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Paso Robles, Part 3
Columns Taste of Wine

Paso Robles, Pt. 3: Riboli, Booker and Allegretto

This column finishes our June Paso Robles Press Tour by recapping our visits to Riboli Family Wines, Booker Wines and Allegretto Vineyard Resort tasting room.

One of the core items running through the veins of all Paso vineyards and wineries we visited was their commitment to sustainability. Perhaps the best example was the fourth-generation Riboli Family Wines, Wine Enthusiast’s 2018 American Winery of the Year.

We started our final day with a behind-the-scenes tour of Riboli’s state-of-the-art production facility with winemaker Marty Spate and assistant winemaker Todd Jenkins.

Like others, the key to Riboli’s sustainability efforts is its people! In the loading dock where the fruit is offloaded, overheads block direct sunlight making the area 10-20 degrees cooler. In addition, Riboli uses full-time growers and operates its trucks with full-time drivers to have ultimate control over fruit estate and employee stability.

Additionally, 80% of the winery’s roof is covered in solar panels providing 100% of their electricity. The split barrel room allows variable temperatures and automated ceiling fans to come on at night, taking advantage of Paso’s cool evenings to save power.

Riboli Tasting Room Maddalena Lasagna with 2017 Opaque Zinfandel. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Riboli Tasting Room Maddalena Lasagna with 2017 Opaque Zinfandel. Photo by Rico Cassoni

In the fields, single driver and operator machine harvesters with built-in optical sorters can pick 100 to 150 tons of fruit daily compared to manual labor. From a water perspective, steam cleaning barrels have reduced their water consumption from 30 gallons per barrel to 5 gallons total for all barrels. In addition, over 1 million gallons of storm and wastewater were processed and used for onsite irrigation in the first year.

You need to plan either lunch or dinner at the Riboli Tasting Room near the winery. I highly suggest the Maddalena Meat Lasagna. When dining there, I never have to look at the menu. I always order the lasagna. Teana Speth, tasting room manager, and Stephanie DiRocco, hospitality coordinator, took us through the latest impressive wine tasting menu over lunch. Info at riboliwines.com.

State of the art continues at Booker

Frank and I were excited to visit Booker Wine’s new state-of-the-art visitor center with underground wine caves and an indoor/outdoor tasting lounge that flows into the vineyard environment that opened in 2021. Based on owner Eric Jensen’s career in the music festival business, it was no surprise to experience music throughout the property, including private tours with vinyl records playing in the wine cave.

In 2001, Jensen left Newport Beach and the music industry with his wife to raise their two kids on a 100-acre ranch, living in a trailer on the property with no knowledge of viticulture.

Sara Prust, assistant tasting room manager at Booker Wines, holds a bottle of Fracture EXT (2019) in the Terrace Tasting Room. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Sara Prust, assistant tasting room manager at Booker Wines, holds a bottle of Fracture EXT (2019) in the Terrace Room. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Since then, Jensen figured out how to make great wine with the simple purpose of “thoughtful farming to craft world-class wines that leave a small footprint but make a big impact.” Booker does this as a certified organic estate vineyard focusing on Rhone varietals.

Sara Prust, assistant tasting room manager, took us through a tasting in the indoor/outdoor Terrace Room overlooking the vineyards. We started with a 2020 viognier (50%) and rousanne (33%) white blend balanced out with chardonnay and marsanne.

We then shifted to reds, starting with the 2019 Ripper EXT, a 100% grenache. What is interesting is that Booker has two launches a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Wines launched in the fall and marked “EXT” mean they have been aged four months or longer in the barrel before bottling.

We continued our tasting with the 2019 Oublie GSM blend with hints of tannat and petite sirah. Next was another GSM blend (grenache, mourvèdre and syrah). In 2019, Vertigo dominated with syrah and mourvèdre with a splash of grenache (3%) and 2% viognier. Our final wine in the tasting was a mini vertical with Booker’s flagship, Fracture, named for the limestone that fractures the calcareous Paso soil, an excellent 100% Syrah. Finally, 2019 was up against the 2019 EXT. I loved the dark, stone fruit nose and palate. I found the EXT variant to have even that much smoother tannins.

After the tasting, Prust showed us their wine cave and the MFN lounge. Jensen also has two other labels, My Favorite Neighbor, dedicated to Stephan Asseo of L’Aventure Winery and the other Paso neighbors that source the fruit. The other is Harvey & Harriet to honor his parents with a lower price point that his parents would have been able to afford and enjoy. See bookerwines.com.

Paso’s Tuscan Escape: Allegretto Resort & Vineyard

Douglas Ayers, owner of Allegretto Resort and Vineyard, created a slice of Tuscany in Paso. Allegretto has unique art throughout the expansive grounds, a chapel, a tranquil infinity circle, and a resort vineyard, to name a few of the attractions.

Liz Strubbe, Allegretto’s director of hospitality, was kind enough to take Frank and Rico through the resort’s recent tasting experience. We started with the 2021 chardonnay aged in 100% neutral French oak, creating a nose and palate of honey and granny smith apples.

We then went into the reds, starting with a 2017 tannat grown at the resort. The smoky, tobacco, earthy palate would be perfect for rack of lamb, sausage, and jambalaya dishes. Next up was cabernet sauvignon, starting with 2018, also grown at the Allegretto Resort Vineyard.

Liz surprised us with a 2016 cabernet sauvignon from Ayers Willow Creek Vineyard vs. 2017. The 2016 varietal had vanilla, currant and spice on the nose, with a cherry and blueberry palate with silky tannins. The bottom line is that a person could stay at the resort for several days, never leaving the museum atmosphere, tasting room and full-service Cello Restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. See more info at allegrettovineyardresort.com.

Wine Bytes

— Sal Ercolano’s Flora Bar and Kitchen are hosting Napa Valley’s Cakebread Cellars Wine Dinners at 6 p.m. on July 20 and July 21. Ercolano and Chef Hilario have paired some of Cakebread’s best wines with dishes designed to complement each course. Guests will enjoy three courses, appetizers and dessert, including the main course of ribeye with chimichurri sauce, fingerling potatoes and French beans. The cost is $85 per person plus tax/gratuity. RSVP at 858.461.0622.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading commentators on the web. Reach them at [email protected]

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