Ecluse Syrah "Lock Vineyard" '06
This fall I have been spending a lot of time in Paso Robles for work, with no end in sight. I found Artisan by cross referencing Yelp and Trip Advisor for top restaurants in town. Can't always believe either source reliably on their own. The cross section of people who rate restaurants on Trip Advisor is extremely varied, I find many below par recs rated highly based solely on price. With regard to Yelp, well if you haven't heard the controversy you must be living under a rock. Nevertheless, when in an unknown city, I find this technique to be pretty flawless for restaurants. Chowhounds helps too, but I tend to rely on them most in more urban areas.
I have been into Artisan twice now, once on my own Halloween night and once after wine tasting with Mom. On the night pictured, Mom and I stopped in after visiting Justin, Opolo, and Tablas Creek tasting rooms west of town off the 46. The focus area for our tasting is called the Far Out Vineyards because they are a pretty good drive outside of town. We drove in on a rainy Sunday and just enjoyed putzing slowly through the damp foothills accompanied by navigation and conversation, looking at deer and doe and the occasional bunny.
Hearst Ranch Flatiron Steak, Cauliflower, Broccoli
Of the tasting rooms we visited that day, Tablas Creek is my favorite. I liked the homeyness of the room and the wine making philosophy. Tablas farms organically, dry-farms when possible. They use primarily Rhone varietals for their blends, with 13 of their vines approved for wine making in Chateuneuf du Pape and the other 8 approved for the Cotes du Rhone region. I have a lovely bottle of Esprit du Beaucastel from their Chateuneuf du Pape grapes I bought specifically with D in mind. We have an anniversary coming right up, you know.
macaroni & cheese
That trip I also visited Peachy Canyon. Oddly, the wine I tasted that afternoon on my way home to LA after work tasted fantastic. When I got home 6 hours later I wasn't as happy with the bottle. I attribute the differential to how wonderful wine tastes immediately after finishing work. I'm pretty sure Night Train would have had an amazing bouquet and a lovely finish at about 3:15 on the day in question. The bottle was certainly not bad, per se. Just not as stunning as I originally thought.
One of my favorite tasting rooms to stop by on the way out of Paso is the Tobin James vineyard. It's a little maligned on Chowhounds, but I like their brand of fairly jammy syrahs. I like their wines and appreciate that some of the wines are priced a little more competitively. One in particular, Chateau le Cacheflo is $11.50 and a fine wine for swilling with food and just whilst sitting on the front porch watching the sun set.
If you are in Paso Robles, stop in for dinner at Artisan. It's just as delicious as its peers here in Los Angeles (think: Jar, Simon, Lucques, Blair's). Caveat: When wine tasting before hitting the road back to Los Angeles, I pre-inform the pourer that I will be driving and can only taste 2-3 wines. Then together we decide what is the best bang for the small tasting I will do. A little luxury at the end of a long work day is a joyous thing.