Excellent selections for wedding wine

Uncork something playful and different to celebrate your big day and serve up California’s UnNapa with wines from Paso Robles

Photo in bottle: Hand harvest in Paso Robles, Richard Baker Courtesy of the Paso Robles Wine Alliance

You’ve put so much care and thought into every element of your wedding, so why are you serving all those thirsty guests bottles of Mystery Ridge Merlot? Beware the default wine. You know what I’m talking about: that slightly pathetic, limpid stuff that people serve to large crowds. Today’s guest has a keener palate than those of yore, and here’s the good news: Today’s wine marketplace is over-supplied and under-demand, and there are numerous amazing wines that remain undiscovered and undervalued.

Where are all these hidden gems? South American and Europe have their share, but Paso Robles is the winemaking destination to watch now, before it becomes famous. Tucked in between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso is a-bustle with opportunity and newness; although, in truth, they’ve been growing grapes for more than 40 years. Regardless, Paso is still under everyone’s radar, which is great news for you. It’s the largest and most diverse wine region in California and has garnered a reputation in wine circles for its tasty Rhone, Bordeaux and zinfandel blends. Wines here grow in a hot climate punctuated with glorious cool nights, imparting blockbuster fruit with balance and finesse. The 120 or so wineries in the region that have emerged in the last 10 years are primarily mom-and-pop shops hand-selling the goods.

Paso is the wine world’s intrepid late-comer, growing grapes that people shy away from largely because of pronunciation issues: Viognier? Tempranillo? Grenache? Who can blame ‘em.

But don’t let that stop you. Small wineries growing unique varietals from an emerging grape region translates into tasty value for the buck. These wines will leave your guests talking (and appreciative of your good taste). Here’s our lineup of Alternatives to Love:

alternative-libations-ortman-sangiovese 1. Ortman Sangiovese, $20
Dang, this sexy, lip-smacking juice is top-drawer delish and packed with fruit but followed by some restraint, so it’ll go with just about any food you throw its way. Ortman is a winemaking genius; we bet he’d even sign a bottle for the happy couple.

alternative-libations-niner-syrah 2. Niner Syrah, $20
Dark berries and leather come together in this velvety syrah. It’s actually quaffable enough to serve before food, but shows best when served with anything from lamb to duck.

alternative-libations-peachy-canyon-2007-zinfandel 3. 2007 Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel, $14
The whole zin package jumps out of the glass with heaps of rich berry fruits, some smoke and warm spice. It just rolls around on the palate, juicy and complex. A steal of a wine.

alternative-libations-justin-the-orphan 4. 2006 Justin “The Orphan,” $16
This is one of those fun proprietal blends (cabernet sauvignon and syrah) the pioneers in Paso are doing—with tasty consequences. Lush, smooth and dense with raspberry and blueberry flavors, your guests will drink this one ‘til it’s gone, so order up a bunch.

alternative-libations-ancient-peaks 5. 2009 Ancient Peaks Winery, Sauvignon Blanc, $12
Red grapefruit, lemon and zing give this wine a kicky personality. It has a racy edge and refreshing acidity that can chase away summer heat like nothing else.

alternative-libations-eberle-muscat-canelli 6. 2008 Eberle Winery, Muscat Canelli, $14
The winner of four medals, this refreshing white is perfect for arrival. Serve it up as guests trickle in. Perfumed with melon and oranges, its semi-sweet edge plays well with others, making it ideal as a finishing touch to the event or as an aperitif.