Mead On Wine
Last Week99 Indexsubscribearchive

© 1999 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved


by Jerry D. Mead

Paso Robles (San Luis Obispo County, California) used to be the place you stopped to coffee-up and use the bathroom when driving between Santa Barbara and San Francisco. It probably still is.

If you're a wine lover and haven't discovered that some of California's very best red wines (and the whites are pretty good too) are being grown in the rolling hills both east and west of Highway 101, you are missing out. Paso Robles is now a destination and not just a "potty stop."

More than three dozen mostly small wineries grace the landscape, many of them hidden away on one hilly sideroad or another. Most of the wineries are 10 to 20 years old.

The largest and best known winery in the area is Meridian, which has national and international distribution. J. Lohr's famous "Seven Oaks" Cabernet comes exclusively from its vineyards at Paso.

Other nationally known brands from Paso Robles include Eberle and Wild Horse. Many of the other award-winning wineries have spotty distribution, being available in some markets, not in others. A few sell only from the winery.

Space will not permit me to do background on all the Paso Robles wineries, but the local winegrowers association will gladly provide you with a lovely color brochure and they'll even pay the postage. They can also help you track down retail outlets in your area which may carry the wines reviewed today: Paso Robles Vintners (800) 549-9463; E-mail:;

I recently staged a sort of armchair tasting tour of Paso Robles, tasting wines from several vintners.

Norman 1997 "San Luis Obispo" Chardonnay ($14) Ripe, rich, plump, with tropical fruit and very pleasantly aggressive toasty oak vanillin. Rating: 88/88

Eberle 1998 "Paso Robles" Chardonnay ($14) Barrel-fermented in mostly new French oak. Delicate but very fragrant oak-citrus bouquet. More citrus in the flavor with a hint of pineapple. Gold at Orange County. Rating: 89/89

Midnight Cellars 1997 "Paso-Capricorn" Merlot ($22) Rich black cherry aromas and flavors with some subtle earthy complexities. A crowd pleaser! Enough substance for connoisseurs; velvety soft for beginners. Rating: 92/84

Eberle 1997 "Paso-Reid" Syrah ($18) Ripe, but elegant plum aromas and flavors. Very nicely wooded; perfectly balanced and structured. Complex; elegant. Rating: 95/90

Eberle 1997 "Paso-Steinbeck" Syrah ($18) Track this great wine down. Big, black fruit flavors; plum, cherry and cassis. Unbelievably intense. Firmly structured but with round tannins. Bring on the roast duck! Rating: 97/92

Midnight 1997 "Paso-Galaxy" Syrah ($20) More ripe plum and rich black currant fruit. Smoky, barrel char oak notes. Lipsmacking tasty. Rating: 90/86

Norman 1996 "Paso" Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) Ripe blackberry, black cherry and cassis. Mouthfilling; delicious; round and approachable. Rating: 92/90

Eberle 1997 "Paso" Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) Ripe plum and boysenberry fruit. Voluptuous, rich, round, velvety mouthfeel. Rating: 94/84

Midnight 1996 "Paso-Nebula" Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) Intense black cherry with some blackberry and cassis too. More of that roundness that seems to be a common thread in this winery's efforts. Rating:92/88

Midnight 1996 "Starlight Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon ($28) A leaner and meaner version. Flavors more in the boysenberry range. Tighter structure; bolder tannins; a wine for the cellar. Rating: 93/88

Tobin James 1997 "Blue Moon Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) One of those power players so many folks like. Almost over the top. Really big; concentrated; highly extracted. Boysenberry and blueberry fruit. Astringent, but supported by fruit. Rating: 90/84

Norman 1997 "Paso" No Nonsense Red ($16) This blend of 63 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 percent Merlot and 21 percent Cabernet Franc is very poorly named. It sounds like some everyday jug, when it's anything but. Big, ripe, mostly black cherry with some cassis flavors. Structured to drink now or cellar for a decade. Rating: 90/90

Tobin James 1997 "Estate Private Stash" ($28) Equal amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Very rich...just avoiding excess. Mostly blackberry and cassis. Beautifully structured. Rating: 94/84

Martin-Weyrich 1997 "Primitiva" Zinfandel ($15) Berry and plum fruit. Medium to full bodied. Bring on the grilled lamb chops. Rating: 92/87

Eberle 1997 "Sauret" Zinfandel ($20) A winner of multiple medals. For those who like them big but balanced. Intense raspberry fruit. Delicious. Rating: 94/86

Tobin James 1997 "James Gang Reserve" Zinfandel ($22) Spectacular! What Zin is supposed to smell and taste like. Gorgeous raspberry fruit with earthy, spicy, black pepper background. Flavors go on forever. Rating: 98/86

Martin 1996 "Ueberroth" Zinfandel ($18) Very limited. For those who like 'em really big. Highly extracted black raspberry and plum fruit. Rating: 95/88

Martin Bros. 1998 Moscato Allegro ($12) Dee-licious! Pear fruit with a bit of apple and a little kumquat. Only 7 percent alcohol, with 10 percent residual sugar. Crisp acidity balances all that sweetness. Rating: 94/90


Stonehedge 1998 "California" Chardonnay ($10) Mostly Monterey fruit, which shows in the crisply acid finish. Pleasant, lemon-tinged citrus style. 100 percent barrel-fermented it offers warm, toasty oak flavors. Better with food than most wines at this price. Rating: 88/93


Stonehedge 1998 Merlot ($10 or less) Blended to 7 percent Petite Sirah, this is one amazing $10 wine. Rich black cherry fruit. Fat, round mouthfeel. Very smooth finish. Case purchases highly recommended. Rating: 90/98 For additional information on Stonehedge: (800) 929-4974; E-mail:

Subscription Information

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value.

© 1999 JDM Enterprises. All Rights Reserved
The Mead On Wine WebSite is designed, maintained and hosted by Wines on the Internet.