Sunday, April 2, 2017


WOW!~  WHAT a view!  WHAT an afternoon!  WHAT an enthusiastic crowd of supporters to welcome Stanley Barrios and Elena Martinez officially into the world of WINEMAKERS!

Years in the planning,  preparation and making, TOP Winery introduced their inaugural release high atop the Santa Monica Mountains, overlooking the hills and Pacific Ocean with a million $ view.

The late afternoon and early evening couldn't have been more spectacular.  As guests arrived and were checked in by Elena's sister Judy, they were directed to Elena, being handed a glass of TOP's Rose, a perfect start to the afternoon of sampling TOP's line up, paired with amazing appetizers and small bites.

The light ocean breeze, sinking sun, hypnotizing vista, along with perfectly paired appetizers accompanying the selection of wines, was nothing short of the definition of Shangri-La.  Smiles all around, ESPECIALLY on Stanley and Elena's face, heralded in another young, vibrant, creative winemaker to the Paso Robles wine community.  As the saying goes, pictures are worth 1000 words, and if YOU want to taste and experience the magic that Stanley and Elena have bottled, don't hesitate to contact them for a tasting appointment.  Email: or phone (805) 975-0704.  Tastings are held in the barrel room of  Nicora Wines in Tin City, Paso Robles.  Cheers!

 Elena greeting guests with a sip and bite
 Stanley enjoying the reception
 Just some of the food, charcuterie and cheese board
Sipping while enjoying the view
and the surrounding flora
as the evening draws to a close

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016---A YEAR OF WINE AND GOOD TIMES terms of wine and friends and experiences and family was a very good year.    I (my wife and I) are fortunate to have so many wonderful friends who share like interests.  We don't get to see them as often as we wish, but every time we do it is special.

We are so fortunate to have so many wonderful friends in the wine industry:  Winemakers, winery employees, wine writers, etc.   And again, we just don't see enough of you often enough.

                                             Finally!  My New Wine Cabinet..Now Filled
The View From Daou Vineyards

I am so pleased to be associated with some very special publications and the people involved with those publications:

The San Luis Obispo Visitor's Guide
The Paso Robles Daily News
Wine Country This Week
Wine Country This Month
Very Napa Valley.....
and soon to be announced...another very exciting writing project I am so honored to be taking part in.  It is SO MUCH FUN and such a pleasure to be able to visit so many wineries and restaurants, to meet and sit with so many winery owners and winemakers, and be able to bring the stories of these places and people to the public.  Being able to write about so many wineries on the AMAZING Central Coast, from Ventura up through Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Edna Valley and Paso Robles is just an incredible ongoing adventure.

I love the wines I taste everywhere.....and the differences between them.  However, one thing is certain:  I have a Paso Palate!  And I love Paso---the people, the wines, the everything.

Many years ago I was fortunate to meet an incredible with a vision and a passion to prove to the wine world that Paso Robles, long recognized as producing world class Rhone Varietals, was up to the challenge to produce a Cabernet Sauvignon that would stand shoulder to shoulder with any cabernet in California.  This was his dream and his passion.....he was forefront in forming the Cabernet Collective and has received top ratings and awards for his Cabernets.  You all know who I'm talking about:  Daniel Daou---a man of dreams, passion and a vision.

Last night a group of us went to a brown bag holiday party.  We were asked to each bring a California Cabernet for a blind tasting----and to rate each wine.  After all the wines were rated, we opened them up-----There were 5 from Napa---there were 4 from Paso Robles.  ALL the wines were wonderful---expressive---there was not a mediocre bottle in the bunch (well, what do you expect from a group of wine geeks).

When I looked at how I rated the FIRST three were from Paso Robles,
In fact, MOST of us had the first favorite 3 wines rated from Paso Robles.

Does this mean we all just have "Paso Palates"?  Over 20 people picked Paso Cabs over Napa Cabs----
Or.....does this prove in some way that:  Paso Cabs are as good as any Cabs produced in California....or beyond!   I know what my friend Daniel would say!  And I know what our palates said!

Wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season...a grand New Year, with lots of wine, food, friends, laughter, and health during 2017.

Don and Lynn Sonderling

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Having the opportunity to write for a few different publications has forced me to move out of my wine comfort zone....and explore new (to me) wineries, wines and wine regions along the Central Coast.  And a very good thing!

The Central Coast is just replete with great areas....from Santa Barbara all the way up to Paso (still my passion, but being challenged)!  Santa Ynez, Santa Maria and the Edna Valley to name a few are producing such vibrant and different wines reflective of their specific climate and terroir.

A few recently visited included the Byron** tasting room in Los Olivos where I was graciously hosted by Pati Wilkinson (Estate Manager) and Lucio Uribe (Tasting Room Associate).  Their line up of Santa Maria Valley Pinots is nothing short of amazing...reflecting the dirt, weather and special conditions of this area. Touting themselves as a "Pinot House," they certainly are!

