Monday, July 27, 2009


11680 Chimney Rock Road
Paso Robles CA 93446

Justin Winery is a bit off the beaten path, but well worth the drive through the Paso Robles hills. The tasting room is right next to the Just Inn which is a lovely little European style Inn. There are beautiful English gardens that you stroll through on your way to taste wine.

The tasting room is full of great wine gifts and wine of course!

Let the tasting begin, of course with the white wines;

2008 Sauvignon Blanc**
$15 retail
Refreshing, bright and crisp is what this wine is all about. No oak or Malolactic is used in making this wine. Shockingly dry and almost tart, I thought this would be an excellent summer afternoon wine.

2008 Chardonnay ***
$19.79 Retail
A bright chardonnay offering a hint of nutty French oak, but also fresh Myer Lemon ripe apples. Tart and complex at the same time, this was a flavorful and pleasant chardonnay, even for a non white drinker.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon **
$26.25 Retail
Generous with fruit this is a ruby red wine, that has aromas of black and red fruits and cassis. The Tannins are modest and the flavor is mildly bold. This would be an excellent wine for whatever meat you are throwing on the grill this summer.

2007 Syrah***
$26.25 Retail
I love the color of Syrah, its inky purple color is very regal. This wine has a peppered, slightly Jammy earthiness. Medium high tannins will keep this wine lively for years. But really who wants to wait to drink it? This would be great with more flavorful foods like Lamb, or even Grilled Salmon.

2006 Isosceles***
$62 Retail
This is an iconic Bordeaux style red wine, excellent for special occasion nights. The blend of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc and Merlot give this wine a big bold flavor with notes of mocha, black fruits and chicory. Firm Tannins make this ideal for holding on to for many years. Or you could just crack it open now and enjoy with a great steak!

2007 Orphan****
$18.50 Retail
I have to say this was my favorite of all the Justin wines. Of course it will be different every year because the blend changes with every harvest. Justin takes all the red varietals that don’t fit into the making of the other wines and blends them together to make Orphan. This makes for a very flavorful wine, and at a reasonable price. I gave two Orphans a home on this trip.

If you become a member of Justin’s wine club (Wine Society) your tastings are free and you will receive a discount on the prices of the bottles. So when you are ready for a cruise through the hills of Paso Robles be sure to check out Justin, and tell them the Wino sent you!

Friday, July 24, 2009


J. LOHR Estates Seven Oaks 2004
Paso Robles Cabernet has been one of my favorites for quite awhile. For under $20 dollars it is a quality wine that stands up to wines two and three times its price. It is a medium to full bodied wine, with a dark ruby color. The mouthfeel is lingering and velvety. The aroma has black cherry and Current with hints of vanilla and clove. I have enjoyed this Cabernet many times with prime rib or other steak dinners.

I was very much looking forward to visiting the vineyard and trying some of the wines that normally would be out of my price or shopping range. Located just a couple miles from Meridian the J. LOHR tasting room and vineyard was simple but very nice, elegant and classy just like their wines.

In 1972-1973 Jerry Lohr a farmer from South Dakota, planted his first 280 acres of grapes in Arroyo Seco appellation of Monterey County. Jerry’s agricultural roots gave him the knowledge of soil ,climate and location. Over the years, and added locations Jerry and Jeff Meier (vice president of wine making, for all of the J. LOHR vineyards) have produce many varietals that now rival the best in the world.

Diane our tasting hostess was very knowledgeable and helpful. My guy and I decided to skip the white wines this round and go straight for the good stuff, the reds!

2006 Fogs Reach Pinot Noir***
Arroyo Seco
$37 retail
With the classic Pinot Noir aroma of Strawberry, cherry and rhubarb jam. Flavors of stewed strawberries and charred oak. I loved this Pinot, I plan to enjoy it with a sight chill on it on one of Arizona’s many hot summer nights…or afternoons.

2007 Old Vines Zinfandel***
Paso Robles
$15 retail

Under twenty dollars can you believe it?! Great with pizza or pasta dishes with red sauce. This has a palate of soft plump fruit, a little spice and licorice. And the color is a deep purpley
Red (not technically a color “purpley” but I like it).

