Food & Drink

From waiter to Paso winemaker

Edgar Torres got the wine bug while he was working as a waiter at Villa Creek in Paso Robles. A lot of young winemakers would hang out there, and Torres was able to experience a variety of wines.

Eventually, he went to work in the cellars at the now-defunct Garretson Wines, then he moved on to work with Augie Hug at Hug Cellars in Paso Robles. Around this time, Torres — a native of Michoacan, Mexico, who grew up in Cambria—was able to get his hands on a ton of grenache from Denner Vineyard. He made the wine and liked the results, so he bottled and sold it. He established Bodega de Edgar in 2007.

His winemaking training has been mostly on the job. Torres worked for a time at Alta Maria and is now the assistant winemaker for Barrel 27 in Paso Robles, where he also makes his own wines.

Although Torres says “there’s some shared philosophy” with the winemaking team at Barrel 27, he has his own focus. He’s looking to make site-specific wines from vineyards that are farmed organically or sustainably. He takes a minimalist approach to his winemaking, using only ambient yeast and refraining from fining or filtering the reds. “I try to do it as naturally as I can,” he says.

And he’s focusing mostly on Spanish grape varieties, in keeping with his heritage. “I want to follow my roots and do more of a Spanish-style program,” he says. Besides, Torres thinks Spanish varieties could be the next big thing for Paso Robles.

The 2010 Bodega de Edgar Albarino ($17) is from Paso Robles, which might seem a little warm for this grape from Spain’s cool Galicia region. But Torres’ version is fresh, racy and quite floral, with candied lime and Meyer lemon flavors. I also enjoyed his 2009 Tempranillo ($28), with its red cherry fruit, some spicy notes and firm structure. The grapes are from French Camp Vineyard. Torres says he’s hoping to experiment with a few more whites, including verdejo.

The blends depart from the purely Spanish theme, but they still include some Spanish grapes. Most have playful names. For example, there’s the 2009 CabRhone ($20), whose name is a play on cabernet and Rhone and also on a vulgar Spanish word that is sometimes used when greeting a friend. The wine is plump and ripe, with black fruit, savory notes of white pepper and dried herbs and firm tannins. The 2009 E-Squared ($36) — a blend of grenache and syrah that’s lively, peppery and ripe, with blackberry, spice and firm tannins — takes its name from Edgar and his wife, Erika.

Another highlight among the blends is the 2009 Mis Pasos ($36), a blend of syrah, merlot and tempranillo that’s plump and spicy, with berry fruit and fine tannins. The name means “my steps” and is a tribute to his grandfather.

All the wines are made in tiny quantities; a few blends go mostly to wine club members. For information, go to www.bodegadeedgar.com.

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