Paso Robles: Revisiting, Relaxing, and Discovering

Victor Abascal of Vines on the Marycrest with five wine bottles
Victor Abascal of Vines on the Marycrest with his song-title labels.

Early February on the Central Coast of California is not high season for tourism, but for my husband’s birthday this year the entire family wanted a place to relax, sit by a fire, watch the Superbowl, and just chill and be with each other. We booked what sounded like a perfect three-bedroom “hacienda” situated amongst the vineyards of Paso just north of Route 46.

And perfection it was!

The house was far enough from the highway to be quiet and tranquil, with the owner’s Woodpecker Hollow Vineyard of Zinfandel vines in our front yard, and a pasture with friendly grazing cows right next to the house. The backyard was a deep gully, which lowered the air temperatures quite a bit, keeping us in the winter coldness that I so love (our pipes froze over night!). In short, it was a nice change from bustling Los Angeles.

Woodpecker Hollow in Paso
Our home for the weekend, called Woodpecker Hollow, featured a homey “hacienda” as well as a small vineyard and Australian shephard.

Any trip to Paso Robles must include some tasting room visits. My family (husband, two sons, daughter-in-law and girlfriend) agreed that if we could only do one, we had to visit the beautiful winery of our friends Victor and Jenni Abascal. I’ve watched their Vines on the Marycrest tasting room grow up over the years, literally, much like I’ve watched my two sons do the same. As a member of the VOTM wine club (called the “In-Crowd”), I’ve always had a supply of their wine in my wine refrigerator at home, and once my boys reached drinking age, they enjoyed the wines on various occasions, loving them as much as I do. They were most excited to meet Victor and Jenni and to see the source of all the good wines they had tried.

Victor is the winemaker at VOTM and Jenni manages the taste room; both share child-care of their two children. They make a great team, and have grown their label over the years into a recognized and respected one, and have been active in the local wine-growing community focusing on Rhone and Mediterranean varieties on their hilly 26-acres in the Adelaida district of West Paso Robles.

Originally planted as an almond orchard, the Abascals began replanting in 2004 with grape vines, including Zinfandel, Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier. They also built one of the most beautiful tasting rooms — a mid-century modern style building that is both sparely designed, but also homey, and featuring the coolest restroom I’ve ever visited!

Various shots of Vines on the Marycrest taken at winery
(Top left, clockwise): VOTM’s back terrace; the industrial/mid-century modern tasting room; Lucas and Diana (son and girlfriend) loved meeting Victor and Jenni; Beyond Belief sparkling wine; VOTM’s sign welcomes guests.

We sampled reds, as whites were sold out at this time of year (and I love VOTM whites!). Our list included Sangiovese, which was our favorite with its medium body and notes of bright red fruit;  single-variety Syrah (the labels for single varieties differ from blends) ; “So What” Cab-Sangio-Syrah blend; and “Heart of Glass” and “Round Midnight” GSM blends. The first GSM is more Grenache based, with strawberry and raspberry notes, while the latter is more Syrah based, which is more meaty and peppery.

We also sampled VOTM’s delicious “Beyond Belief” brut sparkling cuvée, a blend of Viognier, Grenache and Counoise, made in the traditional method. This bottling is a white sparkling, with very little skin contact, whereas the Rosé version, which we’ve received as part of the In Crowd, has longer skin contact.

My Valentine’s dinner this year, which I shared with my close yoga friends, featured the Sangiovese and the brut sparkling cuvée from VOTM and the wines were a hit. It helps that the VOTM backstory is local to West LA-based group. As a teenager growing up in Culver City, Victor began experimenting with grapes when he planted vines on a hillside owned by the Marycrest nunnery. He ultimately was ordered to pull the vines, but Victor caught the wine bug.

He worked for many years in the music industry in LA, hence the song-title names on his blended wines, but ultimately made the move to Paso Robles. The winery hosts music concerts in the taste room regularly, and even sends a disc of music to the “In Crowd” wine club members with each shipment.

VOTM is a must-stop-in kind of place when visiting West Paso. Victor and Jenni will make you feel special.

Visit VOTM’s Web site for more information and for tasting room hours:

Tudor Wines: Old World Luxury Wines in Downtown Paso

Dan Tudor of Tudor Wines makes the Nacina Zinfandel wines from grapes grown by our AirBnB host, Randy Rogers, and we were interested in tasting it, so we visited his tasting room in downtown Paso Robles.
Tudor tasting room in Paso Robles
Dan Tudor and his wine flight at his downtown Paso Robles tasting room.

But first we sampled Tudor’s wines, which are not typically Paso varieties … Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer. He makes both dry wines and ice wines.

Tudor, wanting to make ‘old world’ style wines, buys his grapes from Santa Lucia Highlands, with a goal of creating “world-class luxury wines.”

And they are beautiful wines.

We sampled a flight of his Pinots from various vineyards and vintages, and each was gorgeous, with nuance and balance. It was clear that Tudor is meticulous in his grape selection and the Nacino Zin was also lovely, not overly jammy like some Paso Zins. The Riesling ice wine was gorgeous.

Dan Tudor is a great host, talkative and so knowledgeable about wine and all topics. Check him out when in Paso.

Visit the Tudor wines Web site for more information on both Tudor and Nacina wines:
will nozick lucas nozick bruce nozick in paso robles
Happy Birthday Bruce Nozick! Here with Will and Lucas, our sons.

Until next time,