Paso Robles Wine Festival 2009 Part 1

by Stevie on May 19, 2009

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This week we’re going to have a lot of stuff about wine at weirdcombinations because the WC tasting crew has just returned from an excellent weekend in Paso Robles, CA, enjoying the annual wine festival. We hope that you were there too, like we suggested.

tickets in hand, we're ready to drink!

tickets in hand, we're ready to drink!

Paso Robles is a wine region on the Central Coast of California which has been producing wines for decades. It’s been only fairly recently that the region has been getting the national and international recognition that it deserves as producers of fine wine.

This is the third year that that the WC tasting crew has attended the wine festival. And it was better than ever! The region is thought to have a similar terroir to the Rhone in southern France. In fact, Syrah and Rhone blends have been a mainstay for Paso Robles though this year it seems that more and more producers are presenting cabernet sauvignon and Bordeaux style wines too. Quality has been getting better and better every year.

some of the WC crew is ready to taste wine!

some of the WC crew is ready to taste wine!

The wine tasting festival takes place in downtown Paso Robles in an open public square off of Spring and 11th Streets on the third Saturday in May each year. Tickets were $60 per person (including handling fee). With admission, you get a souvenir wine glass, free water and all of the wine tasting that you can handle.

Since over eighty wineries and vineyards were represented, it helps to have a plan to hit the places that you want to try before you get too inebriated. We strategized the night before at the beautiful Cambria home of Linda and Ken (thank you so much for having us stay with you!) and were able to narrow the list down to about a dozen must-taste places. For the most part, we avoided places that we had been too before, like Tablas Creek or Adelaida.

There was a heat wave this week so it was a ferocious 101F at the festival! Though we were sweaty, we were not daunted by the challenge. We just slathered ourselves up in 70SPF sunscreen and went, well, wild.

I’ll list the wineries that we tried, some of the specific wines that we tasted and our overall recommendations. These are simplified into three categories: “skip this one,” “try again at the next festival,” or “go to the tasting room.” I’ll include some of our comments and general observations, too, with a lot of silly pics. I’ll cover about half here and the rest in part 2.

crowd at the Paso Robles wine festival

crowd at the Paso Robles wine festival

You should try to get to Paso yourselves and taste these delicious wines yourselves! Some of these wines are available at your local wine shop. Most of the wineries here have wine clubs or will ship orders.

Brian Benson Cellars

We were excited by this one because of the wine festival brochure. The winery is operated by a single individual, Brian Benson, and they produce a very limited quantity of wines; only about 1,000 cases per year.

Their zinfandel was “peppery” and we liked it. The syrah had a distinct “Paso Robles” flavor, was dark and good. Overall the tasting crew liked it though with one voice of dissent. This was the first winery we tasted at the festival so we were the most sober. This one is worth checking out again at the next festival. I bought a bottle of the syrah at the PR Albertson’s supermarket for about $30.

L’Aventure Winery

L’Aventure is owned and operated by a French ex-pat, Stephan Asseo, living in Paso Robles with experience working in Loire, Burgundy and Bordeaux. Whit recommended this one.

2008 Rose was chilled perfectly, which was amazing in the brutal heat. It was a lovely pink and tasted “delicious.”

2006 Optimus, a red blend, was “very French.”

We liked this place and the charming Frenchie accents of the pourers. We’d recommend trying out the wines at the vineyard.

anglim was popular with the WC crew

anglim was popular with the WC crew


This winery purchases outsourced grapes for their wine production. They were very friendly and even had an after-the-wine-festival tasting at their nearby wine shop. We met Jasmine and Prof. T there. One of us ended up buying a couple bottles of their yummy syrah and another joined their wine club.

2006 Cameo, Paso Robles, blend of marsanne, roussane and viognier. Hegui sneered while saying that it was “too sweet.” It had a pale color with a melon taste. “I love the marsanne flavor.”

2007 Viognier, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Barbara Co. This one was very pale yellow and tasted off dry.

2008 Rose, Paso Robles, a blend of Grenache, mourvedre, syrah and viognier. This had “too much viognier” for Hegui. It was “sweet but with a punch of heat” at the end.

2006 Cerise, French Camp Vineyard, Paso Robles, a blend of mourvedre, Grenache, syrah and viognier, was just “OK.”

2006 Grenache, Paso Robles, was “young” but “good.”

2003 Reserve Syrah, Best Barrel Blend, Paso Robles, 98% syrah, 2% marsanne. This had a dark color, with tobacco and leather notes. This had the “classic syrah” taste. It was big and chewy. We loved this wine!

