Monday, February 20, 2012

Rhone Rangers @ Windfall Farms

Yesterday, Boyfriend and I spent a FABULOUS day at the Rhone Rangers Paso Robles Chapter Tasting Event. It was held at the gorgeous Windfall Farms Event Center, which has been featured on this blog a few times before.

I simply adore this event as it is a day to, shall we say, "honor the rhone grape varietals" that have helped to make the Paso Robles wine region famous. Of course, as most of you already know, we pretty much owe the Rhones in the region to Tablas Creek. Here's the basic story:

Photo of Tablas Creek's GM, Jason Haas along
w/ wine club assistant Dani - both pouring for
Tablas at the event.
Chateau Beaucastel wanted to start a sister winery in California. They searched up and down the coast, only to settle at their current location on Adelaida Road in Paso. Beaucastel chose the area as we have basically the same calcareous/limestone soil as the Rhone Region in France, as well as the same climate. So they knew the Rhone varietals could thrive here. Around 1990, they sent some of the first Rhone vines to the Paso Region, though the vines needed to go through quarantine for three years before being released to Tablas.

Once Tablas Creek fully planted their vineyard, they asked themselves, "Should we keep these vines to ourselves or should we share?" Thankfully, they shared! They set up a nursery and sold cuttings of their grapes to many neighboring wineries in the area.

Fast forward to now, and we have Saxum Winery winning "Wine of the Year" in the Wine Spectator Magazine last year with a GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre.) Now that definitely put Paso on the map! - Not only informing people that we grow the Rhone varietals well here, but we do make some great, kick-ass wines :)

So yesterday was an "ode to the Rhones" where all the wineries who are part of the Rhone Rangers Organization could come out and pour a few of their wines. They got to show off their Rhone based wines and as Boyfriend said, "Wow - these are some of the best wines from the area!"

Before we went, Boyfriend counted that there were 44 member wineries that are a part of the Paso Rhone Rangers Chapter. We then counted that we have visited 28 of those 44 - pretty darn good! It was our goal for the day to check out the wineries that we had heard good things about, but hadn't had a chance to try ourselves yet - and what a great opportunity to be able to do that!

First up: Kaleidos Winery. They had poured at the Paso Garagiste Festival but I had missed them - doh! But today I finally got my chance.

Steve from Kaleidos
Steve, the Owner/Winemaker/Winegrower was pouring three Syrahs from three different vineyards - all of them gorgeous. There was Lock Vineyards, Halter Ranch Vineyards (where I work) and Starr Ranch Vineyards (this wine was just written up in an article in The Tasting Panel.) You can't go wrong with any of the three, and I HIGHLY recommend that you check them out and try all of the Kaleidos wines. I know I will - I'm running over to his tasting room as soon as possible! (He's currently pouring out of the Changala tasting room on Willow Creek Road every Fri - Sun.)

Kevin from Proulx
Next up: Proulx Wines (sounds like Pru.) I have consistently heard great things about Kevin's wines, but this is the first chance that I got to try them. He was pouring his new rose from a barrel sample - a really big but mostly dry rose -  I liked it a lot. Next up he poured two reds: The Syrah and the "Dimples" (Zinfandel, Syrah & Petite Sirah) - both fabulous wines. I was really impressed and will be zipping over to his cute tasting room later this week to try the rest of the wines.

Amparo of Minassian-Young
Last up, Minassian-Young Winery. I have wanted to try their wines forever, but because of their location (near Halter Ranch Vneyards) I find that I never go all the way up into the hills on my day off. Well lucky me, I finally got to try a few of their wines yesterday.

Amparo (owner of Minassian-Young along with her husband, David) was pouring three wines - Grenache, Mourvedre, and their "Cuvee de Paso" - a Mourvedre based GSM blend. The Grenache was super lovely. Now I must admit, I am biased as Grenache is probably my most favorite varietal. But because of that, I am super picky about Grenache wine. Boyfriend and I were both on board, fully in love with this. It has that licorice quality that some Grenache wines get - all in a good way. And at just $24 a bottle, I can't tell you what a great value that is. Beautiful wines on a beautiful property - I highly recommend that you go visit Amparo & David Thurs.-Mon. at their winery on Peachy Canyon Road.

Now of course I also had to visit a few of my favorite wineries  - I couldn't miss the chance to catch up with them and see if they were pouring any new releases. I first tried to visit Maggie at Alta Colina, but the crowds were too great! They're so hip now that they were featured in Wine Spectator with great scores. Here's a photo os the mob with Maggie holding down the fort:

I was thrilled to see L'Aventure pouring their wines. The fabulous Kendall was super helpful as she knows I'm addicted to the L'Aventure wines. First up, I was able to try their new Roussane - it has 18% Grenchace Blanc in it. FABULOUS! It's amazing how even though the Grenache Blanc is only 18%, you could really taste it in the wine.

