“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”― Paulo Coelho
I started writing this post several weeks ago but got delayed – you may have read about the fires in Sonoma County. Don’t worry, Karel and I are fine and our house and wine survived. At its closest point, the fire was about thirty miles away (just outside Windsor).
About 10:00 on Saturday morning, we got a warning advising us to be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice so we packed some bags and loaded the car. At 4:30 the next morning we received the notice for us to get out of Dodge!
We have friends in Belmont who have often offered to share their home as a sanctuary in case of fire, so we became refugees for five days. We have the greatest friends in the world and could not have gotten through this without them.
The evacuation was lifted Wednesday but our power was not restored until Thursday. Other than having to toss some spoiled food, we came out fantastically well. Luckily the temperature had gone down into the thirties at night or we may have lost a lot more.
The fire burned over 77,000 acres and destroyed more than 374 structures, 174 of which were residential. Another 60 buildings were damaged by flames. 180,000 people were ordered to evacuate. The good news: no one was killed or badly injured. The fire fighters and first responders deserve every possible praise. Everyone in northern California is grateful.
And now back to something much more pleasant:
From my two previous posts (here and here), it should be obvious that we love to spend time in Paso Robles. While I have concentrated on the wineries it is only proper to note that there are some really good dining venues in this little western town. Every time that we visit, at least one dinner at Il Cortile is on our agenda.
This ristorante has some of the finest Italian food on the central coast. I won’t go into all of the details in this post but will mention that their Carpaccio Tartufo with a fontina fonduta and shaved black truffles is fairly amazing. When we are in the mood for Spanish fare, we frequent La Cosecha Bar + Restaurant.
Hansjörg Wyss purchased the original property in 2000 and renovated the 19th-century Victorian farmhouse.
He named it Halter Ranch; Halter is his mother’s maiden name. Since his original purchase, he has bought several adjacent properties and now owns 1,650 conjoined acres and a separate 350 acres on the other side of Adelaide Road. The estate now encompasses 2,000 acres with only 281-acres of SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified wine grapes, 15-acres of walnuts, and 10-acres of olives.
While Wyss’ estate is certified sustainable, his concerns are deeper than simply growing grapes cleanly. The Central Coast Vineyard Team (a group that promotes sustainable vineyard practices) created a new set of rules. Unlike organic farming that only takes into account of what’s going in and out of the ground, the group also cares about social and economic issues, wildlife corridors, and employee education. As policy, Wyss never cuts down oak trees. Beautiful gardens feature native plants that help attract good bugs. For his global conservation efforts, in June, Wyss was honored as National Geographic’s Philanthropist of the Year.
With a new state-of the-art gravity-flow winery, extensive caves and an elegant members’ facility, Halter Ranch is a superb winemaking venue. It won the 2019 Central Coast Wine Competition (their second Winery of the Year award).
The member’s tasting lounge is sited between blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Grenache with floor to ceiling windows that provide expansive views across the property. While the facility is beautiful, the wines are even more so. They start at $18, and most fit into the $20-$65 range – price points that are well below their value.
We began our tasting with their 2017 Grenache Blanc which is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc and Viognier. It is very light, fruity and refreshing. I have tasted several Grenache Blancs this year and am becoming a fan. They are a nice alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and often on the less expensive side.
We tasted a number of other wines. Some of my favorites were
- 2015 Libelle Sparkling – 100% Picpoul Blanc – floral nose with citrus flavors – quite unusual and delicious.
- 2016 Cuvée Alice Estate Reserve – Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Tannat – Rhone-style with the addition of Tannat – lots of body – tannins should smooth out with a few years of bottle aging .
- 2016 Block 22 Syrah Estate Reserve – 100% Syrah – dark, rich fruits with soft tannins – yummy.
- 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon – Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot – dark and spicy fruit notes with rich berry flavors – excellent.
- 2016 Ancestor – Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, – a very rich Bordeaux-style blend with dark fruits and good structure – my favorite wine of the day.
Jada Vineyard and Winery
I am a late-comer to Jada. The Messina family purchased the 95-acre hillside in 1999, but I was only introduced to the winery about a year ago. I was impressed enough on my first visit to join their wine club and have not been disappointed with any of their offerings.
The owner and proprietor is Jack Messina, a cardio-thoracic surgeon and the son of Sicilian immigrants. He grew up in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, with a vegetable garden and a grapevine trellis in his backyard and his father and uncle, making home wine for their friends and family.
Jada lies in the Templeton Gap/Willow Creek District on the west side of Paso Robles and is blessed with cooling coastal air and abundant sunshine throughout the growing season. The winery has embraced organic and biodynamic farming techniques and last year received a SWEEP (State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program) grant from the CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) for their commitment to sustainability.
Overlooking the vineyards is the winery and tasting room which is on the second floor with an indoor air-conditioned bar (but no seating) and an outdoor terrace with plenty of seating and overhead fans to help circulate the air – a necessary feature during Paso Robles’ warm seasons.
The tasting staff all demonstrate a good knowledge of Jada wines as well as interesting stories of the family’s history from Sicily to New York. Tastings are relaxed with plenty of time to enjoy the wines and a nice assortment of cheeses.
We had a pleasant and informative visit with Josh Messina, son of the owner and General Manager of the winery.
Jada wines are extraordinary, and do in fact need considerable aging. That just goes with making great wine. We tasted about ten wines with a couple of very unusual blends which somehow work for Jada: 2015 WCS – Jack’s Blend (74% Cabernet Sauvignon with 26% Mourvèdre) or 2015 Passing By (55% Cabernet Sauvignon with 45% Tannat).
Other favorites included
- 2016 Hell’s Kitchen – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre – deep purple with smoky dark stone fruit – rich and lush.
- 2014 Hell’s Kitchen – Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Tannat, Viognier – many of the same taste and aromatic components of the 2016 but the tannins have settled down a bit compared to the 2016 – fun to compare the two different years – both excellent wines.
- 2016 Sawbones – Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot – rich, rich, rich – some oak but with sufficient acidity – my favorite Jada wine.
- 2016 Jack of Hearts – Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Petit Syrah – almost black color with a heavy, smoky nose – would love to taste it in five years (and I will if I can be patient).
- 2015 Jersey Girl – 100% Syrah – nose of dark stone fruits – powerful, well balanced syrah – excellent.
This post wraps up our latest trip to Paso. We will obviously have many more visits over the coming months and years. I will bring you up to date when I discover anything new and delicious!