Saturday, May 26, 2012

Berghold Estate Winery – A Victorian Wine Gallery in Lodi, California

California wine countries such as Napa and Sonoma are well known for their impressive architectural monuments (chateaus, castles, mansions and palaces) where visitors can take a tour and sample their premium wines. Outside of these world-renown tourist destinations, California wine countries tend to have simple and unpretentious facilities, many of them resembling old barns or are mission-styled wineries. Lodi wineries in particular tend to have rather simple and modest facilities, which makes Berghold Estate Winery stand out from their neighbors. It has the ambiance of what you’ll find in the Napa Valley and the profile and quality of wines you’d expect from a Paso Robles or Santa Barbara winery. If you have never been to Lodi or have think they can’t produce world-class wines in the central valley, then I challenge you to think again and visit Berghold Estate Winery!
Berghold Estate Winery is a family owned and run winery that has been growing wine grapes in Lodi since 1986. After nearly a decade of selling their grapes to other wineries, they decided to produce wine under their own label with Miles Berghold serving as the winemaker.

Berghold only produces about 5,000 cases per year and sells them directly from the winery. All of their wine is produced from 85 acres of estate vineyards of Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel. From these vineyards they produce single varietal wines as well as a Cabernet-Syrah blend. Their first red wine release was the 1999 Syrah followed by their first white wine, the 2000 Viognier. Under the “Stogie Club” label are unique estate ports and their Late Harvest Viognier are made when weather conditions provide the necessary Botrytis that concentrates the juice and sugar in the grapes.
The Berghold Estate Winery and tasting room are located in a beautiful Victorian California barn which hosts not only the wine making and tasting facilities, but also a show case for Joseph and Kay Berghold’s collection of Victorian antiques. Mr. Berghold was more than happy to provide a brief tour of the showroom. For nearly two decades, they have purchased antiques from the American Victorian period (1860 – 1900) which visitors can enjoy while sampling their estate wines. The main entrance to the winery features a pair of 10 foot carved cherry doors originally from a Victorian mansion in Philadelphia. The doors are flanked with two beautiful leaded beveled glass sidelights. As you enter you can immediately see the antiques which include a 26 foot carved mahogany Eastlake bar in the Tasting Room, a 26 foot Louis XIV Oak Bar in the Barrel Room, a 13 foot handmade gilded tower clock, beautiful armoires, tables and chests. At the center of the tasting room is a 1918 Charles Stieff concert grand piano and above it is an elegant 1890 chandelier from the Paramount Theater in New York. There is also a Currean Marble Statue from the Paris World Fair in 1885, a collection of Italian Victorian marble busts, L.M. Wiles painting Yosemite Sentinel Rock with Indian encampment (1886) and a Tiffany peacock stained glass window.

The winery is surrounded by beautiful marble water fountains, rose gardens, olive trees and of course the vineyards. In addition, there is a Stogie Club garden for cigar smokers which features a 13 foot steel domed gazebo.
While visiting I tasted the following wines:

My first wine was the 2008 Viognier. The is a big, rich, voluptuous wine with beautiful aromas of pineapple, white flowers, melon and peaches. On the palate it is full bodied, slightly creamy yet it has refreshing acidity followed by a prolonged pineapple and tropical finish. This is an absolutely gorgeous wine and one of the best Viogniers I’ve ever tasted at this price range. This wine sells for $19.99 and I brought four of them home.

The following day I opened one of the bottles of Viognier and found “Wine Diamonds” adhering to the cork.

What are “Wine Diamonds”? Whereas orange juice has citric acid, wine has tartaric acid. Naturally made and un-stabilized wines develop tartaric acid crystals which generally precipitate to the bottom of the bottle or attach themselves on the cork of the bottle and look like broken glass, salt or as I prefer to think of them “wine diamonds.”

