While we were staying in Cambria for the 2009 Paso Robles wine tasting festival, our friend, Whit, the son of our very kind hosts, suggested that we go to Kenneth Volk Vineyards, in Santa Maria, CA. It’s a town about an hour and a half drive south from Paso in the northern part of Santa Barbara County. He’s been a fan of Ken Volk for years, beginning when Ken was still owner and winemaker for Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards. Whit was so thrilled to finally meet the great man in person at the Paso Robles wine festival. He even got his autograph!
Anyway, back to the K.V. Vineyards. How could we not enjoy this place with this enthusiastic introduction by one of our own weirdcombos crew? After a beautiful drive down parts of the Pacific Coast we exited the highway in an area heavily cultivated with broccoli. That was already pretty exciting. We love eating broccoli at home. I’ve a wonderful recipe where you cut it into bite-sized florets; toss with olive oil, garlic and salt; then broil it in the oven for about ten minutes while turning occasionally. It comes out sweet and salty: so good! You can eat it alone or mixed with rice or in pasta. There were other things growing, too; we noticed strawberries and romaine and iceberg lettuce. These fields were simply enormous and seemed to stretch all the way to the foot of the mountains.
The Kenneth Volk Vineyards is located right at the start of this range. The tasting room sits between two very grand mountains in a sort of sheltered valley. They maintain wonderful gardens on the property with exotic plants that I’m only used to seeing in florist shops and in movies. It was a very hot and sunny day when we were there. The tasting room was quite cool and, because it wasn’t that large, felt intimate. The vineyard offers tours but we had not scheduled that. They make a large variety of wines from grapes from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties. We tried about a dozen:
2007 Viognier, Live Oak Vineyard: This had a nice perfume though Hegui complained that he’s “not a big fan of viognier” (so what else’s new?) This was made from grapes grown in Paso Robles.
2007 Rousanne, Paso Robles: We love rousanne! This one had a good color and mouth feel. We liked it.
2006 Chardonnay, Jaybird, Santa Maria Valley: This wine was produced without any contact with oak. Overall we liked this one. It was a pale color with green apple taste to it. The finish wasn’t that long. Amie thought that it was “fresh and smooth.”
2006 Chardonnay, Santa Maria Cuvee: This was a bit oaky, had a medium body without being buttery. This is no butter-bomb! Hegui liked this and thought it was crisp.
2005 Pinot Noir, Sierra Madre Vineyard: This is a single vineyard wine. Billy thought that it was delicious. It had a pale cherry color and no “barnyard” aroma, like you might have in less good pinots. Hegui thought that it was smoky and a bit earthy, perhaps with too much alcohol for his taste.
2005 Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley: This wine was not on the official tasting list but was offered because our crew that day were big pinot fans. Amie thought this pinot was richer and more interesting than the last and that it had more “bite.” Billy thought that it had a distinct caramel finish.
2005 Tempranillo, Starr Ranch Vineyard: This is a Paso Robles wine. Hegui found it very dry, “very abrupt and very Spanish.” “It’s dramatic, like an Almodovar movie.” Billy thought that the wine had a deep red color almost going purple. It had a kind of bumpy finish. Whit thought that it tasted a bit sharp and suggested that it needs more aging.
2004 Merlot, El Pomar Junction Vineyard, Paso Robles: Hegui thought that this wine had vanilla notes to the nose along with wet earth. It had an obvious Paso Robles terroir to it. The color was dark. Whit liked this. He noted that it’s ready to drink now and added that he felt that sometimes merlot couldn’t distinguish itself well from cabernet. This one did.
2006 Zinfandel, Enz Vineyard: This was a pleasant light-colored zin. It had a bumpy structure.
2005 Syrah/Grenache Noir, Camp Four Vineyard: We liked this wine which showed a nice minerality.
2004 Claret, Carmody McKnight Vineyard, Paso Robles: This is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. Hegui thought that it smelled grassy. He did not enjoy the wine, complaining that it tasted off-balance. It was a dark ruby almost purple with good legs. It had a good mouth feel but the structure collapses at the end.
2007 Malvasia Bianca, San Benarbe Vineyard: This was of dry with a honeysuckle aroma. It was very pale. Whit thought that this wine was one of his favorites of the tasting.
“Carol” was our wine taste master. She was very friendly and didn’t hesitate to let us try things off the officially printed wine list. Robert was also really nice. We saw him again the next day under the Kenneth Volk tent at the Paso wine festival.
This is an exciting winery. Ken has only been there for a few years and I’ve no idea what it was like before Ken arrived on the scene. Whit plans on joining their wine club soon. It’s worth a visit.