After we finished the tasting at Kenneth Volk, the weirdcombos crew was ready for a quick lunch and one more winery before returning to Cambria. Robert from KV suggested that we try a little roadside general store that makes great sandwiches. Garey Store and Deli looks like it’s been around forever. It was right across the way from one of those ever present broccoli fields. They had already run out of their famous tri-tip sandwich. But we didn’t mind. We ordered specialty sandwiches using this paper menu where you’d circle whatever you wanted on the thing. I got the pepperjack with the works on a French roll. I also grabbed a Diet Coke and a big bag of Cornnuts to share (I just love Cornnuts! That perfect combination of salty, crunchy and corny: whoever invented these things was a genius! Why are they only to be found at these out-of-the-way places? Though, on second thought, it’s probably better for me that way. Then I’ll never lose the sense of wonder that I experience when I run into a bag.)
While we ate, we scanned through this cool guide to Central Coast wineries that I found up in Paso Robles. We narrowed our choice down to two places, both quite nearby: Cambria Winery and Rancho Sisquoc. I pushed for the second. I liked the weird name. Plus the guide made it sound like the place had some historical significance.
According to Wm. Ausmus’ guide, Sisquoc is an Indian word for “gathering place.” It was awarded as a Mexican land grant to a woman, Mrs. Flood, in 1852. She apparently “gave“ it to her husband. The winery pamphlet tells the story slightly differently. They write that Mr. James Flood of San Francisco purchased the property in 1852 and operated the Flood Ranch Company with it. Why’s history always trying to push women to the back seat? Anyway, in the 20th century it changed hands a few times before finally being cultivated for grapevines. They’re particularly noted for their sylvaner, a white grape varietal from northern Italy and southern Germany and Austria. I’d never tried sylvaner before, so why not?
The drive to the place proved more complicated than we’d originally anticipated. The signage isn’t that great and there’s a lot of winding narrow roads to get past. At the entrance of the property is a charming chapel situated at the top of a steep hill. Apparently it was built in 1875 for the Foxen family, prominent locals. They also have a long road that we drove on named for them. This chapel is still used sometimes. It’s also featured on all the labels of Rancho Sisquoc wine bottles. It wasn’t open for visitors.
The tasting room was open that day. Large shade trees covered part of a pleasing lawn where kids were at play. The parking was surrounded by blood orange trees bearing fruit. They looked so delicious that Hegui couldn’t resist. He had at least one or two of these juicy sweet wonders. Inside it was dark and perhaps a bit too warm. The excessive heat might have affected how we experienced the wines. They allow you to choose any six for a standard tasting fee. Since there were three of us tasting, between us we tried more than that.
2007 Chardonnay: It smelled of sage. This had a ripened fruit flavor mainly of peach. It was a bit tart.
2007 Sylvaner: This is the wine that enticed us to Rancho Sisquoc. It was a light straw color. The flavor was “pineapple-y” with an almost green apple tartness. It tasted a little sweet to us.
2007 Pinot Noir: Whit was the only one of us to try this one. He thought that it was overly tannic and not ready to drink yet.
2007 Sisquoc River Red: This is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot and malbec. The wine was very dark and had an almost burnt flavor. It probably needs more time in the bottle. Whit thought that this tasted burnt and vegetative.
2006 Tre Vini: This is a blend of sangiovese, malbec and merlot. This, too, had an intense burnt flavor. It was very dark in color and had an earthiness to it. Whit liked the aroma of fruits compared to the Sisquoc River Red. He thought that it was more balanced.
2006 Syrah: This is actually a blend of 89% syrah and 11% petit sirah. It also was very dark, almost black. It was heavily oaked, seemed medium body with a short finish. Whit found it an “inky” purple. Though it was his favorite thus far, he thought that the finish was short.
2006 Merlot: This had 14% cabernet sauvignon. This had aromas of green bell pepper and was “too smoky” to one taster. W thought that it needed more time to breathe.
2006 Malbec: It had 15% syrah. Hegui liked this one. This was a very dark wine with a lighter body than some of the earlier ones that we tried. It had more fruitiness, mainly of plums. We bought a bottle of this wine to re-taste in a few years.
2006 Cellar Select Meritage: This is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, malbec and cabernet franc. We liked this one. It had a dense taste with chocolate notes. It was peppery. Whit said, ”That’s what I expect a meritage to be: very balanced.”
Overall this winery did not impress us that much. Their tasting room was hard to find and we felt rushed and that the staff didn’t take much of an interest in us as patrons. Also many of the wines were too smoky to enjoy. Finally, as mentioned above, they were too warm to properly appreciate. If we’d run across this winery at a tasting festival, like the Paso Robles one, we would have recommended that you pass on it. Sorry.