A few weeks later I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Ross**, of the winery that bears his name, in his San Luis Obispo tasting room.  Again, a region with a special climate for Pinot and Chardonnay.  Stephen's wine education and experience and travels has brought him to the apex of his small production boutique winery. Single vineyard designated wines, specializing in Pinot Noir....yummmy

Lastly....I have to say SOMETHING about a new discovery in Paso!  Not a "new" winery, but new to me.  CALCAREOUS!  Recently having 4 of their wines named in a article:  "9 powerful reds from Paso Robles"....these 4 wines certainly give you a WOW factor!  Anna (tasting room manager) and John (Hospitality/Sales manager) just exude passion and friendliness when walking through the Calcareous line up. Add the comfort of their modern, beautifully designed tasting room and view and you have a piece of Paso heaven.   The winery and wines are NOT to be missed!

So....there you have a quick recap of my recent wine experiences!  ** ( certain to pick up a copy of Wine Country this Month, July edition, to read about Stephen Ross, winemaker, and the Byron Tasting room)!

Cheers to more travels and more new (to me) wines coming up.  So much wine and so little time!


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Our Family Passover Seder
Sonderling Style
Paso Style

Passover Seder in our house is always a very special event, with family and friends.  It is steeped in family history and tradition, and as meaningful and important as it is, it is also:  FUN!  We try to make it that way for all:  From the 5 year old to the 93 year old.  It's more than just "telling the story" of The Exodus. It's about blending together family, friends, history and....WINE! Because...on Passover, you are commanded to drink (a minimum) 4 glasses of wine.  At least, in our house!

So, for my friends and followers, fellow sippers, wine lovers, winemaker and winery friends, following is a re-cap of this year's story of Passover, Sonderling style...Paso Style---with some help from some of our best friends.  I hope you enjoy our journey.

The leader of the service would be me, also referred to as The Maven, who 

(Torrin, 2011)

tells the Epoch story of the Israelites flight from bondage, in the land of Egypt.
(Zinfandel, 2010)

Moses, as we all know, in a Brash move, tells Pharaoh "Let My People Go!"
(ONX, 2011)

When Pharaoh relents, Moses then leads the People of Israel on the Mother of Exiles, out of Egypt, towards the Promised Land.
(Denner, 2010)

The Israelites, after being slaves for centuries, were Euphoric to be free.
(Nicora, 2011)

Journeying through the desert, Moses heard G_D Speak, commanding him to go climb up the Toasted Slope of the highest mountain
(Alta Colina, 2009)

Where Moses then received the Sagacious Law (2010)  from G-D.

Upon descending the mountain, Moses saw his Cohorts worshiping a golden calf..
(Caliza, 2011)

And in a fit of rage, threw the tablets of law to the ground, shattering them into Broken Stones.
(Saxum, 2011)

Alas, the Jewish people were now destined to wander the desert, praying there Comes a Time, for Peace on Earth (Paix Sur Terre, 2013).

And that my friends, is the story of Passover, or PASOver....In Style...Sonderling Style! With prayers and wishes for all of you, and blessings, for love and health and happiness, and of course, good wine, for all of humankind.

And yes, we fulfilled the commandment to drink at least 4 glasses of wine, in fact, we manged to drink many many more than 4 glasses....which included ALL of the special Paso-ver bottles shown above!  Sharing special wine with special friends for a special event....and THAT is what wine and celebrations, is all about.
The Before, During and the Aftermath and the Damage we did!
                                                  Before...the Plagues!     

    The table is set....Everything in its place
                              Eating, drinking, and telling the Passover Story
                         The aftermath
                                                    and...the final count!
                                  Our 101 year old Family Heirloom Seder

Sunday, March 1, 2015


OK.....I have to be honest here.  As you all know by now, I am an unabashed PASOfile!  So, having been asked to write an article on Edna Valley Vineyards for Wine Country This Week Magazine (Central Coast edition), I knew I would be moving out of my normal wine comfort zone.
A link to the article follows, I hope you enjoy it:

                              The impressive TR as seen on your approach

(please click on the above link, scroll to the bottom of the page, and fill in "38" then hit enter in order to access the article--this will take you to the proper page).  YOU MAY HAVE TO COPY AND PASTE THE ABOVE URL into your browser in order to access. Then scroll down, fill in 38 and hit enter to bring up the article.


                                    A demonstration vineyard greets you

But now, a few other personal observations and comments about EVV and the Edna Valley!
                                    A picture is worth a thousand words
                                          As you sip their selections
Being used to the small, boutique Paso producers, and doing some research before my trip up to Edna Valley Vineyards, I wasn't quite sure what to expect of this larger producer.

Driving into their parking lot and pulling up right in front of the Demonstration Vineyard, overlooking the expanse of vineyards, Santa Lucia Mountain range and inviting tasting room, my first thought was:  WOW!  There is something special here.   And, so there was.

