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NorCal Wine Blog

Wine Tasting in Paso Robles - 3 Winning Wineries on Live Oak and Arbor Roads

This is the final installment our series of articles on where to taste wine in Paso Robles. Today, we look at three of my favorite Paso Robles producers of Rhone variety wine. They are located on Live Oak and Arbor Roads off of Hwy 46 West, not far from Hwy 101. While getting to the wineries is not a long drive, you will spend time on a sometimes bumpy dirty road. This is not a tasting route for low-slung sports cars with tight suspension. I speak from experience on this.

Terry Hoage Vineyards

Terry Hoage is one of those winemakers who nearly won a Heisman Trophy as a defensive back, did win a Superbowl, played 13 years seasons in the NFL, has been inducted into four different Halls of Fame and then, just 12 years after hanging up his cleats, found his winery named one of California’s top new wine producers by Wine Spectator. Ok. He’s the only winemaker that’s done that.

Growing up in New Orleans with a mother who worked in some of that city’s top restaurants, Jennifer Hoage’s passion for food and wine developed early. Later, she lived in Paris where she studied the arts, learned French and was immersed in the food and wine of France. (Her host family owned a Bordeaux chateau and didn’t hesitate to break out the good stuff.) Back home again after college, Jennifer managed, and dramatically improved, the food and wine section at New Orleans Magazine.

Jennifer-and-Terry-Hoage-500-443
Jennifer and Terry Hoage at Rhone n Bowl, Hospice du Rhone, April 28, 2011. Photo: Fred Swan

The Hoages moved to Paso Robles in 2000. “We wanted to bring our kids up in an agrarian community,” Terry says. “We moved here not knowing what we were going to do.” Conversations with Cris Cherry led them to buy their vineyard in 2002. It had been designed by John Alban and planted to Syrah. They subsequently planted another 17 acres of Rhone varieties in consultation with Justin Smith (Saxum). I asked Jennifer if they use a vineyard management firm. “We’re it,” she smiled. “The quality of the fruit is so important to us. We want to have complete control.” They use most of the grapes in their own wines, but also sell some to Saxum.

Justin Smith made the Terry Hoage wines for the 2002 and 2003 vintages, with Jennifer and Terry studying his processes. He supervised the Hoage’s winemaking at his facility in 2004. By 2005, Terry and Jennifer had “graduated” and moved into their own brand new winery.

The Hoages work together on nearly everything, but have their own primary responsibilities. Terry has a degree in genetics and loves being outside, so he takes the lead on viticulture. And years of football drills give him an advantage in punching down the cap. Jennifer is responsible for the blending, as well as determining which barrels (all French) to use and how to apply them. White wines are the one thing they don’t collaborate on. Those are her special project.

Jennifer Hoage likens her style on the red wines to that of mentor Justin Smith, but she uses less oak to keep the fruit front and center. It’s working. The Terry Hoage wines are consistently among the very best of their type in California. I love the purity of their fruit. The wines also tend to sell out quickly.

The only way for non-club members to get Terry Hoage wines right now is at their tasting room. It’s worth the trip, and not just for the wine. The winery, clad in  century-old siding reclaimed from barns in the Midwest, is situated in one of the most scenic areas Paso Robles.

Address: 870 Arbor Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 238-2083
Open Hours: 11am - 4:00pm, Friday - Sunday and by appointment
Tasting Fee: $10
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

Treana

Treana is one of the brands of the Hope Family, which has been growing wine grapes in Paso Robles since 1978. Treana was established in 1996. Austin Hope took over as head winemaker for Treana two years later. He grew up in the business, studied fruit science at Cal Poly and then apprenticed under Chuck Wagner of Caymus Vineyards.

The connection with Wagner still extends to the vineyard selection for Treana White, my favorite of their two offerings. It uses only Santa Lucia Highlands fruit. One of the primary sources is Wagner’s Mer Soleil Vineyard. Whereas Paso Robles is known for it’s large diurnal temperature shift — hot days but much colder nights — Treana’s Viognier and Marsanne grows where temperatures are more consistent but substantially cooler during daylight hours. This helps preserve freshness in those varieties which tend toward low acidity.

