Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Central Coast Wine Day: My Top Ten Slurps

Slurps up! Come on you bunch of vino-sapiens, time to get a splash of the Central Coast in your empty stems. Why, because today is Central Coast Wine Day, a day to celebrate all the wonderful regions that fall into a rather broad category, but one that should cause the average vino-sapien to leap for joy. Why, because there's some fantastic finds just north of Los Angeles and just south of San Francisco. Fantastic wine regions that sadly at times, for some folks fall under the radar. But shining a big bright light [via Twitter] on the Central Coast will help folks to identify this under-served region so much better.

To help you get a quick tutorial on; what exactly is meant by the term Central Coast Wines, a friend of mine and fellow blogger has put together a great article, complete with fantastic pictures, which will help you quickly get a handle on the Central Coast Wine Scene, so please click on over to the Wandering Wino to get the scoop.

As for me, my small contribution for today's events and tomorrows buying decisions; is going to come via what I will call my "highlight-reel" of some new recent favorites, as well as some favorite old standby's in the famed Central Coast Wine Scene. I've had the good fortune to travel to wine regions like San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz Mountains; Santa Maria; Paso Robles, Santa Barbara on a pretty regular basis to catch-up and to stay fresh as possible with new players and old favorites. I have been fortunate enough to attend trade tasting featuring wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands, which is a fantastic area for producing wonderful Pinot Noir.

So the list; which you see below is ten of my favorite producers, who are putting juice in a bottle that any of you could easily count on year to year and season to season, to wow you. I say that because one; these are the wines you'll find in my own cellar in plentiful supply. And two; these are wines in my opinion fall into the tag-line you see as you click your way over to my landing page; "The intersection of where great wine meets reasonable prices".

Who is the arbiter of “reasonable”? Yes, I know one man’s reasonable price is another man’s extravagance. But for me, living in a place called ‘real-ville’ I deal with wines which fall nicely into the Benjamin and under category. What does that mean? [You can pay more, but you won't get more] For me; these are wines which fall into my “reasonable” category and are wines you'll find reviewed here day in and day out. You'll will find the producers I want to introduce you to below; who are very representative of this blog's mission statement [uggh, did I just say that?]. Anyway here we go, sit back, buckle up, grab a glass and hopefully enjoy the ride!

1. Hahn Family Wines: Where their 2010 GSM was declared "Best of Class Rhone Blend" and won a platinum medal. Folks this wines sells for $14, a great every day value or as some of my friends like to call it, a wonderful Taco Tuesday wine. I've encountered their wines at more than a few tastings and I'm always impressed with the great bang for the buck values I find here. But please stay tuned; they have sent me a few samples, which I unfortunately did not have a chance to uncork tonight. Poor me I know; I had to another previously scheduled work related wine tasting, just sampled some fab new French wines and a block buster Rutherford Cab, selling $19, wowsers.

2. Paraiso Vineyards: They produce other fab wines; like their Chardonnay. I'm a huge fan of their Pinot Noir. If you'd like to get an idea of why I think so highly of this producer, please click here. I hope some day to get the opportunity to visit them in person.

3. Per Cazo Cellars: These great folks from Paso Robles; are a new find for me and I'm so happy to list they here in my top ten. Frankly I wasn't surprised to hear their name called in the sweepstakes round of the San Diego International Wine Competition, after the big unveil, after the judging had concluded. Their Cabernet Sauvignon, called 2009 Confluent, scored a Platinum Medal. I'm a big fan of the Petite Sirah, wowsers!

4. Calcareous: Another Paso Robles winery, part of the Far Out wineries. I was just in their tasting room three weeks ago, and came home with a good number of their wines. This producer won best of show at the recent San Diego International Wine Competition. Again not surprised, as I've been a fan of their wines for sometime now. Their 2008 Syrah got the nod for best of show and wine of the year honors, spectacular juice, for a reasonable price [$34]. But that wine is just the tip of the iceberg, another fantastic Central Coast Winery.

5. Daou Vineyards: This winery in Paso Robles, which has incredible views of the surrounding countryside from the tasting room, which itself is pretty amazing, comfy and inviting. I can see two of my favorite wineries, listed above [3,4] from their tasting room. The winemaker Daniel is often seen in the tasting room, greeting the wine slurping masses and talking them up. The wines produced here are 100% free-run, there's according to Daniel, "no pressed juice in any bottle". A fact which seems self evident as I worked my way up and down the tasting menu, I was hard-pressed to find a wine I didn't want to take home. Prices range from $32 to $56, most wines can't be found outside the tasting room.

6. Tablas Creek: [aka, the Rhone Zone] This winery has long been a favorite of mine, since my very first trip to Paso Robles and they continue to impress with each and every visit. I always walk out the tasting room doors with a few bottles in tow. Since they have re-done the tasting room, expanded it, the experience is so much better. This winery folks is a class act [not to say the other are not] but they stand-out out in my mind as one of the best examples of this how you do it [wineries in Temecula, please take note]. Mrs. Cuvee and I; unannounced [they don't know I have a blog] feel very welcomed right away, no hand up-front collecting tasting fees, just wonderful easy-going Paso Robles style customer service. The wines are off the chart good, you would find it difficult to not like something.

7. Alta Colina: Wow, another Rhone-Zone super-star in the making, not just another high-flying act either, these are some serious, very well built wines which come dressed to impress right away. The tasting room, is comfy and inviting, sharing work space with another winery next door. Their vineyards are beautiful, tucked away in the Paso Robles hillsides, but the views from the top are as impressive as the wines in the bottle. This place was highly recommended to us by the great folks at Calcareous, thanks for the tip. A boutique winery; which sells nearly 70% percent of the fruit they produce. A visit to this Central Coast winery is a must for any Rhone-Zone seeker.

8. Jada Vineyards and Winery: Another great Central Coast winery serving up some fantastic Rhone selections, ready to titillate the taste-buds of even the most snobby of wine-geeks. Stephen Tanzer, renown wine-critic, not known for flabby or feigned praise, gives Jada high-marks nearly across the board. I too join with him, these wines are well made, wonderfully executed winemaking, exquisite fruit, long caressing finish, crisp elegance. There's nothing to think about here, just walk-in, grab a mixed case and go home a happy vino-sapien.

9. Sextant Wines:  Another Central Coast wine scene superstar; this year was my first visit to their tasting room in San Luis Obispo or SLO for short. They are working on open a tasting room in Paso Robles, on the wine super-highway 46 west. The tasting room in SLO is very inviting, they also have fantastic cheese selection, that you don't want to miss out on. They produce some of the very best Zinfandel's, you will encounter in the state, along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnays which are not the typical buttered popcorn style, which has caused some folk to flee to the ABC club.

10. Kenneth Volk and Lone Madrone: Two of my favorites under one roof in the heart of Paso Robles wine country. Both are super-stars in their own way and both produce wines which are ready to rock your palate in a serious way. Each time I visit, I'm hard pressed to not walk out with more than a few bottles. You can find them both located on highway 46 west.

There you have it folks, my top-ten list of Central Coast wines, that I know, will make your palate and your wallet very happy. There were more than a few places which were left off this list [sigh], but as top-tens go, you will may be hard pressed to disagree with it. If I left your favorite off the list, feel free to pipe-up, and or pop-off in the comment section below. Until next time folks sip, long and prosper!
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