Saturday, July 30, 2011



Phantom Rivers Wine

Our friends, Candace and Craig, own a beautiful, “weekend” cottage in Arroyo Grande (translation: large creek) California, complete with a crackling creek (un poco not grande) running through the back of their property.   

Recently, Candace invited us there for the weekend (hence the “weekend” cottage moniker).

In the evening, sitting on the deck sipping wine many feet above the crackling creek, is like sitting in a beautifully landscaped tree house.   

Amid the tall trees, sloping hillside and lower decks...

...Craig has created a little Garden of Eden.  I definitely could live there.

When we did leave the cottage, we strolled Branch Street (Arroyo Grande’s charming “Main Street”), walked the trails to Pismo beach and winery hopped, sipping the wines fantastic.  Yup, the area’s filled w/ some great wineries.  I told you I could live there.

Our first winery stop was Phantom Rivers Wine right on Branch and a stone’s throw from the cottage.   

It was cool early in the early evening so we grabbed sweaters and walked to town.

The tasting room is a charming blue bungalow that was built in 1905 w/ a front porch, a small back deck and three rooms to sit and sip.   

We opted for the front room and sidled up to the bar.  Our barista, Debbie Rau, the tasting room manager, told us that the winery was created in 2004 by The Nipomo Wine Group, four couples who love wine and love living in California’s central coast.  They named their winery Phantom Rivers after the rivers of fog that fill the central coast valleys, keeping the vineyards cool at night and early morning, then evaporating into the air like a… phantom.

We started w/ the 2008 Chardonnay, Edna Ranch ($22).  I’m a chardonnay fan, and I loved this wine which was aged in a combination of French oak and stainless steel.  Crisp, yet those hints of vanilla and spices were there to tantalize my tongue.

Next was the 2009 Luna Rosa, a Paso Robles blush wine ($14) made from 100% zinfandel grapes.  Yes, the winery calls it “blush,” not rose, but it’s a fine rose to me (a rose by any other name…) and the perfect wine to sip on a summer’s evening while sitting on Candace & Craig’s deck musing over the flora and fauna and that crackling creek.

One of my favorite Phantom Rivers wines was the 2009 Grenache, Santa Barbara Highlands ($24), aged for 16 months in light American oak.  It had the aroma of a candied apple and tastes of vanilla and butterscotch.  I kid you not.  I could smell and drink this wine in a closet and be totally happy in the dark.  Does this make me a closet Grenache lover?

The 2007 Pinot Noir, Wolff Vineyard ($26) was aged in a combination of new and neutral oak barrels for 15 months.  A bit of cherry, strawberry and spice – I wondered if it was the new oak or the old that added the spice?  Did the new add the cherry or was that the old?  What about that strawberry?  I may never understand the complexities of winemaking – but I know what I like and I liked this pinot.

Onto the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Still Waters Vineyard ($22), a full-bodied wine.  Aged for 15 months in American oak, this wine w/ its hints of currants and cherries made me think grilled sirloin.  Of course, almost any full-bodied red makes me think of steak.  Red meat, red wine – no blushing here!

Another favorite of mine was the 2006 Syrah, Central Coast ($20).  This wine was aged in American and French oak barrels for 18 months and its flavors of rich red fruit, pepper and spice make this a great wine for the price.  Again which country’s barrels did what – I didn’t care, I just wanted to keep sipping…

The 2006 Paso del Sol – 65% syrah, 20% cab & 15% mourvedre ($30) was created as a tribute to the local Santa Maria style tri-tip.  I’ve never had this particular tri-tip, but this wine is certainly worth trying w/ tri-tips from anywhere.

You know how fashion shows always end w/ a bridal gown?   The crème de la crème of the runway?  Well, most good wine tastings end w/ the dessert wine and the Paso Robles 2009 Zin Port put the crème in the de la crème.  So deelish, in fact, that Candace bought two bottles.

So if you’re passing through town, park your car and walk up the front porch steps and into a fine wine experience.   

Or go online and check out the wine club.  You’ll be happy you did.

Phantom Rivers Wine
211 E. Branch Street
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420

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