How do “Wine Diamonds” get into my wine? When the newly made wine is cooled, wine makers channel the wine through stabilizers which consists of cooling pipes capable of dropping the temperature to – 4 C, which turns insoluble tartaric acid to crystals. Crystals are then filtered making the wine brilliant and clear. Occasionally some of the wines exposed to temperatures which are lower than the temperature by which the tartaric acids were removed, may attach themselves to the cork and precipitate to the bottom of the bottle. However, removing these acids can also reduce the flavor of the wine so some wine makers choose not to put their wine through a cold stabilization.

How can I remove “Wine Diamonds” from my wine? Tartaric acid can be totally removed during wine making, but this process deprives the wine of some congeners (taste imparting particles). So, consider yourself fortunate if you obtain a wine that contains wine diamonds. Simply remove the tartaric acid by either decanting the wine or separating the sediment from the wine. If the wine was clear at the time of bottling (and the Berghold Viognier IS clear!) it will be crystal clear. If you store the wine on its side, the tartaric acid particles will adhere to the cork and may only appear as residual salt-like crystals in the bottom of your glass.

Do “Wine Diamonds” affect the quality of A Wine? Although if you were to bite into one of these crystals it would taste bitter, they are harmless and do not affect the flavor of the wine in any way. If wineries, especially those in warmer regions such as the California Central Valley, took extra measures to ensure no wine diamonds would be in the bottle they would probably lose some flavor and necessary acidity in the process. The important thing to remember is, wine diamonds are indicative of quality and never impart an unpleasant taste.

My second pour and first red wine was the 2009 Foot Stomp Zinfandel, which comes from vines planted in 1986. This is not one of your typical overly heated fruit bombs that are common in the central valley. It displays on the nose fresh raspberries, strawberry jam and a hint of spice. On the palate it is dry with a fresh red fruit profile, has well balanced tannins, acidity and alcohol. If you like a Zin that isn’t an in-your-face fruit bomb with a finish that reminds you of cough syrup, then this one is for you! A really nice wine for $23.99 a bottle.

My second red wine was the 2007 Merlot. Most wineries are now selling 2008 and 2009 vintages, but Berghold holds on to their wines a little longer so that they are ready to drink now when purchased. This Merlot exudes ripe red fruit – especially cherry pie filling – as well as milk chocolate and a hint of anise. On the palate it is full bodied, well rounded with soft and drying tannins and a hint of underlying earthiness with a medium length finish. Although it is a BIG wine with 15.2% alcohol there is absolutely NO heat on this wine as all of its characteristics are well balanced and well integrated. This is a really well made Merlot for $22.99 a bottle.

My third red wine was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose I picked up cassis, black cherries, dark chocolate and a touch of cigar box. On the palate it is full bodied and rich with refined tannins and a medium length finish. This is a very BIG fruit forward wine without being overbearing so it has a lot of flavor without packing an alcoholic punch on the palate. A really nice Cab for $25.99 a bottle.

My fourth red wine was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon / Syrah. A blend of 85% Cab and 15% Syrah. On the nose I picked up black cherries, black plums, cassis, sweet black licorice and vanilla. I preferred this wine over the previous two has it has more layers of complexity and it evolves from the initial entry through the mid palate and the finish. If this wine was being sold in Napa you’d pay $40+ for it, yet it sells for only $25.99.

My fifth red wine was the 2007 Syrah. This wine has floral aromas of lavender and lanolin followed by black raspberries, new leather, a hint of black pepper and plums.  On the palate it is full bodied, has soft tannins and a medium length peppery finish. A beautiful wine for $22.99 a bottle.
My sixth wine was the 2009 Crankcase - a mysterious proprietary blend of four “secret” grapes. This wine is DARK with HUGE notes of sweet cocoa, licorice, and blueberries. On the palate it is full bodied, luscious, and slightly sweet. This wine would be awesome with barbecued meats, chocolate cake or just by itself. It sells for $34.99 and I bought two of them!

