This is for the real wine geeks out there – those who take their wine seriously and can appreciate some serious name dropping!

Tonight I dined with a family member of the most iconic name in Paso Robles wines, sat accross the table from one of the most respected Cabernet producers in all of
California and sat next to the man who first planted Syrah in California.

The first event of two-plus days in Paso Robles wine country could not have got off to a more impressive start. The group met as a whole for the first time at Chris Kobayashi’s Artisan restaurant.

We were joined by four of the most iconic wine names in the Paso Robles appellation – Jason Haas of Tablas Creek, Steve Lohr of J. Lohr Vineyards, Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery and Deborah Baldwin, wife of Justin Baldwin, of Justin Vineards.

We enjoyed a five-course tasting menu prepared by Chef Kobayashi paired with wines from the four winemakers. Course one was Cayucos Red Abalone, avocado, spring onions, and valencia orange paired with Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc – a white wine blend of Grenache and Rousanne.

The second course was Dungeonous crab, remoulade, tabasco vinaigrette with Eberle Viognier. And, it just kept getting better. The third course was Berkshire Pork, barbecued rib, braised belly, grilled tenderloin over a succotash. The delicious and varied dish was served with J. Lohr’s GSM – a Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mouvredre, and Petit Syrah.

Course four was Hanger Steak, charred broccoli, cauliflower, aligot potatoes, bordelaise with Justin Reserve Cabernet that was as good as any Cab I’ve had in recent memory.

Before the dessert of Tiramisu Trifle, mascarpone, medjool date ice cream and coffee, Gary Eberle wanted to show the group how Paso Robles Cabernet stands up to the great Cabs produced in Napa, France, and elsewhere.

He had brought with him a 1978 Cabernet he made shortly after coming to Paso Robles. The Cabernet was a beautiful blance of big fruit, tannins, and best that bold California wines have to offer.

He repeatedly made the point Paso Robles can not only make big fruit-forward wines, but wines that will age with the best in the world.

The wines were not only paired beautifully but they were great examples of what the Central Coast can produce at a price much lower than its famous northern counterpart. The Eberle Vignoier sells for $21 retail while the Justin Cab is priced at $47. The others, except the ’78 Cab, fell in between.

It was a fascnating evening listening to Steve Lohr, Jerry’s son, talk about the vineyards of J. Lohr wines in Napa and Paso Robles. Gary Eberle is a walking fountain of detail on Paoso Robles wines. He planted the first Syrah in the U.S. since prohibition. He also was one of four who helped draw up the boundaries of the Paso Robles appelation. Deborah Baldwin spoke on behalf of Justin Wines and shared how the brand has become popular in all 50 states.

Jason Haas of Tablas Creek shared his family’s interest and commitment to the Rhone varietals. He’ll be back on our agenda Thursday afternoon when we spend time talking about California’s Rhone Rangers.

In all it was an incredible evening where I learned as much about wine as I did Paso Robles and came to appreciate another of the U.S.’s great wine producing regions.

In photos: Top to bottom, Chef Kobayahsi, Deborah Baldwin, Jason Haas, Steve Lohr, Gary Eberle.

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