ADELAIDA, AS THE ALLUSION to boxing goes, punches above its weight.
It may be one of California’s less familiar wine regions, but this mountainous, oak-studded viticultural area just outside of Paso Robles boasts a couple of the Central Coast’s signature wineries, along with a major industry player. About three dozen others comprise an eclectic roster of Adelaida wineries.
The district is home to Tablas Creek Vineyards, the innovative grower-producer of Rhône and Mediterranean grape varieties I’ve written about previously. Several scenic miles up the road is the more mainstream Daou Family Estates (stylized “DAOU” on their labels), which specializes in Napa Valley-ish red wines. With their respective national footprints, each winery serves an ambassadorial role for Paso Robles as an important source of California wine.
In my travels, Daou has often seemed to show up as a grocery chain and steakhouse standby, while Tablas Creek’s Rhône focus makes it more of a mom-and-pop establishment brand (if mom hummed along to Edith Piaf and pop sported the occasional beret). Each produces a hefty 30,000 cases per year, enough to satisfy distributor and direct-to-consumer needs many times over.
DRIVING AROUND TOWN ON pre-vacation errands in early August, I dropped by Lawler’s Liquors to check a few items off of the liquid supplies list. This old faithful of Napa bottle shops is one of our little wine city’s go-tos for both grain and grape booze.
Since the onset of these fun pandemic days, Lawler’s owner, Peter Ibrahim, has gone artisanal on his customers. That is, the center aisle of his family’s medium-sized store is still filled most late afternoons with vineyard guys waiting to pay for their 12-packs of Bud or Miller Lite, as was the case six months ago and forever before. Lately, however, the shelves have been lined with a wider and more eclectic variety of spirits labels than I probably ever expected to see. They call out to a different audience.
Standing behind the (now plexiglassed) register, one of Peter’s employees nodded appreciatively as he rang me up for my fancy choices of rye whiskey, London gin, and Spanish vermouth. When I commented on the shop’s diverse range of spirits, he mentioned that the boss was doing his part to support the local liquor distributors. With several beer-toting, thirsty-looking customers behind me, he left it at that. But in this depressing time of closed or struggling restaurants everywhere you look, the implication was clear that retailers were picking up the pieces, some of which were rather shiny and new—or in certain cases, dull and black. More on this in a second.