EXPLORING SANTA MARGARITA

On my recent visit to Paso Robles, I made a detour to two small towns, each with just one wine tasting room.

The two-block long Santa Margarita, on the southern most part of Paso appellation is home to Ancient Peaks Winery. Before we could do any tasting, Karl Wittstrom, one of the three partners of Ancient Peaks took us on a vineyard tour of the vast Margarita Vineyard spread over the rugged terrain of Santa Lucia Mountains, just 14 miles from the Pacific. Rich with Spanish and Native American history, the ranch dates back to 1770s. Walking around the ranch we came upon large oyster rocks – remains of the land’s origin as an uplifted seabed.

Winemake Mike Sinor makes a fresh Sauvignon Blanc, a complex Cabernet Sauvignon and a plummy Zinfandel.  The Syrah unfolds with blackberry flavors and the Petit Verdot shows hints of lavender and the flagship Oyster Ridge is a superb Bordeaux blend. The deep jammy Malbec is sold through tasting room only.

In Harmony, the other tiny town (population 18) we visited Harmony Cellars located on Highway 1, just south of Cambria. The winery was established in 1989 by Kim and Chuck Mulligan. The wines are well priced and we tasted the Bordeaux blend, ripe with berry fruits, a velvety Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay aromatic with pineapple notes. The Zinfandel was more spicy than the usual jammier Paso Zins.

Speaking of Zinfandel, the annual festival celebrating this varietal  is coming up on March 19-21 where Paso winemakers go Zin-crazy.

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