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May 27, 2010

Zinfandel Festival Paso Robles

Filed under: Blog Articles,Wine Country — Nicole @ 7:04 pm

Zin lovers will be in heaven at Paso Robles annual Zinfandel festival.  Everywhere you look… Zin, Zin, Zin!! An endless supply of Zinfandel to sip in addition to a special area featuring late harvest wines, ports, and a buffet of chocolate pairings.  By the end of the weekend, Sean and I were transformed into Zinners.

Paso Robles Wineries

Our weekend started with visits to some far out vineyards of Paso Robles.  Here we traveled along the windy, wooded Vineyard Drive and stopped at the following wineries:

  • Jada Vineyard
  • Opolo Vineyards
  • Chateau Margene at Limerock Orchards
  • Whalebone Winery
  • Eberle Winery

Jada Vineyard

Open Thursdays – Mondays from 11:00 – 5:00

This is one winery that is completely new to our ears. We drove past it on the way to Opolo. The lined path of cherry trees in full bloom, their gorgeous stone entrance and outdoor covered deck overlooking the vineyard was too much to resist so Sean and I took a spontaneous detour.

The entrance to their tasting room is through richly designed doors with unique raised art.  On our way to the tasting bar we were thrilled to see beautifully crafted pieces of art and even T-shirts with unique sayings such as Jack of Hearts.

Chalan Lind started us on our tasting tour, giving us some off the menu tastings of their 2005 and 2006 wines so we could see how well they age.  Chalan went on to explain that Jada produces about 2,300 cases per year per vintage.

Tasting Menu Includes:

  • Jersey Girl 2007  /  Organic White Cheddar  (USA Cow’s Milk Cheese)
  • Mirror 2006  /  Piave Vecchio (Italian  Aged Cow’s Milk Cheese)
  • Hell’s Kitchen 2007  /  Mimolette  (French Aged Cow’s Milk Cheese)
  • Passing By 2007  /  5 Year Aged Gouda  (Dutch Aged Cow’s Milk Cheese)

All of their wines are excellent with ratings in the 90’s by Stephen Tanzer.  The cheese pairings were well thought out.  This delicious tasting menu should be on all Paso wine tours.  All of their wines have such a rich deep red appearance, light mouth feel and smooth finish.  If you are one of those wine drinkers who prefers whites during the summer, then these light summery reds will satisfy your mood for a cold white wine on that hot day.

As you can see in the adjacent picture, Jada Winery uses Soiree Wine Decanters to pour their wines.  This is an intelligent way to taste any wine!  It is used to enhance the taste and experience of wines.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite from their list and Chalan agreed, explaining that they all sell equally.  Though, I did settle on their Passing By 2007 with the Gouda pairing.  It is a smoky deep red wine with dried red berries and cherry notes.   Another choice, their sold out Jack of Hearts Paso Robles, gets its name from the winery owner, Jack; a cardiovascular surgeon from Florida.  I thought it was clever.

Opolo Vineyards

Open Daily from 10:00 – 5:00

Our next stop was just down the road from Jada off of Vineyard Drive, a perfect spot for a late lunch and wine tasting.  Their outdoor area is well planned for a barbeque wine tasting with picnic tables under a veranda overlooking their vines and surrounded by walnut groves.  Just a few steps away is their rustic tasting room with a barrel lined bar and cases of wine ready to be purchased. During Zinfandel festival they have a wine maker’s dinner and barbeque lamb lunches each weekend day.

Their wines are so fabulous that I became a wine member.  We fell in love with their Mountain Zinfandel, in our opinion, one of the best wines we’ve tasted in Paso Robles. Sean and I were amazed after our first sip.  He described its taste as, “like jelly.”  Opolo Vineyards wine notes describe it as, “a full bodied Zinfandel with gobs of boysenberry, wild cherry and blackberry, with chocolate, brown sugar and a toasty oak finish.” Their 2007 Late Harvest Zinfandel was superb as well.  All their wines were yummy but their Zins certainly stood out.

Tasting List Includes:

  • 2006 Roussanne
  • 2006 Pinot Noir
  • 2006 Sangiovese
  • 2006 Rhapsody
  • 2006 Serenade
  • 2008 Mountain Zinfandel

Our guides, Lindsay and Julia, had their hands full as the Zinfandel Festival crowd gathered for the tasting. Anyone could see they really enjoy what they do. When they got a free moment, they explained to us the background of Opolo. This name, Opolo, is inspired from a rose wine found on the Dalmatian Coast. We learned further that their clones of vines come from Croatia, the birthplace of Zinfandel.

Most of Opolo wines are estate grown, on about 90 acres on the west side and 190 acres on the east side.  Their 2006 Pinot Noir comes from the west vineyard, a 93 points gold medal award winner that is extremely light and fruity, not earthy like other Pinots.

Their 2006 Rhapsody is a Meritage (Bordeaux blend) with the best aroma!   We also enjoyed their 2006 Reserve Zinfandel which was fantastic, an unforgettable aromatic finish.

