1. Rotta Winery – NV Black Monukka Dessert Wine
Combining a rare varietal with Old World winemaking, this sinful dessert wine embodies the spirit of Rotta Winery, long touted as one of the oldest in Paso Robles. Not only are black Monukka grapes exotic (and exotic sounding), but their exact place of origin is still unknown to this day. As the story goes, the variety first made an appearance in the USA back in 1910, where they had been traced from England—and before that—India. With large, elongated fruit, remarkably dark coloring, tender skin, and rich flavor, it is an extraordinary breed, indeed.
With this luscious NV Black Monukka, Rotta Winery has produced a distinctive dessert sherry dripping with caramel, butterscotch, black walnut, and vanilla flavors. The best part? You can open the bottle and savor it for a good, long while (the wine will even last for months). That means you can have a glass each night for dessert, or save it for your weekly date night. However, I can tell you this black beauty would not last long on my own kitchen counter.
2. Rabbit Ridge – 2013 Ole´ Spanish-style Red Wine
Let’s face it: the Spanish have way more fun. At least the folks at Rabbit Ridge Winery think so, and they’ve got pretty good proof of that. Just try to limit yourself to one sip of this 2013 Ole´ Spanish-Style Red, available this fall. It’s vivacious. It’s adventurous. And it’s ready to party. A fruity mix of full-bodied Tempranillo mingles with lesser-known Alicante Bouschet—a cross between Petit Bouschet and Grenache. This blood red grape is beloved for its firm tannins and ability to add a playful punch to any fiesta. Aged 20 months in a mix of French, American oak barrels and Demi Muid (aka large) barrels.
Ole’ is lush and smooth, featuring blackberry and cherry ripeness tinged with floral vanilla. Oh, and of course it has an amazing body. And I’m talking about the wine here, not that cute guy on the dance floor doing the rumba.
3. Opolo – 2012 Grand Rouge
The popular GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) is nothing less than holy trinity around Paso Robles Wine Country. Still, Opolo Winery has never missed an opportunity to mix things up (you should attend their harvest party replete with X dancers). The result? A time-tested Rhône blend with a unique twist. Meet Opolo’s 2012 Grand Rouge, a wine that tastes as elegant and majestic as it sounds. In this rich wine, each varietal plays an integral part: Grenache brings its spicy, fruity playfulness; Syrah its rich structure and pepper flair—and Counoise—the wildcard—adds fabulous fruit aromatics and a bright fruit balance that brings everything into elegant focus. Medium bodied yet 100 percent bold, this wine is all blackberry and blueberry with smooth tannins and a velvety mouth-feel. That’s right! You don’t even need to know how to pronounce the grape (it’s “coon-wahz”) to feel like the fanciest person in the room.
4. Peachy Canyon – 2011 Sin Nombre´
Live on the wild side with a truly unusual and complex blend crafted by the rock stars at Peachy Canyon Winery. A delicious, off-the-wall pick: Peachy Canyon’s 2011 Sin Nombre´ made primarily of Caladoc. Never heard of it? Well, there’s a good reason for that. The dark red grape variety (packed with intense phenolic compounds and boasting highly respectable structure) was developed in France and not yet approved to be listed on wine labels in the US (hence the name “Sin Nombre’,” which translates to “nameless”). It’s enough to give you chills, isn’t it? An intricate nose of cinnamon stick, cola, almonds, and brown sugar, this memorable red is rounded out by hints of bacon, lingonberry, black cherry, and tobacco spice. Mixed with 47 percent Marselan (a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon Grenache), this blend has earned a new name: fearless. Go on. Dare to be different with this one!
5. Lusso Della Terra – 2011 Sangiovese
2011 Sangiovese Paso Robles
Sangiovese isn’t the rarest of all red wine grapes, but it sure as heck has yet to earn its status among tried-and-true varietals like pinot noir or Cabernet Sauvignon (their appearance on most wine lists can be counted on one hand). Beloved for its high acidity, earthiness, and medium tannin structure, Sangiovese is the main component in Chianti—yet totally stands on its own two feet with pride.
This 2011 Sangiovese from Lusso Della Terra is a gorgeous, dark cherry red color that smells decadently of chocolate malt. Notes of blueberry and plum mingle with savory nuances of black cherry, nutmeg, and vanilla, all wrapped in up in a satisfying earthiness. With its creamy, velvety texture and fabulous tannin structure, it’s no wonder why this bad boy took home gold at 2015 Central Coast Wine Competition. Trust me: watch out for this Italian stallion. What starts with a warm tingle on your tongue will quickly capture your heart and soul.