Paso Robles is located at, approximately halfway between the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Paso Robles is where the region of Southern California ends. The elevation of Paso Robles ranges from 675 to 1,100 feet (340 m), but the majority of the main downtown area of the city sits at about 740 feet (230 m) above sea level.
The topography of the area consists of gentle rolling hills on the eastern half of the city, and foothill peaks which rise in elevation to the Santa Lucia Coastal Range on the west, which are all blanketed in the Californian chaparral environment, which is mainly dry grassland and oak woodland. Simply “Paso,” as it is referred to by locals, sits on the eastern foothills of the Santa Lucia Coastal Mountain Range, which lies directly to the West of the city, and runs in a North-South direction, starting at Monterey, then runs down South to its terminus, in the San Luis Obispo area. The city is located at the southern end of the fertile Salinas River Valley. Paso Robles sits at the border where northern San Luis Obispo County and southern Monterey County meet, and is situated roughly 24 miles (39 km), or 20 minutes, inland from the Pacific Ocean.
For a time, Paso Robles was known as the “Almond City” because the local almond growers created the largest concentration of almond orchards in the world.
Paso Robles’ wine industry has a long history within the area. Wine grapes were introduced to the Paso Robles soil in 1797 by the Spanish conquistadors and Franciscan missionaries. Spanish explorer Francisco Cortez envisioned an abundant wine-producing operation and encouraged settlers from Mexico and other parts of California to cultivate the land. The first vineyardists in the area were the Padres of the Mission San Miguel, and their old fermentation vats and grapevine artwork can still be seen at the Mission, north of the city of Paso Robles.
Commercial winemaking was introduced to the Paso Robles region in 1882 when Andrew York, a settler from Indiana, began planting vineyards and established the Ascension Winery at what is now York Mountain Winery.
Following Andrew York’s early success in the wine business, Gerd and Ilsabe Klintworth planted a vineyard in the Geneseo/Linne area in approximately 1886. They were licensed to sell jugs of Zinfandel, Port, and Muscatel, as well as some of the area’s first white wine made from Burger grapes. The Casteel Vineyards in the Willow Creek area were planted just prior to 1908. Casteel wines were stored and aged in a cave cellar. Cuttings from the old vines provided the start for other vineyards, still producing in the area today.
As the popularity of wines began to grow, so did the Paso Robles wine region. The Templeton Winery was the area’s first to be bonded following the repeal of Prohibition.
The Paso Robles wine region gained more notoriety when Ignace Paderewski, the famous Polish statesman and concert pianist, visited Paso Robles, became enchanted with the area, and purchased 2,000 acres In the early 1920s, he planted Petite Sirah and Zinfandel on his Rancho San Ignacio vineyard in the Adelaide area. Following Prohibition, Paderewski’s wine was made at York Mountain Winery. The wines produced from grapes grown on Rancho San Ignacio went on to become award-winners. Paso Robles’ reputation as a premier wine region became firmly established as a result of this and later successes.
Mosel is the oldest and arguably the best known of 13 wine regions in Germany. It takes it’s name from the picturesque Mosel River. Prior to the 2007 vintage, the region was listed as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer; the name was eventually shortened to be more “consumer-friendly.” Mosel is Germany‘s third largest wine region in terms of production. The region stretches the length of the twisting Mosel River and along it’s two tributaries, the Saar and the Ruwer. The Mosel Valley is well known for it’s steep, terraced hillsides abutting the river banks. In fact, the steepest recorded vineyard in the world is the Mosel’s Calmont vineyard belonging to the village of Bremm. The Mosel Wine Region is where magic happens because of it’s soil, topography, and climate, producing in my opinion The World’s Greatest White Wine. “RIESLING”
Riesling is the most versatile of the white grape varieties and no other grape gives you more of a sense of Terrior. Riesling can either be produced bone dry or sultry sweet and this why Reisling is called the great noble grape in Germany. Riesling is sexy and interesting while Chardonnay can be down right boring.
