities: On Friday May 15 Derby Wine Estates presents their Friday Night Music Series on their patio from 5:30-9 p.m. Visitors will enjoy live music plus Derby’s Smokehouse BBQ… Or, bring your own picnic. Take advantage of Happy Hour specials on wines by the glass and Wine Festival case specials. Contact the winery for details.

On Sunday May 17 Derby Wine Estates will present a Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich Bar and special wine pairings from 11-3 p.m. Live acoustic guitar will set the mood. $15 p.p.

Founder Gary Eberle

Location: Paso Robles, CA
Appellation: Paso Robles
Annual Production: 30,000 cases
Winemaker: Ben Mayo
Founder: Gary Eberle

In Paso Robles, the name Eberle conjures two iconic figures: pioneering winemaker Gary Eberle, who planted the region’s first Syrah vines and helped establish Paso Robles as a premier winegrowing region, and the small statue of a wild boar, the mascot of Eberle winery. Eberle means “small boar” in German, and images of wild boars appear on the winery logo. A bronze boar, cast by Baroque master Pietro Tacca in 1620, sits at the winery entrance. Ill Porcellino, a replica of the marble boar that once stood in the Uffizi in Florence, invites visitors to rub its snout and toss coins in the fountain beneath his feet—a Florentine tradition said to bring good luck.

This good fortune is most readily apparent at the expansive oak tasting bar, where samples of Eberle wines are poured at no charge, a rarity in the region. It also comes in the form of free guided towards through the 1,700 square feet of caves beneath the visitor center. The complimentary tours and tastings reflect Gary Eberle’s firm belief in educating visitors about all aspects of winemaking so they form a personal connection to the bottles of wine they enjoy at the table. 
Gary Eberle is one of the people who founded this event back in 1983. When I recently spoke with him about the history of the festival he said, “It was one of the events that helped introduce Paso Robles to the public. Now it’s almost a ‘thank you’ event. It has significantly changed over the years but it really is Paso Robles’ single best showpiece. The local wineries each put their best foot forward.”

Today, the Eberle estate vineyard produces Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Muscat Canelli grapes exclusively for Eberle wines. Eberle also has a partnership in nearby Mill Road and Steinbeck vineyards, which retain 20 percent of the harvest for Eberle wines and sell the remainder to other vintners. 

Over the decades, Eberle wines have earned more than 300 gold medals, many of which are on display in the spacious California ranch-style visitor center overlooking one of Paso Robles oldest and most legendary vineyards. 

Last March, Gary Eberle, who has worked for 42 years building the acclaim of the Paso Robles region through his brand, was honored by the California State Fair with the 2015 Wine Lifetime Achievement Award. In receiving this prestigious award Eberle joins the ranks of industry legends Robert Mondavi, Jerry Lohr, Mike Grgich, and Dr. Richard Peterson. 

As described in a recent press announcement: “Eberle’s contributions to the California wine trade are significant. Eberle Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon was the first wine to place the Paso Robles AVA designation on its label. Gary Eberle was also the first to plant Syrah on the Central Coast and make a 100 percent Syrah varietal wine in the United States. These milestones have proven to be important, as both Syrah and Paso Robles have become significant forces in California’s wine industry.”  

The State Fair awards, which also include Winery of the Year, Vineyard of the Year and Agriculturalist of the Year, will be formally awarded at the State Fair Gala on June 25, 2015 at Cal Expo in Sacramento. The California State Fair takes place July 10 – 26, 2015 in Sacramento. 

Grand Tasting — What they’ll be pouring:
2013 Viognier, Mill Road Vineyard*
2013 Eberle Estate Chardonnay
2013 Syrah Rose
2012 Cotes-du-Robles
2012 Zinfandel
2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (their flagship)
2113 Syrah, Steinbeck Vineyard

*Direct Sales Manager Stacy Bonnifield says that this is a “real standout” Viognier and a definite “must try” at the festival. It’s been their most highly awarded white wine over the years – think honeysuckle and orange blossom on the nose; peaches and ripe pear on the palate with a crisp finish.

Reserve Tasting — What they’ll be pouring:
2012 Cotes-du-Robles Blanc
2010 Reserve Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Additional weekend activities: Friday May 15 - Dinner and music on their patio and deck from 6-8 p.m. The “Grilled Cheese Incident Food Truck” will be there. $25 p.p. RSVP is a must. Call “events” at 805-238-9607 ext 203. On Sunday May 17 join Gary Eberle for live music and BBQ tri-tip and sausage bites on the deck starting at noon. It’s complimentary and goes until “the food lasts!”

In summing up: The Paso Robles Wine Festival will be a fun and educational weekend. I highly recommend it. 

If you go: Check our website for links to "preferred" hotels in the Paso Robles area. I have traveled to each of the hotels listed to make sure that they are clean, comfortable, and well-managed with high levels of hospitality. I'm always happy to offer travel tips and suggestions.
See links below to get your event tickets... Enjoy!

Paso Robles Wine Festival 2015
Event Tickets:




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