Paso Robles Wine Country Conclusion: Restaurants, Pomar Junction, Wild Horse and the Best California Wine I’ve Ever Had

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Sorry it’s been awhile but, heh-heh, life gets in the way you know? It’s not like I make any money off of this damn site. It’s about cheap wine for a reason, dammit.

So last week we left off at Ortman Vineyards in downtown Paso Robles, and for the conclusion of our little 2-day sojourn to Paso Robles, we’re going to get past the blur that was Saturday night (after Ortman) and jump straight into our Sunday tastings. However, I would be remiss not to mention where we ate dinner on that Saturday night, a fantastic place called Villa Creek, right in the heart of downtown.  Since this is a wine review site for the poor, I won’t go into too much detail concerning the meal. I will only mention three things:

1. My wife had the rabbit, which was outstanding.

2. I had the brisket-stuffed poblano chile, which was for some reason even better than the rabbit.

3. I spilled an entire glass of wine on myself (If you remember where we left off last time, we were at Ortman and I’d lost my sense of taste. Add a visit to a nearby pub to that just before dinner, and it was really partytime).*

Cut to the next morning. A brilliant start at Margie’s Diner (also near downtown) with the biggest plate of breakfast I’ve ever seen, and it surely did the trick. This place was serious. There had to be like an entire bag of potatoes on that plate. Anyway, onto the wines!

Pomar Junction Winery

This was a great place. A former railroad junction (go figure) the place boasts a great old tasting room, and out back you can climb into an authentic caboose car and admire the view of what was once a fairly busy California crossroads of sorts. Besides Pomar’s awesome website, they had some pretty good stuff for a new winery. Their under-$20 standouts are as follows:

Pomar Junction Syrah Rose

COLOR: A nice strawberry juice. Dare I say that it looks like a hearty white zinfandel?

NOSE: Strong strawberry, metal, cheese rind. All good signs of a great rose. A good nose for a cool summer wine.

TASTE: Here come the strawberries again along with the the cheese rind. The metal dissipates among a strong mid-palate of hard candy and a hint of marsala. Absolutely delicious and unfortunate that this has to come in the form of a rose when such a wine is difficult to market to the general public with their current perceptions of rose.

WITH FOOD: Like I said, a good cool summer wine with barbecued chicken and a strawberry salad.

WHERE TO BUY: $12.00 from the winery itself.

Pomar Junction “Picnic” Chardonnay – Canvas Series

COLOR: Pale. Almost too pale. Usually I look for at least some semblance of straw color, but this looked like a Sauvignon Blanc.

NOSE: Green apple, caramel corn and a nice shot of minerality.

TASTE: Good mouthfeel. Rich for a Chardonnay at this price. Good acid, strong finish, a little empty on the mid-palate, but the green apple is there for the most part throughout the whole movie.

WITH FOOD: Honestly? Keep this solitary. No sense in pairing this with food that will most likely destroy it; even lemon chicken. It’s on the cheap side, so treat it as such.

WHERE TO BUY: $12.00 from the winery itself.

So we had soaked our stomachs in the first wines of the day with Pomar Junction, and now it was time on to some even more serious wines.

Wild Horse Winery

We were lucky to have stopped at mostly wineries I had never heard of before or seen on store shelves. Wild Horse was the only exception. You will recognize the label immediately and I think I have even seen some of their wines in grocery stores. While everything we tried here was absolutely delicious, take note of the “Unbridled” Merlot and the Cheval Sauvage, there were only a couple that were under the $20 mark, and among those there was one standout:

Wild Horse 2008 Malvasia Bianca

COLOR: Rich gold but not to the apple juice level. Looks very calm in the glass. What did that even mean?

NOSE: Strong, strong aromatics here, even though it was chilled. Once you plow through the initial honeysuckle smells, you get into some tangerine and cantaloupe and some ruby red grapefruit juice.

TASTE: The melon is strong with this (*cue Darth Vader breathing*). Great lychee flavors (go out and by some, their nuts) support a very rich mouthfeel and strong honey flavors. It feels like it would be too rich for even a hot day, but once you get to the finish, which stays but doesn’t really make it’s presence felt, you will know that this stuff will be good all summer long. Plus, I should point out that my brother bought an entire case.

WITH FOOD: This is a tough one, but I can’t see anything wrong with fish or even some spicier foods. It’s not going to really cut through the buttery dishes, since the acid is not the lead here.

$20 from the Wild Horse Winery

And finally, we reach the grand finale of our trip, wherein I experienced the best California red wine I have had thus far in my life. This will be a tough one to beat because the flavors were wacky and the varietal is Italian.

Bella Luna Winery

This place was the spitting image of an Italian home, right down to the half-dead dog in front and the custard paint. Run by two old fellas, both veterans of the Vietnam conflict, named Kevin Healy and Sherman Smoot. Kevin served us that day in the “tasting room” which was basically their enormous garage. The most interesting thing, other than the taste of the wine I’m about to go over, is that their Sangiovese vines are head-trained, meaning no trellises (those T-shaped things you normally see holding up the grapevines). this makes the vines grow, well, everywhere. Sort of like your lazy neighbor’s bushes.  Also interesting is that all of their fruit is dry-farmed, meaning no water unless it rains.

Bella Luna 2008 “Lot One” Barbera – San Benito County

I’m not going to go through the whole spiel here since this isn’t an under-$20 bottle, so I’ll give you the gist of my thoughts on this wine.


Basically, if you like red wine or have even the slightest interest in Italian varietals, this is a wine worth checking out. The fruit is definitely there but it doesn’t explode, and there are strong vegetal characteristics like asparagus, broccoli, green beans, and green bell pepper. Great firm tannins that don’t muscle their way in. Everything is perfectly, PERFECTLY balanced. I can’t wait to open this thing again. I even asked Mr. Healy for another try of it at the tasting room, which I’m not used to doing.

$38 at Bella Luna Winery

So that concludes our little Paso Robles Wine Country adventure here at Wine Welfare. Other trips are coming, including a number of trips up to the Edna Valley region, Santa Ynez, including Los Olivos, and a trip up to Napa, so stay tuned. AND LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF THIS SERIES IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

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*My wife will probably repeat that I have obsessed over this embarrassing accident since it happened nearly three weeks ago.

3 Responses to “Paso Robles Wine Country Conclusion: Restaurants, Pomar Junction, Wild Horse and the Best California Wine I’ve Ever Had”

  1. Thanks for this series. I live in Northern California and have bookmarked the pages for recommendations for next time I’m in the Paso Robles area

  2. Wine Welfare Says:
    March 29, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Thanks, Nicole!

    Glad you enjoyed the series. I have more on the way. Hope you come back and read more. Let me know if you have an under-$20 wine suggestion or, if you would like to write a review yourself, just send it my way and I’ll be sure to publish it.

    Thanks so much for reading! Where in Northern California are you from?

  3. […] Paso Robles Wine Country Conclusion: Restaurants, Pomar …Mar 22, 2010 … We conclude our cheap wine trip to Paso Robles Wine Country and find some great cheap wines, and one that really isn’t. […]

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