This being the middle of the harvest, we’re pretty busy here at OddBallGrape. Put almost 1,500 miles on the car last week and the week before in three trips to Paso Robles, California, to go pick and bring back cabernet franc, syrah, primitivo, vernacchia and merlot grapes for our own home winemaking efforts.
And, gee, since we were in the heart of the Central Coast wine country and since there just happen to be… (ahem) a few wineries up there (like almost 100) and on the way back through the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Rita Hills. Yeah, we did a little tasting here and there, catching up on some old friends and making a couple new discoveries.
Some of those will be featured in future posts, but we did want to mention the fun we had at Wild Horse winery in Templeton, which is just south of Paso Robles. Yes, Wild Horse is a label you can find in your local grocery store – Trader Joe’s, in particular, carries it. So normally, we wouldn’t have bothered. But since it’s right next door to our merlot grower and since we’d heard that wine maker Clay Brock, formerly of Zaca Mesa, had joined the crew there (and we really liked Clay’s wines), we thought, what the heck.
The thing with Wild Horse is that this is where wine maker Kenneth Volk got his start, and he’s the one who instituted their blaufrankisch and negrette programs. They also make a white from a grape called malvasia. And it’s also where we got interested in odd ball grapes – we loved the blaufrankisch, and you can’t get it at the store. It’s only available in the tasting room.
We’d been back since Volk had moved on to start his own label, about a couple, three years ago, and were sad to see that there was no blaufrankisch available. Huzzah, huzzah, it’s back now. Along with negrette and malvasia. And we don’t have notes because we went in just for the fun of it.
However, it is a lesson in wine tasting. While avoiding the supermarket labels has its place, it’s sometimes worth it to check out the tasting rooms of such wineries anyway. Some of them have wines you can’t get in the supers, including varieties you don’t see anywhere else. In fact, it was Blackstone Winery that introduced us to tannat – and they are one of the biggies out there.
By the way, in the interests of full disclosure and transparency, the guy in the tasting room at Wild Horse comped us for the tasting fee as being part of the trade. We don’t think he heard us talking about the blog, but we were talking about being home winemakers, so….