Mac & Cheese Fest Tasting

KRUSH 92.5 radio here locally puts on a spectacular festival every spring at the beautiful Avila Beach Golf Resort, and while the REAL star is Mac & Cheese–at least for most people–I go for the wine.  In addition to a variety of micro-breweries–and even this year Kombucha–this is an incredible opportunity to taste through a wide range of local wines. Here’s a quick run through a few standouts of mine.

BODEGA de EDGAR is doing a bunch of stuff right in Paso Robles.  Special nod to the El Cabrone blend and the luxurious $50 Tempranillo from–did you notice that?–Laetitia Vineyard in Arroyo Grande Valley.  Yup, you though Laetitia only was about bubbles, didn’t you?

It’s hard to talk about Paso Robles without mentioning HALTER RANCH.  Pretty much doing everything right, and while on the surface may seem like *just another Paso winery* once you start digging, that whole ‘doing it right’ thing just goes on and on from well before dirt to way beyond bottle.  And it shows.  This GSM beauty is honorably named “CDP” after the noble Grenache-driven wines from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and it comes with a little extra twist: Tannat instead of Counoise or Cinsault–something which would make a Frenchman roll in his grave, but this is America.  We do what we want.

WATERLOO CELLARS is the creation and personal label of David Elson, and you KNOW I just LOVE these labels because: Crows.  Seriously though, the wine is great but very small production and SELLS OUT, so look sharp on these.

Two words:  Matt Villard and Petite Sirah.  OK, that’s four, but this is what makes up MCV WINES.  And I mean, come on.  WHO doesn’t adore Petite Sirah??? One of those varieties which will pull me across the room whenever I see it and MCV SPECIALIZES IN IT.  The general-retailed labels from this cellar may be far more popular, but as anyone knows: THAT is what pays for these special projects.  Not something you get to taste every day and MCV was generous enough to bring out a couple cases of their flagship blend–the 1105–and I got there j-u-s-t as the last bottle was being opened.  These are not cheap and there isn’t very much of it made, but if you like PS like I do, check them out.  Petite Sirah I Love You.

You’d have to live in a cave to not know the story on THIS one by now.  Long time Clos Pepe master Wes Hagen’s new project aiming at no-frills, beautiful wines for bargain prices from LITERALLY the BEST vineyards on the Central Coast.  And when you have the lineage and reputation in the area–and with that: contacts–like Wes, you can pull it off nicely.  I’ve had the excellent $30 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Bien Nacido many times, but had only heard about the Cab.  When I saw them pouring at Mac & Cheese fest, it was the first thing I made a bee-line for.  Anyone who reads me regularly knows I’m a serious bargain-shopper, and this ridiculously good Cab proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to drink great wine. ALL THESE WINES ARE 30 BUCKS FULL RETAIL!!! Fairly well marketed nation-wide, ask your wine-shop to get them in or order here:

Saving the best for last, this wine was an absolute standout and I went back over and over for re-fills, and they were kind enough to dig out an orphan bottle for me after everything else had run out.  Some wineries are like sitcom stars: they get typecast for producing something popular and no one ever thinks outside that box about the winery again.  I think CAMBRIA WINERY suffers considerably from this phenomenon as its incredibly bargain-priced and qualified Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are produced in huge quantities and heavily super-marketed around the world.  But Cambria is much more than their ubiquitous $15 Julia’s Pinot & Katherine’s Chard.  FAR MORE.  They make a bunch of great single-vineyard bottles and this Tepusquet–no I can’t say it either–Syrah brings all the cool marine-influence of Santa Maria Valley together with Santa Barbara County sunny days and riverbench gravel earthy brilliance.  Did I mention this was my favorite at The Mac & Cheese Fest???

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