The organization called Wineries of 46 East tagline touts: “Take your senses for a ride.” That ride of winery visits can take you not just along the highway but circles around the scenic hillsides and backroads to San Miguel.

Thanks to its annual Esprit du Vin, a wine and food event staged by a group of wineries of the 46 East, the spirit of wine happens under one roof. Ignoring a rainy night, the 21st annual soirée on February 3 brought aficionados to the expansive Riboli Events Center to savor the east side experience.

Marty Spate
Photos: Mira Honeycutt


Before the event, I revisited the wines of the Riboli Family with head winemaker Marty Spate who gave us a tour of the winery adjacent to the Events Center.

“This was once an open field,” Spate commented on the state-of-the-art, solar energy-powered, SIP-certified winery that opened in 2016. We walked through the barrel room holding 6,000 neatly stacked barrels and the fermentation space equipped with 108 shiny tanks.

Sip Savor Logo 47
Sip & Savor

With over a century of winemaking experience, four generations of the Riboli family continue their legacy under the guidance of third generation Steve Riboli as CEO and fourth generation Anthony Riboli, winemaker. An annual case production ranging between 130-140,000 cases, both luxury and premium wines are produced at this winery from the family’s estate vineyards in the Paso Robles AVA, Monterey County and Napa Valley.

Spate conducted a tasting of six wines. From the San Simeon portfolio, we savored Monterey County’s 2021 Chardonnay, a  100% barrel-aged wine with an elegant layer of oak. The richly- textured 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (black label). Barrel aged for 24 months in new French oak, the 500 annual case- production is available through allocation only.

Dan Smith VSJ
Dan Smith

The white label Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, aged for 16-18 months is produced from various estate vineyards in Paso and it’s a bargain at $25. The Napa Valley Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon was another outstanding wine at a friendly price of $65.

The artistic grey and black label of the Opaque brand presents an interesting concept in the Riboli pantheon. “These are the unsung heroes,” mused Spate of this series focused on five varieties: Malbec, Tannat, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah.  

The 2020 earthy Tannat from Creston vineyards gets a splash of Petite Sirah for that touch of spice. The 2019 Darkness is a blend of all five varieties driven by Zinfandel and Petite Verdot and barrel-aged for 30 months with a heavy proportion of American oak.

I also took time out to visit  Dan Smith, winemaker of Villa San Juliette (VSJ), who revealed that coming this spring VSJ wine label will sport a new look. “We’re rebranding with a new logo and artwork.” Kicking off with  the 2021 vintage the current tree logo will change into four iterations of the chateau (villa). 

“When the owners bought the property, there was no villa here, so they had the tree as inspiration. We love the oak tree but it doesn’t really tell you about a sense of place.” So now the chateau  is the focus to get people transported to a Tuscan feel.

Edgar Torres
Edgar Torres

Tucked away in the sprawling swath of San Miguel, VSJ vineyards scale up to 850 feet elevation. “You get these small pockets where we have great microclimates,” said Smith. The 93-acre vineyard is planted to Bordeaux and Rhône varieties producing annual production of 4,500 cases. “We grow 12 different varieties and make single varietals for each of those plus two blends and a rosé.” A sparkling wine and late harvest Petite Sirah will soon join this portfolio. 

We began with the 2022 jasmine-scented Pinot Gris Reserve, moving on to 2021 pale-hued Grenache, which depending on the vintage could be blended with Petite Sarah for color and structure, Smith noted. Among the varietal red wines, we savored the 2020 vintages of four Reserve wines. “The reds are well balanced, I don’t want to push the ripeness too hard,” Smith declared.

Dina and Jeff Hevert

Indeed, the lineup expressed delicious fruit and balanced tannins. There was the peppery Syrah, the Petit Verdot rocking with black cherries, the Cabernet Sauvignon redolent of lavender and Cabernet Franc intense with notes of dark chocolate. The VSJ wines are further elevated by superb Bistro fare ranging from rustic sandwiches to succulent lobster salad and juicy filet mignon all crafted by Milanese chef Roberto Laverini. 

The Wineries of 46 East concept was spearheaded by Gary Eberle and Tobin James to bring awareness to the east side of Paso, explained Audrey Arellano, the organization’s president. “Our members are wineries and hospitality east of 101 freeway and San Miguel is included,” she said of the 27-member organization.

Pear Valley
Kathleen Maas and Jared Lee

There was an impressive selection of some 30-plus wines offered by 16 wineries. Although I must add a good number of wines I savored were produced from westside vineyards. However, it’s not uncommon for Paso winemakers to blend grapes from both east and west especially when it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon.

“I’m on the east side so I’m very supportive,” commented Edgar Torres, owner/winemaker of Bodega de Edgar. Specializing in Spanish varieties, Torres has two wineries, one on each side of town.

The lineup of five wines he offered were all from the westside, mostly from the steep Paper Street Vineyard that straddles westside’s Willow Creek and Adelaida Districts.   “The attraction of vineyards on the westside is that you have more diversity, steep hillsides and sun exposure.” However, he does source Cabernet Franc from the east side.

Kathleen and Jeffry Wiesinger

Torres’ approach to winemaking is traditional and at times eclectic. Take his Gracias Blanco 2021 Torrontes which he barrel ages for two years giving the wine a richness on the palate. The 2020 Toro del Paso blend of Tempranillo and Graciano had a touch of Merlot. “Spaniards use Bordeaux varieties in blending, Merlot brings an herbaceous component.”  The 2019 Gracias, a blend of Graciano and Carignan, was in the typical Priorat style whereas the 2019 Gran Reserva Tempranillo in the Rioja tradition was barrel-aged for three years and bottle-aged for another three.

Newcomers to Paso, Dina and Jeff Hevert of Vinyl Vineyards presented their fragrant strawberry-laced 2022 Rosé of Mourvèdre and Grenache sourced from Templeton Gap. A well-knit Bordeaux blend was equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. “Our annual production is 500 acres and we sell out every release,” commented Dina.

Renowned for growing a whopping 28 grape varieties, Pear Valley offered a lineup of four wines: the 2022 Viognier, 2019 Petite Sirah and two 2020 vintages — a pomegranate fragrant Aglianico and a Bordeaux blend, the latter containing all six varieties including Carmenère.

Joy Bonner
Joy Bonner

Vina Robles featured its signature crowd pleasers Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon; from Robert Hall the 2019 Cavern Select Cabernet Sauvignon showing fine-grained tannins and the 2020 GSM redolent of anise and lavender.

At the Allegretto table, I sampled the richly textured 2019 Tannat and the 2020 Heart of the Vine Bordeaux blend. Nearby, Brochelle’s raspberry-flecked 2021 Zinfandel paired well with honey goat cheese and a concrete-aged Sta. Rita Hills sourced 2022 Chardonnay expressed a balance of minimality and bright fruit.

Other participating wineries included Broken Earth, Eberle, Tobin James, Four Sisters Ranch, Penman Springs, Riboli and Villa San Juliette. Many winery participants offered cheese pairings. Paso’s popular entertainer Joy Bonner rocked the cavernous hall as guests enjoyed delicacies such as Maddelana Bistro’s lasagna, Stein’s BBQ’s pork tacos, Trattoria di Luca’s pizzas, Di Ramondo’s selection of cheeses and Jeffry’s Wine Country BBQ’s signature paella.


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