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In 2014, the vast Paso Robles AVA was divided into eleven sub-regions. “Paso Robles was the largest un-subdivided AVA within California at approximately 614,000 acres,” writes Jason Haas for Blog Tablas Creek, back in September of 2013. “By contrast, the Napa Valley appellation (which includes sixteen AVA’s delineated within its bounds) is roughly one-third the area at 225,000 acres,” he wrote. Today, there are close to 300 wineries within the approximately 1,300 square mile area, with around 32,000 acres planted to vine–and while there certainly are high volume producers from Paso, there are many family owned and operated boutique operations making great strides all around. And say what you will about the big producers, the fact is they are hefty drivers of business and traffic to the region. I spent a handful of days there in 2014 for the Tasting Panel Magazine,

Today, there are close to 300 wineries within the approximately 1,300 square mile area, with around 32,000 acres planted to vine–and while there certainly are high volume producers from Paso Robles, there are many family owned and operated boutique operations making great strides all around. And say what you will about the big producers, the fact is they are hefty drivers of business and traffic to the region. I spent a handful of days there in 2014 for the Tasting Panel Magazine, even met with Steve Peck, winemaker of red wines at J. Lohr, and it all exposed me to the immensity of the region’s operations, but it also opened a window into the incredible efforts these producers are taking to elevate their wines and the entirety of Paso Robles. It’s a region that warrants your attention.

With several samples from the Adelaida District AVA, I was able to dive deep into the district, along with Stephanie Block, currently interning at the Academy, who helped research details of the area and compose the tasting notes below (thank you Stephanie!). We were able to taste through several truly varied expressions of similar varieties from four different Adelaida District producers–Halter Ranch, Alta Colina, Lone Madrone and Oso Libre Winery & Ranch. The blends are complex and ambitious, as evidenced in the tasting notes below, though single-varietal wines like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Chardonnay do shine as some of our favorites.


The Adelaida District

The Adelaida District is situated on the western boundary of the Paso Robles AVA, with vineyards dotting the Santa Lucia Mountain Range, planted between 900 and 2,200 feet in elevation. Moderate maritime influences from the Pacific Ocean help to temper hot summer days (Adelaida falls into “Region II–III transitional,” according to the UC Davis Heat Summation Scale). The Adelaida District sees an averages of 25 inches of rainfall annually, and has varying degrees of soil that gravitate between “shallow, bedrock residual soils and patchy colluvial hillside soils from middle member of Monterey Formation and older rocks,” that are primarily calcareous soils–all this according to the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. Warm days and cool nights are ideal for ripening and acid retention in grapes, while the well-drained Calcareous Clay soils allow for good drainage, but also help retain moisture. The limestone content of some vineyards helps neutralize acids in the soils as well. Here you will encounter esoteric blends like Tannat with Petit Verdot, or Grenache Blanc with Picpoul Blanc, in addition to the more traditional Rhone varieties you would expect like Marsanne and Roussanne, and GSM-blends. We encourage you to keep up on this particular AVA, and to pay attention to the other 10 AVAs in Paso, as they further distinguish themselves over time.

Below are 10 wines we tasted, and keep scrolling for a slideshow from my visit to Halter Ranch last year, and a snapshot of four (4) current release wines tasted recently at the Academy.


Alta Colina 2013 Marsanne

Alta Colina 2013 “Claudia Cuvée” Estat Marsanne, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA (SRP $48)  
(77% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne, 3% Grenache Blanc)
Appearance: Medium lemon with gold hues.
Nose/Palate: Fairly intense aromatics of citrus and tropical notes; nice weight with a complexity of fruit characteristics ranging from fresh lemon to tropical fruit notes–honeydew and even kiwi; good acid lift; rich mouthfeel bolstered by those citrus and tropical fruit notes lingers and lingers.
Conclusion: Very good.

