Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Celebrating Paso Robles Wines and Classic American Cuisine - Winemaker Dinner at Jose Andres’ America Eats Tavern in Washington DC with 4 Paso Robles Winemakers, USA

Pictures: Christian G. E. Schiller with Proulx Winemaker Kevin Riley at Jose Andres' America Eats Tavern in Washington DC, US

America Eats Tavern of famed Chef Jose Andres celebrated exceptional wines and classic American cuisine.  As part of the Paso Robles Grand Tasting Tour 2012, Head Chef Paul Yeck prepared a special menu of the America Eats Tavern’s historic American cuisine, paired with wines from 4 winemakers in the Paso Robles region.  This was an exciting dining experience and an opportunity to meet Paso Robles winemakers. Tickets were $85 per person not including tax and gratuity.

America Eats Tavern - Eat the History of America

Part of the Jose Andres Restaurant Group and named after the Works Progress Administration (WPA) writers project of the 1930s, America Eats Tavern offers a new take on American classics and celebrates native ingredients and some long forgotten dishes, from burgoo to oysters Rockefeller. With recipes and stories collected through extensive research and with help from the National Archives and a culinary advisory council of chefs and scholars, the menu showcases the fascinating history of the USA one plate at a time, whether it’s the origins of New England clam chowder or the introduction of grapefruit to America.

Pictures: Impressions from America Eats Tavern

Jose Andres

José Andrés is a Spanish chef often credited for bringing the small plates dining concept to America. His flagship restaurants, minibar (located in Washington D.C.) and "é" (located in Las Vegas) focus specifically on a tasting menu of molecular gastronomy. José Andrés was born in Mieres, Asturias, Spain. Early in his career, Andrés trained under Ferran Adria at the restaurant El Bulli.

Picture: Jose Andres

Jose Andrés owns several concept restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area:

•    minibar by José Andrés serves Andrés' cuisine in a small space. Three chefs serve a prix fixe menu of thirty to thirty-five small courses to six diners at a time. The restaurant has two seatings each night.

Picture: Jose Andres' minibar in Washington DC

•    America Eats serves traditional American dishes in conjunction with the Foundation for the National Archives in the former Cafe Atlantico space.
•    Jaleo serves traditional Spanish tapas. The restaurant has four locations, in Washington, D.C.; Bethesda, Maryland; Arlington, Virginia and at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
•    Zaytinya serves mezze, small plates of food from the Mediterranean regions of Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon. Zaytinya means "olive oil" in Turkish.
•    Oyamel serves a variety of small plates and antojitos.

Jose Andrés also operates The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, California and China Poblano by José Andrés in Las Vegas. In 2007, Andrés was inducted into the Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America list. In 2011, Andrés won the coveted James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Chef Award, the highest honor a chef in America can achieve.

Paso Robles and the Rhone Rangers

Pictures: Impressions from Paso Robles

Paso Robles - halfway between the 2 main California metropolises of Los Angelos and San Francisco - is California's third largest and fastest growing wine region, with over 26,000 acres of vineyards and home to more than 200 wineries.

While Cabernet Sauvignon is the leading variety for the Paso Robles appellation, accounting for 1/3 of the region's vineyard area, major progress has largely come from a group of producers often referred to as the Rhône Rangers, specializing in grape varietals of the Rhône Valley of France. In the 1980s, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard and Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars began popularizing the marketing of the Rhône varietals.

Pictures: Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance Executive Director Jennifer Porter at America Eats Tavern and at Hotel Palomar In Washington DC

A good place to get a quick overview of the Paso Robles wines in the City of Paso Robles is Paso Robles Wine Centre right in the middle of Paso Robles. See: Tasting Wines at the Paso Robles Wine Centre in Paso Robles, California

The 4 Winemakers from Paso Robles Present at the Dinner

Ancient Peaks

Ancient Peaks is owned by 3 local winegrowing families—the Filipponis, Rossis and Wittstroms—who joined forces to pursue their mutual dream of crafting wines from their own vineyards in Paso Robles. Ancient Peaks Winery was established in 2005, and the first wines were released in the summer of 2007.

Ancient Peak’s wines hail exclusively from the family-owned vineyards in Paso Robles, with the majority coming from Margarita Vineyard, the appellation’s southernmost boundary. 

Wines are crafted under the guidance of Mike Sinor. His approach is to rely as little as necessary on fining and other cellar manipulations to achieve a desired outcome. Wines produced include Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Ancient Peaks wines were presented by Amanda Wittstrom-Higgins, VP of Sales and Marketing. Amanda is a fifth-generation Paso Robles native.

Picture: Ancient Peaks VP of Sales and Marketing at Hotel Palomar In Washington DC

Tablas Creek

In 1989, the American Robert Haas and the French Perrin family purchased a 120-acre parcel in west Paso Robles and named it Tablas Creek Vineyard, after the small creek running through the property.

Robert Haas is the founder of Vineyard Brands – a major American wine importer - in 1971. Robert Haas began his career in 1950, as the buyer for his father’s wine shop in New York City. Today, Vineyard Brands employees more than 50 people and represents over 25 growers of estate-bottled wines in Burgundy, Chablis, the Rhône, Loire Valley, Alsace and Southern France as well as some of the best wines available from Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Germany and Italy.