2007 South Ridge Syrah**
Paso Robles
$15 retail New Release!
This is a very dark dense inky Syrah, with aromas that are dominated by white pepper, boysenberry and dark jammy fruit. A very plump and juicy mouth feel, with hints of spice, and dried fig. This would be excellent with hearty braised meats.

2003 Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ***
Napa Valley
$42 Retail

The deep dark red color of this wine tells you immediately this is no wimpy wine! Because of the portion of Petit Verdot fruits this cab is enhanced to a higher level. The tannins are soft and finish with length. There are hints of cherry, currents and a touch of vanilla. Again, this would be excellent with a steak dinner. This one also went home with me, because we know how I love steak!

The Artistic expressions of flavor that is the Cuvee series.

2006 Cuvee Pau ***
Paso Robles
A blend of Cabernet and Petit Verdot give this a deep dark reddish purple hue. Barrel aging give it an elegant aroma of chocolate dark berries and clove. The flavors and mouth feel are complex and the finish is long and lingering.

2006 Cuvee Pom ***1/2
Paso Robles
61% Merlot and 31% Cabernet lend to the dark ruby color. Barrel aging gives this wine the complex flavors of dark chocolate, vanilla and cedar. Big and velvety this wine has a long finish.

2006 Cuvee St. E ****
Paso Robles
Majority Cabernet with a hint of Merlot this wine is a well balance and bold. (kind of like what you look for in a spouse…)Aromas of red currents and fresh ground coffee. Flavors of Dark chocolate and toasty vanilla. Barrel aging gives this wine depth and a long flavorful finish.

There were quite a few more wines that were tried, but my notes and photography at this point were a bit fuzzy…I will have to work on my organization skills while wine tasting for next time.
All in all J. LOHR was one of our favorite tastings, Between the friendly staff, great wines and the fun atmosphere I definitely give them a four sister five sister rating. I am gonna have to go find another sister!
I also purchased a great sign for my house while I was there.

Make a point to stop in to J.LOHR if you are passing through Paso Robles and tell them the Wino sent you!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pigrimage through wine country, Paso Robles

Paso Robles is the perfect place to take a break when you are on your way from LA to San Francisco. And really what better way to spend your break than tasting wine? Paso Robles has warm days and cool nights making it the perfect climate for grape growing . You will find 26,000 acres of vineyards producing more than 40 different varietals. The grape that Paso Robles is most known for is Zinfandel.
My guy and I have started rating wines we taste with one to four stars (*). This sometimes got a bit difficult throughout the journey when some of the wines surpassed my four stars. We also didn't always agree on the number of stars so that's where the 1/2 star comes in. Hopefully you will be able to try some of these wines for yourself and let me know how they rank for you.

Our first stop was at Meridian Vineyards which as I have mentioned is one of my favorite value (under $10) wines, their Cabernet is a great everyday wine. You don't have to drink it everyday, but "they" say red wine is good for your heart and various other parts right?

One of my favorite things about this winery is that their winemaker is a female! Go girl!

"Meridian Winemaker Lee Miyamura graduated from Sonoma State University with a BA in Biology with an emphasis in Molecular Biology and a minor in Chemistry. During her studies, she lived in Napa , which led her to a temporary Quality Assurance Lab position at Meridian’s sister winery, Beringer Vineyards in St. Helena. 20 years later, she was named as Meridian’s winemaker of white wines. As Meridian has grown over the years, so has Lee’s role. She is involved in every step of the wine making process from harvest to barreling to blending to bottling. "
Meridian has a beautiful long driveway through the vineyards. After parking you stroll through a lovely garden and picnic area and across a patio with cute tables with umbrellas perfect for lounging and enjoying your wine purchases.
Of course you will be purchasing!

The tasting room has a long bar stocked with wines by Meridian and also some of their sister wineries including Cellar 8. There is also a shop where you can buy all sorts of wine paraphernalia and trinkets.

Judith was our tasting host, and a gracious one at that. This is the order in which we tasted.

