Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tolosa Winery – A Solar Powered Winery in San Luis Obispo, California

After visiting Casa Dumetz in Los Alamos and Sans Liege in Pismo Beach I headed north to the Edna Valley AVA which is south of the city of San Luis Obispo and north of the town of Arroyo Grande. I then headed east to Tolosa Winery which is at the base of the coastal hills of San Luis Obispo.

The history of this wine making region goes back to over two hundred years ago when the friars at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa planted the first vineyards in the county with the establishment of the missions. In the 1870’s, Pierre Hyppolite Dallidet grafted French cuttings onto the rootstock still surviving from the mission era. Some of the original rootstocks survived prohibition and are part of the Edna Valley appellation today.

Tolosa’s vineyards overlook a gap between the San Luis and Santa Lucia mountains, which rise 450 feet above sea level and across several miles of the Pacific Ocean. This positioning provides for a unique mixture of soil profiles, terrain and microclimates. Tolosa’s five vineyards have east-west exposures under full sunshine which under most conditions would be excessive. However, these vineyards also cooled by morning fog and afternoon ocean breezes which create ideal conditions for producing grape clusters that are fewer in number, but linger longer on the vine to yield intense flavors and thus it provide excellent terroir for growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.

In summer 2009, Tolosa Winery co-owner Jim Efird removed 2,600 vines so that SunPower Corporation technicians could install 2,508 solar panels. Capable of delivering 539kw of power, this system can supply 100% of the electricity required to operate both winery and tasting room. 

Visitors of Tolosa Winery can take a self-guided tour of the wine making process, from vineyard-to-bottle. The tour starts at the vineyard patio, and then leads to Tolosa’s crush pad, followed by the tasting room. Inside the tasting room, a viewing window offers a bird’s eye view of the tank room where the fermentation process takes place. While visiting the tasting room I tasted the following wines:

My first pour was the 2011 RoussanneSan Antonia Valley. This wine is 100% Roussanne which is a rare find in California tasting rooms as it is usually used to create Rhone blends with Viognier and Marsanne. On the nose this wine is very floral and tropical with layers of white flowers, marzipan, butterscotch, and bananas. On the palate it is rich and creamy and full bodied with a long finish. This was my favorite in the line-up and I brought a bottle home for $22.

The second pour was the 2010 No Oak Chardonnay. This wine is 100% stainless steel fermented and is made from 50% Tolosa Estate and 50% Santa Lucia Highlands grapes. Going from a big, rich and creamy wine that is very floral to a wine that is this austere seemed a bit odd to me. So, I would highly recommend drinking water in between pours. On the nose I picked up faint hints of green apples, canned pears, peaches and apricots. Tasted by itself I am sure this wine is fine, but to follow the Rousanne it needs higher acidity to stand out. This is a quaffable Chard thatsells for $21 a bottle.

The third wine in the line-up was the 2009 Chardonnay - Estate Edna Valley.This wine underwent 80% malolactic fermentation and was aged in 6 months in stainless steel and 1/3 new French oak for 9 months. On the nose I picked up aromas of apple pie, caramel, butter crème, dried peaches and fig. On the palate the wine is medium bodied, well balanced, slightly creamy but maintains good acidity and has a medium length finish. A nice wine for $25 a bottle.

My fourth pour was the 2009 Pinot Noir. This wine is bright ruby in color, with ripe cherries and a hint of spice on the nose. On the palate it is light and crisp with a medium length finish. This wine sells for $30 a bottle. 

My final wine was the 2009 Syrah, a blend of 93% Syrah and 7% Petite Sirah. On the nose I picked up black cherries,blackberries and a hint of smoke and bacon. On the palate it is very fresh, fruit forward and lively with a medium length finish. A nice wine for $28 a bottle.

To visit or for more information:

Tolosa Winery
4910 Edna Rd.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Phone: 1-805-782-0500
Open daily 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.