To emphasize the specific soil differences that exist within the Mosel, the Blue Slate of the Fahrlay plot produces a Riesling with a particularly intensive mineral flavor and slightly salty note in the finish. Whereas, the Grey Slate produces a Riesling for Grobes Gewachs Marienburg (GG) that is creamy, yellow peach, mango aroma. The harmoniously integrated acidity gives the wine an invigorating freshness with a powerful finish.
The only other white grape that one could compare to the greatness of Riesling is Chardonnay grown in Burgundy France. This is not only where the best Chardonnay is made but it’s also the most expensive white juice on earth. Chardonnay is grown all over the world, whereas Riesling prefers a particular soil to show her greatness and the Mosel Region in Germany is perfect.
The families below have pioneered and contributed to produce the best Reisling in the world:
The Prum family story dates back to 1156 when they owned vineyards throughout the mid-Mosel, including parcels in the towns of Bernkastel, Graach, Wehlen and Zeltingen. Current owner Raimund Prum, aka “The Red Prum,” took over the reins in 1971, following the unforeseen passing of his young father.
The Clemens Busch family is one of the top producers of Dry Organic Riesling in Germany. The estate is located in the village of Pünderich (near Bernkastel) far down stream in the Mosel wine-growing region. The family lives in a restored 1663 timber-framed house that sits directly on the banks of the Mosel River facing some of the steepest vineyards in the Mosel.
St Urbans-Hof winery was founded in 1947 by Nicolaus Weis who held a strong conviction that the fragile unity of viticulture and nature must be recognized and respected. In 1997 Nicolaus’ grandson Nik(olaus) joined the winery to work alongside his father Hermann who had overseen operations since the 1960s. Today St. Urbans-Hof is the second largest family-owned winery in the Mosel
I had the pleasure of having a great lunch in Fort Lauderdale Florida with Nik Weis the third generation of ST Urbans-Hof Winery in Germany. The Winery was founded in 1947 by Nik’s grandfather Nicholas Weis, who had a strong conviction that the fragile unity of viticulture and nature must be recognized and respected.
I taste it through the families portfolios of the great noble grape Riesling. They range in price and styles from being very affordable to world-class wine. You could tell that there was a very special quality about these wines where they reflected truly from the soil in which they came from.
These wines are bursting with ripe acidity, minerality which makes pairing with seafood, Thai food, and other spicy dishes a perfect choice.
Sales of luxury bubbles have bounced back, and since we’re heading into prime fizz season, I grabbed the chance last week to sample more than 125 Champagnes and top sparkling wines from countries such as Spain and Portugal.
Drinking expensive fizz has always been linked with a positive economic outlook (though personally I think it’s also an essential perk-up if you’re coping with a downturn). That’s why Champagne plunged in late 2008, and prosecco swooped in as the cheapie alternative. Oceans of the sparkling Italian white are still flowing, but in 2014, U.S. drinkers also swallowed 19.2 million bottles of Champagne, up 1.3 million from the year before, according to trade association Comité Champagne.
That’s important, because over the past few years other sparkling wines have made significant inroads, especially in the U.K. Even though the country downed 32.7 million bottles’ worth of Champagne in 2014, up more than 6 percent from a year earlier, the value of sales from all other sparkling wines increased 52 percent in the first half of 2015.
Renewed interest in expensive prestige cuvées and vintage bottles is driving Champagne growth, but add to that the new diversity of styles, thanks to the rise of grower Champagnes. These bubblies—made by small family producers, who used to sell grapes to big brands like Moët but now bottle their own—are on a roll. In 1997 there were 33 brands in the U.S.; now the number is up to 282, and just about every fine restaurant has at least one, if not several, on its list.
The diversity of grower Champagnes was prominently on display at last week’s tasting. Many growers have been innovators in the Champagne region, bringing in new ideas and points of view—like organic grape growing—and challenging traditions. They’re not just sticking to blends of mostly pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, which are grown in many vineyards across the region.