Maintaining acidity is particularly important given the style of Treana White. Part of the blend is fermented in stainless to preserve acidity as well and it undergoes only partial malolactic fermentation. New oak is limited to 30% or less. Despite all that, Treana White is viscous on the palate. Ripe, almost unctuous, peach and apricot are accentuated with honey and gorgeous floral aromatics. It’s a sensual, Rubenesque wine.

When young, it can be almost overwhelming rich. Yet it ages very well. The underlying acidity — and minerality — are there. They begin to show themselves after just a year or two in bottle. The best vintages are easily good for six years (even longer to my palate).

The other Treana wine, Treana Red, comes from a variety of Paso Robles vineyards and is Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Syrah. It gets roughly a year of barrel age in French oak, the majority of which is new. It is a balanced and structured wine intended to age.

The public tasting room at Treana/Hope Family is a fairly recent development. It has a barrel room motif and overlooks the estate vineyard. While there, you can also taste Hope Family Wines’ other brands: Liberty School, Austin Hope, Candor and Westside Red.

Address: 1585 Live Oak Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 238-4112
Open Hours: 10am - 4:00pm, Friday & Saturday
Tasting Fee: No
Tours Available: No
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

L’Aventure

Most wineries talk about production in terms of cases and yield in tons per acre. Stephan Asseo of L’Aventure has said that the yield for his “estate-level” wines is one bottle per vine. That succinctly addresses his high-density, low-vigor growing strategy, suggests high-quality and gives us a memorable mental image tying a vine on his soil to the wine in our glass.

Asseo wants his wine to talk about Paso Robles and his vineyard specifically. A Frenchman trained in winemaking at Burgundy’s L’Ecole Oenologique de Macon and for 15 years an owner-vigneron of Bordeaux properties including Domaine de Courteillac and Chateau Fleur Cardinale, he believes strongly that great wine should reflect terroir.

pierre-gaillard-stephen-asseo-1000
Stephan Asseo (right) with Pierre Gaillard at Hospice du Rhone, April 30 2011. Photo: Fred Swan

When he decided to leave Bordeaux and, literally, put down roots elsewhere, Asseo spent an entire year studying sites around the world: Australia, South Africa, South America and the United States. His end-goal was to make high-end, terroir-driven wine that also reflected his creativity in blending varieties, unlimited by the strict laws of France (and many other European countries) governing which grapes might be used where. In particular, he wanted to make wine that combined Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah.

Paso Robles turned out to be the ideal spot for him. Its calcareous soil builds character in grapes by forcing vines to work hard for moisture and nutrients. Massive daily temperature swings during the growing season promote ripeness while preserving acidity. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah both excel in Paso Robles. And when he founded L’Aventure in 1998, land values in Paso Robles were such that he could afford to build a winery and buy more than 120 acres with a variety of aspects to suit different varieties. Voilà.

Even so, he and his family spent years living in a mobile home on the property. They put all of their money into the land and winery, with nothing left over to build themselves a house. Their sacrifice has benefitted wine enthusiasts. From the start, L’Aventure reds have been deeply-colored and delicious expositions on black fruit, flowers, earth, spice and herb. There is also a top-notch white (a Roussanne-Viognier blend) and a rosé. The wines earn high scores every year and in 2007 Stephan Asseo was named San Luis Obispo County Winemaker of the Year.

The focus at L’Aventure is on their wine. The winery was built for function not elegance. The tasting room is small and without frills or shelves full of souvenirs However, if you call ahead to make an appointment for a time outside regular tasting hours, they will be happy to give you a winery tour. And, though space is limited, L’Aventure is the only winery on this route with picnic seating.

Address: 2815 Live Oak Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 227-1588
Open Hours: 11am - 4:00pm, Thursday - Sunday and by appointment
Tasting Fee: $10, keep the Riedel “O” stemless Syrah glass
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: Yes


Wine Tasting in Other Parts of Paso Robles

This article is the last in a five-part series on wine tasting in Paso Robles' different areas. Here are links to the other four articles:
5 Excellent Stops near 101 and Downtown
5 Can't Miss Wineries in Northwest Paso Robles
My Top 4 Picks in Southwest Paso Robles
3 Top Stops on Anderson Road

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

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