Do you feel like you blinked, and September flew by? Not sure where the time went? Between getting the kids back to school and packing up the pool toys, it’s easy to experience a little Fear of Missing Out while scrolling through social media (#winetime looks soooo inviting right about now). If you are one of the hundreds of local folks who feel like you totally missed out on September California Wine Month, you are not alone. There is help for you yet. In fact, there’s still one fun-filled full week ahead. Click here to see what participating wineries are doing through Sept. 30 and be sure to read on below to find out how you can bring the celebration home!
Geek Out with an At-Home Vertical Tasting
Nothing beats comparing wines side by side—well, if you’re a wine geek, that is. In a vertical tasting, the aim is to taste the same kind of wine from a particular winery across several vintages (you can do as few as three or as many as you have on hand). Not only does this emphasize the differences between various vintages, you also really get to know the winemaker’s style and the vineyard site in a more intimate way. Remember sitting on your floor playing record after record of your favorite band, discussing the nuances of each album with your high school friends? Yeah. It’s just like that, but for your tastebuds. Set up your own vertical tasting by organizing a single varietal offering or blend from a particular winery from youngest to oldest, (young to old helps show the progression of tannin and body as the wine bottle ages). You can also go for a horizontal tasting, where you taste wines from the same vintage and category but not the same producer—say, a flight of 2011 Paso Robles Cabs. See? Just like hanging with your friends rocking out over a bunch of epic 70s rock bands, but all grown up.
Try this: Get geeky. Choose wine from a winery dedicated to sourcing grapes from a distinct vineyard site or estate vineyard. Écluse Wines is known for crafting smooth drinking Zinfandel each year featuring fruit from its legendary Lock Vineyard on Paso’s Westside. Do you prefer the 2013 Zinfandel, with its soft tannins and cherry notes, or do you gravitate toward the 2012? How did the weather change the fruit from year to year? What a fun crossword puzzle to solve!
Mapping and Directions to Écluse Wines: speedfind.com/EcluseWines
Test your Somm Skills
Fact: Every wine hobbyist secretly wants to be a sommelier, but few have the grit to get through the endless hours of studying, swirling and spitting. That’s OK—you can totally play somm for the night, sans the pricey courses and stress dreams. Break out a few varied bottles (reds, whites, blends; wine from Paso and beyond) and wrap the labels with tin foil. Then, throw a dinner party and blind taste the lot with a couple close friends (you won’t believe how giggle-inducing it is to guess which bottle contains what). You may be utterly surprised or totally disappointed in your palate, but that’s OK. All that really matters is that you experiment, test your skills, and learn a bit about yourself. Who knows, you may find that all those years of slurping down fine wine has really paid off in parlor tricks.
Try this: Don’t stick solely to wines you know (a.k.a: Merlot, Cab, Chardonnay). Veer off the beaten path a bit and take joy in savoring Dubot Ranch’s 2011 Tempranillo, a distinctive wine bolstered by espresso, cherry, and cocoa powder. If you don’t get it on the first try, sip and sip again!
Mapping and Directions to Dubost Ranch: speedfind.com/DubostWinery
Throw a Bottle Share Bash
They say sharing is caring, right? Why worry about planning a wine get together, when you can throw potluck and bottle share that comes together organically? When each guest is tasked with bringing a bottle and a dish that pairs with it, all you have to do is set the time and location. The end result? A no-fuss feast brimming with flavor possibilities and effortless fun. Encourage your guests to sip a little or each wine and compare and contrast. If you’ve been in a wine rut for a while, a bottle share party is sure to refresh your senses and lead you to your new favorite wine. This is also a great way to make new friends (good taste tends to attract its own kind)!
Try this: Bring a bottle of 2013 Bodega de Edgar E-Squared, a blend of half Syrah and half Grenache. This ruby offering is full of fall spiciness with hints of chocolate covered almond on the finish. Pair with almond crusted pork for added oomph!
Mapping and Directions to Bodega de Edgar: speedfind.com/BodegaDeEdgar
Blend with the Best of ‘em
Blending your own wine may be looked down upon in some circles, but hey…it’s fun to get your hands dirty, and why shouldn’t wine be creative, expressive? This experiment is best executed when a bunch of friends gather with a few half-drunk single-varietal bottles (and who doesn’t have a few of those in their kitchen?) Line all the bottles up on the table and pass out beakers, measuring cups, and an empty wine bottle for each person. Then, blend away! Keep paper and pens handy so each guest can write down the percentage of wh
at they’ve blended. At the end of the hour, have everyone taste the results. Whoever wins “best in class” gets big time bragging rights. Tip: Pass out aprons for everyone. You’ve got to spill a little wine to make a great blend.
Try this: Before you start blending, try a few fabulous local blends as a group and discuss why each wine works so well in terms of balance, acidity, tannin, structure, and body. A little inspiration never hurt, and a bottle of Brecon Estate 2013 Conviction, a luscious Rhone white blend, will get you off on delicious footing.
Mapping and Directions to Brecon Estate: speedfind.com/BreconEstate
Engage in a Passionate Pair-Off
You know that feeling when you find the perfect pairing of food and wine? Recreate that exciting jolt to the senses with a party that mixes herbs and spices like a passionate artist mixes paints. First, head to the store to pick up baggies of bulk spices and herbs: (cardamom, star anise, sage, rosemary, whole nutmeg, cinnamon, clove). Pour each into a pretty, shallow bowl and set up a few different wines on the table. Next, have your friends pair each wine to a particular spice or combination of spices. Mix and match to find the most exhilarating combination. Find a real winner that wows the gang? Next time, bake a dish with those ingredients to share with the group and watch as the “oohs and ahhs” come rolling in.
Try this: Pinot noir is known as one of the most expressive wine grapes, with the ability to span all kinds of earthy, bright, and juicy flavors. Pop a bottle of Cutruzolla 2013 Gloria Vineyard Pinot Noir and see just how well it pairs with warm baking spices like allspice and cinnamon. It’s almost unreal, right?
Mapping and Directions to Cutruzzola Vineyards: speedfind.com/Cutruzzola
If you’re looking for a place to spend the night in Paso Robles, checkout:
The Adelaide Inn is an iconic, locally owned hotel known for its friendly staff and lush landscaping. With spacious rooms and a convenient location close to highway 101 and the event center – home of the California Mid-State Fair – this hotel is a great choice for most travelers.
La Bellasera Hotel & Suites is an elegant boutique hotel nestled in the heart of Central Coast Wine Country. Influenced by Mediterranean and Italian architecture, the luxurious accommodations reflect the aged sophistication of the Central Coast region and the relaxed nature of the California countryside.
Hampton Inn & Suites Paso Robles is nestled in the Central Coast wine region, home to over 200 wineries, beautiful beaches, mountains and diverse attractions. Relax and revive in a comfortable guest room with all you need for a successful stay. You can count on Hampton to deliver value, consistency and service with a smile. We love having you here®
Experience the pristine countryside of Paso Robles Wine Country at Lekai Ranch. Lounge on the porch of your private suite and lose yourself in the tranquility and stunning views of the vineyards and oak studded hills beyond. This vacation rental is located just minutes from some of the most distinguished wineries and a premier olive oil estate, and only 15 minutes from downtown Paso Robles’ restaurants, wineries and shopping.