Instead, growers such as L. Aubry Fils are playing with forgotten, fragile varieties like arbanne—once used, but abandoned because they ripened inconsistently in Champagne’s chilly climate. Now, because of global warming, harvests arrive earlier than in the past; climate change has been beneficial for these grapes, which need more warmth and a longer growing season. (You could say climate change has rescued them.)
Others, like David Pehu of Pehu-Simonet, follow a Burgundian philosophy and are bent on creating single-vineyard Champagnes. Yet more hip young growers are experimenting with making Champagne with fewer bubbles, so it tastes more like a still wine, as well as finding virtues in previously ignored subregions like the Aube.
The trendy grower movement has kept interest in Champagne high, especially among influential sommeliers. That’s fortunate, because there are now serious competitors that cost a lot less. For example, I was highly impressed with vintage-dated bubblies from Spanish winery Raventós i Blanc. They used to be labeled cava, but the Raventós family created its own geographic designation, Conca del Riu Anoia, to distinguish its wines from the indifferent, often gassy cavas from cooperatives.
My biggest takeaway, though, was the wide range of quality among grower Champagnes, especially in wines from the difficult 2011 vintage.
Below are my top Champagnes from the tasting. You can try some of these during New York’s La Fête du Champagne, which starts on Oct. 26. Wine shops and restaurants will be offering deals, but the heart of this annual event, now in its second year, is the grand tasting of nearly 120 Champagnes on Nov. 7 ($350), with a gala dinner that evening ($1,000) at which collectors share their best bottles.
2010 Marc Hebrart Special Club Brut ($75)
Special club bottlings, which carry an exclusive label, are growers’ prestige cuvées. The vivid, complex flavors of this pinot noir–chardonnay blend are fresh and delicate.
Nonvintage Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noirs Les Crayères Vieilles Vignes ($130)
Powerful, concentrated, and intense, this 100 percent pinot noir wine comes from a single vineyard of 70-year-old vines. It’s one to age, and to drink with a grand dinner.
2010 Champagne Doyard Clos de L’Abbaye Blanc de Blancs ($95)
This single-vineyard all-chardonnay Champagne is harmonious, with bright flavors of citrus and chalk. It’s less fizzy than most, emulating a style of Champagne from the past.
2009 L. Aubry Fils Sablé Le Nombre d’Or Blanc des Blancs Brut ($70)
Bright and racy, this blend of all the white varieties grown in Champagne includes chardonnay, but also obscure meslier, fromenteau, and arbanne grapes, which add citrusy, apple-y notes to its aromas.
Pehu-Simonet Blanc de Noirs Brut ($75)
Savory and sumptuous, with cherry and cassis flavors, this all-pinot noir fizz is an example of the new one-grape, one-vineyard, one-vintage trend. It comes from a single parcel called Les Perthois.
Nonvintage René Geoffroy Rosé de Saignée ($60)
The love affair with all-pink wines continues. This rosy-colored one, made from 100 percent pinot noir, has the savor and lusciousness of strawberries and hibiscus flowers.
2008 Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Oenophile Non-Dosé Extra Brut ($70)
The lemony, chalky aromas of this zingy all-chardonnay Champagne just leap out of the glass. The taste is as dry as crushed oyster shells. Non-dosé, which means no sugar or reserve wine is added to balance the wine’s acidity, is part of a trend toward drier fizz.
Nonvintage Pierre Peters Cuvée de Réserve Brut ($55)
All-chardonnay, it’s crisp, fresh, sleek, and filled with pure notes of slate and lime that make it perfect as an aperitif. It’s a fave of many New York somms; you can try it by the glass at the NoMad, but at $35 per, you might as well buy a bottle and drink it at home.
2007 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvée ($125)
Sometimes described as “the poor man’s Krug,” this concentrated wine from old vines is almost smoky, with layers of flavors—minerals, salt, cloves, lemon, verbena—as well as hints of oak. Grand and rich, it’s fantastic with food.