Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends

paso robles, better with age (3)

by Jon Rusciano

Our third day was a Saturday and as usual, it began at Joe’s Place.  I changed my normal order and went for the option which included pork chops.  We had a leisurely day of winery visits planned, and no really pressing agenda.  First on the list was a visit to Booker Vineyards, one of the highest rated properties in the region.  We had attempted to stop in on the first day, just before Gray Wolf, but there was a sign on the gate indicating access was by appointment only.  So Dave called at some point during that day and arranged our visit.  True to form, Booker’s tastings were delightful.

The first wine we tasted was the 2016 White, a blend of Roussanne, Viognier, Petit Manseng and Marsanne (only the first of which I recognized).  The white wine was floral and peachy, a light and fragrant creation.  It was creative and probably worthy for those who adore whites.  Next came the 2016 Pink (yep, very creative titles).  This rosé was a blend of mostly Grenache and 20% Mourvedre.  It was their attempt to mimic the rosés of the Southern Rhone.  Nice effort but at $30, it would not displace each spring’s French imports for $20 and under.  The 2016 Ripper was 100% Grenache, and a very nice red, sweet and fruity. Next came the 2015 Jada (65% Grenache and 40% Syrah). I noticed blackberry and a hint of licorice, another winner.  The “blue ribbon” of the day went to their 2016 Vertigo (mostly Syrah with Grenache and Mourvedre blending).  I noticed a peppery, meaty characteristic to its dark cherry. It merited the purchase of a bottle, for sure.

Our Airbnb landlord Mitch recommended a new winery near the vineyard where his zinfandel grapes had been harvested.  It was in the direction of our travel, so we stopped in for a taste.  Its name was Paix Sur Terre.  They offered a 2017 Clairette Blanche (100%), 2015 The Other One (100% Mourvedre), 2015 The Golden Road (100% Monastrell) and 2015 Comes a Time (100% Mourvedre – different vineyard).  Each of these were in my humble opinion forgettable, and it quickly “came time” for us to depart.

We ventured up Vineyard Dr. and then right on Adelaida Rd. on the scenic mountainous route toward Paso Robles.  Along the way was a stop I wanted to make, hopeful that their famed Cabernet Sauvignon had improved since the vintage offered my last visit.  Daou Vineyards has been receiving a good bit of press in the wine publications.   After passing up the entrance with its sign facing the “wrong way,” we turned around and located it. It was worth the effort.  Walking into the very popular tasting room, the atmosphere had dramatically changed since my last visit.  Numbers of visitors had reserved tables in advance and paid premium bucks for tasting the wines, along with fruit and cheese plates.  We only intended to taste their best Cabernet, so we walked up to the bar and met a “Texas friendly” wine host named Mary Richardson, who had spent several years of her life in the Houston area working for one of our local supermarket chain’s wine departments.  She graciously allowed us all a free sample their 2015 Estate, Soul of a Lion Cabernet (76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc and 11% Petit Verdot). By law they can continue to call the mixture Cabernet Sauvignon, since its percentage exceeded 75.  It was so very good, one of those bottles you could sit with and nurse along through a brisk and scenic fall evening, hoping that it would not quit coming out of the bottle. It was dark currant fruited and meaty, with a slight hint of the minerals into which the vines were planted.  A keeper, for sure.  We purchased a bottle for the evening’s dinner and called my friend Magid of Ludwig’s Fine Wine to confirm he could acquire it for us.  He informed me they were holding the wine from distributors, waiting for their 2014 inventory to deplete… a tactic of many vineyard owners.  And so, we wait.

By that time of the day, we were hungry for lunch.  We traveled back into downtown Paso and ventured south on Hwy 101 to a place Dave had noticed.  It was a craft brewery named Firestone Walker Brewing Company.  They offered their beer creations along with burgers and multiple other bistro dishes which one might expect, such as fish n’ chips, baby back ribs, bbq chicken, tacos and a list of typical salads.  I had the Pulled Pork Sandwich and one of their English styled beers.  The other two selected various burgers, as I recall.

We chose to return to the house for an afternoon of leisure, rather than hit more wineries.  Calvin and Dave opted for a late afternoon massage at a nearby salon.  I decided to sit and read my book, loaded onto my Kindle Paperwhite… love that device.  We were all anxious for the time when we would return to our new favorite restaurant Paso Terra for the final evening’s dinner. 

We were again the first to arrive at the restaurant.  Cristine sat us at a different table, but the treatment was the same as the first night… free bubbles and a lovely hors d-oeuvre.  We all opted for various fish specials Chef Andre had created.  And our eyes closed as we placed the first bites into our mouths, savoring the flavors so masterfully assembled.  Even though a big Cabernet, our Soul of a Lion embraced the fare. During the meal, Andre came out to see if we were again pleased.  We all stood and embraced him, as if he was our long lost brother entering our lives from a lifetime of separation at birth.  As long as those two choose to stay in Paso Robles, offering such masterful culinary delights, (as the mysterious voice whispered from the Nebraska cornfield in the movie Field of Dreams) “They will come.”

There were no desserts and no frozen yogurt for us that evening.  We retired and prepared our bags for the next morning’s departure.  Our flight time was such that we were able to have a wonderful breakfast again at Joe’s before hitting the road back to the airport at San Jose.  The drive back was beautiful, with sun shining brightly on the picturesque mountains. 

Most flights back are cookie-cutter normal.  For Calvin and Dave who flew in Business Class, that was the case.  I always fly economy.  In this instance I was surrounded by a family from some foreign country with a child of around  4 years with a cough that rang out throughout that section of the cabin, unchecked by a trained hand, arm or cloth.  He was feverish, parents were oblivious, and I knew I was doomed.  The lung infection I contracted developed into bronchitis which stayed with me for three months.  During my illness, I went online and purchased disposable surgical masks for packing in my carry-on bag.  So, if you are on a future flight and see a guy with salt-n-pepper hair wearing one of those, it just might be me.  And if you are flying with a sick child, PLEASE consider others who are trapped in your presence for several hours… cover his/her mouth as they cough.

Nevertheless, the trip was a great success.  The outing was Calvin’s first recreational travel in many months.  We were all pleased with the recovery progress he had made.  The good times shared between old friends were as always… Priceless.


Booker Vineyards

Paix Sur Terre

Daou Vineyards

Firestone Walker Brewing Company

Paso Terra Restaurant


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.

Share this article with a friend:

Earn a chance to win a free cookbook every week: Get Sally's eNewsletter!

Free eNewsletter SignUp

Sally's Place on Facebook    Sally Bernstein on Instagram    Sally Bernstein at Linked In

Global Resources

The Preiser Key to Napa Valley

Handmade Chocolates, Lillie Belle Farms

Food411 Food Directory