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Paso wine country comes to sunny Southern California

Some 40 wineries in Paso Robles will pick up and move down to sunny Southern California and pop the corks on more than 150 wines aboard the super yacht Majestic, docked in Newport Beach. The date for this “road show” is Feb. 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. for the public and 2 to 5 p.m. for the trade.The extra special bonus on this exposition of Paso wine power is that most booths will have the winemakers and owners on hand pouring their own wines.I have walked the back country of Paso Robles, especially the west side of the 101 and declared this appellation to be gifted with classic properties where soil, climate, elevation and vineyard stock could not be better situated for great wine. The wines tend to be Rhone Valley French with names like Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre.

Paso Robles wine grapes are rich in texture and strongly flavored, such as these Zinfandel grapes. Photo by Ron Bez
Paso Robles wine grapes are rich in texture and strongly flavored, such as these Zinfandel grapes. Photo by Ron Bez

In 2010, Wine Spectator chose a Paso Rhone blend as its wine of the year. The blend was harvested and made in 2007, a near-perfect year for Paso wines, with mild and dry conditions. A head count now finds over 200 wineries on 26,000 vineyard acres that includes Paso Robles, Templeton, Atascadero and Santa Margarita.

Zinfandel is a favorite with many wine lovers who visit Paso’s wineries. March 16 to March 18, the area celebrates its Zin heritage with wine tours and tastings, a dinner experience and auction.

I spoke with Marketing Director Chris Taranto of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance about this year’s Grand Tasting Feb. 29, and he enthused that “Paso Robles has become the fastest growing wine region in California. In addition to the Grand Tasting for the trade, media and consumers, we have secured wine dinners at marquee restaurants, tastings at local retailers and trade tastings. Visitors will get to experience Paso wines as if they were visiting the region,” he said. Taranto urged interested guests to access to get the latest information on where the wine dinners will be, to book tickets to the Grand Tasting and purchase Zin Fest tickets.

Wineries to watch next time you cruise 101 to this lovely area include: Berardo, Caliza, Cass, Denner, Eberle, Halter Ranch, Justin, L’aventure, Niner, Tablas Creek and Zenaida.
New Year – New Wines

I am energized by the amazing number of wine events launched in 2012 and want to share some of the best wines I have experienced to date: Enjoy these 10:

• Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2008. $24. Venerable able bodied name with lots of black cherry, casssis and cocoa.

• Contucci Riserva Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Siena Italy. 2007. 22 Euro. A beautiful discovery at the Italian Masters Wine Conference in San Francisco. 80 percent Prugnolo Gentile, a clone of Sangiovese. Four years aging.

• Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2009. $42. The “Judgment of Paris” lives on with the latest Mike Grgich release certified organic and biodynamic with delicious acidity.

• Hess Collection 19 Block Cuvee Mt. Veeder Napa. 2008. $36. From the Veeder Summit Vineyard. Blend of Cab, Merlot, Syrah, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. Steep slopes, volcanic soil, intense flavor make this a winner.

• Lewis Cellars Ethan’s Syrah Napa Valley 2009. $45. A strong, balanced spicy wine. Black raspberry, licorice notes.

• Norton Reserva Malbec, Mendoza Argentina 2008. $13. Grown 3,600 feet above sea level with some 50-year-old vines, this is a true contender to Napa Valley Cabernet. Rich, black fruits, long finish.

• Orfila Estate Lotus Viognier, San Pasqual Valley 2010. $29. Rhone style white wine with lush melon, citrus, pear, apricot notes. Bright acidity.

• Palumbo Family Tre Fratelli Meritage, Temecula 2008. $34. Traditional Bordeaux blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Cab Franc. Elegant wine.

• Pedroncelli Sangiovese, Dry Creek Sonoma 2008. $15. Tuscany’s native wine, made in America by a traditional Italian family. Bravo!

• V.Sattui Howell Mountain Zinfandel, Napa 2009. $42. Big, spicy vintage. Mountain wine from 2,400 feet. Volcanic ash, red clay combo. Small production, aged 18 months in French Oak.

Wine Bytes

— The Pacific Coast Wine Festival, bringing the best of Napa Valley and beyond and benefiting the Pacific Symphony, is Saturday March 3 starting at 5pm at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach. A 5-course dinner and 2 rare bottles of Screaming Eagle up for auction highlight the elegant evening. Wine tasting of some 50 world-class wines. Silent and live auctions. Tickets are $375 each. RSVP at (714) 876-2364.

— Spicy Reds is the theme of the Friday tasting Feb. 24 at Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas from 6 to 8 p.m. Taste Grenache, Syrah and Zinfandel. $20 per person. Details at (760) 479-2500.

— Wine Styles in Encinitas offers Live Jazz Feb. 24 from 6 to 8:30 p.m., with North County’s Freefall playing. For details call (760) 633-0057.

— Third Corner in Encinitas has a wine dinner with the Michael Keenan Winery pouring favorites Feb. 29. Call for price and times at (760) 942-2104.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. His library can be viewed at (Average Google certified 900 visits per day) He is one of the top five wine commentators on the Web. Reach him at [email protected]