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paso robles, better with age (1)

by Jon Rusciano

Yes it has been years since I have written an account of a wine adventure for Sally, and sadly years since our dwindling wine group has been able to travel for such an outing.  One member just dropped out, following a family tragedy, leaving three.  Then another, our former pro-football player Calvin, required back surgery, which developed complications, “sidelining” him travel-wise for a couple of years as he bravely strove to regain his ability to walk and move without severe pain.  Sadly advancing age has its pitfalls for us all, but it also offers an appreciative perspective on the days remaining.  And this trip was memorable.

We decided to schedule the visit to Paso Robles in the fall of 2017, for spring 2018.  I shopped around on Airbnb for a nice house accommodating three people, close to the center of town.  And as if a gift from above, one appeared on Park St. near Town Square.  A three/three (what luck!) and reasonably priced.  It was an older house that a Real Estate agent named Mitch had purchased and beautifully restored.

We flew into San Jose, CA. and rented a minivan, thinking that Calvin might need to rent a wheelchair for tooling around town and the wineries.  Turned out he was feeling strong enough not to need such assistance, except at the airports where long walks were involved.  Airports come equipped, and on occasion, prepared for that service.  Mitch left us a bottle of his own Zinfandel at the house (big, and quite tasty btw) so we had a small celebration upon arrival.

I brought along two bottles for us to consume during at least our first dinner. One was a Belle Glos Pinot Noir.  The other an Outpost Zinfandel from Howell Mountain in Napa.  After the bottle of Mitch’s wine at home, the Pinot was all we managed to consume at our first restaurant.  Last trip we had a very good experience at an Italian place in central Paso named Il Cortile.  So, I reserved a spot at prime time a week in advance.  The fare included starters such as wild boar ragu, lobster ravioli and spinach gnocchi. Mains included filet steaks, rack of lamb and grilled salmon, all with masterfully prepared complementing sauces.  We ate and enjoyed.  Yet what had changed from our last visit was the pricing for these delights.  High demand drove their figures into the stratosphere, eliminating it from our returned visit this trip.


We drove to our favorite frozen yogurt shop on the square renamed ”LOL.” There we sampled and gobbled their tasty offerings until we almost literally rolled out of the place.  It was time for bed, and it did not take long for us to fall asleep.  Dave’s luggage had been mistakenly shipped to BFE  by United Airlines, so he had to rough it until belongings finally arrived by courier the next day.


Our beginning adventure would be in the Paso wineries, but first things first.. It was time for breakfast at Joe’s Place on Spring St.  We are up for new dining experiences on each trip to Paso, but there’s a magnetism about Joe’s that keeps us returning.  Incredible coffee, service, egg creations and combinations with most meats like steak and pork chops.  Yum!  There is such a following at Joe’s, I was never sure if any of the regulars were resentful of our sitting at “their table.”  Yet, no one commented.


After returning to the house to await the ten o’clock opening of the tasting rooms, we first dropped by Turley Vineyards.  It’s a must for every wine loving tourist of this region.  The Turley “umbrella” produces multiple Zins and Petite Syrahs from various private vineyards in Paso, Napa and other California wine country locations.  Usually they have something in the tasting room which will “ring your bell.”  This visit, unfortunately, there was only silence.  The 2015 offerings of Old Vines, Cedarman, Dusi and Duarte were not offering the big, rich, dark fruited flavors which are typical for their Hayne, Uberroth and Rattlesnake vineyard bottles.  Those had no doubt gone quickly, and our visit coincided with the tail end of distribution to “wine clubbers.”  No wine was purchased.


Our next visit was back up Hwy 46 about a mile east to Gray Wolf Cellars, the home of Barton Family Wines.  It never really matters how good the wines are each visit to Gray Wolf, because the breathtaking views from the deck and amazing lunch fare offered at the walk-up window to Chef Jeffrey’s kitchen, make the visit a must.  From his famous Mac & Cheese, to the “don’t miss it” pulled pork sandwich with Truffle Chips, the menu of lunchtime specialties will delight every guest.  I know WE were.  Before our lunch, we sampled several of the wines at their tasting bar.  We tried the 2016 Holiday (100% Albarino), 2014 Mr. Jones (100% Grenache), 2013 E. Street (100% Tempranillo), and 2013 The Dance (Cabernet, Cab Franc and Malbec).  Each paled in comparison to the “New Zealandesque” 2015 Forever Young Sauvignon Blanc (citrus and grassy on the palate).  Even it was not a wine to “write home about,” but a bottle of it went down well with our lunch.  We remained on the deck for the better part of an hour, discussing things that none of us remember, petting the resident dogs and appreciating the cool breeze and blissful panorama that the man upstairs had offered us that day.


Then we loaded up and proceeded back to the intersection of Hwy 46 and Vineyard Dr.  Here we stopped at Linne Calodo Winery for a brief moment while I ran inside the tasting room, quickly tasted their Zinfandel and Syrah blend called Problem Child, and purchased a bottle.  At that time of year, there is very little left on their shelves to offer as far as tasting is concerned, but they do not mind charging a bundle for tasting fees.  I knew it would be a worthy purchase, so the bottle had to be a “quick get.”  Off we went to the premium winery up Vineyard Drive where we had a pending 2:30 pm. appointment.


I like Denner Vineyards, not for their spectacular modern facility or their memorable vineyard views.  Moreso their wines never seem to disappoint and they always “comp” my tastings, because I usually review them favorably in this online publication.   This trip will be no different.  Our tasting that afternoon would include the 2016 Theresa (Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Picpoul and Marsanne) in which I noticed a nose of citrus and minerals, with honey suckle and lemon on the palate. It would have been a keeper for me, if I had been more of a white wine drinker.  Next was my fave, the 2015 Ditch Digger (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise, Cinsaut and Tennat).   It was clove and raspberry fragranced with a burst of fruit flavor that I am not yet qualified to describe.  It was and is a quality piece of winemaking.  Of that, I am certain.  A bottle was purchased, and more would have been if my suitcase would have safely preserved it home.  Their 2016 Zinfandel and 2015 Syrah, although nice wines were not on my memorable list.  The 2015 Mother of Exiles (Cabernet, Petit Verdot and Merlot) was indeed a very nice offering.  The blend of other grapes distracted from Cab’s typical dominance and yielded a dark, sweet fruit flavor that lingered on the tongue for quite a while.  Again… worthy.

After the Denner visit, we were done for the day.  It was back to the house for a leisurely late afternoon of reading and snoozing, the things old guys enjoy.  The evening’s dinner would be a new place for us and a surprisingly beautiful experience.  Check into Sally’s next publication for a continuing account of this adventure.




Mitch -  (805) 459-8020


Il Cortile Restorante



LOL Yogurt Shop

No website available



Joe’s Place

No website available


Turley Vineyards



Gray Wolf Cellars



Linne Calodo Winery



Denner Vineyards


Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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