Sparkling Wine-the Finishing Touch for any Celebration

by Lauren Rava

Whether you stay in for a cozy night or bring in the New Year at a swanky party, sparkling wine will add the finishing touch to your celebration.

sparkling wine for a celebration

Nothing says special occasion, celebration or just quiet time with someone special, more than bubbles – sparkling wine bubbles that is.

Lauren and Chad Rava of Rava Wines & Events love sparkling wine so much they’ve devoted their wine making attention to specializing in estate grown sparkling wines crafted in the time-honored méthode champenoise style, the first winery in Paso Robles to do so.

Says Lauren, “for a cozy night in we recommend a good movie, truffle popcorn and Rava Wines sparkling Blanc de Blancs. For a swanky party, Sparkling Rosé would be a showstopper displayed in a champagne tower. The delicacy of this slightly sweet sparkling wine will please the pickiest palate.”

“We believe everyday is a special occasion deserving of a glass of sparkling wine”, says Lauren, and with eight different sparkling wines in their current lineup, there’s one for every day!

Rava Wines & Events -Brut Rosé - Paso Robles

Rava Sparkling Brut Rosé

The cuvée, or base wine, for this sparkler consists of Chardonnay grapes, which were fermented in small stainless steel barrels. A small amount of red wine, made up of estate grown Italian varietals, was added to the cuvée for the second fermentation.

This Brut Rosé, with its gorgeous color, offers vibrant aromas of red current and boysenberry, with accents of pomegranate and rose petals. The lush bubbles are accentuated by hints of black cherry and strawberry rhubarb, capped by a crisp, clean finish.

Rava Wines & Events - Blanc de Blancs - Paso Robles

Rava Blanc de Blancs

The cuvée, or base wine for this sparkler consists of 100% Chardonnay grapes, which were barrel fermented in a combination of neutral French and American oak barrels. It is then bottled for the secondary fermentation and aged, en tirage, or on the yeast, for 14 months. The wine is then disgorged and given a small dosage of brandy before being corked.

The Blanc de Blancs displays a lively bead of refined bubbles and beautiful pale straw color. Aromas of toasted almond and creamy Anjou pear are accented by aromatic floral notes. On the palate, a velvety effervescence with hints of citrus leads to a long, lingering finish.

sparkling wine tower - Rava Wines - Paso Robles

A Glunz Family Holiday Tradition

by Matthew Glunz

Every year the Glunz family makes a mulled wine for the holiday season called Vin Glögg.  My great grandfather who was German opened up a wine store in 1888 right next to a Swedish neighborhood on the north side of Chicago.  Every winter, he would blend up large batches of Glögg in the basement of his store and sell it to the Swedes around Chicago.  130 years later, we still use his original recipe using half port and half red wine.  To that, we add cinnamon, cardamon, clove, nutmeg and orange peel.  We let in sit in tank for 2 weeks before we bottle it.  The result is a wine that tastes like Christmas! Our Vin Glögg is intended to be served heated to warm you up from the inside out during the cold winter days.

The Glunz Family is proud to be carrying on this holiday tradition here in the beautiful rolling hills of Paso Robles. We look forward to seeing you at the tasting room this holiday season and raise a glass, or a Glögg Mügg, to toast to….everything!

Happy Holidays!

Glunz Family Vin Glögg - Back Roads Wineries of Paso Robles

Cabernet Franc

by Carol Hinkle – Rio Seco Vineyard & Winery

Cabernet Franc – not just a blending grape anymore.

Our Cab Franc adventures began here at RIO SECO Winery back in 1997!  My husband, Tom, was working for the Detroit Tigers at that time, traveling about 180 days a year. We had recently purchased an old fixer upper ranch that we couldn’t wait to turn into a fine Paso Robles vineyard.  Countless hours were spent researching, debating, planning for the future of RIO SECO estate wines.  Of course, at that moment in time, it was all about the Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons! Little did we realize that one little “oops” changed our destiny.  Our original plan for thirty acres was to include one acre of Cab Franc to use for blending when Tom, upon coming home from a baseball road trip, discovered that our “Spanglish” had somehow translated into THREE acres! Lucky us!  And, as we were told by esteemed winemaker, John Munch, LeCuvier Winery, “this is a good thing” – we believed him!  Our very first gold medal award winning Cab Franc was 1999!

