Enjoy a tranquil wine tasting experience in lakeside setting
For those looking for a tranquil tasting experience, Bianchi is the place to visit. The soothing sound of a waterfall embraces the property in a Zen-like serenity and the striking yellow building seems to rise from the lake. Owner Glenn Bianchi’s original concept of mission-style design turned out to be more like an ultra-modern cavernous barn, inviting the vineyardscape inside the tasting room.
The Bianchi family’s winemaking history dates back to 1974. Glenn’s father Joseph planted vineyards on the banks of the San Joaquin river in California’s Central Valley and, under the label of Villa Bianchi, the family produced generic wines such as Chablis, Vin Rosé and Chianti.
Glenn’s dream, however, was to produce ultra premium wines – in 2000 the vintner selected Paso Robles to make his transition. The 40-acre property he purchased on Branch Road off of Highway 46 East came with vineyards, a house and an old metal shed that was transformed into a state-of-the-art winery. The stainless steel tanks provide the latest computerized monitoring system, giving the winemaker options to craft limited producton wines. The barrel room lined with French and American barrels also allows blending and aging of small lots.
Winemaker Tom Lane
Although Bianchi is know for its Zinfandel and Pinot Grigio, the winery’s portfolio ranges from bottlings of lush Cabernet Sauvignon, velvety Merlot and seductive Pinot Noir. “The reason I wanted to be a winemaker is because I wanted to make Pinot Noir,” commented winemaker Tom Lane, who once worked at Navarro Vineyards in Mendocino renowned for its Pinots.
With 25 years of winemaking experience, Lane’s philosophy is all about layers – of oak, fruit flavors and acidity. “I’m sensitive to bitterness so I minimize the amount of bitterness by not doing a lot of maceration,” said Lane. The techniques he uses fine-tune the wine’s character; the end result is a layered wine with lots of flavors. He calls his wines fruit forward, yet there is a balance to his winemaking touch.
Vineyard plantings & sourced fruit
Bianchi’s sloping vineyards are lined with meticulous plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah, all of which go into the Heritage Selection. For the Signature Selection wines such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, grapes are sourced from highly recognized vineyards of Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties. For the 2011 bottling of Pinot Noir, Lane sourced fruit from Garry’s Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. “I like Santa Maria fruits,” said Lane. He prefers neutral barrel for Pinot Noir and and newer “aggressive” barrels for Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.
For Bianchi’s signature Zinfandel, Lane commented that it has “a high degree of yumminess.” The winemaker blends some Primitivo that adds color and tannins. “Our Zinfandel is medium body so Primitivo gives it backbone,” said Lane, adding that a new planting of Primitivo is under way and will be blended in the 2015 vintage of Zinfandel.
Tasting room lineup
The tasting lineup offers some 10 wines plus three reserve and limited release bottlings. Among the 2012 whites, there are two from Santa Barbara County –the aromatic Pinot Grigio with lychee and kiwi notes and a Chardonnay with tasty oak flavor. The Sauvignon Blanc from Monterey County is crisp and citrusy and both wines are ideal for summer sipping. The fruity 2011 Moscato with hints of orange blossom may be served as an aperitif or dessert wine.
The red wines range from the Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir with rich with berries to the Estate Merlot that shows hints of cinnamon and cherries. Intensely dark, the 2010 Petite Sirah, from Plummer’s Ranch in Paso Robles, has layers of vanilla, plum and spice and the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon is lush with smooth tannins. One of the Reserve tastings includes the handcrafted Trevino – the multi-layered 2006 vintage is a superb blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
With a picture perfect lakeside setting, Bianchi is lining up a series of rock, blues and reggae concerts every other Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. starting at the end of August through the end of October.
Bianchi Winery, located at 3380 Branch Road in Paso Robles, is open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information, visit bianchiwine.com or call (805) 226-9922.
— Mira Advani Honeycutt