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Wine Tasting in Paso Robles - 3 Top Stops on Anderson Road

Anderson Road is today’s area of focus in the NorCalWine 5-part series of articles on tasting wine in Paso Robles region-by-region. Anderson Road is not far from the intersection of Highways 101 and 46 West. The wineries below are listed in alphabetical order. In the other articles, I covered the downtown Paso Robles/46 East and Northwest Paso Robles/Adelaide Road, Southwest Paso Robles and Arbor Road/Live Oak Road.

Tasting Wine in Paso Robles: Anderson Road

Brian Benson Cellars

Brian Benson Cellars makes me smile. The wines are well-made in an out-going and flavorful style. The decor is hip with a retro-modern flair reflective of the owner's interest in old-style hot rods with chopped tops, shiny paint and pinstriping. Tastings are poured by said owner, Brian Benson. He's fun to talk to and can tell you all about the wines with the certainty that only winemakers can provide.

26 year-old Brian Benson made his first wine 14 years ago. He grew up around wine. His grandparents owned a vineyard. His father bought one in 1995. By late 2000, Brian was working as assistant winemaker for his father full-time. One year later, he released a wine under his own label.

The wines include vineyard-designate Syrahs from Denner Vineyard and Glenrose Vineyard, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Westside Vineyard, a Zinfandel and a Syrah-Mourvedre blend, plus a wine called Kandy Red available in custom pinstriped bottles.

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Address: 2985 Anderson Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 296-9463
Open Hours: 10:30am - 5pm Friday through Sunday
Tasting Fee: $5 applicable to purchase
Tours Available: No
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: Yes

Caliza Winery

Caliza, Spanish for "limestone is a reference to the calcareous soil that contributes to the quality of Paso Robles' wines. The 20-acre Caliza Winery estate vineyard neighbors both the Booker Vineyard and the Stephan Vineyard of L'Aventure and there is a layer of limestone that underlays them all, the remains of a prehistoric seafloor. Mostly situated on south-facing slopes at between 900 and 1200 feet, the vineyard benefits from cool ocean breezes that bring evening temperatures down by as much as 50 degrees from daytime highs.

As with the other recommended wineries in this article, Caliza wines consist primarily of Rhone varities with some Zinfandel and an occasional squirt of Tempranillo. From its first vintage, owner/winemaker Carl Bowker has been enjoying excellent reviews on the wines from a variety of sources including the SF Chronicle Wine Competition, Wine Spectator and NorCalWine. This came as a happy surprise to Bowker, as wine is a second-career for him. However, he's worked very hard at it, studying viticulture and enology at Napa Valley College and also had a lot of help from friends and neighbors such as winemaking ace Scott Hawley who's acclaimed Torrin Vineyard is immediately nearby. [Torrin doesn't have a tasting room.]

As you would expect for the area, Caliza wines are generous on the palate with full body and ripe fruit. Despite their fruit concentration, the wines are balanced and complex. Notes of earth, spice and dry herb  join with flavors from new oak. I expect most of the wines to drink well for ten years from the vintage. Production volumes are small, from 200 to 300 cases per wine.

Address: 2570 Anderson Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 237-1480
Open Hours: 11am - 4:30pm, Thursday - Sunday and by appointment
Tasting Fee: Yes
Tours Available: No
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: Yes

Booker Wines

These days, trend-setting chefs and their foodie followers are increasingly focused on local, seasonal ingredients. There is a belief that the products not only taste better, but can be more nuanced in their flavors, more healthful for our bodies and more sustainable agriculturally. In a slightly different, though not dissimilar trend, the wine industry has been increasing focus on small production lots of “hand-crafted” wine made from the grapes of distinguished, carefully tended vineyards. But, as with the seasonal food movement, there is a downside for those of us who have grown accustomed to an “anytime, anywhere” mode of consumption. You can’t always get what you want.

Producers of excellent and distinct wines tend to run out of one vintage before the next is ready for release. As with Linne Calodo and Denner in last week’s article, the Booker Vineyard tasting room isn’t open right now. They ran out of juice.

Pretend for a moment that they are open and you are there. What you would be tasting are wines based primarily on Rhone varieties grown on Booker’s estate vineyard, near that of L’Aventure Wines’ Stephan Vineyards. Planted on steep slopes of Paso Robles’ excellent calcareous soil, the vines are packed tightly so that they compete with each other for water and nutrients. This reduces vigor and yield for the individual vines and forces their roots to dive deep into the hillside. All of that leads to fruit of higher quality and distinctiveness.

The most powerful of their wines, Syrah-based concoctions with names such as Alchemist, Fracture and Vertigo, soften for up to 30 months in oak barrels. The lighter-bodied Grenache-centric wines see much less barrel time and the Roussanne-Viognier just one year. Though each wine is different from its sibling, the red wines can generally described as deeply colored and rich on the palate with complex mixtures of ripe black and red fruit, earthy notes (gravel, graphite, smoke, espresso, leather) and spice (sandalwood, pepper, five-spice) and flowers. They age for five to ten years, if you have that kind of patience.

I just checked in with Booker by phone and they aren’t sure whether they will be open in a month or two when two new releases come on line or if they’ll wait until Fall for a full roster of wines. I suggest you check in with them in advance of your next trip to Paso Robles though, because the wines are worth your time. If you do find them open, make sure you buy enough for a year because they’ll surely run out again.

Address: 2640 Anderson Rd., Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 237-7367
Open Hours: 11am - 5pm, Thursday through Sunday, when they have wine. Closed as of July 2011.
Tasting Fee: $10, keep the glass
Tours Available: No
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: Yes

Come back next Wednesday for my recommendations on tasting wine on Arbor Road and Live Oak Road in Paso Robles.

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