In the late ’60s, winery tours were the norm. In fact, some wineries wouldn’t let you taste wine unless you took the tour. Learning the steps in how wine is made is interesting and I recommend taking winery tours. However, after 40-plus years of following wine, they can become a bit redundant. The editor and I usually skip them unless the winery offers something unique. Ancient Peaks Winery offers a tour like no other.
The tour starts at the Ancient Peaks tasting room in the little town of Santa Margarita at the top of the Cuesta Grade about 22 miles south of Paso Robles. The winery staff will take you out to their estate Margarita Vineyard where you will learn more about viticulture (growing, pruning, trellising and harvesting) than you thought possible. You’ll also study the soils of the vineyard of which there are five: ancient sea bed with huge petrified oyster shells, sedimentary, shale, volcanic and granitic soils. Each one gives Ancient Peaks wines their distinct flavors. The various microclimates will be explained and you’ll also learn about the sustainable practices used that have earned Ancient Peaks Winery its SIP certification in 2010.
After the vineyard tour (don’t worry, there is no test), you’ll return to a private tasting room where you will pair a flight of Ancient Peaks wines with select fine meats and artisan cheeses. The 90-minute tour is offered every Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and is limited to nine guests. The cost is $30 per person, a tremendous value. As former teachers we gave the tour a well-earned grade of A-plus. You can find out more at www.ancientpeaks.com.
Santa Margarita Ranch and Margarita Vineyard are owned by three longtime local wine growing families, the Filipponis, Rossis and Wittstroms, who also jointly own Ancient Peaks Winery. Because the vineyard is quite large, the owners are able to cherry-pick their favorite blocks and produce award-winning wines at very fair prices. Their cabernet sauvignon, merlot and zinfandel all won gold medals at the 2012 Sunset International Competition and all retail at $17. My favorite was a red blend called Renegade. It’s made from 51 percent syrah, 25 percent malbec and 24 percent petite verdot. If you like big, bold, toasty, smoky reds, this is it.
The 2011 Nobile Vines 1 is a red blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel. The 337 cabernet sauvignon clone from Bordeaux, is a wine that made Our Table a few years ago when it was first released. The 181 merlot is a clone from Pomerol and the zinfandel clone is the Costamagna clone from the west side of Lodi.
The wine has aromas of dark fruits, spice and flavors of rich fruit (merlot), a solid structure (cabernet) and a jammy finish (zinfandel). It is medium bodied, well balanced with soft tannins and a great buy at $14.99. Cheers!