Chateau Margene Winery

Open Saturdays & Sundays from 12:00 – 5:00

We took a break from drinking Zins and tried some fabulous Cabs at Chateau Margene Winery. This small winery produces about 3,000 cases annually.   The Mooney Family owns a classy tasting room and micro-winery.  We were lucky to meet “Old Man Mooney”,  also known as Michael Mooney, and son, who ran the tasting room together.

We were informed by Mr. Mooney that they do not grow their own grapes, but their wines are crafted of grapes carefully selected from Central Coast grape suppliers.  They put an emphasis on grape quality rather than high yields, explaining how meticulous they are with their suppliers.  They are, however,  involved in grape growing practices such as irrigation, cropping levels, yields and grape maturity for harvest dates.  They use this micro management on all 9 vineyards their grapes come from.

Luxury Wines Included:

  • Pinot Noir 2008
  • Paso Cuvee 2006
  • Paso Cuvee 2007
  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
  • Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Their Pinot Noir 2008 is an extraordinary wine.  It is crafted with grapes from Monterey County. This dramatic wine offers blackberry, earth and black pepper.  Enjoy a glass on their covered porch overlooking a pond and vines.  Keep a look out for their special events featured here with cheese, truffles and of course –wine!

Whalebone Vineyard

Open Daily from 11:00 – 5:00

Another small family winery is located on Vineyard Drive on top of a hill.  Here you’ll see gorgeous vineyard view from up high.  Whalebone Vineyard is unique in that it offers good wines and delicious olive oils and balsamic glaze to sample with bread.

This history behind the name of this vineyard is very interesting.  Whale and sea life fossils have been discovered throughout the vineyard, and a 30 million year old baby whale skeleton was discovered within the  limestone. This winery is also known for their Bob wine.  The owner Bob made his homemade wine for family and friends and  everyone enjoyed it so much that they decided to share their cab blend in 2001.  To this day it is an award winning wine.

Tasting List Includes:

  • 2006 Syrah
  • 2006 Bob Wine – Red Table Wine
  • 2005 Bob Wine – Red Table Wine
  • 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2006 Zinfandel

Eberle Winery

Open Daily from 10:00 – 6:00 in Summer, 10:00 – 5:00 in Winter

It was tough prying Sean from the basketball game to check out this winery, but I managed once the game was over. Before you enter Eberle’s Tasting Room be sure to rub the bronze boar’s nose for good luck.  Enjoy free tastings that include your choice of 5 wines from their overwhelming award winning tasting list.

Once we completed our tastings, we filled up with a favorite for their complimentary cave tour.  I had their gold medal winner, 2008 Estate Muscat Canelli, a challenging year for the winemakers of this region due to the frost, though I couldn’t tell.  It has a fabulous floral aroma, and crisp, sweet finish of orange blossom, ripe melon with hints of citrus and bursts of guava and nectarine.  Sean sipped their 2009 Estate Chardonnay—New Release! It has bold aromas of pear and apple.

We highly recommend their wine cave tour, a relaxing jaunt through their 16,000 square foot underground storage rooms (located 35’ below). As we walked through the arched cave, a total of 1,500 barrels were stacked on either side for aging and we got a glimpse of their wider cave section where dinner parties are entertained.  It’s a refreshing setting with the promise of wonderful gatherings.  Private events in the cave can accommodate a group of 80.  It can be scheduled for as low as $25 a person or $50 a person—including food!

We learned that one barrel can fill 300 bottles of wine. If it wasn’t for the cool 60 temperature of the cave, each barrel would lose 29 bottles of wine.  Barrels stored at ground level, in warmer temperatures, have the possibility of decrease retention due to evaporation.

After our cave tour we enjoyed the grand view of the vineyard from their outdoor deck off their tasting room and on Sunday they hosted a barbeque with live music from the area.  We recommend checking out their weekend events so you’ll be sure not to miss their social gatherings.

Zinfandel Festival Paso Robles

Our Zin-Filled weekend finished with a smorgasbord of Zinfandel.  We waited on line with fellow Zinners to enter the festival at the Paso Robles Event Center.  Little did we know, if we had upgraded our tickets for a few more dollars, we would have enjoyed the ZIP (Zinfully Important Person) experience.  From what we heard this included a pleasant walk-through of Zin tastings and an endless stream of appetizers.

The massive turn-out was great!  We enjoyed small talk, going from table to table, tasting their big new releases.  We had the pleasure of learning about Janell Dusi, the granddaughter of the famous Dusi Vineyards, opening her newly released wines. The Dusi Family provide select wineries that produce delicious Zinfandels from their acclaimed grapes. Ms. Dusi introduced her own Zinfandel and Zinfandel Port to the public.  Most of our favorite Paso Wines are produced using the Dusi Old Vine Zinfandel grapes, so Sean and I were eager to try the J Dusi Wines 2008 heavenly release.

Turley Wine Cellars was one of the 50 wineries showcasing Zinfandels, however we ran out of time even though they were on our list.  If anyone has had the pleasure to experience their winery please drop a comment.  But we were fortunate enough to taste their top-notch Zin at the festival.  It ranked as one of our favorites for the trip!  This rich, jammy Zin is produced using the Dusi Family grapes. Go figure! It was so memorable, we even ordered a bottle weeks later.

We were not expecting an area dedicated to ports.  It was nice finishing off the event with some sweets including delicious chocolate truffles.

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