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Old and new wine events kick off 2008



I've got some great wine tasting events wine lovers won't want

ON THE RHONE AGAIN :  Jason Haas is general manager of Tablas Creek and head of the Paso Robles Chapter of the Rhone Rangers. He encouraged his peers to create the local chapter last year, and this year they're celebrating their wines. - PHOTO COURTESY OF TABLAS CREEK
  • ON THE RHONE AGAIN : Jason Haas is general manager of Tablas Creek and head of the Paso Robles Chapter of the Rhone Rangers. He encouraged his peers to create the local chapter last year, and this year they're celebrating their wines.
# to miss, so tear out this page and place it under your favorite winery magnet on your fridge. It will remind you to get reservations or tickets before they sell out--and believe me, they will. It's a slow time of year for wineries when their grapevines are hibernating through winter, so vintners work together to draw wine lovers out by offering tickets to tasting events at low prices. And I consider any wine tasting event that costs less than a good bottle of wine at, say, $25 or more, a great deal.

This year, we'll have the inaugural tasting of the Paso Robles Rhone Rangers, notable because it's the first America Viticultural Area (AVA) in the United States to establish a regional chapter. The Paso group has 28 member wineries, and everyone is participating in their first event that will benefit scholarship programs at three West Coast universities.

Paso Robles' Far Out Wineries offer their annual Presidents' Day Passport Weekend, which provides much needed funds for the Wellness Community for cancer support, education, and hope. Each of these events features gourmet food tastings to complement the wines, and some offer entertainment.

And this is the last call if you hope to get tickets to World of Pinot Noir in Shell Beach with only two events left.

Buying tickets early is necessary now that Paso Robles wine country is the darling of the national media. On Dec. 14, it was featured in the New York Times travel section under the headline "Sipping Through the Next Great Wine Region in California." I laughed in disbelief because they referenced the movie Sideways, which was filmed entirely in Santa Barbara County. In the book version, author Rex Pickett did extend Miles's journey to Paso, yet it's been three years since the movie premiered and outsiders still bring it up. Wineries wish they could buy that kind of marketing.

I do appreciate the New York Times' focus on downtown Paso and its wine country trails. Such stories are helping make all of the Central Coast's wine regions as popular as Napa Valley's Hwy. 29. During Paso's weekend-long events, I've always booked a hotel room but missed out twice last year because rooms were reserved months in advance. We locals can still win over the competition from tourists by beating them at their own game: booking our favorite events online well in advance.



Presidents' Day Passport Weekend

Feb. 15 through 18, Friday through Monday

Paso Robles Far Out Wineries, now 16 excellent wineries with the latest addition of Calcareous Vineyard on Peachy Canyon Road, invite wine lovers back for an annual passport event. The wineries offer excellent wine tastings, tours, food pairings, and drawings for some wonderful prizes. It's well worth the long trip (and the gas) to attend these tastings that benefit the Wellness Community of the Central Coast. A $25 per person donation gets a V.I.P. passport, and guests need to visit only eight wineries to enter their passport in the drawing for some great prizes. To purchase advance passports at a discount price, call Judy at Norman Vineyards (805) 237-0138. For the list of participating wineries, check out the events calendar at


The Paso Robles Rhone Rangers Experience

Sunday, Feb. 17

People who love Rhone wines will relish this opportunity to taste the best from Paso's Rhone wine specialists. This event offers an educational seminar, a gourmet lunch prepared by Chef Jeffrey Scott to complement the varietals, a walk-around tasting of white and red Rhone wines, and one-on-one conversations with the talented winemakers behind your favorite brands.

Jason Haas, general manager of Tablas Creek and head of the Paso Robles Chapter of the Rhone Rangers, encouraged his peers to create the local chapter last year. Motivated by an experience at the Rhone Rangers' annual tasting in San Francisco, Haas discovered that most consumers thought the Rhone producers were based in the north. Haas realized there was a need to focus the spotlight on the Central Coast because it's the center of Rhone wine production in America.

"Paso Robles has 80 producers who make at least one Rhone wine," he explained when I called him. "I'm hoping this event will bring in people who aren't familiar with Paso Robles' Rhone wine producers."

The inaugural event takes place at Robert Hall Winery on Hwy. 46 East. During the walk-around tasting, 28 extraordinary Rhone Ranger members will pour white varietals (such as Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne) and red varieties and blends (including Carignan, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and more). Among the participating wineries are Anglim, L'Aventure, Hug, Justin, Redline, Robert Hall, Still Waters, Tablas Creek, and Vina Robles.

Tickets to the seminar, lunch, and tasting cost $50 per person. If you only want to attend the walk-around tasting, they're just $20 per person.

The event takes place at Robert Hall Winery from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with a winemakers' seminar followed by lunch. The walk-around tasting also takes place there from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., featuring all of the Rhone Ranger members. For more information about the Paso Robles chapter of the Rhone Rangers, visit


World of Pinot Noir

Friday, March 7

If you're as passionate about Pinot Noir as I am, you've already got tickets to events during World of Pinot Noir, set for the first weekend of March. While it's not for bargain seekers, it's a rare luxury to taste the international selection of Pinot Noirs offered here. If you didn't heed my advice last fall to get tickets early, you're still in luck. Out of nearly a dozen seminars and tastings over two days, there are tickets left for two events.

The Georg Riedel Pinot Noir stemware focus and food pairing provides each guest with a three-glass-set of Riedel Crystal glasses to taste Pinot Noirs from Kosta Browne, Stoller Vineyards (Oregon), and an old world Burgundy (French Pinot Noir). The panel includes those winemakers, Georg Riedel, and a master sommelier to discuss the qualities of each wine when tasted from the appropriate glass. The seminar includes foods chosen to complement each wine. Guests will take home their glasses, including a mouth-blown-crystal "sommelier" glass worth $95 retail. Cost is $185 per person. The event runs 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Cliffs Resort. Afterward, participants will enjoy a winemakers' lunch, included in the ticket price, next door at Lido in Dolphin Bay Resort.

The Pinot Noir Focus Tasting at the Cliffs Resort takes place from 3 to 6 p.m., with 88 international wineries pouring current releases and library wines. The Cheese Shop in Carmel-by-the-Sea will return with their awesome selection of international cheeses, and the Cliffs' chefs will prepare gourmet hors d'oeuvres. This tasting features a silent auction for collectible Pinot Noirs in magnums. Families please note: No one younger than 21 will be allowed into the tasting. Cost is $95 per person. Details and tickets are available online at

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