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Connoisseur Vs. Lush

This past Saturday we joined the Winery Tour through the Paso Robles area. San Luis Obispo County has many wineries of varying sizes and reputations. This past weekend flaunted the talents of all of them for those interested in enjoying a lovely sunny day and some of the best wine tasting around.  

We did our homework before setting out. The county published a Spring 2011 Vintages Magazine for those who wanted information and maps for a self-tour. We latched onto one of those and began by letting our fingers do our preliminary exploration. In today’s season of gasoline price gouging, we try to learn as much as possible before foot meets gas pedal.

As a result we had a list in hand, our local friends to act as guides, and the desire to experiment with tastes and click with camera. One of the first things we noticed after setting out was that stretch limos were numerous. It seemed that many of the wineries had been pegged to a tour list for those choosing to pay a tour service so that they could imbibe without worry for a designated driver.

Each winery we visited had an individual wine list for tasting and an accompanying tasting fee. When one considers that the varying small tasting fees for a sip of each of between ten and twenty wines, the monetary amount were more than fair. For those like us who wanted to taste only the best of a particular type of wine offered by the vineyard, that two or more ounces of the best cost us nothing. We also considered that a fair exchange.

When one considers the fact that in a few hours, the taster visited up to twenty or more vineyards in search of just the right bottle of vino, one sip at each adds up very quickly. Also, most people began the tour with empty stomachs and may not have stopped for lunch along the way. That fact counts for something, too.

Sister Jo and I were only interested in desert wines. We don’t drink often to begin with. When we do share a vintage, we prefer a sweeter, more robust wine with desert. A good merlot falls well into that category for us and satisfies any craving we might have to imbibe.

On Saturday so many types and names of wine beckoned to us from behind counters and served by pleasant sommeliers that the mind had little choice by to go numb after several wineries. The wine that I remembered best of all those presented was a sporty little Syrah desert wine from Red Soles Winery called Monkeyshine.

For someone like me who has always preferred a fortified wine, Monkeyshine served two purposes. It had a lovely hardiness and strength to hint at fortification while also sending out tendrils of sweetness without choking the drinker to death. The bouquet teased the nose with a mild brandy effect even as its fruitiness swirled around the edges.

As for Sister Jo, she chose a Syrah desert wine called Sticky Paws from Red Soles. She liked its fruity lightness and pleasant fragrance of honey dew melon and oranges that lingered in the mouth afterwards. We can certainly recommend either of these lovely choices for a dinner party near you.

From castles to haciendas, French chateaus to modern California architecture, the taster on Saturday’s tour had more than enough to favor the eye and the palette. Some wineries provided tidbits to eat, and at least one provided a Bar-B-Q for those visiting the cellars. For those on a guided tour by limo, and after enjoying dozens of wines, the afternoon was a happy place to experience and song and cheer followed them accordingly.

One thing I can say about this part of Central California and its wine country is that they thoroughly enjoy sharing their passion for the grape, and they do it very well. Also, anyone who comes to the area during spring through fall season should take the time to partake of the pilgrimage to the cellars. If a person likes a good wine and a fun afternoon in beautiful places, a drive through San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara Counties will serve him/her well.

That’s my report from wine country, folks. Tomorrow we’ll be moving north to Monterrey and San Francisco before getting to the Redwoods. I can’t guarantee when my next post will be, but I’m hoping to be able to do something in the next few days.

In the meantime, enjoy yourselves and do something this week that you’ve never done before. We’d never done a wine tasting before now. You can find fun things anywhere if you look for them. Dust off the spyglass and take a gander at your area. You might be surprised at what you find.

Until my next report, a bientot,


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