Before I began studying wine, wine regions and the basics of viticulture, I would choose a wine by a critics pick, the label, or the price. If you are thinking that probably was not the best way to buy wine, you’re right, it’s a mildly ignorant way to buy wine. I didn’t know the story behind the wine, how the weather was in the area for past vintages, if it was a 2nd generation family vineyard or if it was a boutique winery making just 100 bottles. I had no idea. But now, after months of studying, I’m proud to say I know much more than I did (which is still not everything), and as I explore more wine regions I’m intrigued to know the stories, the weather, the terroir and the people behind the grapes, the winery and their region.
The first wine region I explored post studies was mid-July, which can answer all of a wine lovers “need to know” questions, enabling us(me) to buy wine with our eyes wide open (knowing the stories, the weather, the terroir and the amazing people behind it all). This wine region that has it all was Paso Robles Wine Country, California. It was an excursion that was part of the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference I was lucky enough to attend. And until the next conference, I am positive I will continue saying “it was amazing and the wine region blew my expectations”.
So, let’s explore Paso Robles shall we? If you are (or were) like me and thought all Cabernets were made the same in California – wrong. If you thought the only real successful grapes were Pinot Noir, a oaked Chardonnay, a fully bodied, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon and a fruit forward Zinfandel – wrong. There is a whole other state outside Napa and Sonoma, which I feel now, has so much to share with wine lovers. But, the truth is we only see a glimmer of their wines in our market, which merely scratches the surface of what the winemakers are creating!
I can’t tell you how surprised and delighted I was to taste a Cabernet Sauvignon that was smooth and approachable; a Grenache/Mourvedre blend (no typing mistake, that’s what I tried); a Syrah that was spicy and peppery just 18 miles from the coast; a Sangiovese that was earthy and juicy, and countless other varieties and styles that differed from my perception of California wine. But, it’s not just the wine I fell in love with or the fact they experiment with old world varieties, it was the people in Paso. The cheerleaders at the wine association, the vineyard team and the winemakers – they all contributed to my shift. The terroir has a story, the afternoon wind, and the winemakers all have a passionate story to be shared. This region has a sense of place, and I can’t wait to share my discoveries… in part 2. 🙂