Walking in we were greeted by Lindsey Jessup, TR manager.   Talk about a smile and twinkle in her eyes and unbridled enthusiasm and passion
that was immediately evident.  As she greeted us, we already knew this would be a very special day.

Standing at the tasting bar, Lindsey started out by giving us not only a historical perspective of the winery and area, but also a quick education of the geology as we gazed out at the vista and Islay Peak, one of 7 inactive volcano domes in the region.  I had NO idea at one time this was a volcanic area.  Suffice to say, the view from the tasting room was mesmerizing.

Then....the wine pouring began.   The first several wines were their nationally distributed wines:  A Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, being the wineries flagship wine.

Following the initial flight, we then settled in for the next 90 minutes or so, as we moved through the assortment of their small lot production wines, 12 in all.

Talking to Lindsey, my friend Paul and I were struck by the way the entire staff related to visitors.  Enthusiastic, fun, educational, passionate.

Edna Valley Vineyard leaves no stone, or vine un-turned in their commitment to quality, and respecting the earth, the vine and what evolves from that.

If there was just ONE major take-away I had from my visit, it is the commitment to education of staff, that is then passed onto the guests.  So important is education, that each harvest two tasting room hosts are selected to work the harvest, and when they are back in the tasting room pouring, it is their responsibility to impart information about that particular vintage to the rest of the staff.

I love Paso.   But the much different, cooler climate wines coming out of the Edna Valley are tantalizing, and so interesting to compare to what my pallet is used to.  A visit to Edna Valley Vineyards, and the Edna Valley is a must!

Move out of your comfort zone and explore the delightful, different wines of The Edna Valley!

Cheers, and thank you EVV and staff for such a gracious, educational, fun visit.  I hope you have enjoyed my latest blog, and the article on EVV.

(feel free to post, share, forward, comment on my remarks or email me at:

Friday, December 12, 2014


Click the link below to the recent story in the Paso Robles Daily News!
(or copy the below link and paste in your URL box).
Ryan Pease

Thursday, December 4, 2014


As published in the Paso Robles Daily News!
(The direct link):

Paso Underground - Orion Stang
Winemaker Orion Stang of Dilecta Wines at the Paso Underground.
Winemaker Orion Stang recently joined the Paso Underground opening a new tasting area for his Dilecta Wines. He is replacing Guillaume Fabre’s Clos Solene. Fabre recently moved and opened his own tasting room and wine making facility in the new Tin City wine area off Ramada Drive.
Paso Underground is a collective of four local boutique wineries, sharing a space in downtown Paso Robles, right off the park behind Villa Creek restaurant. Dilecta Wines joins Edmond August, Turtle Rock and Aaron Wines in the intimate setting.
Currently introducing his second release, Stang’s love of wine and winemaking is part of his DNA. Growing up in the Central Coast, he and his family would often picnic in the fields and burgeoning vineyards, and that was his first introduction to the wonderful world of Paso wines. In 2005 Stang travelled throughout Italy, specifically Tuscany, becoming familiar with Italian wines and winemaking.
On his return, enrolling in Napa Valley’s Culinary Institute, Stang earned his Master Sommelier Certificate and continued his own wine education by working at several well established restaurants. However, he wanted more than to just recommend fine wines, he wanted to make them.
In 2007 his hands-on winemaking education began, working for Eric Jensen of Booker Vineyards, first as vineyard manager then as assistant winemaker. Under Jensen’s tutelage, Stang’s passion for creating wine grew and he began to dream of one day making his own wine.
Several years later, Stang realized his dream with the 2011 inaugural release of the Dilecta label – Dilecta meaning lovely in Latin. Currently, there are two selections: Unorthodox, a big Syrah with fruit sourced from Caliza and Alta Colina vineyards and The Tiller, a Grenache/Syrah blend with fruit sourced from Caliza and Russell Family Vineyards.
Stang’s wines were an instant success, receiving praise from Jeb Dunnick of the Rhone Report, and sold out quickly. At the same time, catching the attention of Scott Hawley of Torrin and head winemaker at Law Wine Estates, Stang was brought on as assistant winemaker at Law.
Clearly, Stang’s contributions to the Paso Robles wine scene, both as assistant winemaker at Law and at the helm of his own Dilecta label, will continue to be significant.
Being a small producer, 250 cases of the 2012 vintage, when the opportunity to join The Paso Underground came up, he jumped on it. As Orion said: “I’m really excited to be pouring with such talented winemakers and to have a spot of my own in the Paso Underground.”
Visit the Paso Underground at: 1140 Pine Street, Paso Robles, Ca. 93446, (805) 237-0799. It’s open Friday and Saturday from 1-7 p.m. and Sunday from 1–5 p.m. Or contact Stang for a tasting appointment at (805) 369-9129 or