Cabernet Franc is sometimes an under-appreciated grape but it does have its own personality!  It is a major and universally grown red wine grape originating as far back as the 17th century from the French Basque region. Principally teamed up with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this medium bodied grape is a key component in Bordeaux style blends. With fruity, vegetal, and earthy flavors, it lends itself to many interesting food pairings. Lighter in color and lower in tannin than Cabernet Sauvignon, the aromas of cherry, raspberry, and tomato along with savory notes of dried herbs, bell pepper, roasted red pepper perfume, and mint, it complements well with everything from game birds, grilled vegetables, and Italian dishes.  Now with the popularity of the food network cooking channels and the passion for collecting celebrity cookbooks , all  us “foodies” have the opportunity to explore this wonderful grape in the “art of food pairing”!

One fun fact that is not often talked about is that Cabernet Franc’s claim to fame could be that of being the parent grape to Cabernet Sauvignon! Crossed with Sauvignon Blanc in the 1700’s , and much later with follow up DNA testing in 1997, studies show Cab Franc has contributed to a very worthy place in wine history! 

Thankfully, the marketing strategies over the past 20+ years by many producers have helped educate wine lovers to the elegance of a stand alone Cabernet Franc. It is definitely our most popular wine here in the Tasting Room and also our most in -demand fruit that we grow (on our THREE acres!) to sell to other wine makers! Just as a side note, mark your calendars for December 4th. It’s wine discounts and deals in Tasting Rooms all across America on this date as it has been declared National Cabernet Franc Appreciation Day!

Cabernet Franc at Rio Seco Vineyard & Winery - Back Roads Wineries of Paso Robles

And finally, one of our fondest Cabernet Franc memories to share…Day after day in the Tasting Room we would be extolling the virtues of Cab Franc to anyone who would listen. And of course, people would be insisting that it was definitely used as a blending grape for all those wonderful Bordeaux blends! Yes, true that! But we discovered that while people were saying Amen in church on Sundays, or watching NFL football on TV, we, being slightly irreverent, would shout out a Hallelujah as we indulged in our newest Sunday morning adventure, FRITTERS ‘N FRANC in the Tasting Room! No lattes, soy mochas, or light on the whipped cream, you could always find a big box of donuts, the LA Times, the Chronicle, and maybe a USA Today, along with friendly people, stimulating conversation, and an abundant passion for, of course, Cabernet Franc – not just a blending grape anymore! Fun times at RIO SECO, for sure! Come join us!


Zinfandel and Sicilian Sausage Soup

A zinfandel pairing to fend off the winter chill.

Seven Angels Cellars is a family owned, boutique winery located in the Templeton Gap District of Paso Robles wine country.  They began making wine in 2009 with a small production of Petite Sirah and have since then increased production to around 3000 cases per year of a broad selection of white and red wines. Greg Martin, winemaker and his wife, Pamela, own and operate Seven Angels, named after their 7 children.

Their beautiful tasting room offers a warm experience, typical of the Martin hospitality. Enjoy your tasting indoors while listening to music played on the grand piano, or on the deck taking in the spectacular views. Greg is happy to answer your wine questions, and Pamela is sure to offer you food pairing suggestions for your favorite wines.

Seven Angel Cellars Zinfandel

One of their favorite wines to produce and enjoy is Zinfandel. It is aged in 30% new Hungarian oak barrels for 19-24 months, depending on taste trials. Pamela says, “Zinfandel has a beautiful profile, with tastes of spicy black pepper, dark cassis, and notes of chocolate. Zinfandel tends to evolve continually, and can taste remarkably different from one year to the next.”

