Sunday, October 17, 2010

Of Vines and Olive Trees

On a recent weekend, we were introduced to some of the Paso Robles (CA) wineries and their wines by Tom and Betty Miller, our guides on our visits to four wine tastings,

[A photographic record of these stops remains locked in our defective film chip, so we have substituted photos of food from the Santa Barbara Farmers' Market to go with our written summary of these visits.]

Ecluse--Our first stop was at Ecluse, a small boutique winery and vineyard. In this small tasting area, we had the unique opportunity to participate in a barrel tasting of a cabernet.

Proprietors Steve and Pam Lock ("ecluse" is French for the locks on canals) purchased 30 acres of hillside land near Paso Robles in 1997.

Three years later they began selling grapes to winery customers, and soon they were bottling a limited number of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon under the Ecluse label.

In the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, 63 professional wine experts judged a world-record breaking 4,913 entries, the largest competition of American wines in the world. All Ecluse wines won medals--two gold and three silver medals.

Castoro Cellars--When Niels Udsen was working in Italy, his friends took to calling him "Il Castoro," which is Italian for "beaver" (his long-time nickname). So when Udsen and his wife Bimmer established Castoro Cellars, the name and the motto stuck. Now Castoro Cellars' "dam fine wines" sport a picture of a beaver on each label.

It was here that Sherry, the wine tasting hostess, presented an extremely informative instructional talk on how to taste wine on all sides of our tongues and about how the taste of wine changes as the temperature of the wine changes. It was fun--not at all stuffy or "snobbish."

Ancient Peaks Winery--We left Ancient Peaks with a bottle of their 2007 Oyster Ridge, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (46%), Petite Sirah (24%), Merlot (15%) and Petit Verdot (15%)., the web page of Beverage and Lifestyle Magazine describes this vintage as: "Deep, darkest ruby red color. The nose explodes with the scents of freshly muddled ripe red and black berries. Scents of plum, blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry rise from the glass with accents of mineral, dark chocolate, brown spice, oak, and dried berries. Wonderfully balanced, which is a feat when considering the obvious strength and density of this wine. Beautifully proportioned delivering a charming mélange of fruit, spice, and oak."

I (Chuck) observed: "I liked it."

Still Waters Vineyards--Tom and Betty had prepared all the fixings for a picnic. So after the tastings and purchases, we found a table and enjoyed a wonderful lunch on the grounds of Still Waters, surrounded grape vines and olive trees.

It was from these trees that were over 100 years old that the Vineyards produced their 2008 Estate Olive Oil, "single cold pressed allowing for the blend of five varieties to yield a peppery finish."

We left with wine and the Estate Olive Oil that Kate described as "too good to cook with; it’s best just put on a nice baguette—you get the essence of olives.”

This "bouquet" is for Tom and Betty Miller, who served as excellent hosts for our dinners and tours while in Paso Robles.

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