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Sniff These 5 Wonderfully Weird Paso Wine Smells!

Unless you’re tragically stuffy, you’ve probably giggled while reading the back of a fancy wine label. I mean, let’s get real. Laughing at wine descriptors now and then is part of the fine wine drinking experience (it’s practically an American pastime). Now, clear your mind and take a long hard whiff. What do you smell? Good and Plenty? Pencil lead? Green Beans? Old saddle leather? Just ask respected somms everywhere: These 5 weird wine descriptors are right on the money.

Tomato Leaf

Have you ever reached into a lush tomato plant to pick a few juicy orbs? Then you totally know the heady, summery scent of fresh tomato leaves. Fragrant, intoxicating, and super perfumy, this heavenly (but weird) scent is coveted among high end winemakers and is especially prevalent in some types of Sauvignon Blanc. That said, we must remind you that you should never eat tomato leaves. They are, indeed, toxic.


No, we aren’t talking about those icy tropical rum drinks that make your head throb. Many wines utilizing the cabonic maceration process will have a particular banana scent upon opening—especially Beaujolais wines. In this process, the grapes are sealed in a vessel filled with carbon dioxide prior to regular fermentation, which gives Beaujolais wines their distinctive juicy or subtly tropical flavors. Interestingly, the same “banana” compound is released by the honey bees from their sting to alert fellow bees to danger. Weird, right?

Cat Pee

A gross descriptor for super delicious wines, right? Don’t throw out that Sauvignon Blanc just yet…a subtle cat pee flavor is a very good thing! Want to know the difference between a low or high end Sauvignon Blanc? Smell for that funky and tangy scent that makes you wrinkle your nose just a tiny bit (if you’re a cat person, you’ll know the smell immediately). That said, if your wine smells like “wet dog,” it’s probably corked. Sorry pups, but the cats win this round.


If fresh chopped dill makes you think of mom’s tuna fish salad sandwiches and crunchy, salty pickles, think again. You’ll usually pick up that herbaceous, bright “dill” scent in oak aged wines. Sure, you’ll probably catch the traditional vanilla, cinnamon, clove, and cedar flavors associated with oak, but do yourself a favor and train your noise to pick out the dill in your drink. You’ll impress everyone at the table.

New Plastic

This one is just bizarre, but oh so true! A chemical aroma associated with high acidity whites, this “new Barbie smell” can be found in Rieslings and Chablis, among others. Of course, there is no real plastic lingering in your wine. How’s that for factory fresh flavor?

Follow Your Nose Through Paso

1. Mourvèdre

Mourvèdre is sometimes said to have a “read meat” flavor. Try Seven Oxen, balanced with red fruit flavors and 10% elegant Grenache (goes great with a bloody steak). It scored 90 PTS with Wine Enthusiast! Look for their cool, new tasting room opening in March on Ramada Drive.

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Mapping and Directions to Seven Oxen




2. Red Rhône Blend

Can you taste the chocolate mint, cedar and coffee bean in Oso Libre’s MV Carnal Red Rhone Blend? It scored 96 PTS with a Double Gold Medal!

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Mapping and Directions to Oso Libre





3. Zinfandel

San Marcos Creek Vineyard’s 2014 Estate Zinfandel is all about fresh raspberries, licorice and white pepper.

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Mapping and Directions to San Marcos Creek Vineyards





4. Grenache Blanc

Clavo Cellars’ 2012 Grenache Blanc- Oracle boasts calming aromas of eucalyptus leaves, dried stone fruit and lavender. A fave!

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Mapping and Directions to Clavo Cellars





5. Tempranillo

Cooking spices ain’t just for cookies: Can you smell the nutmeg and cardamom in Hoyt Family Vineyards’ 2012 Tempranillo? This great wine won GOLD at the 2017 Los Angeles International Wine Competition!

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Mapping and Directions to Hoyt Family Vineyards




This blog was written by Hayley Thomas Cain, food and wine writer for SLO New Times and You can reach her at [email protected] or follow her on instagram @flavorslo.

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