Anglim is worth a visit.


This winery won a few awards at the 2009 SF Chronicle tasting. They only offered reds. These were all very black in color, perhaps due to small amounts of tannat in the blended ones. We were excited about trying the syrah!

2006 Azimuth: a syrah, Grenache, mourvedre, tannat and Alicante bouchet blend, won a silver medal. This was very thick and dark. It had a smoky taste.

2006 Syrah won best in class for syrah at SF Chronicle competition. It was “super dark,” with stone fruit. It had a viscous, silky, chewy body.

2006 Companion: a blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, mourvedre and tannat, won a silver medal at the Chronicle competition. It was “smooth” with a bitter finish.

This winery is worth re-tasting at the festival.

taking a break from wine-tasting heaven

taking a break from wine-tasting heaven

Chateau Margene

This winery was recommended to us by our host, Ken. Also, I’d read in a book about Central Coast wineries that the owners, Mike and Margene Moony, are interested in making expensive fine wines for the discerning drinker. Very hoity-toity!

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon had a cherry flavor; it was just “good” though, and tasted a “little light.” Perhaps it needs more age?

2006 Paso Cuvee, a blend of 83% zinfandel and 17% syrah had a dark color, tasted fruity and “sour.” It was served refrigerated, likely due to the hot weather, but this limited its taste-ability.

The guy that poured this wine was completely clueless about all of the wines. However, he was so smoking hot that it didn’t really matter. Unfortunately, three of the four of us agreed that he was the best thing about this winery. Skip this one.

after hours tasting at Anglim

after hours tasting at Anglim

Thacher Winery

Whit had heard about this one. It has an abstracted drawing of a cricket on the label, which might have been the reason that he was so excited about it. I’m always drawn to cute labels on wine.

2005 Syrah. This was very dark, almost a purple color but had a “sour” taste.

2005 Zinfandel. This had a cherry color with “nice” body but a short finish.

2006 Zinfandel. This also had a cherry color, was more caramel and a longer finish. We preferred it to the 2005.

We’d re-taste Thacher at the park.

Cass Winery

Our friend, Holly, recommended trying this one.

2006 Rockin’ One, was 50% syrah, 34% mourvedre, 14% Grenache and 4% petit sirah. We found that it was too young.

We’d re-taste Cass at the park.

At this point the heat and lack of hydration was starting to get the best of us. There was a live band playing in the middle of the park. We got more water, some sourdough baguettes and some Pasolivo olive oil and had a short break in our tasting to rejuvenate.

wine tasting part 2

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Kevin Gibbs May 19, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Chewy wine!! Yummy!

Jasmine Turner May 19, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Wow, I adore that the region is believe to be like the earth in southern France, and that Bordeaux style wines are being mass produced there. I’m glad to hear the quality gets better and better too. I relate with the 70spf sunscreen cause I have fair skin and need to protect it, and love the way you say lathered up and got wild!
You have my curiosity going about the L’Aventure 2006 Optimus, red blend, that you say is “very French.”

The Anglim 2006 Cerise, French Camp Vineyard, Paso Robles, a blend of mourvedre, Grenache, syrah and viognier, was just more than just okay- it was very full bodied,fruity and pungent! I want to get some of that! Amy liked it a lot too! The sourdough baguettes and Pasolivo olive oil you munched on made me want some badly!

Steffanie May 21, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Hi Stevie and the WC tasting crew! We had a great time with you in the park and at the tasting room…thanks for the kind words. Please let us know when you’ll be in Paso Robles next; we can schedule a barrel tasting with Steve at the winery!

PS: Just as an FYI, the Viognier you mentioned is actually dry, but very fruit-forward and more honeyed that the 2006, which is perhaps why it tasted off-dry. -S.

Stevie May 21, 2009 at 6:28 pm


We had a blast at Anglim both in the park and at your tasting room! I see your point about your viognier. I’ve always found that one to be a tricky wine. I love the floral aromas that it can produce but so often it’s too light on the body side of the equation, if you know what I mean. Usually we’re more red drinkers around here (with the exception of the bubbly, of course! I haven’t forgotten you, Jasmine.) We do get to Paso about a few times a year or so. It would be super if some of the weirdcombos tasting crew could do a barrel tasting with you guys!

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