Wine Road Trip: Paso Robles and Santa Barbara

Recently I took my first wine-centric trip to the more southerly wine regions of California, Paso Robles and the Santa Barbara area (popularized by the movie Sideways). As with everything involving Northern and Southern California, things are done a bit differently down here, including the grapes they’re focusing on (Grenache Blanc is a huge up-and-comer here) to the way wines are made (oddball aging and fermentation is big – from concrete and even Plexiglas fermentation tanks to massive, oversized wooden barrels used for aging, nearly ubiquitous across Paso).

Thoughts on every wine I tasted follow, plus a collection of photos at the end. (Don’t miss the photos of fall foliage — vividly capturing the turning of the leaves from fully green at the top of some of these vineyards to deep brown at the base.)

Paso Robles

2011 Tablas Creek Marsanne / $30 / B- / very mild, some earth, a bit flat
2010 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc / $40 / B+ / honey, some dried apples
2009 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc / $40 / A- / more balanced, richer and bolder
2010 Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas / $30 / A- / BBQ sauce, milk chocolate, good structure
2010 Tablas Creek Mourvedre / $40 / B+ / great earthiness, good fruit
2010 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel / $55 / A- / bigger, rounded, solid finish
2009 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel / $55 / B+ / huge wood notes, leather, a bit green; try again in 2018
2011 Tablas Creek Roussanne / $27 / B+ / pear notes; waxy, long finish with lots of richness
2010 Tablas Creek En Gobelet / $NA / B+ / a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise, Tanant; lots of tannin, thick fruitiness
2011 Tablas Creek Vermentino / $27 / B+ / surprise grape for Paso; lemons, honey, slight edge, good acid
2011 Tablas Creek Grenache Blanc / $35 / B / more floral, earthy edge, decent acid
2010 Tablas Creek Counoise / $35 / B / vegetal mushroom notes, some spice, lots of earth
2010 Denner Ditch Digger / $60 / A- / Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise, Cinsault – lavender and black pepper, light sweet body
2010 Denner Syrah, Bassetti Vineyard / $55 / B+ / smoky, toasted marshmallows, bright cherry fruit
2010 Denner Dirt Worshipper / $60 / A- / 93% Syrah, 7% Viognier – woody nose, floral, berries, easy drinking with good balance
NV Denner Palea / $50 / A- / 80% Marsanne, 20% Rousanne – big dessert wine, 25% sugar; huge honey, pineapple, and bisscuit notes, gingerbread cookies on the finish
2006 Turley Moore “Earthquake” Vineyard Napa Valley Zinfandel / $48 / B+ / cola, woody for Zin; difficult balance
2010 Turley “Dusi Vineyard” Paso Robles Zinfandel / $48 / A- / tobacco nose, really bright flavor, cherry cola notes
2010 Turley “Pesenti Vineyard” Paso Robles Zinfandel / $48 / A- / similar to Dusi; slightly sweeter
2010 Turley “Ueberroth Vineyard” Paso Robles Zinfandel / $55 / B / pushing sweetness higher; bittersweet finish
2005 Turley “Hayne Vineyard” Napa Valley Zinfandel / $86 / B+ / lots of cola notes; some Port-like finishing, oxidation
2006 Turley “Hayne Vineyard” Napa Valley Petite Sirah / $86 / B / heavy Port character, tougher
2010 Linne Calodo Booker Red / $80 / A- / some licorice, wild herbs, chocolate on the finish; huge body, bit of menthol
2011 Justin Chardonnay / $20 / B / edgy, lots of citrus, green apple, and some vanilla; tight on the finish
2010 Justin Justification / $47 / A- / Rt. Bank Bordeaux style; some earth, touch of barnyard, lots of complexity; finish offers violets
2009 Justin Isoscoles / $62 / A- / starting to show; menthol on nose, vanilla, gingerbread, lots of Christmas spices, more feminine than Justification
2010 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve / $47 / A- / lots of intensity, young with ample tannin; still has lovely fruit, currants and vaniila; long finish

Santa Barbara/Los Olivos/Lompoc Region

2010 Cold Heaven Viognier Le Bon Climat Vineyard / $NA / A- / mild viognier, solid fruit but not overly tropical, good acid
2011 Carhartt Grenache Blanc / $21 / A- / green apples, very fresh, vanilla finish
2011 Carhartt Sauvignon Blanc / $24 / B+ / lots of tropicality, green, not too acidic
2011 Carhartt Pinot Noir / $35 / B+ / touch of pepper, slight earth overtones, some blueberry on finish
2011 Carhartt Zinfandel / $30 / B+ / a bit chewy; good fruit, dark chocolate finish
2010 Carhartt Cabernet Franc / $38 / B / bigger earth tones, a little malt vinegar here; very oaky
2010 Carhartt Fourplay / $40 / A- / a Bordeaux blend; immediately spicy on the nose, great balance of fruit and tannin with a big finish
2009 Coghlan Grenache Blanc / $24 / A- / pretty, floral, grapefruit and vanilla
2010 Coghlan Grenache Blanc / $24 / B+ / licorice and fennel notes, lots of flowers
2009 Coghlan Pinot Noire Rio Vista / $40 / B+ / menthol nose, tougher up front, some fennel on finish
2010 Coghlan Pinot Noir 115 / $37 / B / raspberry is big; a bit flabby on the finish
2009 Coghlan Pinot Noir La Encantada / $47 / A- / big chocolate, blueberries; slightly sweet and chewy
2009 Coghlan Fusion / $47 / A- / 50/50 Cab/Merlot; big body, bigger finish
2009 Coghlan Cabernet Sauvignon  / $54 / A- / spices galore, chewy raspberries and touches of mushroom; brightly herbal finish
2008 Fiddlehead Cellars “728″ Pinot Noir / $42 / A- / medium body, racy spices; big cola notes and a long finish
2009 Fiddlehead Cellars “728″ Pinot Noir / $42 / B+ / huge fruit, plenty of tannin; tobacco, needs time
2009 Fiddlehead Cellars Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc / $25 / B+ / lychee, big pineapples, grassy notes on the finish (hence the Loire style claims)
2011 Fiddlehead Cellars Goosebury Sauvignon Blanc / $34 / A- / big aromatics, moderate tropicality, big fruit (hence the New Zealand style claims)


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