My final wine of the day was the Non-Vintage (NV) Late Harvest Viognier, made from Botrytis affected grapes. On the nose I picked up honey, orange marmalade and a slight nuttiness on the back end. On the palate it is definitely sweet but not syrupy or cloying as it has sufficient acidity. A really nice wine and affordable alternative to French Sauternes, this wine sells for $34.00 per bottle (375ml).

To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Berghold Vineyards and Winery
17343 Cherry Road
Lodi, CA 95240
Phone: 1-209-333-9291

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Final Stop of the California Coast Tour: Pomar Junction Vineyards – Templeton, California

My final winery in my four-day California Coast Winery tour after visiting August Ridge was Pomar Junction Vineyards and Winery. I visited the previous winery because it had a unique Italian wine portfolio but I chose this one because it has a reputation of making really BIG and delicious Bordeaux varietal wines.

Pomar Junction is owned by Dana and Marsha Merrill and it is a family operated winery. The family’s agricultural heritage goes back at least eight generations and after nearly 30 years of growing grapes for many of the finest wineries in California, ranging from ultra premium small producers to the largest international brands, the Merrill’s decided to produce their own wines. Dana and Marsha along with their son Matthew grow Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier in their agriculturally sustainable vineyard. In addition to the family estate vineyards, they also source premium grapes from Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties that are selected from vineyards managed by a sister firm, Mesa Vineyard Management, Inc. All of the estate wines are produced from grapes farmed by the Merrills who oversee the entire process from vine to wine; including planting, pruning, harvesting, fermenting, bottling and cellaring. This “hands on” approach ensures a uniform dedication to sustainability, which led their recent Certification to the Sustainability In Practice (SIP) program within the Central Coast Vineyard Team.

Pomar Junction’s historical roots in Templeton go back to at the turn of the century, when the El Pomar District was known for almond and fruit orchards, along with a few wine grapes. The Southern Pacific Railroad reached Templeton with its coastal lines and built the town. Marsha Merrill’s grandfather, George Gregg, was a longtime Southern Pacific Engineer. To honor that heritage, the Pomar Junction Vineyards and Winery has a train junction theme, and visitors can explore the caboose, boxcar and antique farm equipment on the property as well as enjoy the picnic areas and panoramic views. 

To add to that heritage, Dana Merrill was the first San Luis Obispo County Chair of the California Association of Wine Grape Growers, a charter member of the pioneering vineyard Sustainability group, the Central Coast Vineyard Team and is a past two term Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

The Pomar Junction vineyard and tasting room are located at the “junction” of El Pomar and South El Pomar Drives, in the El Pomar District of the Paso Robles viticultural appellation. The tasting room is located in a restored 1920’s vintage farmhouse with the original and restored knotty pine and red oak hardwood floors. While visiting I tasted the following wines:

My first sample was the 2010 Viognier. This wine displays on the nose a classic Viognier profile of white flowers followed by tropical notes of pineapple, coconut, bananas… and on the palate it is crisp and has a medium length finish. This is a really nice wine for $25, but I had already picked up a few Viogniers and white Rhone blends.

My next wine was the 2011 Syrah Rosé. This wine is light pink in color, with fruity aromas of watermelon, strawberries, cranberries and a hint of spice. On the palate it seems off-dry (semi-sweet) and yet it has refreshing acidity. I have a large stock of Pinot Rosés and Cab/Merlot Rosés that I am saving for this summer, otherwise this one would be a good one to pickup to enjoy on hot days for only $18 a bottle.

The third pour and first red was the 2010 Brooster Red Blend, a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel. This wine is medium intensity ruby red in color, on the nose it displays canned cranberry sauce (like the kind you eat at Thanksgiving), blueberries, and a hint of suede. On the palate it has ample weight and body, noticeable but refined tannins and crisp acidity followed by a medium length finish. A nice wine and a good alternative every-day drinking wine to go with dinner. This wine sells for $18 a bottle.