The Perrin family owns the famous Château de Beaucastel winery in the southern part of the Rhône valley in France.

Tablas Creek in Paso Robles follows the centuries-old Châteauneuf du Pape tradition of blending varietals. Each varietal is hand-harvested when completely ripe and fermented separately. Winemaking preserves the wines' ties to their soil, climate, and varietal character by applying native yeast fermentation and using neutral French oak barrels for aging.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Tablas Creek Winemaker Jason Haas, Brother of Danny Haas. See: Tablas Creek Wines from Paso Robles and Belgian Food at Brasserie Beck with Tablas Greek GM Jason Haas and Chef Robert Wiedmaier in Washington DC, USA

The winery's flagship Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc wines debuted in 2000 and 2001 respectively. Total estate production ranges between 12,000 and 20,000 cases depending on vintage, with an additional 7,000 cases of non-estate Patelin de Tablas beginning in 2010.

At the dinner, I was happy to sit next to Danny Haas, the son of Robert Haas.  Danny Haas continues the tradition of a close family relationship with the French proprietors and makes a number of trips to taste and select wines during the year for Vineyard Brands.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Danny Haas at America Eats Tavern

The Tablas Creek wines were presented by Tommy Oldre, the National Sales Manager.

Pictures: Tablas Creek National Sales Manager Tommy Oldre at America Eats Tavern and at Hotel Palomar in Washington DC

Le Vigne Winery

It all began in the early 1960’s when the Filippini family purchased the property where Le Vigne winery now stands. Hay and cattle were the main commodities until 1982 when the first grapevines were planted. Early on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were planted to supplement the growing demand of other wine growing regions like Napa and Sonoma. As the vines matured, growers and winemakers began to see real potential for the area with its unique soils, climate and costal influence.

The Filippini family began making wine with grapes from their property beginning in 1989. Then built a state of the art winery in 1995 and developed additional vineyards in 1998, expanding the wineries varieties to include; Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc; in addition to the original plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. 2007 saw the planting of a complementary diversification, when 5 acres of Arbiquina olives were planted on the estate; additionally small blocks of Zinfandel, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Malbec and Tannat were planted.

“Le Vigne” comes from Italian, and means, “The Vineyard”. With his Italian heritage winery owner Walter Filippini takes tradition and old world processes very much to heart.

“At Le Vigne Winery our goal is to create unique and outstanding wines that portray characteristics of the vineyard and vintage that produced them” said Zina Miakinkova, Marketing Manager, who presented the wines.

Pictures: Le Vigne Marketing Manager Zina Miakinkova at America Eats Tavern and at Hotel Palomar In Washington DC


From the Vineyard to the bottle, Proulx is a family operation that has been carefully tended and nurtured by owners, Genoa and Kevin Riley, since the beginning.

The name, Proulx, is Kevin's maternal family name and its roots lie in Genoa’s family vineyard, located in the heart of Paso Robles’ renowned West Side. The fifty-five year old vineyard has produced stellar wines for many years, and when the Rileys began crushing fruit for Proulx in 2004, it did not disappoint. After taking a chance and chasing their dream to make exceptional wine of their own, they hit the ground running, selling out of 200 cases of their first vintage in a matter of months.

The years following have brought continued success for Proulx Wines. Today, Proulx Wines produces 1500 cases yearly with a tight focus on creating high-quality, approachable wines that are ready to drink at an early age.

Pictures: Proulx Winemaker and Owner Kevin Riley at America Eats Tavern and at Hotel Palomar In Washington DC

The Proulx wines were presented by owner and winemaker Kevin Riley. Kevin Riley has always had his feet wet in the wine industry. Growing up in Westport, Connecticut, he worked along side his father and grandfather at Greens Farm Spirit Shop, where his passion for wines and winemaking all began. In 2002, he graduated with a degree in Agricultural Business and a minor in Viticulture.

America Eats Tavern General Manager Brian Zaslavsky

Picture: America Eats Tavern General Manager Brian Zaslavsky

The evening was ably orchestrated by America Eats Tavern General Manager Brian Zaslavsky.

America Eats Tavern Head Chef Paul Yeck

Pictures: American Eats Tavern Chef Head Chef Paul Yeck and his Team

American Eats Tavern Chef Head Chef Paul Yeck and his Team did an outstanding job in preparing an amazing series of classic American dishes.

What we Ate and Drank

Bread Basket

House-made buttermilk biscuits served with cranberry butter.


The Ritz-Carlton, New York City, 1917. French Chef Louis Diat derived this dish from a classic from his youth, potato leek soup. Unable to locate leeks in NYC, Diat sought out a farmer who would grow them for him. Inspired by French ingredients and his earliest food memories, Diat reinvented this dish by serving it chilled and adding chives as a garnish. Due to the Vichy government’s collaboration with the Axis powers, many expatriate French chefs tried to change the name to Crème Gauloise. Diat himself neglected to mention the soup by name in his cookbook written in 1946

Ancient Peaks, Sauvignon Blanc, Paso Robles, California, 2011

Tasting notes:  “Aromas of gooseberry, lychee, grapefruit and orange blossom. A brightly textured palate unfolds with crisp flavors of lime, guava, pineapple and melon. A refreshing mineral quality joins vivid acidity on a brisk, balanced finish.”

