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SWIRL, SIP, SAVOR :  The Kiamie Wine Cellars tasting room is one of the newest and most impressive in downtown Paso Robles. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • SWIRL, SIP, SAVOR : The Kiamie Wine Cellars tasting room is one of the newest and most impressive in downtown Paso Robles.
During a recent visit to Kiamie Wine Cellars, among the newest tasting rooms in downtown Paso Robles, I discovered there are now 15 winery tasting rooms in that immediate neighborhood. The experience made me realize that today’s marketplace absolutely requires a new winery to offer something unique that sets them apart from an array of great competitors. At Kiamie, it’s their dedication to producing very special blends of white and red wines, rather than straight varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

 

The business is owned by Aram Deirmenjian and Greg Johnson, two close friends who left New York to chase their dream of creating a premium wine brand devoted to distinctive white and red blends. Fortuitously, when they relocated to Paso they paired up with consulting winemaker Steve Glossner, who has a long and distinguished history in the renowned region.

 

Together, the trio created a grand design for a brand they named Kiamie (key-ah-mee) with one distinctive goal: to blend wines from the finest vineyards in the Westside mountain ranges of Paso Robles. Their delicious blends, mostly cuvees of Rhone varieties, feature clever proprietary names: Kiamie Kuvée, White Kuvée, and R’Own (sounds like Rhone) Style Blend. They also make a red cuvee, a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec, which they label as Meritage. A longtime fan of their winemaker, I wasn’t surprised to find the wines were delicious and impressive blends that exemplified the best of Paso Robles.

 

“Few winemakers know the Westside vineyards like Steve Glossner,” Johnson explained when I recently interviewed him with Glossner. “We love his wine style, which isn’t heavily oaked, and he makes impressive blends.” Glossner is sourcing grapes for the brand from an array of good vineyards: Beckwith, Derby (formerly Rosette), Halter Ranch, Lock, Rolph Family, and Terra Bella.

 

Glossner’s winemaking career in Paso Robles began at Justin Vineyards, during harvest in 1994. His first Isosceles of that vintage earned the prestigious French trophy, Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, as best international red wine. After five years at Justin he spent several years making wine at the popular Adelaida and Halter Ranch wineries.

 

Both Johnson and Deirmenjian were originally in the real estate industry, Johnson in management and Deirmenjian in fire control. Coincidently, they both had experience in the wine industry. Johnson’s first wine experience came from working at Dodd’s Liquor City in New York. There, he said, he drank a lot of French Bordeaux, and that gave him an appreciation for Glossner’s winemaking style. “Steve’s blends have better consistency (in Paso Robles); thanks to his background, his wines are balanced and smooth.” 

 

PHOTO BYSTEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BYSTEVE E. MILLER
Johnson’s parents had moved to California, and Deirmenjian’s parents had been farming in the Central Valley. “It was a quality of life thing, moving out here,” Johnson remembered. “I was a big fan of California’s small, boutique wineries, and we looked at Napa but it was a little far off reach. We looked around at many wine regions but then we found this gem called Paso Robles.” Deirmenjian’s family had been farming table grapes in the Fresno area for three decades. To kick-start his career in winemaking, he applied for a job at Halter Ranch and was hired by vineyard manager Mitch Wyss. There Deirmenjian met Glossner, the Halter Ranch winemaker at the time, and gained real-time experience while working in the vineyard, winery, and tasting room.

 

Johnson admitted he wasn’t knowledgeable about Rhone varieties until he moved to Paso Robles: “I knew a couple of Rhone wines, but until I moved here, I never knew how good Syrah could be.” Incidentally, Glossner also has his own brand, PasoPort Wines, which he owns and operates with his wife, Lola Glossner. It’s dedicated to Port style wines made from Portuguese grape varieties grown in Paso Robles.

 

The Kiamie brand was started during the 2005 vintage when they made the first Kiamie Kuvée and Cabernet Sauvignon. Wyss at Halter Ranch offered the trio an opportunity to buy some Cabernet Sauvignon grapes still available. Glossner said they took it because it was fair-priced for the quality, and they figured if they didn’t like it they could always sell it on the bulk market.  “That 2005 was decent so we decided to take it all the way to the bottle,” Glossner noted. “We added 25 percent Cabernet Franc to enhance its complexity and structure.”

 

Although it’s a tasty wine, he admitted he doesn’t intend to make any more wines in that style. “We’re not planning to repeat the Cabernet Sauvignon as a stand-alone variety.” The 2005 Kiamie Kuvée, based on Cabernet Sauvignon (60 percent), was blended with 15 percent Merlot, 12 percent Syrah, 8 percent Malbec, and 5 percent Zinfandel.

 

“The blend in the 2006 R’own was because of my desire to make something that wasn’t another Syrah-based Rhone blend. I put a good amount of Grenache into it, so it’s brighter than the typical Syrah blend,” Glossner explained. The R’own 2006 blend is 50 percent Syrah, 40 percent Grenache, 8 percent Zinfandel, 3 percent Viognier. “I blend a little Viognier into it. The wine has an unusual hot cinnamon spice note.”

 

The White Kuvée, however, changed dramatically from the 2006 to 2007 vintage. At first a blend of 65 percent Roussanne, 35 percent Viognier, in 2007 the blend was 65 percent Viognier, 35 percent Roussanne. Glossner said the difference was due to a smaller crop of Roussanne that year. “The blends change a little each year. Over time we’ll see how they differ. We’ll always focus on small lots of Westside-based wines.”

 

Kiamie wines are produced at Paso Robles Wine Services, owned by the Millers of Santa Maria Wine Services. The tasting room is two blocks off the Downtown Park, just past Bistro Laurent and Villa Creek. Tasting- room manager Sophia Stephens explained they’re closer to the Downtown Park than most wineries. “We have convenient parking for our customers and we’ll drop their wine purchases off at their hotel at the end of the day.” Kiamie is, undoubtedly, a winery to watch over the coming years.

 

You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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