Fàilte! Welcome to the next installment of Exploring the Wine Glass. Mike and I are big proponents of you should drink what you like and you are the only one who can taste like you. We advocate the fact that everyone experiences the wine differently, so in these posts we do not discuss our tasting notes.  Instead we include basic information about each of the wineries, and/or a bit about what was happening in our lives while we were enjoying them. With that said, if you are interested in reading our tasting notes and our ratings head on over to Delectable and check us out.  We tell it as we taste it over there.  Click here to see the chart we use to describe the color or if you want to see the wines themselves as they are poured, visit our YouTube Channel and watch for yourself. As always, since as oenophiles we love to celebrate #WineWednesday, our week runs from one Wednesday to the next. 

Week 1

Exploring the Wine Glass, Dracaena WinesI have had the pleasure of receiving a sample of Hahn Family Wines 2013 SLH(Santa Lucia Highlands) Pinot Noir. Pleasure really isn’t the word. This is one of those bottles that when you tip it for an additional glass, you look at it completely dumbfounded and ask yourself how is it empty already and you immediately start going through separation anxiety. We paired it with Gruyere and Broccoli Rabe Bakes

Nicolaus (Nicky) Hahn and his wife Gaby first purchased the land in the Santa Lucia Highlands as property for grazing stock. Soon after, Nicky realized the land was being “wasted” being used in this fashion and he was one of the leaders in the charge to get the SLH recognized as an AVA in 1991.  Today, their son Philip has taken over the reigns of the 650 acres of estate vineyards that are dedicated to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

This wine received 92 pts from Wine Spectator and was named a SMART BUY. James Laube called it “Impressive, showing density,concentration, depth and persistence, with layers of blackberry, mocha, cedar,spice and berry pie. Finishes with a strong presence.” It is composed of three vineyard sites (53% Smith, 42% Doctor’s and 6% Lone Oak. It aged for up to 10 months in 100% French oak Barrels that were 40% new and 60% neutral. The vineyards were kept in separate barrels until they were ready to be blended. 

Tonight we decided we needed some bacon! Have you ever had one of those days? As they say, bacon makes everything better and we all know wine makes life better, so we figured we couldn’t go wrong with this meal.  We had another snow day today. Another wasted day, if you ask me.  We were woken up with a call saying we had a delayed opening. I was alright with that. But then after getting up and showering and started to head out the door, the phone rang again. I screamed “NO!” but it didn’t work. School was cancelled for the day. [You may be asking why I didn’t want a snow day, it’s because any unused snow days gets added to our Memorial Day weekend, and I’d much prefer to have off when the weather is nicer or I can go somewhere!]

Well, enough of that rant. For dinner we made bacon, onion and broccoli pasta and pairedDracaena Wines it with a 2014 Balletto Rosé of Pinot Noir that I received as a sample. Sadly, John Balletto had to bypass a college experience playing football and running track to begin farming at the tender age of 17 due to his father’s death. By age 21, he purchased his first ranch in Santa Rosa with the help of former high school counselor and friend, Pete Barbieri. Over the years John became the largest vegetable farmer in the area with over 700 acres. After 3 El Niños, John decided he should leave the vegetable industry and in 1999 he converted the vegetable land to vineyard plantings. In 2001, they produced 391 cases of Chardonnay and 689 cases of Pinot Noir and they added Zinfandel to their portfolio in 2003. Today, the Balletto family has over 600 acres of vineyards in the Russian River Valley. 

From their site: Rosé should be that wonderful, joyful wine that’s light, pretty and full of life. To coax the most complexity and balance from our pinot, we whole-cluster press 75 percent of the blend and bleed off 25 percent from our regular fermentation. The combination of the two methods gives the best of both styles. The whole-cluster portion makes the framework with acidity and minerality. The bleeds from the fermenters fill in the middle with bright fruit and texture. Together, they create the whole picture.

chicken parmesanDuring the long wrestling match today (I run the clock for my school’s wrestling team) I was daydreaming about the wine we were going to have with dinner. I knew we were having a 2013 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon that we received as a sample and I was counting the hours until the first sip. We paired it with Chicken parmesan and roasted potatoes. 

As they state on their website, When JUSTIN first planted cabernet sauvignon grapes in the Santa Lucia Mountains, Paso Robles wasn’t even on the wine lover’s map. Thirty-five years later, JUSTIN is recognized as the pioneer of award-winning Bordeaux-style wines on California’s Central Coast. They were just awarded Wine Enthusiast’s Winery of the Year. Their wines are created from the grapes that grow on limestone soils that stress the vines that allow the fruit to express the varietal character expected in award-winning wines. 

