Media Contact: Lola Glossner
PASO ROBLES PRESS
Tasting Room Devoted to Ports
Though Paso Robles may arguably be most well known for its heritage Zinfandel wine variety, on an enchanting and locally owned property off Highway 46 West, thereâ€™s an aim to offer Paso wine-goers a sweeter taste of life.
PasoPort Wine Company, the regionâ€™s latest niche addition to its dessert wine offerings, paused last week to mark the release of its first vintage of PasoPort fortified dessert wines following the recent opening of its tasting room, located at the corner of Peachy Canyon Road and Vineyard Drive.
Co-owners Steve and Lola Glossner are heading up the PasoPort Wine Company under a partnership formed with the Gonzales family, which purchased the land in 1985 and since added a tasting room reminiscent of the Academy Award winning film â€œOut of Africaâ€ released that same year. Permitting for the endeavor was initiated five years ago, and ground broke on the tasting room facility last April.
Deanne Gonzales said the team envisioned a â€œsmall, intimate venueâ€ with a focus on agricultural tourism, a setting where tasting room guests are reminded that â€œthe small family farm experience is still there.â€ She said they never plan on doing anything overly commercialized, and that they prefer to maintain the small, boutique farm feel.
â€œIf people come to an agricultural venue and they experience it, itâ€™s very different from seeing it in a textbook in school,â€ she said. â€œIt is an opportunity for them to understand how important agriculture is in our country and in our community.â€
Steve is a respected and experienced winemaker in the Paso Robles American Viticulture Area since 1993 and consultant since 2006 whoâ€™s worked under distinguished names like Justin Winery, Adelaida Cellars and Halter Ranch and now dedicates a majority of his time at Paso Robles Wine Services working with several different startup brands. He said heâ€™s excited to serve as winemaker for a company whose winemaking process affords both a sense of challenge and unique distinction among the areaâ€™s large-scale focus on standard table wine production. Itâ€™s a release from the routine of making red wines, he said.
â€œItâ€™s a nice fit for me to have a brand that focuses on the fortified product, not table wine,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a niche market. No one is really doing it.â€
Thatâ€™s not to mention the fact that the Paso Robles climate is conducive toward fortified wine grape growing, Steve said.
â€œIâ€™ve been on the winemaking side of it long enough to know that the best way to develop a wine program is working with your grape sources first,â€ he said. â€œThe wine program part of it comes easy when you have the right grape sources.â€
The only other exclusively port-style wine operation in the region Roxo Port Cellars.
PasoPortâ€™s physical portfolio over the long run will consist of two Ruby-style ports â€” â€œPortray Ruby,â€ a blend of what would commonly be referred to as the typical grape varieties used in California for port-style wine production, and its flagship, â€œPortray Classico,â€ a blend made exclusively from Portuguese grape varietals reflective of the traditional ports from the Douro Valley. Two aged ports, one a white and one a tawny port, will also be offered in the future but on a limited basis.
Production is expected to max out at a couple thousand cases per year with a current production level hovering around 1,000 cases annually. Anything beyond that would require investment in grape sources first and foremost, Steve said. In the meantime, heâ€™s focused on forming partnerships with a few local growers on developing vineyard ground for port wines.
â€œWhat Iâ€™m looking for in the long run is to develop some vineyard sites that will allow the brand to grow with the right quality of the fruit, knowing that this will allow our ports to stay consistent,â€ he said.
Fortification brandy used in the winemaking process comes from Alameda-based St. George Spirits, an artisan distiller. Steve is adamant of the fact that the fortification material plays a significant role in the final composition and quality of the port wine. PasoPort hopes to eventually gain approval for a distilled spirits permit from the federal government that would allow it to distill on-site adding further uniqueness to the brand.
â€œWeâ€™ll have the ability to create a unique artisan fortification brandy that should hopefully start to really define the style of the port that weâ€™re making,â€ he said.
Sales will be predominantly through its Westside tasting room with a solid focus on local restaurants. The hope is that diners will have a glass of port at the end of dinner recommended by the wait staff, and then stop by the tasting room to purchase additional bottles.
PasoPortâ€™s branding centers on the PasoPort Wine Company girl, with imagery reminiscent of that â€œpre-depression, pre-prohibition era,â€ Steve said, â€œwhere aperitifs were very popular in the marketplace.â€
Now in itsâ€™ fifth week of being open to the public, Lola, who serves as tasting room manager, said sheâ€™s been pleased with the reaction from tasting room guests who visit the quaint, Adelaida-style venue designed to maintain the bucolic agricultural feel of Pasoâ€™s Westside. An outdoor pond and retaining wall offers a perfect venue for afternoon lunches. Livestock of various kinds wander about in the nearby pastures. Lola said afternoon is a great time of the day to visit given the fantastic sunsets and amber lighting.
â€œNinety percent of the people who come by say theyâ€™re excited to see a niche wine brand here, and theyâ€™re excited to see itâ€™s focused on port â€” something unique and different.â€ she said. â€œSo many people that come in here really enjoy port, more than I ever thought possible.â€
Lola said that sheâ€™s had several â€œconvertsâ€ visit the tasting room who came in saying they werenâ€™t big fans of dessert wines and left having purchased PasoPort products.
Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance executive director Stacie Jacob said that focusing on port is unique for the AVA, with less than 100 acres in the region dedicated to such a niche market.
â€œItâ€™s just another way demonstrating the diversity we have here in Paso Robles,â€ she said. â€œI think itâ€™s a very unique angle.â€
Walnuts harvested from the Gonzalesâ€™ 23-acre Lime Rock Orchard will be featured in the tasting room to pair and purchase with the ports as part of a direct-market undertaking for Deanne, also First District representative to the countyâ€™s Agricultural Liaison Board, an advisory body to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.
As for the walnuts, they lack the bitterness in flavor often found in store bought nuts, which lend the locally grown product a â€œbutteryâ€ quality, Gonzales said. Walnuts are traditionally considered the foremost nut to pair with port wines.
â€œFarms, small farms, are having a very hard time making the bottom line work,â€ she said. â€œTourism has been a very good thing for us because people are spending money here. A lot of people arenâ€™t traveling nationally, theyâ€™re doing local wine tours instead.â€
To find out more about events and tastings at PasoPort, contact them directly via telephone at 239-2229 or via e-mail at lola@pasoportwine. com for any further details or to set up a tasting by appointment. The new Westside tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday.