Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day Five: October 9th: Direct From Hadsten House In Solvang, CA: Paso Robles, Ortman Cellars Moonstone Pelican Cove Inn.

"Adventures In Wine Country" with Co-Hosts Chuck Byers and Greg Rist is a new series airing in April 2010 on CHEX Television Channel 12 Durham and the Greater Toronto Area.

Off To Paso Robles
We left just after breakfast and were off to Paso Robles. The almost 100 mile trip was an enjoyable one as we passed many vineyards. As we passed through Los Alomos the Lucas and Lewellan Vineyards came up and we were astounded by their size and age. No wonder they have such good wines when you consider the thirty and forty year old vines that they have. Somehow, tasting rooms do not indicate the vineyard size that many of the winery boutiques have.
The trip to Paso Robles was long and rather uneventful. It was a thrill to see the names of wine areas/regions that I have read about so often: Arroyo Grande, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles.
Ortman Family Vineyards
Chuck Ortman is known for his balanced wines and especially for what they call "the Ortman style" and the name of "Mr. Chardonnay". How he got into the wine business and those titles is a story unto itself.
Chuck Ortman's history in wine began some forty two years ago in 1967 where the budding graphic artist got the "wine bug" after tasting some wine via a home wine maker friend. He went to work at an entry level job with Heitz Cellars in 1968 and moved to Spring Mountain Vineyards about three years later. He then decided to go out on his own as a consultant where he did work for some of the well known wineries such as: Far Niente and Shafer Vineyards.
In 1979, he founded his own Charles Ortman brand and later changed the name to Meridian. Chuck sold his winery to Beringer in 1988--staying on as winemaker. In 2003, he and his son Mathew released vintages of Ortman Family Vineyards.
His son, had obtained a degree in construction but had been exposed to wine from his earliest days. He decided to carry on the family tradition and spent time at Castello di Gabianno in Tuscany. When he returned, he brought back much knowledge in the making of wine from the areas he apprenticed in. He now is winemaker and manager for Ortman Fmily Vineyards.
Ortman Style
The titles of "Ortman Style" and "Mr. Chardonnay" came from the fine balance that he seems to get from fermenting the Chardonnay he makes in barrels. Chuck also felt that the creaminess in the wine came from ageing the wine on its lees and intermittently stirring the wine to give it more creaminess. He got the idea from the "creamy" sparkling wines that were made via the"Traditional Method" became creamy by the riddling of the bottles in order to have the debris moved to the neck of each bottle. He decided to stir the wine with a stick. His theory proved correct and the rest, as they say, is History.
The tasting room is located in Paso Robles. Here he sells some fine wines. We tasted the following:
Chardonnay, Edna Valley: The wine has a nose that exhibits tropical fruit, with a mineral hint in addition to vanilla spice. On the palate the wine has an elegant flavour of a mixture of white and tropical fruit with a unique balance and nice finish. Pleasant fresh acidity keeps the wine lively.
Pinot Noir, Salisbury Vineyard, Avila: Lovely black fruit with some red fruit levels on the nose. Touch of minerality. Palate shows cherry notes with some black fruit i.e. plum and black cherry on the side. Some spice and strawberry notes on the finish.
Cuvee Eddy: A Rhone blend with a forward nose of black and red fruit, vanilla spice and a similar palate with a great mouth feel and lingering finish.
The Ortman style is certainly there with all the wines and while some may pinpoint it as being with Chardonnay, I may in fact say it comes from the man who invented it and propounds its virtues. The Ortman style is none other than the man with style----Chuck Ortman, that humble individual whose lay back manner makes great wines and people feel good. Thanks Chuck-------------I really like your name!!!!
We left the tasting room at Paso Robles and were met by Chris's lovely wife, Malei Jessee. She took us to the Moonstone Pelican Cove Inn in Cambria----not far from places like Big Sur and Carmel By The Sea. The trip was a scenic one with transverse hills/mountains and a multitude of wineries---some very famous names.such as Grey Fox and Arron Hill.
We travelled down some of he nicest coastal scenery around. The hills and mountains in the background seemed much like a pastel drawing. We drove intermittently through heavy wooded areas and then, just as quickly, back onto wide open and very dry pasture land.
Moonstone Pelican Cove Inn
We finally ended up on the Pacific coast at a resort called the Moonstone Pelican Cove Inn, a four diamond property right on the shores of Moonstone Beach in Cambria. Here we found luxurious rooms surrounded by lovely gardens and a beach that did not want to quit. We spent some time interviewing the General Manager of the resort. George Marshall gave us a brief history of the Pelican Inn as well as filling us in on the geographic location of the Inn.
Hearst Castle or as many call it San Simeon, was only a short distance away and was the home of one time billionaire and news magnate, Randolph William Hearst. I think the best reference to that was the famous part that almost destroyed the career of actor Orson Welles and created a controversy that has lasted until the present day. The movie was called "Citizen Kane".
The Pelican Cove Inn had uniquely designed suites with rich fabrics and wall coverings as well as very comfortable furniture. The beach across the road teeming with bird life----much of which seemed to be pelicans. However, I am sure that there were other birds gliding through the sky.
I was told that on many days, whales, dolphins, sea otters and elephant seals could be seen playing in the distance. Tidal pools also exhibited much marine life.
We got together with Marshall for a wine tasting and then Malei Weir took us out to dinner at another Moonstone property, Moonstone Cambria Pines---another luxurious hotel that came complete with great gardens (25 acres of specialized gardens) which housed imaginative entries such as a flower bed (a bed planted with flowers), a herbal garden, a bird houre garden (bird houses with plants planted on top of them) and a some very cute cats that some unmentionables decided to abandon but who where befriended by the Cambria Pines Manager, Peggy Evens.
We had a great meal at the Moonstone Cambria Pines Inn along with a glass of Ortman Cuvee Eddy for me (to match the New York Steak that Malei and I had) and a White for Greg (to match his Scallop dish).
After, Malai escorted us to the Pelican Inn and it was bed for us---I say bed but what time do you think that I normally would write and finish this blog----It "ain't" during the day!!!!
End Of Day Five