Thursday Night Wine Tasting — Central Coast Wines

The theme of our Thursday night tasting was Central Coast Wines. The topic was a result of a trip made by George and Gail along the California Coast from Santa Barbara through the Santa Ynez Valley and up to Paso Robles. They collected a group of wines they liked and brought them into the shop. Some were available for purchase, and others may be ordered. Our tasks for the evening were to choose our favorite wine and then try to identify the varietals.

2006 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir “La Bauge Au-dessus” – The nose gave this varietal away immediately as did the color which was very light ruby. The nose of smoke, mushrooms and cherries was typical of a Pinot Noir. The flavors of tart cherries and smoke with a moderate amount of tannins and a lot of acid had a moderately long finish. I like this wine very much. The style is less ripe and rich than many California Pinots, more in the Burgundian style to my taste. It tied for first with the Blind Dog for the group favorite. We also did a previous review of this Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir a couple of weeks ago if you want to compare what we tasted then to this tasting.

2007 Zaca Mesa Z Cuvee – This wine is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. Zaca Mesa was the first to plant Syrah in Santa Barbara County. They have since found areas in the county that are well suited to Mourvedre and Grenache as well. This wine had a ruby color with dark fruit and cedar on the nose. The flavors tasted of dark fruit, black pepper and cedar. The tannins were moderate with lots of acid and a long finish with both acid and flavor. The finish was hot as well indicating higher alcohol to me. Overall, this was a very pleasant wine and was my favorite. It had a good fruit and spice flavor without being over ripe. I was the only taster who chose this as their favorite.

Blind Dog Midnight Run Cuvee NV – You must check-out the Blind Dog website. The story behind the name and the organization which is supported by a portion of the proceeds from this wine are heart warming. This wine is a “second” label of Ecluse Wines and is a blend of their top varietals from Paso Robles. This non-vintage red blend is “doggone” good (I can’t take credit for that, it came from their website). The color is a very dark ruby. There is vanilla, green pepper and ripe fruit on the nose. Flavors of dark fruit predominate with some vanilla and sweetness in the background. The tannins and acid are moderate and the finish is moderate in length and slightly hot. We have tasted this wine previously. It is a great everyday wine, the price is reasonable and it keeps well if the air is pumped out of the bottle before overnight storage.

2007 Ecluse Improv – This wine is a blend of 69% Zinfandel and 31% Syrah. There is a story behind the name of this winery as well, check it out. The color was dark ruby. Ripe, rich dark fruit predominated on the nose. Dark fruit, vanilla and a bit of spice flavors were followed by significant tannins and good acid. The finish was moderate in length. This is a good red but received only a couple of votes for favorite wine.

2007 Ecluse Ensemble – This wine is a blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Petit Verdot,22% Merlot and 21% Cabernet Franc. The color was very dark ruby. The nose had a meaty, bacon smell. It tasted like ripe dark fruit, spice, vanilla and bacon. The tannins were moderate in amount and the acid was good. The finish was very long with fruit. This was the most complex wine of the group. It received the most first place votes, but no second place votes, so was beat out in the voting by the Au Bon Climat and the Blind Dog which had more combined first and second place votes.

Overall, this was a very interesting tasting. One of the wines that tied for first was the least expensive of the group. I love it when that happens. The only varietal I successfully predicted was the Pinot. None of the others stood out as a particular varietal to me. I was thinking about single varietals, not blends. It was interesting though to taste the Rhone and Bordeaux blends. Some tasters were able to identify a predominant grape.

Of course the fact that all were blends, except the Pinot Noir, is typical of the curve ball George likes to throw at us! Batter Up…I guess we’ve started Spring Training ahead of the Major League!


  1. I wish Connecticut had the number of wineries that California has which would put me in wine heaven. I really enjoy blended wines. I think they have a lot of character and balance and they go with a number of meals. I like the posts, as I normally do not see these vintners in the wine merchants here in CT and I learn from your tasting notes.

    • We do have a lot of wineries here. Sometimes too many I think 🙂 You would think the competition would make wine cheap but it doesn’t!