Our friends Brad and Sandy (you may remember her from my blog What to do on a Rainy Day…) showed up for our Saturday wine tasting day wearing Fedoras, starting a day of Fedora flaunting and rocking. I didn’t have a fedora so Doug in solidarity left his at home. But by the end of the day between Doug and our friend Annie and a very friendly guy up on a balcony in Avila Beach…we had Fedoras for all!! Until then however, Brad let me wear his. Although we made several stops on our wine tasting adventure I’m only going to discuss the first, Piedra Creek winery on this post because otherwise you’ll be reading a blog the length of War and Peace!! I’ll talk about our other visits in a different post.
Piedra Creek winery is owned and operated by Romeo and and Margaret Zuech (pronounced like Buick, as Margaret said), these two are absolute treasures! Getting to spend time with them is so special and truly an enriching experience. Romeo or Meo as he is known is like no other, whenever I go there, after speaking to him I always leave with a gem of a quote or story to tell. Meo is 86 years old, has been in America for 50+ years and still has an accent about as thick as the day he arrived. I can’t tell a story about him without imitating his charming accent when repeating a quip he’s said. Meo is also an ex Rocket Scientist who worked for NASA so when he says
“Building a Rocket engine is easier than growing grapes, because when you build a rocket, 2+2 always equals 4.”
You know he knows what he’s talking about. He and Margaret opened their first winery in Edna Valley in 1983 but now makes wines on a much smaller scale. So when going to Piedra Creek you have to call in advance because the winery and tasting room is literally their house in a lovely neighborhood and Margaret may be at the gym or grocery store. They do the tastings on the back porch unless it’s windy and rainy then it’s in the kitchen. Their front and backyard is the vineyard where they grow their estate grapes. Now normally when you taste, Margaret comes out and puts out the glasses for the number of people tasting and one extra because Meo will be joining. Unfortunately on this visit Meo had just had surgery so he wasn’t able to take us through the flight, but did come join us to sit on the porch for a glass of Zin after the tasting. Not to be out done Margaret is a wonderful hostess usually puttering around with a basket of Cheez-its or for this tasting, spiced Triscuits pouring wine or refilling glasses. But on this day she also gave us a very informed and interesting tour through their wines.
We started with the 2009 Pinot Noir which is an Estate vintage, is a light ruby color, and is made in the Burgundian style by not leaving the juice on the skins more than a few days to keep the light color. Their Pinot is made using 667 and 777 Dijon clones which are prominent varietals on the Central Coast. This wine is bright with plum and tart cherry, has focused tannins and is a very easy drinking wine. The tannins will become softer with some aging in the bottle. This is a wine that goes just as well with a Rack of Lamb as with a Thanksgiving Turkey.
Next came the 2007 San Floriano, this blend is usually one of my favorites from Piedra Creek. This particular vintage is made with 65% of an Italian grape varietal called Lagrien, 25% Merlot and 11% Syrah. What makes this wine so unusual is that it’s blended during the crush, meaning instead of fermenting the individual wines in barrels and then blending, they actually take the grapes mix them together at the hopper and crush to make the juice blend. Because of this process the wine is different from year to year depending on which grapes are ripe and ready to be picked at the time of the blending. This wine has a deeper ruby red color with currants and cassis on the nose, and on the palate I picked up spice and currants with blackberries and white pepper.
The 2008 Zinfandel is made of 100% Benito Dusi Ranch Zinfandel grapes, as opposed to where most other wineries source their Dusi grapes, which come from his brother Dante’s vineyard. Piedra Creek and only one other commercial winery Ridge Vineyards actually source their grapes from Benito Dusi’s ranch which is located on the East side of the freeway in Paso Robles. Meo and Margaret source their grapes from the same plants year after year. And a note for all you home winemakers out there, Margaret says Benito likes to let you come out and pick 2nd harvest grapes for your wine too. Piedra Creek’s Zinfandel spent 11 months in the oak and and only produced 183 cases. This wine is complex, jammy and fruit forward, full of black fruits with a velvety texture. It has a long finish of fruit and very mild black pepper. And most importantly, it tastes like a big, juicy, black grape-because according to Meo since wine is made from grapes
” if it no taste like a grape, I no doing my job”
Lastly Margaret pulled out the Pièce de résistance…the Zin Santo, which she served with delicious homemade raspberry and nut brownie bites. This treat of a wine according to Margaret happened on the way to the winery and it is neither a Port nor a late harvest. In 2005 the temperatures in Paso Robles got so hot, that as they were being transported to the winery the grapes started shriveling and the sugar hit a Brix number of 30. In order to save the crop Meo had to manipulate the yeast to 3% residual sugars and ferment the wine down as far as it could go, at which point Margaret said it tasted like chocolate and he should leave it alone. Thus creating a sweet, easy drinking, aperitif wine that goes down so smooth it’s almost like drinking Kool-Aid. If your not careful, with an alcohol level of 18.5% you’ll be dancing on the tables and won’t know what hit you!
Meo and Margaret are truly wonderful, their little slice of Heaven is in a gated community in San Luis Obispo. If you are ever in the area make sure you give them a call and stop by for a tasting experience you won’t soon forget! And look for the continued adventures post of The Faaabulouuus Fedora Four in the coming weeks to see where else we went that day.
“It takes a lot of things to make wine, including Ego” – Romeo Zuech