The Back Roads Wineries of Paso Robles Celebrate Harvest 2013!

Well, another Harvest Festival Wine Weekend is in the books and harvest is winding down here in Paso Robles. We’re all a little tired from the work and the celebrations but it was all worth it and lots of fun too! Harvest Festival is a great time for us to meet so many of the folks that enjoy our wines and thank them for all their support – wine club members, visitors from out of town and locals alike. Many of our wineries had special events including barrel tastings, grape stomps, dinners, case specials and so much more. Here’s just a “taste” of what was going on at the Back Roads Wineries of Paso Robles.

On Friday night, Cass Winery threw a BBQ bash complete with country western music from the ever popular Monte Mills and his amazing band of musicians and vocalists. The food, especially the tri-tip was “crazy” good, the wine flowed, and the music kept the crowd moving right up until the end when the entire audience joined the band in a moving rendition of Amazing Grace. With a spectacular full moon presiding over the evening, the event, held adjacent to the Cass vineyard, was truly magical.

Cass Winery - Paso Robles Harvest Festival 2013

Monte Mills and his band provided a wide range of music enjoyed by all

Paso Robles Harvest BBQ at Cass Winery

Steve Cass chatting up a guest at Harvest BBQ


A little different music was the highlight at Sculpterra’s 4th Annual Mariachi Festival on Saturday, serving up awesome Mexican food with their wine selections.

Mariachi Festival Harvest 2013 at Sculpterra Winery, Paso Robles

Mariachi Mexicanisimo

Also on Saturday, August Ridge Vineyards offered live music, along with Italian Sausage Sandwiches to pair with some of their handcrafted wines made from Italian varietals and a delicious sangria made with their Arneis white wine.

Wines made from Italian varietals at August Ridge Vineyards - Paso Robles

Enjoy Italian varietals, Paso Robles style at August Ridge Vineyards

Italian varietal red blend wines from August Ridge Vineyards in Paso Robles, California

Italian varietal red blends from August Ridge Vineyards

Harvest Wine Weekend in Paso Robles at August Ridge Vineyards

The weekend brought a large crowd to the popular August Ridge Vineyards tasting room

Saturday evening brought the big event for our area, the 2nd annual Taste of the Back Roads held at the stunning Windfall Farms in Creston. The event this year featured a VIP wine and food pairing presented by 8 of our member wineries prior to the grand tasting with wines from 17 “Back Roads” wineries! Hearty harvest stew was served to hungry tasters and everyone left having tasted some new “favorites”. Proceeds from this event benefited The Paso Robles Youth Art Foundation.

"Taste of the Back Roads" harvest wine event at Windfall Farms in Paso Robles

The evening weather was perfect for tasting wine at beautiful Windfall Farms

Sliders at the Cass Winery table during VIP tasting event

These delicious sliders were paired with Cass wines during the VIP wine and food pairing

Sculpterra Winery table at Taste of the Back Roads - Paso Robles harvest 2013

Sculpterra was one of 17 tables pouring wines from the wineries of the Back Roads

To view more images from Taste of the Back Roads – 2013, click here.

On Sunday, Mitchella Vineyard & Winery, all decorated for Halloween, was offering an extensive pasta bar, cheese buffet, “wine scent adventure station” and a self-guided vineyard tour.

Self-guided vineyard tour station at Mitchella Winery in Paso Robles

There are a number of signs around the vineyard guiding the visitor and offering information about the vineyard.

Angela Mitchell of Mitchella Winery

Angela, herself, was busy in the kitchen preparing the sumptuous pasta bar for harvest weekend visitors.

Wine Scent Adventure Station at Mitchella Winery - Paso Robles

Wine Scent Adventure Station at Mitchella Vineyard & Winery

Mitchella Winery tasting room guests during harvest wine weekend 2013

She felt much better after a glass of wine…..

Chateau Margene had barrel tastings with the winemaker, Still Waters had live music, a taco bar and art show, Cass had a waffle brunch and massages on Sunday and B&E Vineyard had target shooting, cowboy style! Truly something for everyone.

We hope you’ll join us next year during our harvest celebration and get to know some of our winemaking families. Lots of wonderful B&B’s to stay out here and there are a number of places to taste olive oil too! See you in the “Back Roads”!