Next up the '09 Cote a Cote, a GSM blend that received 95 points from Wine Advocate. I LOVE this wine, always have and probably always will. My issue is that it is $85 a bottle and on a tasting room girl's salary, well, "sigh." But that's definitely why I took advantage of being able to taste the Cote yesterday - and I savored every drop. Here I am with my glass of Cote a Cote, my favorite wine of the day:

I went to visit my buddy SAM from Cypher Winery (where I used to work) and I ended up helping her pour for a little while as they were super busy. It was great to catch up with her and try a few of their new releases again. I think their Mounvedre is my favorite, and their Grenchae and the Kiler Canyon Syrah/Mounvedre blends are both excellent! Great job, team Cypher!!!

And btw - I have to point out how much I love the new Cypher Labels - they all glitter a little with metallics in the ink:

Now before y'all start yawning that my blog is going on too long, I'm going to hit you with a few photos of the day of my favorite peeps in the wine industry:

The fabulous Staci from Clayhouse Wines - and guess what? Clayhouse is pouring Tannat on their tasting menu right now. Go over there and try it!

Neil & Marci from Lone Madrone - hey guys, thanks for the fabulous industry party the other evening! The blog on that is coming soon :)

Mr. Lindsey from Halter Ranch Vineyards, pouring the halter ranch Wines - great job, Lindsey! Apologies that I got so caught up talking to people I didn't come over and give you a break.....bad Sarah......

Boyfriend and Seth (Tasting Room Manager @ Halter) hanging out trying some vino together:

The sweet guy from New Orleans who handed out Mardi Gras bling to everyone - thank you! Literally everyone was wearing the bling - too funny. You'll see the necklaces again for tomorrow's Mardi Gras!

Boyfriend and I with our buddy Jason from Zenaida Cellars. I was bummed I didn't really have time to taste their wines again - Jason, I'll stop by soon!

And finally, my buds: Ted from Cass Winery, Mr. Glenn from Justin Vineyards, and the fabulous & famous Bobby Fox! Along with Kate from EOS and her husband Jamie who works at Firestone.

A big "Thank You!" to the Rhone Rangers for hosting such a great event. Not only was it educational, allowing me to try new wines in the area and find out about wineries that I haven't been to yet, but it also allowed me to catch up with a lot of folks. Another amazing day in the Paso Wine region!

Viva la Rhones de Paso Robles!!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Halter Ranch Industry Paaaaarty!!! has been almost three years since Halter Ranch held its last industry party. We decided to throw another party now for the "launch" of our new production facility, and we wanted the party to be HUGE so that as many industry folks as possible could attend. Seth (our tasting room manager) and I put the word out - and we put the word out long and far. But it wasn't hard as so many folks had heard about our new facility and wanted to see it. Plus, we would be serving tacos al pastor, and folks wanted to come for that :)

Tony is our wine club manager and the so called, "Ambassador of Fun." We terrified him with visions of hundreds of people attending the party. He was freaking out at 200, so can you imagine what he was thinking when the rsvps reached three hundred? Here he is, happy in the new production facility, before the craziness began:

We polished and polished glasses for the party, and polished a total of 372. I kept saying to Tony, "Is that enough? Really, is that enough?" And dear Tony would smile sweetly, and say - in his silkie yet condescending way - "Sister, we have MORE than enough."

Hollow words, Tony. Hollow words.

Hollow because, the party started at 6, but folks started showing up at 5pm. By 6:30, we were out of those 372 glasses  (are you still cocky, Tony?) They pulled another 150 brand new yet not polished glasses out and those were gone by 7:30. From there, you were on your own with plastic cups that were great for the Firestone beer, though people used them for vino too.

So that puts us at around 500 people that attended - though in reality, it may have been 550 to 600. It was truly one AMAZING paaaaaarty!!!!! :))))

One thing that was so fabulous was that the party included all industry folks: from tasting room staff to winemakers to winery owners to hotel staff to restaurant folks - come one, come all - we brought everyone on board to find out what Halter is all about!!!

I had to work it and was so slammed, I couldn't mingle too much to be in the center of the partying. But I am going to post the photos that I took just so that you get an idea of the fun had by all:

Michelle (HR at Halter) with Erin (our GM's fabulous wife):

My dear friend Addie from Epoch with two of her favorite guys:

My old, but totally cool, Cypher Crew - Stevie, Leanna & Mike - thanks so much for coming to the party guys!!!:

Molly (Halter enologist) Leslie (who helps keep the place running) and Bill (our former winemaker):

Boyfriend Dana (he regained status) with the gorgeous Laura from Clayhouse wines:

Me with the fabulous Marc Goldberg of Windward Vineyards - I LOVE this man!!!!!

Photo of Tony and I, coming out as "work husband" and "work wife" - our significant others understand - hahahahaha!!! :) Too funny

And finally, Leslie and Mitch - two of the institutions of Halter Ranch. We would not be where we are today without them. We love you guys!

I wish I had more photos - like of Mr. Seth, the fabulous tasting room manager whose birthday was the next day but who wouldn't let us celebrate at the party. That's OK though as his present was having so many people show up to the party - it showed that our hard work paid off!!!

A FABULOUS time was held by all!!! And now we're asking, how soon can we hold another as it was too much fun!!!

Thanks to all who attended. It was great to see you and we all appreciate your support!!!

p.s. In case you haven't seen it yet, here's a few photos of the new production facility, where the party was held:

It will be available for tours in April. be sure to come and see us!!!