2007 Limited Release Gewurztraminer**

Santa Barbara County
$18 Retail
I was surprised buy the dryness of this wine, Gewurz is not usually a favorite. I found this to be a floral wine with a hint of orange and citrus. Probably very good as a wine slushy on a hot day.

2006 Limited Release Chardonnay**1/2

Santa Barbara County
$24 retail
This Chardonnay is still aged in toasted oak and you get hints of it when tasting that shows up as a buttery flavor that reminded me of popcorn. There are also hints of vanilla and caramel, just writing this is making me hungry. This wine would pair well with an aged hard cheese such as Piave Vecchio; sweetly nutty with a dry, crunchy texture. Flavors of tropical fruit, almonds and a long, sweet finish this cheese is comparable to the king of Italian cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano. Ages range from six to fourteen months.

2006 Limited release Dusi Zinfandel ***
Dusi Vinyards, Paso Robles

$24 Retail
This zin was not like most Paso zins I have enjoyed in the past. This was soft and peppery but also had notes of Blackberry jam and raspberry. More mellow that I usually like my Zinfandel to be.
2006 limited Release Syrah **1/2

Paso Robles
$22 Retail
This syrah was more like a zin than the zin was in my opinion, with a ripe berry and cherry taste with a hint of pepper on the finish.

2005 Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon***

Paso Robles
$24 Retail
I love any wine that has dark chocolate in the description! This was a pretty big cab with Blackberry, dark chocolate and spice. This is an excellent wine with rib eye on the grill, I know cause that is what I had last night! This was one of our first purchases on the wine pilgrimage.

2006 Limited Edition Petite Syrah***

Paso Robles
This was our second purchase, and this is were I learned that Petit Syrah is my new favorite varietal. I always thought the Petite part meant it would be a small tasting wine, I was wrong! Petite Syrah is a big and chewy red wine, with all those good notes like dark chocolate, earthy and leathery. This is one I don't want to mess up with food!

If you are in the area and can stop by Meridian do so, it is well worth it! Also if you are lucky enough to be living in a state that allows you to be a wine club member you can receive these wines at 20% off the retail prices. This makes this winery a four sister value!

Don't forget to tell them the Wino sent you!

Open daily 10 am - 5:00 pm
7000 Highway 46 East
Paso Robles CA 93446


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pilgrimage through wine country...the beginning!

For the past week I have been on a journey...a pilgrimages if you will through California wine country. The mission, was to get some great wines at a great value and I believe mission accomplished! Of course this trip to wine country started out with a plan, so as not to miss
anything and to make sure we didn't spend the week on a wild goose chase (getting lost and just stopping at whatever winery we happened to run into). I even checked out "The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia"from the library so I could find the exact regions I should be getting specific varietals from

Ah..."The best laid plans". I did drink a lot of wine, visited many beautiful vineyards and even had a couple of REALLY good meals! Most of which were NOT part of the plan.

So I guess spontaneous wine journeys can be good too.

First of all my guy and I decided to make the journey from Phoenix to California wine country via car, so we could purchase wine and bring it back...because we happen to live in a "three tiered state" as the wineries call it. Which means they can not directly ship us wine to our house but have to ship to a distributor then they have to put it on a UPS truck and drive it over. During the summer especially they are not real happy to ship to Phoenix...because it is hotter than hell! So we packed a large cooler into the trunk and we were on our way!

After an overnight stop in lovely Pamona California, we headed to Paso Robles to taste some
wine! Over the next few blogs I will take you with me on my journey through wine...or with wine, at least what I remember of it! I tried my best to take notes, pictures and to get as much information as I could so that you, my readers could feel you were there and maybe even encourage you to try some wines you may not have otherwise. Of course after spending about an hour at each winery tasting...things get a little blurry. Guess I should have been spitting, but that just seems wrong!

In any case coming from Phoenix which has the color palate covering all things brown, wine country is absolutely beautiful. Rolling hills that are either covered in rows of grape vines or sections or golden grass, I know the golden is dead grass but from afar it resembles velvet.

The best part there was not a cactus in sight!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wino in heaven!