The following red wine was the 2009 Pinot Noir. This wine is DARK and on the nose it has subtle notes of strawberry preserves, plums, earth, licorice, pepper and a hint of spice. On the palate it is full-bodied and somewhat lacking in acidity and yet has a medium length finish of pepper and spice. This wine seems like it has 15-20% Syrah blended in it but I cannot confirm this from the web page. This wine sells for $34 a bottle and I’d say, “pass.”

My fifth wine was the 2008 PJ Estate Merlot. This is a HUGE dark Merlot, with intensely expressive aromas of cherry pie, blackberry pie, cassis and spice. On the palate it is full-bodied, seemingly semi-sweet (though it is dry) and has great complexity. For some people this wine might seem over the top, but I really enjoyed it and brought a bottle home for $28.

My final wine was the 2008 PJ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is really big made from very ripe hand-picked, estate-grown grapes that were not picked until late October, nearly a month later than a typical Eastside Paso Robles vineyard. Yet on the nose it does NOT have dried fruit characteristics (prune, raisins, dates) that one might expect nor is the alcohol (15.2%) out of balance. This wine is very dark and on the nose it exudes cassis, blackberries, black cherries, dark chocolate, brown sugar and vanilla. On the palate it is big, round, seemingly semi-sweet and very delicious. It is like drinking chocolate cake with cherry filling. This isn’t a wine for wine-snobs but for just enjoying with barbequed meat with a brown sugar spice rub or just as a stand-alone wine. It is sort of a guilty pleasure wine, the kind that wine-snobs enjoy but won’t admit it to their friends. I brought a bottle of this home for $34.

This was my final stop in my 2012 spring tour of California Coast wineries. I wanted to visit a third winery but it was already 2 p.m. and I wanted to be back home in the San Francisco Bay Area by 5 p.m. But I’ve got plans to make a trek out to Lodi so stay tuned for my next California Wine Tasting Adventure!

To visit or for more information:

Pomar Junction Vineyards and Winery
5036 South El Pomar
Templeton, CA 93465
Phone: 1-805-238-9944

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

August Ridge Vineyards - A Taste of Italy in Templeton, California

In my previous travels along the California Coast wine countries I tasted and picked up bottles of Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara and Rhône varietals from Paso Robles for which these regions are well known. So, in planning this trip that is what I had intended. But, it turned out that although I had tasted a few Pinot Noirs from Santa Barbara none of them impressed me enough to want to take any home. Instead, I purchased a number of Rhône varietals (Syrah, Viognier, Rousanne, Grenache Blanc and blends) in Santa Barbara, Los Alamos and San Luis Obispo. So, before I arrived in Paso Robles I already had a good collection of Rhônes and I wasn’t in the mood to pick up any more. Consequently I changed my plans and decided to visit two wineries in the region that specialized in non-Rhône wines.
I also wanted to visit wineries in areas of Paso Robles that I had not been to before. The most traveled routes in Paso Robles by tourists are along east and west highway 46 which I have visited in previous trips. I had also explored wineries in the far west side of Paso, such as Justin Wines and Vineyards, and north, such as Adelaida Cellars. So, I decided to explore a different area and chose two wineries in the far south-east side of Paso Robles that are off the beaten path and way out in the country and focus on non-Rhône wines.
My first stop in Paso was August Ridge Vineyards in Templeton, which not only specializes in estate-grown Italian varietals but they grow several grapes that are rarely found in California such as Arneis, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo.
August Ridge was established by John Backer and Jill Zamborelli Backer in the spring of 2001 with the purchase of 40 acres of rolling hills in Creston. From the beginning their goal was to produce wines that combine the robust New World style of California with the restrained elegance of the classic wines from northern and central Italy. They released their first vintage in the summer of 2007 with their 2005 Sangiovese as well as the 2005 Merlot and 2006 Vino Bianco de Pasto (Arneis/Sauvignon Blanc blend). August Ridge is a small production winery, in fact their first release was less than 250 cases and their current production is only around 1400 cases.
The winery is at the end of a long drive way perched on top of a hill where you’ll find a small barn that serves as the winery and the tasting room. There you can taste the wines while standing next to the barrels and fermenting tanks or outside while enjoying the view of the estate vineyards below adjacent to their lovely home.

