Italian Varieties in Paso Robles

Photo Credit to @TablasCreek

Our host for this month is Lori Budd from Exploring the Wine Glass. Here is her great post that puts Paso Robles n context in California. Through the years I have tasted many wines from this area but they were almost always Syrah or Syrah-dominated wines. I had no idea that there was such a vast offering of Italian varieties in the area. Two producers I met really impressed with their Italian Varieties, Tablas Creek and their Vermentino and Giornata winery with a host of Italian gems.

Paso has great diurnal temperature changes so grapes can reach their full phenolic ripeness and the season is a long one so a variety of early and later blooming grapes can flourish here. Most of the wines made here are blends,. The Salinas Rover splits the area and two major distinctions in soil can be seen. According to their literature, “generally characterized by rolling hills east of the Salinas River and steeper hillsides, cut by small canyons, west of the Salinas River.”

The area is also impacted both by the Santa Lucia mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. The also have something called the Templeton Gap. Defined as, “a 500-700 overall drop in elevation between the Paso Robles region and Morro Bay ” which allows Pacific cool air to meet hot air and create a kind of a “sea fog”  which provides needed respite for the grapes, twice a day. The whole area rests on the Pacific plate which is comprised of ancient seabed materials, rich in marine fossils. The soils are a mix of calcareous, siliceous, clay and sandy loam.

Jason Haas from Tablas Creek Vineyard spoke with me last year about their Vermentino. Located in Paso Robles, while they are very well known for their Rhone Valley grapes, they are also doing a great job with Vermentino since 2002.

According to Jason, “It’s one of the happiest grapes here. It thrives in the sun, is productive despite the rocks and the drought, and maintains its acidity beautifully despite the hot summer days. Honestly, I think it should be planted in most of the places California grape growers are currently planting Sauvignon Blanc.”

Photo Credit @TablasCreek

Haas told a story of how they ended up with it by mistake. “The French nurseryman who shepherded our grapevines from Beaucastel to the USDA’s quarantine program included two varieties that he loved without asking (or even telling) us. These were Tannat and Vermentino. When we finally traced it back to him, he explained that he’d been working with these grapes for years, and based on what he’d been learning about Paso Robles, they would do well here.”

Apparently they also won a competition for Vermentio at the first-ever international Vermentino tasting which took place in 2019 (details at http://www.concorsovermentino.com/vini-premiati-2020/).

Pruned Vermentino with Wildflowers, Photo Credit @TablasCreek

He also sent me sample of the Vermentino. It was delightful, bursting with citrus fruits and hay aromas, it was a classic stainless steel version of this grape. It had salinity and a stony fruit notes as well. It reminded me of Spring and Summer. Apparently they sell most of theirs through their wine club.

Photo Credit @giornatawines

I met Brian Terrizzi from Giornata wines at a tasting in NYC years ago. I tasted his Sangiovese, Barbera, and Nebbiolo and I was impressed. Generally I am skeptical of how these grapes grow outside of Italy but Brian’s love for Italy was palpable and the wines lovely. Looking at his site, it seems he and his wife have many projects going and they grow a large variety of Italian grapes including the three mentioned here and Aglianico, Fiano, Falanghina, Montepulciano, Moscato Giallo, Pinot Grigio and Vermentino. I admire that dedication.

In typically California style, much of the wine is sold through a wine club. I am always amazed at how different the wine scene is on the West Coast from the East Coast. I think I need to live out there at some point to really understand the areas. Who knows what the future holds. For now, I travel through my wine glass.

All of these wines that I mentioned from Giornata and Vermentino were tasted at different times so I didn’t do a pairing per se but I can see the Vermentino with seafood, fish, and any light fare while the bigger Italian reds Brian makes I would pair with a classic Italian pasta and sauce such as a bolognese or amatriciana. It’s fall and these dishes call to me now.

Join our chat today at 11am EST Saturday Nov. 13 2021 on twitter chat. You can follow and comment using the hashtag #WinePW. Read what my fellow bloggers have written on the topic by clicking on the links below: 

3 comments

  1. The Tablas Creek Vermentino was my gateway to Paso Robles. I received a bottle as a gift from a friend and fell in love. It caused me to want to visit the area and visit Tablas Creek and I have been a devoted wine club member ever since. I do love the story of the FRench nurseryman. Thank goodness he decided to include that Vermentino (and the Tannat, I love their Tannat!)

  2. I have tried and enjoyed the wines of Tablas Creek but have never tried the Giornata….I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled.

  3. First of all, I want to acknowledge your use of “varieties” instead of “varietals” Loved your post. I’m a huge fan of both TCV and Giornata. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had the TCV Vermentino. Your post is good reminder to revisit. And EVERYTIME, we go to Paso, I visit Giornata!

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