I am finally on the vacation I have been waiting all year for, San Francisco, Napa Valley and Sonoma! Also We hit Paso Robles on the way up. We Visited J. Lohr had a fabulous time and bought 3 bottles of reds. We stopped at Merridian, which is one of my favorite under $10 Cabernet, also bought some red wine there. And we tracked down Justin winery on recommendation from a local. Justin was a bit off the beaten path, but well worth it! I bought 2 bottles of their Orphan red wine, A great blend. I will give more details as soon as I can on all the wines and the great food. Including my favorite Italian Restaurant in San Francisco.

Today I am in Newark California, but heading to Napa and Yountville shortly. The plan is to check out some wineries, and eat at Bottega, Michael Chiarello's new restaurant. I hope to have new fun and exciting things to share with all of you as I go...or when I am done. It is amazing how full the days get and how little time there is to blog while on vacation. So much wine and so little time!

Bon Appetite!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I feel kind of like I fell down a rabbits hole and have gone among the missing. First I lost my high-speed Internet connection, and in this day and age I am not going back to dial up! So I got a new laptop and a phone that is supposed to act as a modem….so far it’s a no go!

Then, one of my fellow wandering sisters came to visit and one moved back to Phoenix, where I live. There was a lot of cooking, eating drinking laughing and chasing children. Shortly after I got very sick (could have been due to chasing the probably not.) It was, can't get out of bed or eat, sick that is torture for a foodie! When all you can eat is saltine crackers and Ramen noodles…it’s a sad day.

I have been very busy and I have missed my food blogging friends! Though now I think things are on the mend. Me and my Ramen noodles will be back in business soon. Still working on the Internet thing…

One of my sisters has gone gluten free…among other things (no beef?!). So I was on a mission to create a meal that would be nutritious, delicious and edible by all. My final plan was goat cheese lasagna made with brown rice pasta, and homemade tomato sauce. And for those who are still meat eaters a beef bolognaise lasagna. There would also be a green salad with homemade Garlic Parmesan dressing (gluten free).

For the appetizer I made an antipasti platter, including red seadless grapes, goats milk Gouda cheese, sharp cheddar cheese, marinated gourmet olives, and Calabrese Salami (a little something for everyone).Of course I had a great picture...but can not get it uploaded.

Of course with 9 children running around and 9 adults wanting to hang out in the kitchen , I was slacking on the picture taking… And the few pictures I did take are refusing to be uploaded. So this will require some imagination!

This will be less instruction,no measurements, some would say why bother... Well I still wanted to share and I will be back to the real thing soon…I hope!

Home made tomato sauce
Canned crushed tomato's
Garlic minced
Shallots diced
Basil cut in shreds
olive oil
Salt and pepper

Goat cheese filling

Fresh local goat cheese is best, or just a large package soft to crumbly store bought goat cheese. ( not feta)
sheep's milk Parmesan
Roasted red bell peppers diced
Spinach cut into shreds and sauteed with garlic and olive oil then drained
mix all 4 ingredients in a bowl.

Cook brown rice pasta as directed, taking it out of the water just a bit before al dente.

In baking dish spread a small amount of tomato sauce.

lay the pasta over that and then spread the filling on top, layer more pasta and either more filling if there is any left and then top with more pasta and then sauce. Top with fresh mozzarella and bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until it is all bubbly and slightly browned on top. let it rest for a bout 10 minutes and then serve.

Lasagna Bolognaise
No boil lasagna noodles
Bolognaise sauce
Light small curd cottage cheese
Garlic minced
basil minced
shredded Parmesan
fresh mozzarella sliced

In a bowl mix garlic, basil, salt, cottage cheese and Parmesan.

Assemble as usual topping with the mozzarella and bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

My salad dressing was simply:

Olive oil
lemon juice
White balsalmic vinegar
Dijon mustard
drizzle of agave syrup
grated Parmesan
salt and pepper

I blended all these ingriedients in my mini blender and tossed on a romaine and arugula salad with Parmesan curls on top.

The evening was a success, the goat cheese lasagna was consumed at an amazing speed, and I survived! I would highly recommend building both lasagnas ahead and baking an hour before serving. This just makes life easier and makes socializing possible. And when the wandering sisters take a break from wandering and get together, there is much socializing!

Thank you for your patience and Bon Appetite!