Thus my premise here is twofold. You have a dividing line which is the 101 and a controversy about dividing up these two areas, East and West into different appellations. You also have the media attention ascribed to the Westside and some shunning of the Eastside. Then from my practical experience in the area tasting just two weeks ago and putting all politics and opinions aside I voted with my wife and I's palate. Let the wine do the talking, as it has much to say about it's own terroir!
That said you can find a interesting article posted online about the subject of this duality and continuing controversy @ http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wine-review/238/East-versus-West-Paso.html
To be fair and objective, I would give the Eastside an opportunity and so on the first day, we visited Tobin James, Eberle, EOS, Bianchi, RN Estate, and J Lohr. For the latter two we found some wines we really liked, but for the most part the East Side wines were pretty uninteresting.
To be completely fair we did not visit every winery on the Eastside, but the majority of the wine which really impressed us, was on the much celebrated Westside.
As for the highlights of the Eastside we discovered, we found two wineries making some very interesting wines who are as different as night and day. Boutique vs. big, bulk wine, corporate-owned winery.
The first one is J Lohr, which as described has a much larger presence in the wine market place. But I've been drinking J Lohr wine for quite a while and while I don't like everything they put out, I've been drawn to the Cab's they make, like the Hilltop Vineyard, the Seven Oaks and a new one to us is their Old Vines Zin (30 year old vines). While the Cabernet's are widely distributed the old vines Zin, is pretty much available @ the tasting room only (which is modeled after a circa 19th century schoolhouse emphasizing the goal of educating there customers about wine.)
Now for the second place we went which is not too far from J. Lohr, we arranged on a recommendation to make an appointment Roger Nicolas, owner and winemaker of RN Estate. He was gracious enough to grant us a tasting. He does his tastings from his home, which is gorgeous! Please see the rest of the pix I took of his place in the Paso Album. Best views in Paso!
The focus of his wines is to be food friendly, to that end his wines are what I would call more of the "feminine" side. Not the big, bold in your face massively structured wines, but instead lithe, and balanced and mature. We came home with 6 bottles, only our budget and space requirements restrained us from purchasing more. We tastes 6 different wines, but we settled on the East Knoll Cuvee 2005, Cuvee Des Artistes 2005 and the Cuvee Des Trois Cepages 2006. Wines which reflect red Rhone and Bordeaux varietals, and I would say very accurately, without the normal massive price tag. To visit RN Estate online click on over to http://www.rnestate.com/.
Our tasting was unusual in two ways, one we were seated around a gorgeous wood table and given stemware which amplified the characteristics of the wine being poured. Two, the owner himself sat down with us and discussed his wines and winemaking philosophy! Thanks Roger!
Stay tuned part three of the series coming soon........!