Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wining around SLO County...Day 2

After an early evening in Morro Bay, we had a semi-healthy breakfast (see Facebook for photos) at the Blue Skye Coastal Cafe on the Embarcadero and headed to our appointment at the Paso Robles Wine Services custom crush facility to meet General Manager, Aram Deirmenjian, of Kiamie Wine Cellars. The rain was just beginning, so we took our time, especially along the 46, but we still got there a bit early, which was good, as Aram was ready for us.

Kiamie is a collaboration between three guys with diverse yet complementary backgrounds. Winemaker Steve Glossner has been making great wines in Paso for a long time, and is the winemaker who made the first Isosceles for Justin. Aram Deirmenjian’s family has been farming grapes in California for 30 years, and Greg Johnson has extensive retail wine experience.

Data on the tank
Aram led us into the huge facility where in order to ensure that they maintain product integrity, they rent space, but use only their own equipment and staff to work on their wines. Aram pulled barrel samples of the 2008 Meritage (Bordeaux-style blend), 2008 Kuvee (California-style blend), plus a special taste of a botrycized Roussanne that will become a dessert wine. The Roussanne was still fermenting, but it was like drinking apricot nectar with a slight fizz. It will be truly yummy when it's ready.

We also met Kiamie's assistant winemaker/slave, Dana, who is happen to learn at the knee of Steve Glossner, and is already making some of his own wine, which we were honored to taste. I think he's learned his lessons well!

As often happens when in the presence of winery folks, we found ourselves talking about the philosophy of winemaking, and the larger picture of how agricultural practices inform all aspects of winemaking whether you're growing your own grapes or buying from other vineyards. Aram's family made him earn his designer tennis shoes working in the family vineyards in the Fresno area, and he has made sure to work side by side with the vineyard workers in Paso, both to ensure his credibility with customers and crews, as well as maintain the integrity of the product. In fact, what impressed me most about our experience with Aram and Kiamie was the passion for making a product that truly expressed the terroir of the west Paso Robles region.

Sophia & Aram & the Kuvee
After a while, we jumped in our vehicles and headed back into town to the Kiamie tasting room to complete our journey. Tasting room manager, Sophia, poured verticals of the Rhone blends, the Meritage and, of course, the Kuvee.

Beautifully made, delicious, food-friendly wines. What more can one say? It was going to be hard to make a decision what to get, but Sophia solved it for us - the 2005 Kiamie Kuvee (click the link for tasting notes) was on sale for a case price of $211 - significantly less than the normal retail price - so we went for it. I have to say that as of this writing, we've already drunk 2 bottles (with friends), and all agree this is a delightful wine!

After finishing at Kiamie, we headed down to Templeton to visit winemakers and friends Joe and Melinda Laraneta. We met the Laranetas through our friend and colleague, Xochitl Maiman, who fronts a wine-networking group called I'll Drink To That. The Laranetas are a small-production winery making award-winning wines, and delicious olive oils from trees on their property, and running a beautiful bed-and-breakfast called Honey Oak House.

Back view @ Laraneta
The rain was falling lightly when we arrived, and Melinda and Joe welcomed us into their charming rustic home where we sat for a few hours catching up about everything in the Paso and Templeton wine world. We tasted their current releases and took home a 1/2 case of our favorites. We especially love their Vera Sano Rose - a delicious blend of Vernaccia (a white Italian grape) and Sangiovese (a red Italian grape). It's dry and fruity and refreshing, the perfect summer wine. We're also big fans of the 2005 Laraneta blend #5, so-called because the 5th blend was their favorite blend on the day they were blending!

We bade the Laranetas a fond farewell and promised to come back in the spring, and headed for our cousins' home in Los Osos, making a brief stop at the Apple Farm for dinner. While there we were serenaded by a group of carolers from Paso Robles High School. Lovely young women with beautiful voices.

We braved the rainy night, getting into Los Osos around 7:30, chatted for a while with Sara and Bill, and fell into bed with visions of vines and bottles dancing in our heads. More to come on Days 3 and 4 of our adventure.


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