Bottling Great Zinfandel on Central Coast of California

I’ve always loved the Central Coast of California and now enjoy living here in Paso Robles. There’s so much to see that I’ve still not seen like the Wine Festival. This is the heart of one of the fastest growing wine regions, so essentially Paso Robles is a company town – meaning that most everything revolves around the wine industry.

If you live here, more than likely you know somebody in the winery business. I do and he’s next door. My friend and neighbor Luis has a very small vineyard – I mean very small. I’m guessing he has somewhere around a third of an acre of Zinfandel (Zin), which maybe is one of the up-and-coming grape wines in this region. Venture Vineyards is the name of his tiny but powerful vineyard. Luis calls our little neck of the woods: “Country living, five minutes from the city”.

He had a crazy idea that came from a friend of his (Michael) shortly after he moved here in the early spring of 2007, he planted the Zin on a hill overlooking much of Paso Robles. It’s not that big vineyards don’t care for their wines – because they do. But Luis can care for them with a more personal touch – he did and does and is very passionate in the process.

A little surreal

Here in 2011, his first quality year in the barrel, he asked if I’d help him bottle. I and my family said: Heck yea! He is being helped by Steve Christian of Christian Lazo Wines (who by the way has great Zin’s of his own), so out to the winery we went. Typical and beautiful rolling hills of the Paso Robles scene, brought us to his small warehouse where the wines are kept on Steve’s dazzling property. It was cool and windy but as they say here in Paso Robles: If you don’t like the weather, especially in Spring, just wait an hour. The scene was surreal.

First, we met up with Bo, an American Foxhound. The dog is big and most likely is a cross between an actual dog and a horse. Bo is a giant but friendly dog. Anywho, Steve maneuvered Luis’ barrel out from the corner – yes just one barrel – and we set up a makeshift production line. The Zin had a dash of sulfites (acts like a preservative) and just a little bit of Petite Syrah added to give the Zin some color. Having been a homebrew beer maker for many years, I found out to my surprise, there’s really nothing different to bottling that I’d not already done. I was the bottle filler while the others (Ron, Jo, Rose & Michael) either corked, cleaned, sleeve capped and spun or kept bottles moving in and out of production. Luis and Steve kept us in line, or at least I think that’s what you call it. It was fun.

Free tasting!

Oh and one thing that made it even more fun? If you didn’t think of it by now, we were plied with wine — right out of the barrel. Yum! I mean big yum! I’m sure that was to keep the masses loyal, or at the very least, happy. It worked. We were a very happy group. We finished up with many cases of wonderful tasting wine. I also finished up with much wine all over me but that was a good thing. A quick victory cigar was in order and then we were done. Additionally, it had warmed up as we all figured it would.

And did I point out I like drinking wine out of the barrel?

It was an enjoyable day – I played hooky from work because this was a Tuesday – and to have a somewhat personal connection to these extraordinary vines and helping with the bottling was an absolute treat.

Luis was kind of enough to take us to lunch and another perfect day was in the books. Bottling my first wine – a great Zin no less – was memorable and next year’s wine promises to be even better, plus he has more volume too. I’ll be there; God willing and the creeks don’t rise. Although, Luis is thinking of …