You can read more about these above food and wine pairings in my Need A Valentine’s Day Wine? As You Wish post. Or if you are a fan of “The Princess Bride” you may want to check the post out, because to me that is an extremely romantic movie and although I thought I was alone in my love that movie, I found out there are a lot of fans out there! 

Week 2

This week we spent in Paso Robles! Every time we go there, it is harder and harder to get on the plane to come home. We spent these few days pouring our wines at several restaurants to potentially be on their wine lists. So keep your fingers crossed for us!

Since we didn’t really sit down to any real dinners during our time there, (we typically end the day at Barrel House Brewery) I figured I would just talk about some of the wineries we tasted at while we had some down time in between pourings. As I look back at our bottles, it turns out it was a big Zinfandel weekend!
We purchased Zinfandel at three different places. Paydirt (2014), Brochelle (2013) and Turley (2013).

The Paydirt wines represent the art of discovery, the act of going for broke, and the idea that risking it all brings about the greatest reward.

We happened upon Paydirt a few visits ago and became instant fans.  They seem to have Dracaena Wines, Exploring the Wine Glassthe same philosophy as we do in terms of “Go big or go home.” Anything worth doing is worth doing well and if you don’t jump in with both feet you are never going to be successful. [wow that is a lot of cliches] but definitely how we approached entering the wine industry.  An interesting aspect to this Zinfandel is that final two percent varietal that is added (94% Zinfandel, 4% Petite Sirah, 2% Alicante Bouchet) making this exceptionally well-balanced wine. Alicante Bouchet? Really?! I honestly can’t recall another wine we have drunk with Alicante Bouchet. How cool!

Dracaena Wines, Exploring the Wine GlassBrochelle Winery obtained their name when Brock and Michelle combined their names. They fell in love in 1998, not only with each other, but with Paso Robles and Zinfandel. With the 2013 season seeing extremely little rain, the berries for this Zinfandel were able to hang onto the vine for an extremely long time. Although harvest started early, the extended hang time allowed the fruit to gain some extremely intense extracted flavors.  

2013 Dusi Vineyard Turley Zinfandel rounded out our apparent Zinfest.

 We aim to be stewards of some of California’s most distinctive vineyards, producing authentic wines that reflect their heritage.

If you are going to visit Turley, be prepared to taste stellar wine and a lot of it. They open Dracaena Wines, Exploring the Wine Glassand pour many of their wines and it is often difficult to pick and choose which ones you want to try to even more difficult to not just throw your credit card down and say “Give me them all!”  However, this time we chose to grab a few bottles of the Dusi Vineyard. The Dusi vineyard was planted by Dante Dusi in 1945 and is located on the West Side of Paso Robles. 

We did purchase some other varietals including Grenache, and Petite Sirah. The story of Ron Denner is an entertaining one.  As the Dracaena Wines, Exploring the Wine Glassstory goes, while he was growing up, he may have wandered a bit from being the exceptional student. His father would always tell him when he got in a bit of harmless trouble, “Do you want to dig ditches for the rest of your life?” Well, that is exactly what he did! Ron owned the Ditch Witch dealerships for Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho! Turns out digging ditches is something that you should aspire to do! He honors that story by naming his flagship wine Ditch Digger. [he also has a Ditch Worshipper] We however, purchased the Grenache on this visit which is composed of 92% Grenache, 4% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre. We apparently are consistent in our tastes, since we appear to be creating a vertical of this Grenache in our cellar. [this being the third vintage]

The Petite Sirah is a favorite of ours. In fact, we enjoy this PS so much that we used theDracaena Wines, Exploring the Wine Glass 2013 vintage to blend in our Cabernet Franc. Ancient Peaks is actually a partnership between three local winegrowing families.  The 2011 Petite Sirah comes from their Wittstrom Vineyard in the northwest portion of Paso Robles. It is the only wine that doesn’t come their estate Margarita Vineyard that is in the southernmost Paso Robles vineyard. Harvest for this wine took place on two separate dates in October which adds to the complexity of the wine. 

Hope you have had some great wines and times these past two weeks. Remember, always Pursue Your Passion. We would love for you to leave a comment telling us what your favorite recent wine was.


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  1. I loved reading your post – I could totally feel the enthusiasm! And I know what you are saying about how hard it is to leave Paso. We had an awesome visit there a few months ago and cannot wait to get back. I was interested in reading about all of those Zins you had. For some reason I just don’t drink enough of that variety. I will make a point of changing that this weekend!

    1. Zina are fantastic especially from Paso! I love it there so much. I wish we could be there 100% of the time. We do go about 6 times a year, but that isn’t enough for me! Thank you do commenting that you can read my enthusiasm. That means a lot to me! Sláinte!

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