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Grand Tasting Of Paso Robles Wines All In One Fabulous Place

on 03/03/11 at 2:14 pm


Wow! Stepping into Vibiana is stepping into a piece of L.A. history as the building was the former Cathedral of St. Vibiana, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The 1885 structure is one of the last remaining buildings from the early period of Los Angeles history which is, as you may know, a miracle unto itself as L.A. is notorious for demolishing its history. Fittingly, it was sold to a developer who did an amazing restoration job and it’s now, what else, an event space.

Hence, it became the Church of the Grand Tasting of Paso Robles Wine for the day. And an appropriate place it was too. Paso Robles is home to 200+ wineries and 40 of them were represented at this tasting. I am not sure how one gets through tasting all the wines from 40 wineries that have from 2 – 10 wines to sample, but one way is to choose a few and hope to catch up with the others at another event. Or, you can taste and spit. I’ve written about this spitting before, and ack, I still have to look away. Winos say it’s the only way to do it, and by spitting, you do get props for signaling you’re a professional. It looks like I’ll be staying in the minors as far as spitting’s concerned, and I’ll leave it to the spitting pros for their detailed wine descriptors. For me, the wines were simply distinctive and delicious.

These tasting events not only offer an opportunity to taste terrific wine, but it’s also a great time to schmooze with the winemakers who graciously answer questions that are probably asked a thousand times. I chatted with winemaker, Ken Volk of Kenneth Volk Vineyards (previously owner of Wild Horse label) about grapes hybridized for cold climates such as Minnesota and upstate New York. His technical expertise on the subject is encyclopedic, and I asked him what he thought wine would taste like in 25 years with all the experimenting. Wisely, he said he didn’t know exactly but that it would be quite different from what we’re drinking now. He said it takes a generation of wine splicing to come up with different wine profiles. Ah well. I hope my palate survives another quarter century. And my liver. What surprised me was that there are more grape varieties in Russia, near the Caspian Sea, than in any one place. I asked Ken if he had ever been, and he hadn’t, as yet…that’d be, for him, like being a kid in a candy store. He makes over 20+ wines, likes to do things he’s never done before, and makes a number of “oddball wines” that he sells direct to consumers. Get on his wine list.

There were many other interesting and enlightening conversations. One, in particular, with Master of Wine, Dr. Patrick Farrell, about the physical makeup of the tongue and how it informs our very subjective sense of taste. Truly fascinating, and we’ll be doing an interview with the good doctor in the near future so you can know why you hate the wine your friend flips for.

And then, the pièce de résistance, lo and behold, who should have a place at the table but Rex Pickett, author of Sideways and now, the sequel, Vertical. Of course, I got a signed copy and will review it post haste; but in the meantime, here is some video with  the loquacious Mr. Pickett himself and a review by a fan who’s already read Vertical. Sadly, the video I shot of Rex talking about the book, etc. magically vanished from my camera. Maddening. Will catch him again somewhere. I hope. ~ Reported by Patsy

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