One of the family’s favorite recipes to pair with zinfandel is Sicilian Sausage Soup – hearty, flavorful and quick to come together.

Sicilian Sausage Soup paired with zinfandel wine

Sicilian Sausage Soup

  • 1/2 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 28-oz can Italian tomatoes
  • 3 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • 1 tsp dried basil or 1/4 c. fresh, chopped
  • 1/2 c. orzo
  • salt & pepper to taste

Remove casings from sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until all pink is gone.  Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, and basil. Bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients, lower heat and cook for at least 20 minutes, until orzo is cooked thoroughly.  Serve with crusty bread and a hearty zinfandel.

Paso Robles Grenache

Here in Paso Robles, Grenache, a vigorous, high-yielding red rhone wine grape varietal, thrives in the calcareous soils, similar to those of the Southern Rhône in France. Although traditionally a blending grape, many Paso Robles grape growers employ farming techniques to limit yields, thus concentrating flavors and resulting in dark, extracted wines worthy of bottling on their own.

Bovino Vineyards Joludi 2015 Grenache

Bovino Vineyards, located in the El Pomar Distric sub-AVA of Paso Robles, is home to the gen-er-os-i-ty and Joludi labels. They have recently opened Café Bovino, with Chef Jeff Puckett at the helm preparing luscious tapas style dishes to pair with their wines and enjoy while taking in the spectacular views. The Joludi 2015 Grenache is ripe with full red fruit flavors, white pepper and a subtle, spicy back end. Although not on the regular menu, yet, Chef Jeff shares these 2 easy and delicious recipes to pair with the Grenache.

Lamb Pops with Achiote Red Pepper Sauce


  • 1 – Rack of Lamb Ribs
  • Salt/Pepper 
  • Sumac
  • 1 Tbsp Achiote Paste
  • 3-4 Roasted Red Peppers
  • 3-4 Large Fresh Basil Leaves (or ¼ tsp dried basil)
  • 3 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Separate the rack by slicing in between the bones to create the rib “pops”. Wrap bone end with foil.  Rub meat with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and a light dusting of Sumac (available in most Mediterranean stores). 

Cut red peppers in half and remove stem and seeds, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and crushed garlic and roast in the oven until lightly charred (or purchase a jar of roasted peppers!).

Place in a blender or food processor with Achiote Paste (available in most Hispanic food markets) and lemon juice and blend, then add basil and blend until incorporated. 

Set aside sauce and sear lamb on flat top plancha or grill until medium rare (or your preferred temp).  Plate the lamb and drizzle sauce over with a chiffonade of fresh basil on top. 

And for dessert…..

Dessert to pair with grenache

Shortcake with Raspberry Sorbet, Lemon Curd & Berries


  • Shortcake rounds
  • Raspberry Sorbet
  • Lemon Curd
  • Fresh Blueberries
  • Fresh Mint (all items should be available for purchase at your local store or get creative with your own recipes!)

Spread lemon curd over shortcake rounds & top with a scoop of raspberry sorbet.  Add a handful of blueberries and a sprig of mint. 

Food photo credits:

Pretty Media Creations

A Love Affair with Viognier

by Susan Evans – winemaker, Shadow Run Vineyards & Winery

My assessment of any winemaker’s talent is always enhanced tenfold when I discover that she or he can create a beautiful white wine.  Creating a luscious, nuanced white is a thin cord balancing act built on both science and art.  The natural delicacy of a white wine quickly reveals flaws that cannot be smoothed away by time in oak, or softened with age.  Guiding a white wine to maturity requires a refined approach:  a constant vigilance to retain the delicate flavors and the fruit and floral nose that are the hallmark of a great white wine.  And when the flavors are layered and complex, with each sip revealing yet another hue, then I am in white wine heaven.

