While the Central Coast is certainly no stranger to the wine world in 2015, a discussion of the importance of the new urban wine movement is certainly the road less traveled. Today, urban wineries are at the forefront of a new wave of American winemaking sure to have a ripple effect on American wine, culture, and commerce.
In cities across the United States – from more traditional winemaking regions like Oakland, California, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington to new frontiers like New York, New York, Dallas, Texas, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Cincinnati, Ohio – urban wineries may have started small (read: garages, warehouses, and back alleys), but they are making a huge impact. Recently I set out for a Saturday in Paso Robles Wine country. No stranger to the tasting rooms nestled in rolling vineyard hills, I decided to take the road not traveled: The Urban Wineries of Paso Robles. Below are some standouts.
Winemaker Ryan Render of Rendarrio Vineyards has recently opened his stylish and decidedly masculine tasting room in a complex just off Hwy 46 East in Paso Robles. His Town Crier and Rendarrio labels are poured at a custom built bar surrounded by metal, leather, wood and bone. The result is an effect that is at once rustic and modern. And the wines… the WINES. Render’s time spent working as an expert in oak is evident in his offerings. Tannins are structured and seamless. These wines have bollocks. Favorites include the 2012 First Born King: a 50/50 Grenache/Syrah blend that’s whole cluster fermentation with tobacco and dark berry flavors make it just my style of red, and the 2011 The Town Crier, a supple but bright white blend of Grenache Blanc and Viognier.
Andrew Jones of Field Recordings describes his wines as his ‘personal catalog of the people and places he values most’. Working with small lots obtained directly from growers, this vine nursery fieldman’s goal is for each bottle of Field Recordings wine to capture the inimitable circumstances of each vineyard, vintage, and friendship that made it possible. A completely unique moment in time – in a bottle. An ambitious goal, for sure, but one he achieves with his Field Recordings and Wonderwall labels. The tasting room, bright colors, is a nod to Americana and fun. I enjoyed many of his wines, but I absolutely MUST give a shout out to his new wine cans. Yes, you read that right. Cans. Field Recordings is now producing 500ml tall-boy cans of their Pinot Gris, Rose blend, and Fiction Red Blend. Unorthodox? Sure. Practical for summer BBQs, beach trips and pool parties? You betcha. I went home with a 4 pack of the Fiction Red.
Paydirt Wines is the collaboration of Founder/Partner Patrick McNeil and Winemaker McPrice Myers. With a sensibility that mirrors the pioneers that inspire their artwork (including a large gold rush mural behind the bar), Paydirt believes in great risk for great reward. I was first introduced to their wines a few years ago when designing wine lists for restaurants, and I was impressed by the food friendly wines as a great example of Paso Robles terroir. The 2013 Paydirt Zinfandel has an honesty about it that I really love. 93% Zinfandel with just a bit of backup from Petite Syrah and Syrah, its soft tannins, pie fruit and solid acidity make for a great balance.
Urban wineries in some of the biggest U.S. cities such as in New York, New York and San Francisco, California have even transformed their working winery concepts into full-fledged culinary and cultural experiences, featuring food, concerts, classes, and events in a variety of configurations. We on the Central Coast already know wineries are the place to be for great food, wine, music and more. So, is it crazy to foresee a future wherein these urban wineries become the new epicenters of tomorrow’s cultural landscape? It certainly doesn’t seem so farfetched; but, there is only one way to find out: take the road not taken.