Winemaker notes: “Winemaking emphasis was placed on achieving authentic varietal expression, inclusive of preserving the fruit’s distinctive natural flavors and lively acid profile. The wine was accordingly cold fermented in stainless steel tanks at 55 degrees for an extended fermentation period of three weeks. This slow fermentation process ensured the retention of delicate aromatics while capturing pure fruit flavors. A third of the wine was fermented with Vin13 yeast, which is noted for nurturing the varietal’s racier qualities. A third of the wine also underwent 48-hour skin contact prior to pressing and fermentation for enhanced textural nuance.”


Spice merchant Gustav Brunn escaped Nazi Germany with a hand-cranked grinder in his suitcase. He created Old Bay in 1940 for Maryland’s beloved crabs and the recipe remains unchanged.

Tablas Creek Rhone Blend Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, Paso Robles, California, 2010

The Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc 2010 is a blend of three estate-grown varietals, propagated from budwood cuttings from the Château de Beaucastel estate. Roussanne provides the core richness, minerality, and flavors of honey and spice, while Grenache Blanc adds green apple and anise flavors, a lush mouthfeel and bright acids. Picpoul Blanc completes the blend, adding a saline minerality and tropical notes.

The 2010 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc shows a powerful high-toned nose with aromas of passion fruit, mango, ginger, asian pear and herbs. The mouth shows classic Roussanne flavors of honey and white tea, a touch of tropicality coming out with air. The long, clean finish shows an appealing saline minerality and the structure to age.


Sarah Josepha Hale, New Household Receipt-Book, 1853.The origins of jambalaya are as mixed as the dish, with its flavors from Africa, France, Spain and the Middle East. Mrs Hale, who is credited with making Thanksgiving a national holiday, published the first known recipe in 1853. In Provence, in the south of France, a jambalaia at that time was a mixed stew with rice. But in Louisiana it became something bigger in the original American melting pot.

Le Vigne, Cabernet Franc, Paso Robles, California, 2006

Tasting notes: This full-bodied red has flavors of plum, red currant and black cherries with a supple lingering briery spice finish. Alcohol: 13.5%  Case Production: 475.


1828. Originally Squirrel Stew, a Virginia State Legislator enlisted his slave cook, ‘‘Uncle’’ Jimmy Matthews, to make his favorite stew at a large scale for a political rally to promote Andrew Jackson. Jackson may have eaten the squirrel concoction, which over the years has been modified to use chicken as its main ingredient. The recipe was first printed in 1862 and was originally named ‘‘Virginia Stew.’’

Proulx Zinfandel “Red Label” Swiss Colina Vineyard, Paso Robles, California, 2010

An explosive complexity is shown with aromas and flavors of white pepper, raspberries, bing cherries and toasted almonds. 72 Cases. Barrel Program:  Aged 18 months:  30% New French Oak, 20% New Eastern Europen Oak,  50% Neutral Oak.


Served with preserved black walnuts, local honeycomb, blackberry jam, caramelized pecans and walnut-dried fruit bread.

Tablas Creek Vin de Paille “Quintessence” Paso Robles, California 2010

Tommy Oldre explained the traditional Mediterranean technique for producing a vin de Paille: “Ripe grape bunches are carefully laid down on straw-covered benches in our greenhouses, and allowed to dehydrate in the sun. When the grapes reach the desired concentration, we press them and move the juice to oak barrels for fermentation. The juice ferments until it reaches an alcohol level where the sweetness of the juice is balanced by the acids and mineral characteristics of the wine itself.”

The 2010 Vin de Paille is a blend of four white Rhone grapes: Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne. The wine, after pressing, was aged in two new French oak barrels for 14 months before being bottled in January of 2012.

The 2010 Vin de Paille has a beautiful nose of maple syrup, caramel and ripe apricots, with remarkably concentrated flavors of honey, spice and pear, good balancing acidity and an exceptionally long finish.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Meeting a Rhone Ranger and Tasting His Wines - Sherman Thacher from Paso Robles in California

Richard Branson Presenting Wines from Cass Vineyards and Winery at Screwtop Wine Bar in Virginia?

Visiting Sherman Thacher and his Thacher Winery in Paso Robles, California

Tasting Wines at the Paso Robles Wine Centre in Paso Robles, California

Tablas Creek Wines from Paso Robles and Belgian Food at Brasserie Beck with Tablas Greek GM Jason Haas and Chef Robert Wiedmaier in Washington DC, USA

Tasting with James Brian Judd and Eric Alvarez their “A Cellar Full of Noise” and Judd Family Wines in Paso Robles, California

1 comment:

  1. The Wine Wrangler is a Paso Robles original, now serving the entire Central Coast. The Wine Wrangler will pick you up for a wonderful day touring the most diverse wine regions in California!