LXV Winery offers an experience like no other
Explode the senses with a spice and wine pairing
Bright colors hit my eyes, followed by the subtle scent of spices I can’t quite place that tickle my nose as soon as I open the door to LXV Winery. The walk through the door is like being transported to another world — the walls are a dark blue, the light dim. Sensual paintings line the walls and padded seating is piled high with pillows all covered in Indian-style fabrics.
Out of hundreds of wineries in Paso Robles Wine Country, LXV is the only one offering spice and wine pairings. It is something that is not only unique in the area, but also in India, although wine tourism has been gaining in popularity in recent in times.
Owner Neeta Mittal said she and her husband, Kunal, chose to offer the unique pairings because wine is living and organic and to showcase how the spices change the wine. She said they grew up with experiencing food with so much flavor and wanted to bring that to the Paso Robles area by pairing the two because spices and herbs are inherent to wines.
“[Wine] has infinite flavors and aromas. As human beings we can decipher only top five to ten percent of the wine,” Neeta said. “But when you pair wine with the right food notes, it unravels layers that you would not get on your first sip. What we do is very elemental. Spice pairings at LXV are not a food and wine pairing, but an enology experiment that heightens the wine tasting experience.”
While most wineries offer food pairings based on the meat dish, Neeta said that instead it’s the spices that really affect the wine. Though many people pouring wine will tell you that a certain wine goes well with spicy or Indian food, it’s certainly a different experience to match the spice with the wine right in the tasting room every day.
A base cheese — made of sheep’s milk because of its mild flavor — is dipped in the herb and spice blends. As each person goes through the pairing, the taster receives a taste of a wine. After rolling the first sip around the mouth, the taster takes the spice-coated cheese, takes a bite and then another taste of wine to discover how that particular spice changes the wine in the mouth.
“There is a world of sensations in a glass of wine — you just have to know how to unlock it,” Neeta said. “Wine is living, it is organic.”
The purpose of the wine and spice pairing is to highlight the depth and complexity of the wine. One example Neeta gives of a pairing is LXV’s cabernet sauvignon and syrah blend partnered with a blend of black truffle salt, savory, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. She said that while the wine has “bold notes” of black cherry, the pairing bring out “subtle notes” of cigar box, cedar wood and violets.
“We want our guests to pause between every sip as wine evolves with every second that passes,” Neeta said. “The spice pairings emerged as way to encourage people to taste the wine with all their senses, but it soon and took a life of its own — unravelling a sensory path in wine tasting that has never been explored before.”
The idea for the winery was born about five years ago when the Mittals discovered Paso Robles and they purchased property on Willow Creek Road. Neeta said they set out to create an experience that encompasses all the senses.
“LXV is my connection to India. Paso reminded me of India, maybe because of the relationship people have with the earth and with each other.” Neeta said. “There is an intimacy in the ecosystem in Paso. And that expresses itself in the grapes, in the winemaking and, ultimately, in the wines.”
The Mittals both grew up in India with all the flavors of the cuisine, but not with wine. The wine came later, Neeta said, as they both gravitate toward any kind of flavor profiles — regardless of if it’s food or drink.
“Indian cuisine has the most vivid flavors since it has been a melting pot of various cultures over centuries,” Neeta said. “There is also a social fabric around wine that is very organic to both of us and we truly cherish that.”
Part of what inspired LXV Winery’s focus is Neeta’s background in sensory activities: dancing, screen writing, producing, directing, marketing and blending. The winery’s labels are inspired by the 64 arts of Kama Sutra, which is ancient Indian Hindu text that is about human sexual behavior. Though it is about sexuality, it is more than just sex and the Metals express it through their wine, and spice pairings.
LXV Wine St. in Paso Robles
Open Monday from noon to 5 p.m., Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m. Private appointments are available on Tuesday and Wednesday for groups of eight or more. The cost to taste four wines is $10, free for wine club members. To upgrade to a wine and spice pairing, there’s an additional $5 fee.
Wine and spice tasting menu
2014 Summer Satine — 100 percent viognier
Spice Pairing: Garam masala, which is Neeta’s home recipe of a blend of 25-plus brown spices
The spices bring out an underlying minerality in the wine, showcasing almost a Chablis-style restraint.
2014 Heart Note — Rosé
Spice Pairing: Tamarind, brown sugar, cinnamon and merlot salt
The breadth of flavors — sour, sweet, spice, salt — showcases the versatility of the Rose to complement dishes of varied ingredients and seasonings
2013 Crimson Jewel — a blend of sangiovese and petite sirah
Spice Pairing: Basil, oregano, parsley with tomato, onion and garlic
This is a traditional Italian pairing that focuses on the earthiness on the sangiovese and the fruit in the petite sirah — quite the opposite of how the wine presents itself before the pairing.
2013 Lover’s Spell — a bend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah
Spice Pairing: Black truffle salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, all spice and savory
This wine has bold notes of black cherry and cassis. The pairing allows for the subtle notes: hints of cigar box, cedar wood, and even violets. This pairs well with steak.