I have the great fortune to work primarily with Viognier, also known as the winemaker’s grape for its elusive qualities.  A great Viognier should reveal layers of stone fruit including apricot, white and yellow peach, perhaps lychee, or honey.  The characteristic Viognier nose is floral, with scents of honeysuckle and white flowers.  My favorite wine writer, Karen MacNeil describes Viognier as “Chardonnay’s ravishing exotic sister.”  So true.  But when Viognier grapes are allowed to ripen too long on the vine, the result can be a wine that is oily, with high alcohol and insufficient acid to balance the rich flavors.  Harvest too early and the resulting wine shows more citrus and acid, resembling a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from California’s Monterey County (a lovely wine, but not the flavors we want in a Viognier).  That precise harvest moment seems to arrive and depart very quickly, and missing that perfect balance of flavors and acid can leave the winemaker with less than ideal grapes and dreaming about the next vintage, another chance for the dream wine.

Viognier’s fame originated in the tiny appellations of Condrieu and Chateau Grillet located in the Northern Rhone region of France.  Combined, these two appellations cover about 280 acres.  Today, California is the largest producer of Viognier, with approximately 3,000 acres planted.  Compare that however to the acreage of Chardonnay planted in California (approximately 93,000 acres) and it is quickly apparent that Viognier remains a rare find.

Violinist Viognier - Shadow Run Vineyard - Paso Robles

Frankly, I work harder and spend more capital on our white wines, specifically our Viognier.   I think about them more, I worry about them more, I love them more.  Our Viognier is fermented in huge French oak puncheons in a cold environment and then aged on the “lees” that is, on the spent yeast cells.  While the wine is aging in barrel, we stir the lees three times a week to enhance the body and mouthfeel of the wine, hoping to again capture that creamy mid palate that has become a hallmark of Shadow Run whites.

Viognier is my passion.  And the search for the best expression of this beautiful wine never ends.  Each year I have the chance to try yet again to create that wine that will satisfy my dreams of the perfect Viognier.  Happily I will never make the perfect white, so I am driven to try again and again.

Veraison – the ripening of the berries

early veraison at Rails Nap - Paso Robles
Early veraison of Syrah at Rails Nap Vineyards & Winery

It’s August, and like you, we’ve been enjoying the long, warm, leisurely days. The vineyards in Paso Robles wine country have been kicking back too, soaking up all that glorious sun that allows the berry ripening to happen – the magic of “veraison”. Besides being an indication that harvest is not far off, veraison also provides a spectacular display of color in the vineyard. Each wine grape variety ripens at a different rate, with red wine grapes turning red or purple and white wine grapes turning a golden yellow. Besides the gradual change of color, during veraison the grapes also increase in volume, weight and sugar content.

Knowing exactly when to harvest the fruit depends on the winemaker’s knowledge of and preference for sugar levels, pH and acidity. With each variety ripening on a different schedule, a winery like Rails Nap, which has 16 different varieties planted, can experience the calm of summer quickly turning into the organized chaos of harvest, come end of August and into September.

From the first peek at new growth during bud break, through flowering, berry set, then the berry ripening of summer, any season is a good time to visit wine country. Experience the season with a walk through a vineyard, taste wines from previous vintages and get a glimpse of what’s to come – from vine to glass.

Cabernet Sauvignon

by Michael Mooney – Chateau Margene

“Cab is King.”  And everyone knows it!  (well, almost everyone)

Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant force in the red wine industry and in most years, the most popular choice among US wine consumers.  It makes up 40% of the Paso Robles AVA’s (American Viticultural Area) 40,000 acres.

Cabernet Sauvignon came to life in France (Bordeaux region) in the 1600’s. UC Davis researchers determined that it was a crossing of Cabernet Franc (Father) and Sauvignon Blanc (Mother).  The result was far beyond what the two parents of this newly created varietal could ever achieve.

Cabernet Sauvignon has thick skins, strong tannins, black berry fruit and ages well.  It is also able to develop other characteristics and aromas after spending time in oak vessels. 

