Jul 11, 2008


Whoa Whoa Whoa...where am I? Is this really a family-run Paso operation? I'm not talking about the production or the quality of the wine. I'm talking about the tasting room. This place is an architect's wet dream! A sweeping, gravity-flow facility with impressive roof lines and a very nice high-ceilinged tasting room. There's a reasonably sized oval tasting bar accompanied by some comfy chairs, a dining room table, and a great view of the winery. Overall, this tasting room is very impressive. At the same time I feel like Denner is a sign of what's in store for the Paso Robles of the future...a wine region filled with fancy, ultra-designed facilites that play in beautifully with the marketing plan of the company. In this case, a spare-no-expense for quality type of endeavor. There is nothing reserved about the Denner facility...it's very classily extravagant.

As it stands now, Paso is a great place to visit as a wine consumer. It's beautiful, not as crowded as Napa & Sonoma, the wines are generally less expensive than up north (though Robert Parker's generous scores are changing that for the chosen few), and they're of excellent quality. All this is absolutely true of the Paso Robles wine region...the dozens of small, hands-on vineyard operations give Paso that rural character. But more and more producers, like Denner, are really stepping up their game when it comes to facilities and ambiance. Paso is still young as a wine destination so it retains that country charm...it will be interesting to see if that is still the case in ten years with so many new, high-quality, higher production wineries moving in.

Like JUSTIN, everything at Denner is on point. The winery is a massive, state-of-the-art, gravity flow facility. The tasting room is big and comfortable with plenty of room to ponder the tastiness of the wines. The sweeping lines of the roof makes it clear that an architect was very involved in the design of the winery/tasting room building, which isn't a bad thing...just not typical Paso! The wines are delicious and the Denners are lovely people. But still, I feel a little dubious when I approach this building. If every new winery and tasting room is going to look like this...it just seems that the Paso we know today will disappear. Who knows, maybe when the landscaping grows up a little more I'll think of Denner as a particularly charming stop along Vineyard Drive. Or maybe this is one of the new facilites that marks the new Paso Robles...

To be honest, I feel like I'm being a bit hard on Denner. Perhaps I've made Denner a bit of a scape goat for a general trend for new wineries in Paso Robles. For the record, the wine is very nice...definitely worth buying (assuming you agree with my uneducated opinion!). And the few people I've encountered that work there are very proud. And rightfully so. The wine coming out of this architectural extravaganza is delicious. Plus, the Denners rent out winery space to small high-quality winemakers, and as I've said...and really the most important, Denner wine tastes good. So please go visit the facility and see what you think.

**For a Gary Vaynerchuk review of the Denner Theresa White Blend check out: http://tv.winelibrary.com/2008/06/10/89-point-wines-what-is-the-deal-episode-482/

**All photos come from the Denner website: www.dennervineyards.com**

Jul 8, 2008

Tobin James Revisited

For those of you who are members of Tobin James' epic wine club, the James Gang, I'm sure you're well versed in the traditions and rituals of Tobin James. But for those, like me, who are not lucky enough to be part of the James Gang, I think it might be time to consider joining. Why? you might ask...are the wines the most delicious on planet Earth? Is Tobin James a tiny producer that's hard to find? Are they trophy wines that will impress all my snobby friends? No. No. And no. The real reason to join the Tobin wine club is the parties. The over-the-top, giant, raging parties.

Since I moved to Paso I've heard legend of the parties Toby throws at the winery but I never really understood until I finally went to one. These parties are unbelievable. I was expecting maybe a couple hundred people to show up...no no, there were 1,500 people! I had imagined wood-fired pizza from the oven they have outside the tasting room...They were certainly using the outdoor pizza to its capacity but on top of that there were at least 4 different caterers serving portions of an array of courses from Kobe beef hot dogs to fresh oysters. Of course I expected there to be wine. I figured they would open the tasting room and then have a few servers walking around to refill glasses...the tasting room was indeed open plus a fleet of pourers that walked around topping off any glass that was less than full. And that was on top of the hundreds of wine bottles that were already open and placed all over the dozens of tables that had been set up beforehand.

So...there were guests, hundreds of them actually. There was food from all over the area. There was beer and wine. On top of that, there was also a reggae band, Resination (http://www.resinationmusic.com/) that got even the least outgoing party-goers grooving in their seats. Tobin James covers every base at their parties and that loud and upbeat feeling that you experience on a normal day in the tasting room is amplified to an extreme...a crazy, over-the-top, and really fun extreme.

If you ever get a chance, definitely go. And take a limo!!

**Images from Tobin James website, http://www.tobinjames.com/. And the band website for Resination, www.resinationmusic.com**