Lone Madrone Points West

Lone Madrone 2013 Points West White, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA (SRP $35) 
(49% Roussanne, 30% Picpoul Blanc, 15% Viognier, 6% Marsanne)
Appearance: Medium lemon yellow.
Nose/Palate: On the nose, mineral and floral components combine to convey a late-spring walk through an orchard. On the palate, good acidity complements a creamy texture and fresh stone fruit profile. This wine was aged in Russian Oak (!!) after undergoing a native yeast ferment and malo.
Conclusion: Good to very good.

Lone Madrone Will Creek Distrcit

Lone Madrone 2014 Oveja, Paso Robles, USA (NOTE: This is from Willow Creek District, not Adelaida. Yes, we snuck this in, $35)
(46% Grenache Blanc and 54% Picpoul Blanc)
Appearance: Light lemon yellow.
Nose/Palate: Pronounced aromatics of citrus, lemon and lemon meringue pie with a crisp green apple note. There is good acidity in this southern Rhone-style blend. Pleasant to drink and well balanced, this is a crisp and creamy quaff with nice complexity. The finish is long and zesty.
Conclusion: Good to very good.


Alta Colina 2012 Grenache

More than ten years after Alta Colina owners Bob and Lynn Tillman founded their vineyard off Adelaida Road in Westside Paso Robles, they announced the opening of a brand new state-of-the-art production facility and tasting room, in late November of 2014. The Tillman’s are known for their estate-grown Rhône-style wines.

Alta Colina 2012 Estate Grenache, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA  (SRP $48)
(100% Grenache)
Appearance: Deep ruby.
Nose/Palate: Intense aromas of black cherry and chocolate covered raspberries and strawberries, along with funkier earthy notes like wet leaves and forest floor. On the palate, very fruit driven and juicy with more of that black cherry and ripe black raspberry fruit, mingling with a savory spice and bramble character. The tannins are coarse, the wine has medium acidity and high alcohol.
Conclusion: Good to very good.

Alta Colina 2012 GSM

Alta Colina 2012 Estate GSM, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA (SRP $48)
(52% Grenache, 26% Syrah, 22% Mourvedre)
Appearance: Deep ruby.
Nose/Palate: Fascinatingly dark and brooding blackberry jam aromas mix with a touch of white pepper spiciness and a hint of sweet oak. Dense, savory black cherry and blackberry fruit combined with rather coarse tannins lend significant mouth feel. There is minerality and floral aromas–a kind of round wet riverbed stones with hints of violets in bloom. The wine opens up on the finish into a red fruit and cherry realm.
Conclusion: Good to very good.

Alta Colina 2012 Old 900 Estate Syrah

Alta Colina 2012 “Old 900” Estate Syrah, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA (SRP $48)
(100% Syrah)
Appearance: Deep purple.
Nose/Palate: Pronounced aromatics with a floral note leading the charge, evoking dried rose petals. Decadent, ripe black and blue fruits sweep through the palate along with baking spice, coffee and toasty oak. This powerful wine has a nice concentration of plush dark fruits, black cherries and plum. Big tannins are well integrated with the concentrated fruits and persistent floral character. There is an elevated, high-toned finish with peppery spice and more of that savory quality.
Conclusion: Very good.

Lone Madrona 2012 The Dodd

Lone Madrone 2012 “The Dodd” Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA (SRP $45)
(48% Tannat, 23% Zinfandel, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot)
: Deep ruby.
Nose/ Palate: Cherry pie and dried strawberry integrate with a definitive minerality and deliciously dank earthy humus. This translates on the palate to fresh-picked strawberry and cranberry aromas with hints of vanilla, oak and crumbled brownies. There is good fruit complexity balanced with that gorgeous earthiness and an almost graham-cracker oak toast.
Conclusion: Very good.

Oso Libre 2012 Carnal

Oso Libre 2012 Carnal GSPS, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA (SRP $48)
(43% Grenache, 32% Petite Syrah, 25% Syrah)
Appearance: Deep inky ruby.
Nose/Palate: Just like its namesake, the aromas on this wine are meaty, earthy, savory and carnal, but there are loftier forest notes like pine or cedar and even smokey clove. On the palate, there are approachable red fruits with a little bit of cocoa, more of that cedar spice, some pepper and even burnt orange peel.
Conclusion: Very good.