Stylistic and regional differences exist between New world and Old world Cabernet Sauvignons.  Generally speaking, Old world Cabs display green pepper/green olive, slate and earthy notes due to the cooler climate.  In the Medoc region (left bank of Bordeaux), Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape.  New world Cabs (Argentina, Australia, Chile, South Africa and the United States (primarily California) are riper, with more pronounced fruit and softer tannins.  They are more drinkable upon release due to the warmer climates.   Winemakers in both regions can have a dramatic influence on a wines style by utilizing different techniques and varied barrel programs.

Chateau Margene 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Stella's Vineyard - Paso Robles, California

Pair Cabernet Sauvignon with ribeye or sirloin steaks, roast or grilled lamb, braised beef, Portabello mushrooms, brie or aged cheddar cheese.

Our 2017 Chateau Margene Cabernet Sauvignon – “Stella’s Vineyard” from the Creston District is inky dark with aromas of black currant, allspice and sweet oak.   It displays unctuous blackberry and black cherry through the mid palette, with silky tannins and a long, lingering finish.  This is the first wine produced off Stella’s Vineyard, which was planted on our estate in 2014.  Release date November 16, 2019.  Will cellar well through 2030.  $84

Listen to The Krush 92.5FM’s interview with Chateau Margene’s Michael Mooney highlighting the distinguishing features of the Creston District AVA of Paso Robles, California

Shamelessly Soused Shrimp Tacos

by Angela Mitchell – Mitchella Vineyard & Winery

Mitchella Vineyard & Winery shares their award winning recipe for Shamelessly Soused Shrimp Tacos

In January 2007, we decided to compete in the Paso Robles Rotary’s Winemakers Cook-Off – both Darren and I like to cook and create new recipes to pair with our wines. Good cooking and winemaking seem to go hand in hand. For months we experimented with BBQ-ing the very best one bite slider. The first time was the charm and we won the Judge’s Choice Award for our Petite Top Sirloin Burgers with Rustic Cheddar Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Heirloom Tomato, Arugula and Cumin Aioli.

The pressure was on and we needed to come up with an equally impressive recipe for the next year. On Friday nights for months we conducted taste tests for the best shrimp tacos, we experimented with blue corn tortillas, flour tortillas, lettuce, etc., but finally decided on thinly sliced jicama. We made multiple variations of toppings, from super spicy to sweet but found that the combination of the Mango Relish and Tomatillo Guacamole was the perfect compliment to bring out the sweetness of the marinated shrimp. For the second year in a row we claimed the title and took First Place in the Judge’s Choice Award with our BBQ Shrimp Tacos. The fun thing about these tacos is that they pair famously with both red, like Shameless, our Rhone Style blend, and white wine, and even a Rose like our Reluctant.

The Winemakers Cook-Off is a tasty and spirited event. Get your tickets for this August 10, 2019 event, today!

Mitchella’s Shamelessly Soused BBQ Shrimp Tacos

Serves 10-15

2 lb Shrimp 21/25 (Approximately 42 per bag)                                

1 Cup Mitchella Viognier

8     Color Tortillas in 1/2” slices, fried (garnish)                

5 Cloves Garlic Minced

1     medium Jicama                                                              

1 tbsp Ground Black Pepper

¼    head Napa Cabbage, grated                                         

1 tbsp Cumin

1     Lemon

1 tbsp ground oregano                                                                             

1     Lime                                                                                

1 tbsp Brown Sugar

Thinly Sliced & Fried Colored Tortilla Strips for garnish.

Clean the shrimp, butterfly, marinate in the zest and juice of the lemon and lime, wine, garlic, black pepper, cumin, ground oregano, and brown sugar for 3-12 hours. Save the marinade for basting when Barbecuing. Thinly slice the jicama using a mandolin or slicer into 22 pieces. BBQ the shrimp, basting frequently, three minutes each side until opaque. Arrange two BBQ shrimp on a slice of jicama, a bit of Napa Cabbage, 1 tablespoon Guacamole, ½ tablespoon Mango Relish, top with three fried colored tortilla strips.

