Good friends had rented a house in Carmel for three weeks and invited us to spend a few days there and enjoy the town and golf at local courses. We thought we would turn it into our first road trip and tasting adventure since pre-pandemic days and enjoy stops at our two favorite watering holes on any trip up the California coast from our home in San Diego County – Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.,
The benefits of going on road trips in an SUV versus flying means you have room for everything, including luggage, golf clubs, clothes on hangers to prevent wrinkling, snacks, extra shoes, and wines from the cellar to share with friends, to compare with new discoveries found along the way. The downside is having to drive through Los Angeles. Leaving at mid-morning makes the trip less stressful, although one has to assume hitting random stop-and-go traffic any time of the day or night.
Paso Robles continues to shine. It has added many new restaurants since our last visit. Just wandering around the town square is a treat. We popped into the new Justin tasting room, browsed through a cheese shop and had dinner in town before our wine excursions the next day.
For brief background, the area now has some 200 wineries producing more than 60 grape varieties. Where the region used to be defined by East and West Paso Robles – the dividing line is Highway 101 – it now has 11 American Viticultural areas with distinctive characteristics in soil and temperature ranges. We enjoyed wines from an old favorite, Justin, and then three wineries we had never visited on the West side, in the Willow Creek and Adelaide AVAs.
Here are our tasting notes and links to the Paso Robles Wine Country site and the wineries for more information:
We visited their stylish tasting room in town. Have toured the winery and tasting room before. Enjoyed a charcuterie plate.
- 2021 Justin Vineyards & Winery Viognier, $25. Sharp mid-gold, viscous (15.0 alc.); peachy floral nose; mid acids; mid fruit; semi-long stone fruit finish. 15.5 UC Davis scale, 89 other scales.
- 2019 Justin Vineyards & Winery Isosceles, $85. 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot. 21 months 100% new French oak. Dark purple, viscous (16.1 alc.); ripe grape, prune, oak, herbaceous nose; mid+ acids; medium full tannins; long rich semi-tight chewy finish. 17 UC Davis scale; 92 other scales. 17/92.
- Rhone-like blend 2019 Justin Vineyards & Winery Savant, $55. 55% Syrah, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon; 12 months in 48% new French oak. Dark purple, viscous (15.5 alc.); ripe grape, peppery, jam nose; mid acids; medium plus tannins; long hot fruity finish. 16-16.5/90-91.
- 16-16.5 UC Davis scale, 90-91 other scales.
- Bordeaux blend 2017 Justin Vineyards & Winery Isosceles Reserve, $120. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cab Franc, 8% Malbec, 4% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot. 24 months new French oak. Mid garnet, amber edges, viscous (15.5 alc.); berry, mint, oak, herbaceous nose; balanced; mid acids/tannins; round, ripe semi-lush finish. 17.5/93.
Discovery. Comfortable small tasting room with view of the vineyards. Reservations recommended. Cheese and charcuterie plates. Get extra bread.
- Grenache Rose 2021 Jada Vineyard 1149, $38. Light copper/orange; floral, strawberry, citrus nose; mid+ acids; medium depth; semi-long, crisp, tart citrus finish. 15.5-16/89-90.
- 2021 Jada Vineyard Viognier XCV, $55. Light-mid green gold; some viscosity (14.0 alc.); apricot, floral, light honey nose; mid+ acids; good depth; long, tight, stone fruit finish. 16/90.
- Red wine blend, 2018 Jada Vineyard Strayts, $67. 78% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petite Verdot. Mid-dark garnet, viscous (15.2 alc.); herbaceous, cocoa, red fruit nose; mid+ acids; mid-full tannins; long, tight, semi-chewy red fruit and wood finish; rounding out. 16.5-17/91-92.
- 2018 Jada Vineyard Syrah Jersey Girl, $67. Dark garnet; viscous (15.2 alc.); peppery, black fruit, ripe grape, prune, wood nose (16 months in 45% new French oak); mid+ acids; full tannins; long, slightly harsh black fruit, pepper and prune finish. 16.5/91.
- 2018 Jada Vineyard Sawbones, $87. 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Syrah, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Graciano, 2% other. Dark garnet, viscous (15.1 alc.); herbaceous, black fruit, black currant, mint, ripe grape and oak nose (aged in 95% new French oak); mid+ acids; full tannins; long, semi-chewy black fruit finish. 16.5-17/91-92.
- Red blend 2018 Jada Vineyard Jack of Hearts, $75. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Petit Verdot, 17% Merlot. Dark garnet, viscous (15.5 alc.); ripe grape, blackberry, herbaceous nose; mid+ acids; full tannins; deep fruit; long, hard, tart finish. Needs time. 16.5/91.
