The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance visited the San Francisco Bay Area on April 22 to present the Grand Tasting of Paso Robles wines. In addition, they hosted a special seminar, “Paso: The High/Low Split”, moderated by Sara Schneider, Wine Editor of Sunset Magazine. This seminar explored the wine ranges of Paso Robles, the largest single non-county appellation in California.
Paso Robles wine country is located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This dynamic region has seen explosive growth over the past decade growing from 35 to 180 bonded wineries, ranging from major national brands to small boutique wineries. Some features that make this region unique are the huge diurnal swings in temperatures of almost 40-50 degrees in a day during the peak growing season, a longer growing season than many other California appellations, and more calcareous soils than any other California AVA.
Grapes important to this region include Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone varietals. In addition to the Paso Robles wineries, you will find Paso grapes in wines from many wineries throughout the state.
Winemakers enjoy the friendliness of the area, where winemakers often will work with each other as needed to improve their wines. It is a heavy agricultural area and many of the winemakers got their start in the fields, growing grapes and managing vineyards producing the fruit used in wines around the Golden State.
|Steve Lohr of J Lohr Vineyards|
Three Paso Robles winemakers shared wines that depict the range available in this region. Steve Lohr of J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines brought in their 2007 Los Osos Merlot from the Los Osos Vineyard in Creston and the 2006 J Lohr Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon in Paso Robles. J Lohr, one of the largest wineries in Paso, has been a player in the region for decades, currently with over 2000 acres of vines. The 2007 Los Osos Merlot represents the values available in Paso Robles, producing a fine wine with crimson color and intense aromas and flavors of dark cherry, blackberry and cranberry. The low amounts of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon give it a balance and structure to make it enjoyable with a variety of foods. Price is $15.
The J Lohr 2007 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon represents the other end of the scale for J Lohr, providing a premium quality full bodied, enticing wine with a complexity of dark fruits and spices and aromas of vanilla, cedar, cola, coffee and cocoa. While it is delicious now, it has the structure to age for 10-15 years. Price is $35.
|David Frick, Winemaker, Clayhouse Wines|
Winemaker David Frick of Clayhouse Wines brought a couple selections of wines from their Red Cedar Vineyards in the Shandon area of the East side of Paso Robles. This area tends to be the driest and warmest area of Paso and is dependent upon underground aquifer for water. The Middleton family, owners of Clayhouse, has been involved in red cedar forestry in Washington for years until they sold their forests and purchased the property in Paso Robles, entering the winegrowing arena. This unique area has 15 different soil types with elevation from 850 to 1250 feet. The calcareous soils help make more water available to the vines and displace the sodium for improved vine balance.
The Clayhouse 2008 Malbec (with 2% Merlot) has an intense nose with bright plum characteristics and spice. On the palate you are pleased with the acidity with hints of vanilla in the flavors of dark plum, raspberry and cranberry. It has a long soft finish. The price is $15.
The Clayhouse 2007 Estate Petite Sirah “Show Pony” is produced from a single block of older Petite Sirah fruit in the Red Cedar Vineyard. The 2007 was particularly special resulting in a wine with intense aromas of dark fruits and an earthiness, bramble quality. The palate delivers a wine that is particularly softer than the tannin bombs you have come to expect with many Petite Sirah wines. The same fruits evident on the nose carry through in the flavors with a variety of rustic spices. This is definite a “Show Pony” of the quality produced in Paso. The price is $40.
|Mike Sinor, Winemaker, Ancient Peaks|
Mike Sinor, the winemaker of Ancient Peaks Winery has spent many years in the wine industry of Paso Robles, first working for the Mondavi operation and then with Ancient Peaks Winery based on the Santa Margarita Ranch in the southernmost section of Paso Robles at the top of the Cuesta Grade. Santa Margarita Ranch is a 14,000 acre property with 900 acres in vine. Mike particularly enjoys the Wild West family atmosphere of Paso Robles where so many of the friends he grew up with moved into the wine industry.
The Ancient Peaks 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon has toasty aromas of dark fruit, plum and black cherry with a touch of vanilla and white cocoa. Tasting the wine, you will love the jammy texture with dark fruit, cassis and blackberry and even some mint flavors. The tannins are present but smooth, leading to a firm finish. The price is $16
Only 29 cases were made of the Ancient Peaks 2007 Oyster Ridge Estate Cuvee, a blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Petite Sirah, 15% Merlot and 15% Petit Verdot. This wine is the epitome of the quality available from Ancient Peaks Winery and Paso Robles. It provides a complex blend of dark fruit aromas plus violets, cola, and juniper berry. This same complex balance of fruits folds over into the taste with hints of white pepper and oak. This wine has the structure and tannins to allow it to age well, yet very drinkable now. The price is $50.