While visiting I tasted the following wines:

The first wine was the 2009 Arneis, a white wine grape variety originating from Piedmont, Italy. It is most commonly found in the hills of the Roero. The word Arneis literally means “little rascal” in Piedmontese and is so called because it is a difficult variety to grow. This wine was unfiltered and had not undergone malolactic fermentation and seemed somewhat cloudy. On the nose I picked up lemon and a hint of herbs. On the palate this wine is dry, VERY tart, highly acidic and resembles drinking unsweetened lemonade. I can image that this wine might be enjoyable with seafood, but it is otherwise TOO sharp and cutting for drinking. This wine sells for $19 a bottle.

The second wine was the 2010 Arneis. This wine went through 25% malolactic fermentation, was clearer and had a similar nose to the first wine. But on the palate the acidity and tartness has been reined in and consequently it is more balanced with refreshing acidity. This wine also sells for $19 a bottle and I brought one home.

The third pour and first red was the 2009 Rocco’s Red, a blend of Sangiovese, Dolcetto and Barbera. This wine is ruby red and the nose on this wine is very expressive with Bing cherries and a hint of smoke. For $19 this is a really enjoyable table wine, great for everyday Italian food like pizza, spaghetti, lasagna etc. I brought one home to share with family and friends.

The fourth sample was the 2009 Barbera. This wine is garnet in color, on the nose it is really smoky with black plums, Bing cherries, spice, good acidity and a very long finish. A really enjoyable wine for $29 a bottle.

My fifth sample was the 2009 Primativo. On the nose and palate this is a fruity wine displaying “sweet” cherries, strawberry jam, and a hint of pepper. On the palate it is medium bodied, has good acidity and is well balanced. Although this grape is the Italian relative of Zinfandel, this wine is not like many California Zins that are huge, alcoholic and can seem overbearing. A really nice wine for $26 a bottle.

My sixth wine was the 2006 Sangiovese. In contrast to the previous wine, this wine has tart cherries, cedar, pepper, and dried tobacco notes. On the palate it is medium bodied and has fairly high acidity. Another nice wine for $30 a bottle.

I know it sounds like I am tasting a lot of wines but I am SPITTING into a cup and drinking water along the way…

The seventh pour was the 2009 Dolceto which is made from black wine grape variety that is widely grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. The Italian word dolcetto means “little sweet one”, but it is not certain that the name originally carried any reference to the grape’s sugar levels but may be derived from the name of the hills where the vine is cultivated. This Italian varietal is rarely grown in California and the best way to think about this grape is in terms of scale of tannin in relation to Barbera and Nebbiolo. The most tannic is Nebbiolo, second is Barbera and the least is Dolceto. So, Dolceto tends to be softer and easier to drink young than Nebbiolo and it is a really good introduction to red wine for those who prefer only white wine or sweet wines. This wine displays notes of cherry, blackberries, plums a hint of vanilla and has medium acidity. A really well balanced wine and easy to drink now, it sells for $24 a bottle.

The eighth wine sample was the 2007 Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo is a late-ripening grape that is responsible for the great wines of Piedmont’s Langhe and Monferrato hills: Barolo and Barbaresco. Notoriously difficult to cultivate, Nebbiolo tends to be planted in the warmest hillside sites, where drainage is excellent. Barolo comes from Nebbiolo planted on the hills southwest of the town of Alba, while Barbaresco is made from Nebbiolo grown just to the north of Alba. This Italian varietal is also rarely grown in California. The wine is light ruby in color, on the nose it has aromas of tart cherries, a hint of cedar, dried roses, and subtle licorice notes. On the palate it has pronounced but well refined tannins and mouth watering acidity.  This is a really fine example of this varietal and it easily has the ageing capability of 10-15 years. This wine sells for $32 a bottle.