Oso Libre 2012 Nativo

Oso Libre 2012 Estate Nativo Primitivo, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA  (SRP $46)
(100% Primitivo)
Appearance: Deep ruby with tawny hues.
Nose/Palate: Subtle aromatics of red fruits are found on the palate, presenting as juicy wild strawberry and raspberry with a touch of vanillin. There are coarse tannins and a chalky minerality on the mid-to-back palate that speak to Adelaida’s limestone hills. High alcohol is pleasantly integrated with oak notes and red fruit, and good grip overall.
Conclusion: Very good.

Oso Libre 2011 Querida

Oso Libre 2011 “Querida” Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, USA (SRP $45)
(90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot)
Appearance: Deep ruby.
Nose/Palate: A Sunday stroll through an herb garden, these salad bowl aromas are silky and vegetal with some peppery spice and dark red fruits. Red licorice and violet flowers add to the experience. On the palate, a maturity of black cherry with a nice dried tobacco note that would be stellar with a burger or rack of lamb, or any herb-dusted white meat. Good overall complexity, with high alcohol, medium tannins and secondary characteristics coming through.
Conclusion: Very good.



Halter Ranch 2014 Grenache Blanc


Halter Ranch 2014 Estate Grenache Blanc, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA (SRP $28)
(77% Grenache Blanc, 19% Picpoul Blanc, 2% Roussanne, 2% Viognier)
Appearance: Medium gold.
Nose/Palate: Fresh honeysuckle and ripe honeydew melon with a hint of chalk dust. Incredibly bright and refreshing on the palate. High acid medium alcohol. More melon and ripe pear on the palate.
Conclusion: Very good.

Halter Ranch 2013 Ancestor

Halter Ranch 2913 “Ancestor” Estate Reserve, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA (SRP $55)
(44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Malbec, 22% Petit Verdot)
Appearance: Deep ruby.
Nose/Palate: Blackberry to the core; even a delicate minty note or piney character and rich Dutch cocoa note; ripe fruit with grippy tannins. Medium acid; medium plus tannin.
Conclusion: Very good.

Halter Ranch 2013 CdP

Halter Ranch 2013 Estate CDP, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA (SRP $32)
(54% Grenache, 22% Mourvèdre, 18% Syrah, 6% Tannat)
Medium to deep Ruby.
Nose/Palate: Black raspberry and black cherry and cassis and red currants and toasted oak spice; fine-grained tannins; high alcohol, medium plus acid and medium plus tannin.
Conclusion: Good to very good.

Halter Ranch 2013 CS

Halter Ranch 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, USA (SRP $32)
(78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec, 9% Petit Verdot)
Appearance: Deep ruby.
Nose/Palate: Wild red berries and bramble spice; incredible floral notes of wild lavender and just-bloomed rose with a sweet hint of vanilla; strawberries, black raspberry and cocoa notes mingle with sweet oak spice on a silky mouthfeel; smoked and roasted meats on the finish. Medium plus tannins, medium acid and medium alcohol.
Conclusions: Good to very good.

Jonathan Cristaldi is the Editor-in-Chief of Prior to joining the academy, he was the Deputy Editor of two of the largest wine and spirits trade publications in the U.S.: Tasting Panel Magazine and The SOMM Journal. In addition to his work with the Academy, he remains a Contributing Editor to those print publications, and regularly contributes to, and First We Feast. Cristaldi’s work has also appeared in Los Angeles Magazine, Liquid LA, Thrillist, Tasting Table, Time Out LA and Psychology Today. In 2009, living in New York City, he founded The club’s activities were featured in The New York Times, Vanity Fair and The Wall Street Journal. Cristaldi has appeared on the Cooking Channel and HGTV. He was also named a “Wine Prophet” by Time Out New York. He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is enrolled in the WSET Diploma studies program.Content goes here

Stephanie Block is an award-winning writer and Bay Area wine enthusiast. She took her WSET Level II and III coursework at the Napa Valley Wine Academy and currently handles social media for St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery (@stsupery). A former travel and entertainment editor and general bon vivant, Stephanie has strolled and sipped in over seventy countries.




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