PASO ROBLES, CA—One of the California’s most enjoyable annual wine festivals begins on Thursday May 19 with enough high-end wines being poured to satiate most anyone’s palate from novice to sommelier. Wine snobs check your attitude at the county line. San Luis Obispo County (aka SLO County) is the place for smiles, friendly servers, and a relaxed good-natured vibe.
WINEMAKER DINNERS and THE RESERVE EVENT
The fun begins on Thursday May 19 with various Winemaker Dinners. These personal and intimate get-togethers will set the stage for showcasing the regions fine wines while making new friends. Then, in the late afternoon on Friday May 20, a group of select wineries will be set up in the Paso Robles Downtown City Park to feature their Library, Reserve, White/Rosé, and Futures. YES, it's the Reserve Event. From what I understand, there will be fresh and local gourmet bites on hand for attendees. At last year’s event I still remember enjoying numerous and tasty morsels. Yum!
If you’re an early riser (or if you wisely limited your alcohol intake at the Reserve Event), you’ll want to attend the Winemaker Seminar on Saturday morning May 21. Not only will you be fascinated by each winemaker’s talk but you’ll get to taste and evaluate some of their most noteworthy wines. Be sure to get advance tickets to the seminar as, in past years, it has proven to be well-attended. If you show up 5 minutes late, chances are you’ll end up in the last row. But really all seats are good.
THE GRAND TASTING ON SATURDAY May 21
Consider the Seminar your event appetizer because immediately afterward you’ll find more than 80 wineries ready to pour for you at the festival’s most popular event: The Grand Tasting.
Just as with the Reserve Event the day before, this large scale tasting is set in the Paso Robles Downtown City Park. As there are so many wineries in attendance, they will be arranged by regions: Bordeaux-style, Rhône-style, Zinfandel, Burgundian-style, Italian varieties and Other “Wild Wines” — whatever that may be. Live music will be provided by Bear Market Riot and, of course, there will be food trucks!!!
If you attend, here are some of my favorite local wineries that will be pouring at the Grand Tasting. Be sure to try some of all of these:
WHO TO TASTE AT THE GRAND TASTING — MINI PROFILE: SUMMERWOOD WINERY
Ideally located, the SummerWood Winery tasting room is often the first stop for travelers exploring Paso Robles wine country along Highway 46 West. The facility’s wisteria-draped entryway, towering trees, and white clapboard tasting room evoke a lush country estate, making it a charming gateway to the popular westside wine trail. SummerWood Winery specializes in premium Rhone- and Bordeaux-style wines crafted in small lots. When asked about the event, General Manager Shayne Kline said, “We are thrilled to be pouring at the 34th Annual Wine Festival which is consistently one of the best and biggest wine events of the year on the Central Coast. Set in Downtown City Park, this is the perfect setting for such a great event.”
Winemaker Mauricio Marchant pruning Cabernet Sauvignon vines.
Here’s what they’ll be pouring at the Grand Tasting on Saturday:
2014 Vin Blanc (53% Roussanne; 47% Viognier)
2013 Vin Rouge (66% Cabernet Franc; 13% Mourvedre; 12% Merlot; 9% Malbec)
2014 Viognier (100% Viognier)
2013 Grenache (100% Grenache)
2011 “Diosa” (82% Syrah; 15% Mourvedre; 3% Grenache)
WHO TO TASTE AT THE GRAND TASTING — MINI PROFILE: HEARST RANCH WINERY
Although it sits across coastal Highway 1 from an architectural icon and shares its lofty pedigree, the tasting room of Hearst Ranch Winery strikes a disarmingly down-home pose. The compact space is inside a converted circa 1852 whaling store that also houses a deli and the local post office. The gracefully warped fir plank flooring and carefully selected artifacts associated with the nearby Hearst Castle and adjoining Hearst Ranch immediately catch the eye.
With all the historical and natural diversions here, the Hearst Ranch wines could easily end up mere afterthoughts, but they’re decidedly not, having already earned this young enterprise accolades that include winery of the year at the 2011 Central Coast Wine Competition!
When asked about the wines they will be showcasing at the Saturday Grand Tasting, Executive Assistant Margo Bazar told me “We will be pouring our 2015 Three Sister’s White Cuvee (57% Grenache Blanc, 20% Viognier, 13% Roussanne, 10% Picpoul Blanc); our 2013 Three Sister’s Red Cuvee (42% Syrah, 33% Mourvedre, 25% Grenache); and our 2013 Petite Sirah (aka “The Pergola”) that was just recently awarded a score if 93 points by Wine Enthusiast!
According to Hearst Ranch Winery owner and vintner Jim Saunders, ”We really enjoy being part of the Paso Wine Festival because it gives local wineries the opportunity to come together as one and introduce people to the wonderful wines of the Paso Robles region.”
WHO TO TASTE AT THE FESTIVAL – MINI PROFILE: WILD HORSE WINERY
One of the oldest producers in the Central Coast region, Wild Horse Winery completed its first crush in 1983, the year that Paso Robles became an official appellation. Named for the wild mustangs that once roamed the neighboring hills, it remains a local favorite, renowned for its eclectic portfolio of wines, prolific organic vegetable garden, and Floyd, the resident llama.
Wild Horse chose the eastside of Paso Robles for its vineyard because of the area’s low-vigor soils, believing their lean constitution would force the sustainably farmed vineyard to produce grapes with highly concentrated flavors.
The winery and tasting room lie beyond two ranch-style gates and at the end of a long road bordered by vineyards. Leading to the tasting room on the ground floor of a two-story complex is a wooden pergola that bisects a lawn and patio set with tables and chairs. Flower beds edge the grass, and half barrels planted with New Zealand flax and trailing succulents line the shaded path to the tasting room door.
Winemaker Todd Ricard & Director of Winemaking Chrissy Wittmann
Director of Winemaking Chrissy Wittmann had this to say when asked about the upcoming festival: “We have been participating in the Paso Robles Wine Festival since the beginning of time and we look forward to Saturday’s festivities! We love the crowd and sharing our delicious wines with you (the public). Come by and say ‘Hi!’.”
On Saturday she will be pouring:
Paso Robles Verdelho
Central Coast Floyd Rosé
Reserve Edna Valley Pinot Noir
Reserve Paso Robles Blaufrankisch
Reserve Paso Robles Zinfandel
Reserve Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon
Wild Horse Winery LOVES its Llamas!
If you'd like to attend the Festival CLICK HERE for tickets & to learn more about the event.
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