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Celebrate the holidays in wine country 

I’ll never forget my first taste of Barrel 27 2005 Syrah (a bottle costs only $15), from winemakers McPrice “Mac” Myers and Russell From. I couldn’t believe the quality of that delicious Rhone varietal at such a price. I knew little about the brand when I visited the Monterey St. Wine Co. in SLO store co-owner John Stipicevich recommended I give it a try. That was because they didn’t yet have a tasting room.

REASON TO SMILE :  Jason Carter (left), the national sales manager and co-owner of Barrel 27 with Mac Myers and Russell From (right) deserves to be merry, considering the raves their value-priced wines have earned. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • REASON TO SMILE : Jason Carter (left), the national sales manager and co-owner of Barrel 27 with Mac Myers and Russell From (right) deserves to be merry, considering the raves their value-priced wines have earned.

Even those of us in the business find it difficult to discover every good new wine without tips. But as of Thanksgiving weekend, it will be easy for anyone who’s looking for high-quality wines at value prices to find Barrel 27.

They’re opening a new tasting room in Paso Robles alongside Highway 46 East on Friday, Nov. 28. It’s sure to become a destination tasting room for its cult-status Rhone wines. The partners make their wines at Central Coast Wine Services in Santa Maria, where they created Barrel 27. The dynamic founding duo produces several brands: Myers owns McPrice Myers Wine Company From owns Herman Story Wines (named for his grandfather). Both brands are dedicated to Rhone varieties beloved by wine geeks and they’re well worth seeking out. Together the partners make Barrel 27, which they co-own with a third partner, Jason Carter, their national sales representative. They also make wines for several private labels, owned by entrepreneurs without wineries.

They created Barrel 27 when From and Myers had wine lots during the 2002 vintage that didn’t make the cut for their premier brands. Both men were 27 at the time, hence the brand name. They created what winemakers usually call a second label, but don’t mistake those impressive wines as second-rate. Although it was a value-priced line, the partners agreed every wine had to be good quality. Myers explained, “We want people to taste it and say, ‘That’s the best $15 wine I’ve ever had.’” Their special designations on most bottles of wines are just as creatively named, among them: High on the Hog Viognier Bull by the Horns red blend, and Rock and a Hard Place Grenache.

The new Barrel 27 tasting room is located in an industrial area near the Golden Hills Road exit off Highway 46 East, beside another artisan winery, Hug Cellars (Barrel 27 occupies the spot that housed the defunct Garretson Wine Co.). From and Myers are kicking off their opening weekend with tastes of their new releases and a few library selections, including those that earned very high ratings from wine critics. They’re also firing up the barbecue to serve wine tasters some tasty bites to enjoy with the wines. The tasting fee is only $5 per person, refunded if you purchase a bottle of wine. I doubt anyone will leave empty-handed after tasting the value-priced wines from Barrel 27.

Which wines are you drinking?

Each year as the holiday season approaches, I love discussing holiday meals with local winemakers and chefs and asking what they’re pouring for their family and friends. The answers aren’t always surprising some of them need to diversify a little by drinking wines other than their own. Nevertheless, their pairings are always interesting and provide great ideas.

I frequently see chef Richard Wirz of Palazzo Giuseppe’s in SLO at Kennedy Club Fitness, so I asked his favorite pairings. This personable chef said he loves Prosecco, a dry Italian sparkling wine offered on their wine list, with his crab cakes or the swordfish carpaccio with English cucumber and avocado salsa. He also suggested the budget-minded who are looking for simple pairings to create at home should head to Trader Joe’s: “Pick up a bottle of Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne [non-vintage, $28] with some crab salad and crackers and you’ve got a great appetizer to kick off any dinner party.”

Chef Maegen Loring of the Park in SLO says she continues her mother’s tradition for Christmas dinner by serving fresh, cracked Dungeness crab with a great salad and crusty bread for dipping. Maegen’s preferred choice of wine is a bubbly, be it sparkling sake, sparkling beer, Champagne or California sparkling wine. “When I have time off for the holidays I like to be free to focus on how great everything is and not have to worry about every pairing being the right match,” Loring related.

Winemakers Jeff and Florence Pipes of Pipestone in Paso Robles recreate his mother’s oyster stuffing each year, which he described as rich and savory. They serve with it their intense Grenache, which Jeff says won’t clash with the traditional Thanksgiving menu: “It’s pretty ripe but smooth on the palate, and it doesn’t have the tannins that clash with the menu.” Hardly one to limit his choices, Pipes also appreciates a good Pinot Noir on the table, comparing it to Grenache with its mild tannins and characteristics that complement the holiday menu. His comments made it clear he prefers wines that express their place of origin.

At John and Lorraine Alban’s table in Edna Valley, their family and friends are provided two choices of entrees. “We serve turkey for tradition and goose for inspiration,” John Alban laughed. They enjoy serving wines from producers with whom they have strong associations. And since they own the largest local wine distributing company, J & L Wines (they sell local wines to stores and restaurants throughout the Central Coast), they have a wealth of friends who make great wines.

“Our choice of spirit is close to home and at Thanksgiving we like Riesling and Grenache,” John Alban said. “More than anything we like to drink wines which we have a strong connection to. We’re thankful for and appreciate the friendship we have with people who make wine.”

INFOBOX:

Barrel 27
2323 Tuley Rd., Paso Robles
458-7800
Open Fri. -Sun. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., other weekdays only by appointment


You can reach New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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