The ninth sample was the 2007 Ingenious, a blend of 72% Nebbiolo, 19% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is clear garnet to tawny at the rim in color. On the nose I picked up cherries, licorice, eucalyptus and spice. On the palate it is a bit woody and tannic. Of all the wines I tasted, this was my least favorite and it seems a bit over priced at $44 a bottle.

My final wine was the 2007 Jovial, a Super-Tuscan blend of 64% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 16% Merlot. This wine is ruby red and displays aromas of sweet red plums,  cassis, black licorice and sweet tobacco and spice. On the plate this wine is full bodied with refined tannins and a lingering finish. An absolutely fabulous wine for $42 a bottle and I brought one home to share with friends.

To visit or for more information:

August Ridge Vineyards
8790 E Highway 41  
Templeton, CA 93465
Phone: 1-805-239-2455

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.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sans Liege Wines – A Taste of the Rhône at Pismo Beach, California

After visiting Casa Dumetz, at the recommendation of Sonja Magdevski I headed north on Highway 101 to check out Sans Liege Wines, an urban winery in Pismo Beach.

Sans Liege Wines (“without a leader”) was founded by winemaker Curt Schalchlin (pronounced “SHACK-lin”) and his wife Kara. Their focus is on producing fine Rhône red and white blends. The Schalchlins source their wines from high quality growers and they makes their wines with their own equipment at Central Coast Wine Services in Santa Maria.

Sans Liege Wines has contracts from three west side Paso Robles vineyards: the Las Colinas Vineyard, Derby Vineyard and Pipestone Vineyard. In Santa Barbara County, they buy Syrah from Zotovich Vineyard in the eastern end of the Sta. Rita Hills and Larner Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. He has also purchased fruit from Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard (owned by Laetitia). 

The tasting room is just off of Highway 101, is across the street from another tasting room and is just a stone’s throw from the beach. While visiting I tasted the following wines:

My first sample was the 2010 Côtes-du-Coast - Central Coast California. This is a Rhône-style white wine blend of 43% Viognier, 23% Roussanne and 22% Marsanne. This wine has a light perfumed nose of tropical fruits (especially pineapples) followed by aromas of crème brûlée, honey, white flowers and golden apples. On the palate this wine is crisp with and underlying minerality, is medium-bodied wine with a rich mouthfeel and ends with a lingering pineapple finish. A beautiful wine for $26 so I brought one home.

The second pour was the 2010 “Call To Arms” – Paso Robles. This is also a Rhône-style white wine blend of 70% Grenache Blanc and 30% Roussanne. Similar to the previous wine in fruit profile but with more cantaloupe melon. On the palate the wine is light in weight and but explosive in flavor intensity and it has a prolonged tropical finish. An absolute fabulous wine for $30 so I took a bottle home.

The third wine in the line-up was the 2009 “Pickpocket” Grenache – Templeton Gap. Bright ruby red in color, this wine has a vibrant cherries, red currants, cinnamon and a hint of white pepper on the nose. On the plate it is medium bodied with mouth-watering acidity and a prolonged finish. A marvelous wine for $40 a bottle.

My final wine was the Non-Vintage (a blend of 2009 and 2010) “Prophetess” – Santa Barbara County. A blend of 66% Syrah and 33% Mourvèdre On the nose this wine displays a big dose of black pepper that unfortunately dominates the fruit profile. But once I got past the pepper I picked up dried fruits (dates, raisins, dried plums) and black licorice. This sells for $40 but it just has too much pepper for my palate.

To visit or for more information:

Sans Liege Wines
870 Price Street
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Phone: 1-805-773-2770
Hours: Thurs. 3 p.m. -9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 1 p.m. -9 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.