Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Paso Robles, Day 1 - Downtown Deliciousness

If you want to hit the wineries in Paso Robles, you have options. You can go 46 East, 46 West, the "Far Out" wineries, Templeton...you get the idea. Our plan was to hit 1 or 2 wineries a day that we thought we absolutely had to go to, & then go on recommendations from there. For the most part, we stuck to that plan....but on our first day in Paso Robles, we had to take a detour.

The morning that we were headed to Monterey, my phone found itself marinating in coffee. Someone was really tired & wasn't paying attention to the coffeemaker. Now, I don't drink bad coffee, & I consider the coffee found in 99% of all hotel rooms to be just that -- bad. I'll do without, but Doug cannot. The man is the love of my life, but he is flawed (somewhat). For this, I forgive him...& now I have a new phone.

Since we'd lost a little bit of time, we decided to start our adventure in the tasting rooms downtown. There were quite a few options & we didn't know where we should begin...& then we saw this:


It had our very favorite kind of sign on the door...


What a wonderful place to start! Unlike the usual tasting room that features wines from only one winery, the Paso Wine Centre has many local wines available to taste, many of which are from small wineries without their own tasting rooms.

Look familiar? Those are Enomatic machines like the ones at St. Louis' own ill-fated wine tasting bar, Bella Vita. I have much more confidence in the Paso Wine Centre's success - the staff is very well versed in the area's wine, & they are more than willing to suggest their favorites. Bottles are available for purchase at reasonable prices, & California law allows self-service in this case. We were impressed with the whole operation, & that was before we found out that 100% of the profits go to Wine For Water. Throughout our stay in Paso Robles, we got the sense that the entire wine community fully supported this idea...click that link & you will, too!

After we left the Paso Wine Centre, we had lunch at Berry Hill Bistro (one of Adam's suggestions) & then wandered around downtown & hit several tasting rooms. Doug & I had good experiences everywhere we went, but I'm only hitting the highlights here or I'll be writing for days!

We really enjoyed Clayhouse Vineyards - they have a very nice tasting room! Their employees were a lot of fun too, & very helpful. In fact, that was how it was every place we visited! But hey, let's not forget why we were there...the wine. Clayhouse delivered.

Our hands-down favorite downtown tasting room was Pianetta Winery. Pianetta is a small boutique winery with a production of about 2200 cases. Red wine only. Yum. Our friend Angie suggested that we go there, & we weren't sorry! She even called ahead to let them know we were coming. That was a very nice touch!

We had a very special experience at Pianetta. Winemaker John Pianetta was there to greet us & he guided us through his lineup of extraordinary wines.


There wasn't a single wine that we tasted that we didn't adore. Like their beautiful Sangiovese, for example. Bright red fruit with maybe a little cinnamon or clove on the nose, silky mouthfeel, & a plethora of loveliness on the palate. I also love the fact that it's aged in neutral oak, so it's definitely more fruit than barrel. We're big fans of Cal Itals (among a zillion others!), so yeah...we bought it.

Of course, their other wines are terrific as well. The Bilancio, which is the winery's signature blend of Syrah & Cab, the Cab, the Syrah, the Rosato...I could go on & on, but I say just go there...or find a bottle online & order it! Since Pianetta is so small, it's not widely distributed but we are hoping to be able to buy it locally someday soon. I really wanted to join the wine club, but Doug pointed out that it was very early in our trip & we couldn't join everything, & we couldn't buy every bottle... He was right, but I do have my regrets.

John made a point to show us their blackboard that hangs next to the bar. His daughter Caitlin updates it with words that Pianetta fans use to describe the wines. I not only thought it was a lot of fun but very pretty, too!


Gotta love "Skirt Flipper".

And so ended our first day in Paso....& we went to bed - after I played with my new phone!


Thom said...

Love the name "Skirt Flipper?" Did it live up to its reputation? I think I want to get a bunch of those "No one under 21" signs and take them with me to restaurants... you know, just discreetly stick it on the door and walk in...

Claire said...

Absolutely! It's not actually the wine's name, though, silly... Someone described the wine as such, & it's a damn riot!

In addition to our t-shirts, I think we need to add those signs. Seriously...

LucyinStLou said...

I love Pianetta. Everything we had from there was just delicious.

WineLush said...

You can always join the wine club now, right??
We've had the Pianetta rose through Taste of Monterey and liked it - good know they are all good.