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Wednesday, November 21 , 2018, 7:01 am | Mostly Cloudy 54º

Here & There

Donna Polizzi: Paso Robles’ Fine Wines, Relaxed Atmosphere Are Cause for a Pause

Heart of San Luis Obispo County wine country feeds your need to rejuvenate on a romantic weekend getaway

“Lloyd’s Lookout” at Calcareous Vineyard in Paso Robles is a delightful place to take in the winery’s spectacular views and delicious wine and food pairings. Click to view larger
“Lloyd’s Lookout” at Calcareous Vineyard in Paso Robles is a delightful place to take in the winery’s spectacular views and delicious wine and food pairings. (Donna Polizzi photo)

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Paso Robles is home to more than 300 wineries and tasting rooms. Over the last few years, we have seen the Central Coast wine industry take off to the point that I see it as a modern-day Gold Rush.

Everyone wants to get in on the action. Fortunately, the wine business has also sprouted numerous cottage industries and created countless jobs with upward mobility.

Speaking of cottage industries ... I recently met an ambitious young couple, Caroline and Casey Shepherd. They invited me to stay at their vacation rental, Cornerstone Cottage in Paso Robles.

Have you ever opened a door and just said, “Wow”? Walking into this beautiful two-bedroom charmer, the lists of life that ramble through my busy brain were muted immediately!

This is the third century-old house that the Shepherds have fully renovated into a West Paso Robles vacation rental. This beautiful home, located at 1751 Filbert St., bursts at the seams with character and rustic charm.

The upstairs master bedroom reminded me of a fairy-tale cabin that you might find in the woods. Hardwood floors and heavy wood paneling gave the house a warm and comfortable feel.

The door from the downstairs bedroom leads out to a backyard area that feels like you are at the edge of a forest, where we sank into a swing for two. We watched deer frolic in the woods behind us, while being serenaded by the sound of birds, an owl and and ambitious woodpecker.

At dusk, we simply hung out in front of the fireplace ... (with no TV, imagine that!), while sipping a fantastic Robert Hall red blend.

In the morning, we had coffee on the porch swing and couldn’t believe the number of deer that passed around the house, as well as prancing about the neighborhood. It was a delight to see.

Paso Robles has proven to be one of the world’s most exciting wine regions. The rolling terrain, the rich soils and climate, combine to to create a character unique to this specific area of San Luis Obispo County.

Recently, I attended a Paso Robles Cabs of Distinction event held at the impressive Allegretto Vineyard Resort, 2700 Buena Vista Drive. Paso Robles reds of the same vintage were put up against Napa and Bordeaux. In a blind taste test held by eight sommeliers, Paso Robles wines shined.

I was honored to be invited to this event, which is where I first learned about Calcareous Vineyard at 3430 Peachy Canyon Road.

Perched on a hilltop with magnificent views, Calcareous offers a colorful array of golden rolling hills, green vineyards and deep yellow mustard blowing in the wind.

Speaking of gold, the 2014 Calcareous Estate Chardonnay was like drinking liquid gold. It is priceless. Initially, I tasted bright pineapple notes that build to an oaky, rich and elegant finish with nice structure.

Erin McLaughlin is the tasting-room ambassador who has been with the vineyard for 10 years. She shared passionately about the history of the family-owned business as she served several wonderful wines. Calcareous is the Latin name for limestone and the winery is known for its Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. 

According to McLaughlin, the tasting room is affectionately known as “Lloyd’s Lookout,” for the late Lloyd Messer, the Calcareous patriarch who died in 2006 just before the tasting room was completed. Messers’ two daughters, Dana Brown and Erica Messer, carry on the business today.

The first vintage was planted in 2000 and the first harvest was in 2005. Calcareous grows only one white on the property.

The 2013 Calcareous Pinot Noir is a powerful but smooth red, with a surprising richness. Strong notes of currant, black cherries and herbs with a smooth finish made my taste buds do the tango.

The 2013 Calcareous Tre’s Violet, named after Brown’s daughter, has big fruit and structure upfront with hardy tannins and dark fruit.

Anytime would be perfect for a visit to Calcareous Vineyard, but I recommend from noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays if you love food pairings as much as I do.

On Wednesdays during the summer, they fire up the stone pizza oven that sits gracefully on this glorious hilltop. Accompanying live music only adds to the atmosphere.

Get up and get out there. Sip, savor and enjoy the abundance of beauty, wine, fine foods and cultural offerings that surround us on the beautiful Central Coast!

— Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys to the Coast, a free Central Coast travel resource providing honest recommendations on the best places that locals want to go. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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