Discovery. Popular destination. It’s a working cattle ranch. The Angus burgers are great! Reservations recommended. Arrive early.
- 2021 Oso Libre Viognier Volado, $35. Templeton Gap vineyard. Light green-gold, low viscosity (13.5 alc.); bright green fruit, citrus, apricot nose; mid-acids; long, deep fruity finish. Nice style. 16/90.
- 2019 Oso Libre Primitivo Nativo, $62. Italian clone of Zinfandel. Pale pink, viscous (14.9 alc.); red fruit, wood (Manzanita), pomegranate nose; mid acids; mid+ tannins; medium depth; long tasty finish. 16.5/91.
- Rhone red blend, 2018 Oso Libre Carnal. $63. 40% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre, 30% Tannat. light-mid pink/ruby, viscous (14.8 alc.); red fruit, peppery, smokey nose; mid+ acids; mid tannins; mid-plus alcohol on the palate; long, tight, tart, fruity, slight-hot finish. 17/92.
- “Winemaker’s blend,” NV Oso Libre Primoroso, $46. 43% Syrah, 29% Zinfandel, 28% Mourvèdre. Mid-ruby, viscous (15.2 alc.); red fruit, berries, pepper, smokey nose; mid+ acids and tannins; tight; long chewy hot finish. 15.5-16/89-90.
- 2018 Oso Libre Cabernet Sauvignon Quixotic, $70. Mid garnet, pink edges, viscous (15.2 alc.); herbaceous, ripe grape, currant, berry and oak nose (36 months in French oak); mid+ acids; full tannins; full alcohol; long red and black fruit, woody, hot finish. 16.5/91.
- Red wine blend, 2017 Oso Libre Por Vida Reserve, $70. 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Primitivo, 21% Mourvèdre. Light-mid ruby, pink edges; viscous (15.6 alc.); red fruit, berry, big oak nose (4+ years in French oak); mid+acids; mid-full tannins; good Cabernet fruit; long, hot, semi-chewy finish. 17/92.
- First vines planted in 1999, now expanded to some 300 acres on the east and west side. Tasting room open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., no reservations required. Extensive tasting lists.
- $30 bubbly, NV Opolo Blanc de Blancs. 100% Chardonnay. Methode Champenoise. Mid straw gold; light yeast, peach, floral nose; low-mid acids; semi-long peach, crisp finish. 15.5/89.
- 2021 Opolo Rosé, $28. 85% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Viognier. Mid-dark salmon; somewhat closed strawberry, rose petal nose; mid-acids; medium fruit; semi-long berry finish. 15.5/89.
- Paso Robles, Calif., 2019 Opolo Cabernet Sauvignon, $42. Dark purple, viscous (14.5 alc.); ripe grape, black fruit, herbaceous, berry and wood nose; mid-acids; medium plus tannins; long, medium thick chewy berry and wood finish. 16.5 UC Davis scale, 91 other scales.
- Rhone blend, 2019 Opolo Grand Rouge, $28. 48% Grenache, 29% Syrah, 20% Counoise, 3% Petite Sirah. Light-mid garnet, viscous; peppery, wood, red fruit nose; mid acids; medium body, tannins; good fruit; like a Chateauneuf. w/appetizers. 16-16.5/90-91.
- 2020 Opolo Pinot Noir, Central Coast (Edna Valley), $20. Light mid-ruby; stemmy red fruit nose; cherries; mid acids; low-mid tannins; long semi-tight Pinot finish. 16/90.
- Bordeaux blend, 2017 Opolo Rhapsody, $55. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 10% Malbec. Mid-dark garnet, viscous (14.9 alc.); light mint, cocoa, vanilla, herbaceous ripe fruit nose; mid-acids; medium-full tannins; long balanced slightly hot finish. Good depth. 16.5/91.
- 2020 Opolo Zinfandel Mountain Zinfandel, $32. From four areas in the region, oak aged (French 90%, America 10%) 10 months, 30% new. Mid-garnet, viscous (15.8 alc.); berry and bramble nose, ripe grapes; mid+ acids; medium tannins; long berry and wood finish, good Zinfandel fruit. 16.5/91.
- 2018 Opolo Zinfandel Fortè, $35. Wine club offering, estate vineyards. Mid-garnet, viscous (15.4 alc.); woody, ripe grape, plum nose; mid-acids; medium body, tannins; long, hot, tart finish; not as good as the nose. 16/90.