Travel. To say I haven’t missed it would be the understatement of the year! I did a great job of planning some amazing trips this year, only to have to cancel due to COVID-19. I know I am not the only one dealing with these withdrawals. When I had to cancel a recent trip to New York City, I decided to replace it with a wine road trip through California.
First stop, Paso Robles. This was my first time truly experiencing Paso and its wine country. Having its own untamed character filled with rolling hills full of wineries and olive, almond and apple orchards…it’s an easy place to fall in love with. The people here are genuine and have a passion for farming and winemaking.
We had the opportunity to stay at Pelletiere Estate in the Eastwood Casita. The moment you walk in the door you will be captured by the chic vintage style and mesmerizing vineyard views from every window. Before starting your busy day of wine tasting, make sure to take it all in by sitting on the patio in the plush robes provided, hot cup of coffee in hand, and enjoy the views. The wines are certainly worthy as well, Pelletiere produces Estate Italian varietals in honor of their Italian heritage.
Cass Winery was an absolute highlight of Paso. What was supposed to be a two-hour luncheon turned into a four hour extravaganza. Owner, Ted Plemons, was kind enough to spend the afternoon showing us around their beautiful property, including the “barn” he lives in. I especially enjoyed the Brut Sparkling Viognier that we started the day with and the barrel tasting. The Reserve reds were also impressive. Including 12 different varietals, the vines of Cass Vineyard are ENTAV certified. ENTAV is an agency of the French government that is responsible for certification of wine grape clones for the wine industry in France. ENTAV and the USDA came to an agreement to allow these French clones to be distributed through 3 licensed nurseries in California in 1996, Cass Vineyard was among the first vineyards in California to be planted entirely in ENTAV certified clones! If you are looking for a modern winery retreat in the area, they recently opened up The Geneseo Inn, a boutique hotel made out of industrial shipping crates, nestled within the vines on the Cass Winery’s Vineyard.
My favorite stop in Paso was at Bodega de Edgar’s industrial tasting room. If you know me by now, you know I am passionate about small-production wineries. I was fortunate enough to have some of Edgar’s wines sent to me a few months ago. I really didn’t know what to expect so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the wines. When I scheduled this trip to Paso, I let them know we wanted to stop by, so glad I did! It was so enjoyable sitting outside with Winemaker, Edgar Torres, tasting through a variety of his wines, while listening to his stories. Bodega is the Spanish term for a winery or cellar. With his Hispanic heritage and passion for Spanish wines, it is a fitting name. Bodega de Edgar started with just 250 cases and is now approaching close to 5,000. Some of my favorites include the 100% Albariño, Tempranillo and “Straight out of Paso” Cabernet Sauvignon. We even had the opportunity to try one of his wines that hasn’t been released yet and Edgar was kind enough to let us take the rest of the bottle with us. Happy to say we walked away with a half dozen bottles of wine. Be prepared to see future highlights of these wines.
Next stop…Santa Rita Hills. I first experienced this AVA last October. Another area I quickly became fond of. The combination of the north-south mountains, latitude and the Pacific’s cooling influence through fog makes for one of the world’s best cool-climate viticulture areas for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I was excited to be back at Melville Winery where I was able to participate in harvest. It’s NOT an easy job. Up at 4:00 AM doing punch down is actually a great workout but very tiring. I've had the opportunity to get to know Winemaker, Chad Melville, over the past year. Chad is passionate about his work and enthusiastic to share all things wine. I’ve learned so much from him in a short amount of time. Trying to talk him into an internship. Next time you are in this area, do not pass up this winery, the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are remarkable. Also, Los Olivos is a quaint little town with so much charm! Make a stop “downtown” where you can easily visit multiple tasting rooms. Dragonette Cellars was a new find. I was impressed with both their white wines and red wines. Babcock Winery was also a highlight. Walked away with their Déjà Vu Pinot Noir and Grenache. Many of the grapes are outsourced from some of the finest vineyards in the valley, creating some of the best varietals they produce.
At this point of the trip I was starting to lose steam. So much wine tasting. But, the wining must go on! Onward to Temecula. I was so excited to be back in Temecula, it’s been over 10 years since I’ve been here…a lot has changed.
First stop, checked into The Vine House. Hands down, the cutest bed and breakfast. If you are looking for a romantic weekend getaway, look no further, this is the place! I couldn’t stop drooling over the room décor. Darling antique pieces intertwined with modern chic and views of the vines right outside your window. Our room had a patio area perfect for morning coffee or a glass of wine at the end of the day.
Time to start the wine tasting. Our adventures began at Chapin Family Vineyards. The outdoor patio creates the perfect ambiance encircled in vineyards. Chapin has multiple estate grown varietals but also sources their grapes and works closely with independent growers in the Temecula Valley. The Chardonnay caught my attention. Chards are certainly growing on me, but not usually my first pick when it comes to a white wine. So when I find one I like, I take note. I liked the balance between the floral notes, minerality and minimal buttery flavors. The stone fruit surprised me a bit on this one as well. The Aglianico was also a favorite. A grape I am not familiar with, always fun to try something new. Even better when you like it! ABV high at 15.6%. Grippy tannins and high acidity. Lovely notes of dark fruit, blueberry and cassis. Hints of spice and smoke follow through, perfect pairing with BBQ beef, asiago cheese or a good cheese burger.
Robert Renzoni was our next stop. The highlight of Temecula! Their Italian winemaking heritage dates back to 1886. As a family they moved to Temecula in 2004 with dreams of building a vineyard. The Robert Renzoni Winery opened its doors in the Spring of 2008. We had a great time spending a couple hours with Proprietor, Robert Ronzoni, tasting through a variety of his wines while enjoying his estate and barrel room. I walked away with multiple bottles but the Prosecco imported from Veneto, Italy was most memorable.
Special thanks to Oscar Peralta, from Beyond The Taste, for being our personal photographer for the day. Oscar showcases a lot of wineries in the Temecula area. Very talented. Thank you, thank you!
As much as I enjoyed this trip, it was time to go home. I was able to visit one more winery the next day but it wasn’t worthy to highlight. Could have been my palate was done and asking for a break! Time to head home. After an exhausting 9 hour drive, I made it home safely with 50 new bottles of wine. This was undoubtedly a wine trip to remember. I might have to make it an annual trip. Hope you enjoyed the read and found some new wineries to visit. Until next time, cheers!