September 23, 07:00, Santa Maria - We are in Santa Maria, California and I cannot get an Internet connection, so this may be late in getting posted. Yesterday we drove down 101, stopping in Paso Robles for coffee and wine tasting. We went to Garretson [Link] and Castoro Cellars [Link], and tasted and bought some really nice wine. I took the photo of the Zinfandel grapes at Castoro. They were hanging from the trellis leading up to their tasting room. The grapes grown around the winery go into their Cobble Creek Zinfandel. This some of their finest Zin, in my opinion. This is real yummy stuff, At Garretson we focused on their Syrahs. They make only Rhones. As I understand it, the Rhone region of France is an area where certain varieties of grapes were created and are grown. Like other regions of France (like Burgundy and Bordaux) grapes that are of these Rhone varieties are called Rhones. One of these Rhone varieties is Syrah. I really like Garretson's Syrahs. The owner of the winery, Mat Garretson, has been in Wine Spectator and on Grape Radio [Link] (a podcast about wine) where he was interviewed about his passion for Rhones. Their wines are so good and popular they are increasingly selling out in futures. Rhones are coming on very strong in the Paso Robles area. I have heard the area could become the Napa Valley of Rhones. Zinfandel is not a French variety, (it is principally an American variety and was developed in the USA.) Paso Robles has some very big, fruity Zins that are sometimes called Monster Zins. As the pourer at Castoro said, "Zinfandel still rules here." It is hard to imagine Paso Zins being eclipsed by Rhones as the trademark wine of the region.
After Paso Robles we drove to Santa Maria. I have not been to Santa Maria for twenty years or so. It is not the sleepy little retirement town I remember. We're staying at the Santa Maria Inn, which is nice, except the hotel's wireless network will not work with my Macintosh.