Behind the Cork™ - Écluse Blind Dog Red Blend


Écluse Blind Dog Red Blend ($17)

Écluse is the French word for the locks on the canals. And, the Écluse name is very fitting for this winery that’s owned by Steve Lock.

During my last visit to Paso Robles I stopped in to visit Écluse and got to meet Steve. Besides making great wines, he’s also a wonderful gentleman.

The Blind Dog wines began in 1996 when their property caretaker, Duane Robinson, lived on the property with Bingo, his longtime, faithful companion who, due to glaucoma, was blind. They were great companions as Bingo would bark to alert Duane, who was very hard of hearing, and Duane would be Bingo's eyes. In 1998 Bingo had aged and Topaz, a spunky little lab/terrier mix came on the scene. Topaz became Toby to Duane and all at the Vineyard. As Toby aged they discovered she was a Diabetic and in the summer of 2008, Toby lost her sight. They then had two blind dogs on the property.

This inspired Écluse to create Blind Dog Midnight Run Cuvee as a Tribute to these special dogs. This red is a terrific blend of some of the best Paso Robles reds. It’s barrel aged from 14 to 30 months and really special.

So, next time you are passing through Paso Robles, take the short drive off Highway 101 and visit Écluse. They make a bunch of really great wines that you’re sure to enjoy. And, if you pick up a bottle of this Blind Dog Red, they’ll donate a percentage of their proceeds to Dogs for Better Lives, formerly known as Dogs for the Deaf, in Central Point, Oregon. It’s a real win-win! Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week


2014 Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($13)

After starting Joseph Carr Wines in 2005, Joseph went on to launch Josh Cellars in 2007. The 'Josh' label is named for his father, Joseph, who's friends called him Josh.

This Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles is bold and rich with distinctive flavors from oak ageing.  Probably could have used some time in the decanter. But, a nice everyday wine that paired well with a steak and mushrooms.

Paso Robles Wineries - The West Side


Last time, I described the biggest and best known wineries on Paso Robles' East side. Venturing across Highway 101 you enter the western side of Paso. Full of rolling hills, canyons and big slopes, along with having greater coastal influence, this side is dotted with wineries throughout.

But the best place to start is once again along Highway 46. Within this relatively small stretch of 46 West, you'll find a bunch of great options with names you may or may not be familiar with.

One of the biggest and better known wineries is Niner with the picturesque "Heart Hill" visible through the tasting room windows.  The hill is named for the grove of trees on the hillside in the shape of a heart. 

Another larger and better known winery just off 46W is Turley. Larry Turley, formerly with Frog's Leap, sold his half of Frog’s Leap and started Turley Wine Cellars in 1993. This winery makes 28 separate wines from 35 different vineyards, some with vines that date back to the late 1800’s.

Other great wineries right along Highway 46W include:

  • Tooth & Nail - You can't miss this distinctive castle structure complete with a moat on the former site of Eagle Castle winery
  • J Dusi - Run by Janell Dusi, this family’s heritage of grape growing dates back to the early 1920’s
  • Peachy Canyon - Founded by Doug and Nancy Beckett in 1988, The Peachy Canyon "Old School House" tasting room is the historic Old Bethel School House (circa 1886)
  • Grey Wolf/Barton Family - Joe and Shirlene Barton established Grey Wolf Cellars in 1994. Their son, Joseph, now handles all the wine operation in this family-run business
  • Dark Star Cellars - Established in 1994, and named for the CSN tune, this low-key winery produces small lots of premium, handcrafted wines
  • Sextant - Established in 2004 by proprietors Nancy and Craig Stoller, the Estate Tasting Room is located in the heart of their winery operations
  • Epoch - Located on historic York Mountain, the original winery on this site was established in 1882
  • Rotta - One of the original wineries in Paso Robles, this one has history dating back to early 1900s

Along with these wonderful wineries on the west side along 46W there's a bunch more off the highway and back in among the hills and canyons. And we'll get to those next time. Cheers!

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!