Harvest at Sculpterra – 2012

Visiting Sculpterra Winery in Paso Robles is a unique experience. The sculpture garden  entices you to wander about the property taking in the mass proportions and intricate details of each piece of sculpture. Finally you make your way into the vast tasting room with its long bar, wonderful gifts to browse and delicious wines to taste. A visitor during harvest time would never know what’s going on behind the scenes out in the vineyard and on the crush pad.  Enjoy this glimpse into the frenzied, high energy world of….. “harvest”.

Sculpterra Harvest 2012

Harvest is Here!

by Susan Evans, Shadow Run Vineyards

Harvest is a time of testing, tasting and tasting again—searching for the perfect balance of flavors, sugars and acids in the ripening berries.   While the test numbers (brix, acids, pH) provide a framework for our harvest decision, the taste of the berries is our most important guide.  Walking through the vineyard, popping berries in our mouths, we anticipate, wait for “ahhhh yes, perfect, yummy!” and we know it is time.

Harvest season is of course the beginning of the winemaking cycle and a feast for all our senses.  From the half ton bins filled with cold purple grapes, to the sweet aromas of grapes bubbling in the fermenting tanks, we see vibrant color and discover sweet scents as we move from task to task .  The fermenting Grenache Noir grapes gives aromas of cherry pie and we can already detect pineapple and lychee nut in our Viognier fermenting in oak barrels.  It is also the time to choose just the right oak barrels to complement each wine, so we inspect empty barrels from past vintages, hoping to find the heady tobacco sweet fragrance that signifies a good barrel.  And like any kid expecting a package, we delight in the delivery of brand new still perfect barrels.  Harvest:  our favorite time of year defined by sticky hands, sticky tools, purple-stained jeans and t-shirts and expectations of great wines.

Testing the brix at Shadow Run Vineyard


Grenache Blanc in barrel at Shadow Run Vineyard

Planning for the Harvest

My name is Paul Warren Frankel, and I’m the winemaker at Sculpterra Winery.  My last blog I mentioned that we’d look at my plan of attack for the 2012 harvest.  Each year I start a spreadsheet where I map out every batch of wine I plan to make.  Now…you’re going to find these next subjects riveting (tongue firmly planted in cheek).  They are however a crucial and essential part of the plan.  I’ve got 2 words for you-Yeast & Oak.

As we begin to see some early seasonal hints of veraison (coloring of the fruit), I start to think about when to pick the fruit, and at what degree of ripeness.  Then I get to choose which yeast to pair with which fruit.  There are literally hundreds of yeast strains, each with it’s own characteristics and signature.  Fruit and yeast pairings has really become one of my greatest interests in winemaking.  I have my choices made and my purchases done for this upcoming harvest.


The yearly planned use of existing oak barrels, and the purchase of new barrels is a true adventure.   We buy barrels with different oak sourced from France, Hungary, Bulgaria, and the United States (Appalachian, Pennsylvania, and Missouri oak).  The parade of oak salesman – cooperage representatives – is quite a sight.  They run the gamut from our own domestic, razor pressed, Dockers clad sales guys to the slightly rumpled rep selling Acacia wood barrels, to the scarf clad French rep with his smoldering “assistant”/interpreter.  These barrels are not cheap, running from $800-$1,600 for French oak, and I am NOT an easy sale.  I ask the hard questions, one of which is, “How will your oak improve my product?”  I love a knowledgeable salesman, prepared to try my wines and understand where our winemaking goal and his product intersect.

I love experimenting with oak.   It is part gamble, part science, and all fun.  The influence of the oak and the “toast” can make or break a wine.  The toast is the buffer between wine and wood.   Without the toast, wine would be in direct contact with fresh cut wood, overpowering the wine.  Oak derived influences are tannic, resin, herbaceous, or “woody” (those scents of fresh cut wood, cedar, sawdust, or pencil shavings).  The toast influence (the degree that the inside of the barrel has been fired – light to heavy “toast”) brings the scents we love to pinpoint when tasting – spicy (pepper), sweet (from caramel to honey to cotton candy), vanilla (graham crackers & waffles), and toasty/smokey (coffee, mocha, burnt sugar, bacon).

We’re getting closer to harvest, and are we excited about this year.  Our next blog will look at the progress of certain varietals on the property that comprise the backbone of our products line.  Until then, enjoy this beautiful summer…..and drink Sculpterra wines!