Tomatillo Guacamole

Serves 10-15

Topping for the Shamelessly Soused Shrimp Tacos

½ lb  Tomatillos  Halved Roasted                                         1 tbsp   Lime Juice

6        Cloves Minced Garlic                                                   1 tbsp   Cilantro          

¼       Cup Finely Chopped Onions                                       1 tbsp   Mayonnaise

2        Avocados halved, diced                                             

1 Serrano Chile Chopped

Roast the tomatillos in 425° oven for about 30 minutes until soft and brown. Place tomatillos and chile in food processor or blender. Process until a coarse puree forms. Pour puree into medium bowl. Mix in all remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill, can be made 24 hours ahead. Makes about 2 ½ cups.

Mango Relish

Serves 10-15

Topping for the Shamelessly Soused Shrimp Tacos

 1    Mango chopped                                                             

½  Cup Red Onion chopped
1    Red Tomato seeded and chopped                                 

½  Cup Red Bell Pepper chopped
¼  Cup Cilantro chopped                                                   

1 tsp     Red Chili Flakes                   
1    Lime juiced                                                                      1 tbsp   Honey

Mix all of the ingredients together, season to taste with salt and pepper. Ok to substitute the Red Chili Flakes with fresh chili paste in the produce section, then use 1 tablespoon.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill, can be made 24 hours ahead. Makes about 1 cup.

Shameless from Mitchella Vineyard & Winery - Paso Robles

Pair with Mitchella “Shameless“, our Estate Rhone Blend of 30% Mourvèdre, 25% Petit Sirah, 25% Syrah, and 20% Grenache. It’s packed with fruity aromas of cherry, blackberry, and raspberry and delicately balanced by rich silky tannins with hints of blueberry, spice, and a touch of earthiness.

From our home to yours – enjoy!

Visit our website for more delicious recipes and to learn more about our winery and wines.

Spain’s Albariño stakes a claim in California

If you’re a fan of Spanish wines, you surely have become familiar with Albariño, produced mainly in the Rías Baixas wine region along the western Galician coastline in the north of Spain. Here, this racy but highly approachable wine expresses itself with floral, oceanic and citrus aromas, and crisp minerality.

Enjoying Albariño in California

This summer, if travel plans don’t include Spain, consider a visit to the Central Coast of California, where Albariño has been embraced by many wineries in Santa Ynez, Edna Valley and Paso Robles. In these areas the wine leans towards a lusher expression, with flavors of apricot and peach, citrusy notes and plenty of minerality-driven acidity. Combined with a hint of brininess, it is the perfect match for pairing with seafood. 

The varietal, has become so popular that the Annual Festival of Albarino-California Central Coast, held in Paso Robles, was begun in 2016 to showcase the area’s Albariño wines and educate consumers who want to learn more about the history and characteristics of the varietal.

Barr Estate Winery

One festival participant, Barr Estate Winery, chose to produce Albariño to provide an alternative white wine to offer visitors to their Paso Robles tasting room. Since their first vintage in 2009, the wine has become one of their most popular selections. “It seems to do well on our vineyard where our soil is similar to the area of Spain where the varietal is from”, says Barr Estate Winery co-owner Tealy Barr. 

The estate’s Albariño is harvested at low brix to maintain a high level of acidity and retain the fruit’s natural aroma. Harvesting is done in the early morning to ensure the fruit is cold, then dry ice is used throughout the crush process to keep the fruit cold and to protect the juice from oxidation. The winery produces approximately 260 cases of Albariño, and keeps the alcohol down to 12.68%. 

Barr Estate Winery Albariño - Back Roads Wineries - Paso Robles

Barr Estate Winery’s Albariño is a crisp zesty white wine done in stainless steel. Tasting will reveal zesty fruit hints of apricot, peach and grapefruit, and firmness in the mouth with a dry finish. So  refreshing on a hot day! Besides seafood like calamari, oysters, shrimp, scallops and crab, it pairs deliciously with chicken salad, white fish and baked goat cheese.