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The Regions – San Luis Obispo & Paso Robles

May 4, 2011 The Regions Comments Off
The Regions – San Luis Obispo & Paso Robles

For March (yes I know it’s May), we moved further North to San Luis Obispo County home of some of the best vineyards in California.

In the extreme south of the County is the Edna Valley, a cool climate paradise that produces brilliant Pinot Noir, crisp Chardonnay, and other gems like Riesling and Gewurztraminer. It is also home to famed producer John Alban and his highly sought after Rhone wines. It is also one of my favorite regions to visit. (Wolff Vineyards, Claiborne & Churchill)

As you continue North on the 101 and over the Questa Grade, the temperatures rise and the vineyards become dominated by Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache, Rousanne, and a few dozen other Rhone and Bordeuax grapes. Paso Robles, about 30 miles North of San Luis Obispo, has built a name producing wide range of styles and varietals, a fact that is reflected in its diverse group of growers and styles (Tablas Creek, JUSTIN, Barrel 27. A March trip to the area is also detailed here). … Continue Reading

The Ojai Vineyard – Myths, Rumors, and Fantastic Chardonnay

April 28, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 2 Comments
The Ojai Vineyard – Myths, Rumors, and Fantastic Chardonnay

For nearly thirty years, Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard, has been making critically acclaimed wines from his humble family-owned winery on the outskirts of Ojai. He boasts a career that spans over three decades including stints at Zaca Mesa (he was the third employee), Edna Valley, a harvest in Burgundy, and ten years as a partner with Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat. Adam is a quiet guy with a charming sense of humor and a gentle demeanor. He enjoys being off the normal beaten path of the California wine scene. “There’s tons of gossip that goes on in the wine scene,” he tells me, “and I don’t have any interest in it at all actually.” Although Adam’s wines have earned him praise from critics and colleagues alike, as well as a devoted following over the years, he tries to avoid too much time in the limelight. “He never promotes himself,” his assistant winemaker Fabien Castel tells us.

However, there has been much debate and attention focused on Adam on forums like eRoperParker and Decanter in recent years, centered on a Los Angeles Times article entitled, “Are California Wines Over the Top?” The article included a quite fantastic quote that set the internet wine pundits a-buzz. “I’d stopped drinking my own wines,” it quoted Adam as saying. It prompted headlines on various blogs such as, “Adam Tolmach of Ojai Vineyards is in the LA Times today. It looks like Adam has gotten tired of serving the dark Sith lord Darth Parker…” The article, focused on Ojai Vineyard’s recent efforts to tame the alcohol content of some of their wines, wines that previously received very good scores from critics, such as Robert Parker. … Continue Reading

Claiborne & Churchill – Vikings, Riesling, and Crossword Puzzles

April 1, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 2 Comments
Claiborne & Churchill – Vikings, Riesling, and Crossword Puzzles

The road into wine is a varied path. Some are born into it and it is only a matter of time before they take the wheel. Some buy their way in, successful tycoons with enough personal drive and ego to play the high-risk game of world class wine production; often hiring others to do the driving for them. Still, others are drawn away from entirely different careers and career paths by the siren call of the fermented grape. Tragically, some are dashed against the rocks of reality even as others slip past the dangers to collect their reward. Milla Handley gave up a potential career in commercial real-estate, Paul Clifton was a firemen, Dave Potter was on his way to becoming a lawyer, Ryan Carr a graphic designer.

Of the people I have met over the past five months, Claiborne “Clay” Thompson has one of the more interesting paths into wine. Before he made a name producing Alsace wines of balance and charm, before he was a cellar rat at Edna Valley Winery for $6 an hour, Clay earned his Ph.D. from Harvard. So how did Clay and his wife go from Professors at Michigan State (he being a Professor of Medieval Literature and Languages and she of German) to producing award-wining wines on the Central Coast of California? … Continue Reading

Wolff Vineyards, A Study in Sustainability

Wolff Vineyards, A Study in Sustainability

He once created a world-class wine from a bottle of Welch’s grape juice simply by looking at it; Robert Parker scored it 94 points. He can sign fluently in American Sign Language using only his feet. He once met the Prince of Belgium and sold him wine. For fun, he sometimes blows-up hotdogs using either electrical current or his charming smile. He protects threatened California Pacific Pond Turtles and restores native streams, all while sleepwalking. He won a world championship in water skiing, without skis, or a boat. He started the California Gold Rush. His wine mentor invented a special alloy for NASA and taught him how to break dance. He is the most interesting man in Central Coast wine.

After a little over an hour of conversation, I jokingly told Jean-Pierre last week that he reminded me of those Dos XX commercials. He laughed and said, “Yeah, yeah, that’s me!” While not all the statements above are true or fully accurate, Jean-Pierre, a vintner and owner of Wolff Vineyards in Edna Valley, is a remarkably interesting person. To illustrate my point, the following statements ARE all true. … Continue Reading

{Archives}

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

September 22, 2011

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

We have grown rather accustomed to long trips for short stays, so much so that a 500 mile weekend is not such a big deal anymore. There are a lot of events we are invited to and we can only attend a few of them. But when Randall Graham asks you to attend, you attend. [...]

Secret Project {the reveal}

August 17, 2011

Secret Project {the reveal}

A few weeks ago I posted the “Secret Project” with some shots of  a friend’s new winery taking shape. At the time, the space was still in a raw state, holes in the ground, bare walls, cut concrete. In terms of photographing a new winery, one might say there was not much to see, no [...]

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Studio Holladay
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