Though it seems that Paso Robles has only recently burst onto the wine stage, the fact is that grapes were first planted in 1797 near Mission San Miguel. The first commercial winery was formed in 1882 on York Mountain. In the ensuing 210 years since the mission fathers started making wine the quality has exponentially improved. Paso Robles boasts nearly 26,000 vineyard acres and approximately 40 different grape varietals.
Oh my goodness, I thought. I cannot possibly drink this big, full-bodied red wine in this heat – I’ll pass out! Nevertheless, there I was, in Paso Robles during a heat wave (100˚ in the shade), on a wine tasting tour. “Oh, no, this isn’t normal for May” they said “…but it’s great practice for the summer when it’s 110˚ for months!” A pale Seattle girl, I wiped my brow, took another swig of cooling water and headed determinedly back to the bar.
Much is written about the celebrated wines and terroir of Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Travel southeast from California’s “wine country” through the Central Valley and you will find a unique gem of a winery nestled in Madera County. Quady Winery has spent the past 30 years refining the art of dessert wines. IntoWine.com caught up with co-founder Andrew Quady (his wife Laurel is the other brain behind it) to talk about Quady’s California style dessert wines.
Driving on Highway 101, between the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria in Santa Barbara wine country, you pass by rolling hills punctuated by oak trees, sedate cattle and a sea of vineyards, like the ones off Cat Canyon and Kendall Jackson's 1,600 acres. You also pass by Los Alamos, an old western town founded in 1876 that still doesn't have its own grocery store.
In the summer of 2002, I embarked on a 3300 mile motorcycle tour of the California, Oregon , and Washington coasts, with strategic stops in the various wine regions along the way. The entire trek was amazing, but it was on this trip that I truly “discovered” the wines of Paso Robles. At the time, I knew the area as a producer of big, jammy zinfandels. What I quickly learned, however, was that the region produces an amazingly diverse collection of wines in as many different styles as there are vintners. It turns out that the varied topography of the Paso Robles AVA not only makes for great motorcycle touring, it has a microclimate to suit virtually any varietal you want to grow.
"Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it,” philosopher George Santayana said. However, two Central Coast wineries repeat history precisely because it's the only way to showcase their wines. Saucelito Canyon Saucelito Canyon sits inland from the coast near Pismo Beach, tucked away from civilization.
“Many of the wineries of California’s Central Coast are still young, but their potential to produce great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah are enormous. In a decade, the top viticulture areas of Santa Barbara, Santa Rita Hills and the limestone hillsides west of Paso Robles will be as well known as Napa and Sonoma.” ~Robert Parker, August 2006 Little more than 30 years ago, the Central Coast - defined as Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties – were nothing more than a loose aggregate of beachside towns, tract housing, mom and pop eateries and lone motels. There were few reasons to visit, unless you preferred an idyllic stroll along the Pacific Ocean or the gentle rolling hills of the rural valleys. No one wanted to live in isolated communities that offered no real amenities, other than nostalgia and nice views.