As I mentioned in part 1, I recently fell in love with the wine region of Paso Robles, CA. And, during a recent trip there, I discovered some great wineries making great wine from new and old world varietals. The wines listed below were part of our very first tasting of the day, introducing us to the pioneers in the industry and the appellations in Paso. I want to share with you those I discovered and my notes on each of them.
I tasted their 2012 Willow Creek Cuvèe, a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah. At first, I was thinking, “I wonder if they can make a good grenache or mourvèdre down here?”. But as the winemaker Cris Cherry spoke about when he arrived and began making wine, to what they learned farming the land, I started to realize this was serious winemaking not some joe blow! This lovely wine had deep red fruits and some minerals on the palate with med/high tannins, some chalky-ness, but really soft on the finish. Some complexity – I love it!
I tasted the Heart Stone vineyard blend of 47% Syrah, 29% Grenache, 14% Mourvèdre. This winery sits up at 1000-2000 feet and takes fruit from its vineyard as well as other sources (carefully picked). On the nose it was spicy ripe, red cherries, and on the palate I got bright red fruits, spices, oak, but nicely balanced with the medium high tannin which were soft. Justin Smith the winemaker used a long maceration period on the skins and a large size neutral oak barrel for fermentation. It was unfiltered and unfined with only 450 cases from 7 acres.
J.Lohr Vineyards & Wines
Now here’s a winery with a little more clout in the industry, and one that calls Paso Robles home. Now, going into any tasting, I do pre-judge a Cabernet Sauvignon, I know – how dare I. However, it’s fantastic when the wine is not at all what I was expecting, I’m even more surprised! Steve Lohr, a local pioneer in the wine industry (and a very down to earth guy), brought his 2010 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon with just 1% Syrah. He bought the fruit from the best top slope vineyards in the area using dry farming as their practice. Well what a surprise to have a medium acid, wine with medium high tannins without it being heavily oaked! The result is a rich, approachable Cab that says “you like me don’t you?”.
What many may not realize is the entire area is covered in different soils, however some of the best soil includes fossilized oyster shells – part of marine sedimentary rocks and calcareous shale.
Ancient Peaks Winery
Found in the southern most section of Paso Robles, the winemaker Mike Sinor brought his 2011 Oyster Ridge Bordeaux Blend. Made from 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 4% Malbec and 4% Petit Sirah. The once was spicy with red fruits and on the palate the fruit was simple and smooth with spices, with medium tannins and high acidity.
Saving the best for last? This beautiful winery hosted this tasting and winemaker Kevin Willenborg opened a 2011 100% Petite Sirah for us to try. This is one fruit you can’t leave on the skins too long, and they must be from the top of the vineyards. Notes of berries, farmyard, concentrated fruit, it was chewy and savoury with high tannins, high acidity but soft on the palate. Nicely structured compared to some. With only 360 cases in a year, the local price was pretty decent at $29 usd.
This was the first tasting we had out of many more to come, but what a great introduction! In part 3, I’ll share the old world varietals I discovered that are trending, fun, non-traditional and doing very well in this region.