Paso Robles - Great Wine Country

Having made several trips to wine regions throughout California, the one that keeps me coming back is Paso Robles. Located along the central coast of California, essentially mid-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco along Route 101, Paso Robles has lots of charm.

In Paso, with somewhere around 300 wineries, you'll find everything from large corporate wineries selling wines to supermarkets across the country to Mom and Pop wineries selling only from tasting rooms attached to their homes, through wine clubs or simply through word-of-mouth.

Highway 101 splits Paso Robles wine country into the East Side and the West Side. The East has more open plains with some low rolling hills. The West is comprised of steeper hills and canyons, winding roads and large trees.

Hot days and cool nights set up Paso Robles for great grape growing. During the summer, daytime temperature hover around 100 F while the nighttime temperatures drop into the upper 50s F.  This contributes to the multitude of grapes being grown.

The white grapes grown in Paso Robles include Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Chardonnay. Red grapes include Pinot Noir, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Malbec.

It seems that most grapes can grow well in Paso Robles, but the Rhône varietals do especially well.  So, you'll be hard-pressed to find a winery that's not doing some Rhône blends. While the classic Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (GSM) is produced extensively, the number of other blends of grapes seems endless.

So, over next few blogs, I'll share what I've learned about wineries and wine tasting in Paso. While a day trip will introduce you to the wine country, it takes days to really explore the depth of what Paso Robles has to offer. Until next time, cheers!



Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week

2013 Wild Horse GSM ($12)

This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (GSM) from Wild Horse is medium-light in body with a soft mouthfeel, candied red fruit flavors, and light tannins. When served slightly chilled, at cellar temperatures, it's a very easy-drinking wine that goes well with light fare. This is a great value for such a nice wine.

While this is a Wild Horse flagship wine, look for more wines from Wild Horse in my up-coming reviews of some of their reserve wines. They're really nice and surprisingly affordable. Cheers!


The Rhône River Valley & GSM -- The Other Red Blend from France

Last time we looked at red wine blends from Bordeaux. Their blends are dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

But, there is another wine region in France that produces great red wine blends, and that's the Rhône River Valley in Southern France.

While there are nearly twenty different grapes grown in the Rhône valley, there are really just three varieties that define their wine. They are Granche, Syrah and Mourvèdre And the wine made from these three grapes, known as GSM, is their signature wine blend. These are full-bodied blends with big dark fruit flavors, great depth and a bit of spiciness. 

Grenache, which contributes red fruit flavors and spice, is widespread in southern France. In Spain, where it is known as Garnacha, it is part of the Rioja blend. Mourvèdre is also found in Spain where it is known as Monastrell. It gives tannins, color and great aging capability to the wine. Syrah, with its bold structure and dark fruit, is very much a French variety and is the primary grape of the northern Rhone Valley.

The bottom line to wine blends, whether from Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley, or anywhere else, is that by blending different grapes, winemakers have greater creative control of their final product.

So, look for a GSM from the Rhône Valley which may be identified as 'Cote du Rhône' or 'Cotes du Rhône Villages' on the label. These are great wines that can be found at affordable prices. If you are looking for some fine GSM wines, look for the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region specifically on the label.




Behind the Cork ™ - Wine of the Week

2013 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles Rhône Style Blend ($6)

This Rhône style blend is a perfect fit for Behind the Cork ™ - Wine of the Week. It's affordable, it's attainable and it's a nice wine to enjoy any day of the week.  Being a Rhône blend, it is made from Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (GSM). It's medium-bodied with flavors of blackberries, black currants and just a hint of pepper. Being aged in a bit of oak also add to the character of this easy drinking wine.