July 7, 2015

Paso Retreat

Team building in Paso Robles

The term ‘team building’ usually brings to mind ropes courses, scavenger hunts and contrived game-playing supposedly designed to foster trust between people who work together. For Realm, it means taking a road trip.

This year for our team retreat we headed to Paso Robles (aka Paso) where we tasted great wine, ate awesome food, and bonded with each other – and with many of our wine maker friends – the old fashioned way. Paso’s not exactly under the radar these days. Wine critics and consumers have already discovered that some of the most exciting wines in California are coming out of this wine region halfway between San Francisco and LA. But it takes a little more effort to get to Paso, and perhaps because of this, it retains a cool, unspoiled, road-less-traveled vibe that you can’t help but love.

Scott: “It’s almost like a step back in time, but with better restaurants and wines that will knock your socks off. And there’s a really inspiring camaraderie within the wine community there. These guys hang out together! In a lot of ways, Paso is the place to be right now, especially if you’re a young winemaker just starting out.”

The trip began at Booker Vineyard, owned by Eric and Lisa Jensen way out on Anderson Road in western Paso. After touring the property we tasted through Eric’s mind-blowing wines, a flight of mostly Rhones with names like Ripper and Oublié. That night we switched to Cabernet – a ten-wine flight featuring some of Napa’s finest – and headed to Artisan, the downtown Paso restaurant started a few years ago by Mike Kobayashi and his brother. If we didn’t know better, we would have thought we were in San Francisco; this is a happening spot.

On Tuesday it was on to Saxum, known for spectacular Rhone varietals and blends. We were lucky enough to be hosted by owner and winemaking rock star Justin Smith, whose 2007 James Berry Vineyard was Wine Spectator’s #1 wine of 2010. Our tasting with Justin was amazing, and confirmed just what a talent he is. Finally, we paid a visit to L’Aventure, owned by Benoit’s fellow countrymen Stephan and Beatrice Asseo. Stephan – a vigneron in every sense of the word – showed us his spectacular property and then led us through a tasting of equally spectacular wines that left us shaking our heads with admiration.

We ended the trip with one last amazing dinner Tuesday evening at Villa Creek, owned by Cris Cherry. We were joined by the Asseos, Eric and a few other friends. We couldn’t have ended the trip with better food, wine or company.

Benoit: “The wines these guys are making are simply phenomenal, really on a world-class scale, Western Paso definitely has what it takes to be one of the globe’s best wine regions: an ocean-influenced climate, an enormous diversity of soil types, and a varied topography that encompasses hills, flatlands, rivers, lakes and mountainsides. It’s a fascinating place to grow wine.”

Juan: “Meeting some of the folks here I was reminded of what it was like when I started out in wine. Closing your eyes, taking that leap, and just hoping you land on your feet. All for the love of wine.”

March 3, 2015