Friday, July 16, 2010

THE STARS OF PASO ROBLES


The Stars of Paso Robles

The Stars of Paso Robles trade tasting was Wednesday at The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.  Over 30 wineries of the Paso Robles AVA were represented at this event, staged by Ian Blackburn's Learn About Wine.  Blackburn is a pro at staging wine tasting events, and he likes to go for the grand flourish.  That suits Paso Robles well, as the wines from that neck of the California woods - er, vineyards - are deserving of some fancy notice.

I didn't get around to all the tables - why does that always happen to me? - but I got around enough to find a number of really fantastic wines, which I will list here.

Anglim Winery 

Showing a penchant for the grapes of the Rhone, Anglim poured their 2006 Cameo, a white blend with 50% Marsanne, 25% Roussanne and 25% Viognier.  It's flowery and floral.  I especially like the '07 Roussanne, a 100% varietal wine, where nuttiness abounds on the nose and palate.  The 2007 Viognier takes its fruit from Santa Barbara County's Bien Nacido Vineyard.  It is rich in aromas and flavors, with a floral nose and tastes of melon and peach.  Their reds are equally impressive.  The '06 Grenache is all Paso Robles fruit, with a little Syrah and Counoise in the mix.  It shows peppery raspberry flavors.  Their 2005 Best Barrel Blendis a Paso Robles mix of 45% Mourvèdre, 45% Syrah and 10% Grenache.  Earth, spice and dark fruit dominate.  It's a very dark wine, but oh-so-smooth.  Anglim's Zinfandel offering, the 2007 St. Peter of Alcantara, is 100% single-vineyard Paso Robles Zin.  It's vibrant and spicy with a big cherry taste.

August Ridge 

Off Highway 41E in Creston, California, August Ridge brought some interesting Cal-Italia wines to the show.  The 2008 Arneis features fruit from Pebble Ridge Vineyard in a blend with 10% Sauvignon Blanc.  It's aromatic with apples and shows grapefruit and tropical notes on the palate.  Their '07 Sangiovese is an estate wine with 9% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Smokey cherry aromas lead to lots of red fruit on the palate, with leather on the finish.  The 2007 Nebbiolo offers brambly cherry with a spicy, black pepper finish and some fairly big tannins.  Jovial 2006, their Super Tuscan-style blend, contains 69% Sangiovese, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Merlot.  Smokey plum flavors with a nice tobacco profile come forward.

Caliza Winery 
The Rhone Valley serves as big inspiration for this Paso Robles producer.  The 2008 Kissin' Cousins is a white blend of 47% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc and 23% Roussanne.  A floral nose gives way to a tart beginning and a lot of influence from the Grenache Blanc and Roussanne.  There's good acidity here with a long, nutty finish.  The 2006 Azimuth consists of 51% Syrah, 19% Grenache, 14% Mourvèdre and 8% each of Tannat and Alicante Bouschet.  The latter two grapes are new for this vintage.  A big blackberry taste is abetted by coffee and firm tannins, with a really nice finish.  The '06 Companion is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and 10% Tannat.  They call it "opulent and sexy," and I can't argue either one of those points.  It's a full-bodied, meaty wine.  Caliza's 2007 Syrah is 100% Paso Syrah and it tastes it, with a smokey flavor laced with black pepper.

Cerro Prieto 
The Bordeaux Rhone Blend 2007, from Larry and Teresa Stanton's estate vineyard is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah. The vineyard's limestone quality comes forth with a wonderful minerality.  Larry Stanton not only tends the vineyard, but also writes about the process in Larry's Blog .

Derby Wine Estates
I tasted the two whites which Derby brought to the table.  Their 2006 Chardonnay features Edna Valley grapes with tropical flavors overlaying a bit of oak, and that special minerality for which Edna Valley is known.  Fifteen 10 is a VRM blend, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne in equal parts.  The fruit is from Paso Robles, the Derby Vineyard.  While it seems a bit light in acidity, it certainly makes up for that in flavor and is extremely drinkable.

Eberle Winery 
Gary Eberle co-founded the Paso Robles appellation in 1980, so it's fitting that he is invited to any Paso Party.  Eberle's '09 Viognier is produced a third in steel, a third in neutral oak and a third in French oak.  It has a big, floral nose and a lush mouthfeel.  The '09 Chardonnay is produced the same way and sports green apples on the palate.  The 2007 Zinfandel gets American oak and shows spicy berries on the nose and palate.  The '06 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon comes from 32-year-old vines and spends 18 months in French oak.  It is complex and very smooth.

Ecluse
The winery is west of Highway 101 and north of Highway 46W.  Their featured wine is the 2008 Prelude, a Rhone-style blend of 37% Viognier, 35% Roussanne, 18% Grenache Blanc and 10% Marsanne.  This is a great wine for sipping, with a lovely nose and a taste that's fruity, floral and nutty at once.

Four Vines Winery
I tried the Four Vines Biker Zinfandel, 2008. and found it to be one of the highlights of the day for me. It's an incredibly smooth and delicious Zin.

J & J Cellars
A small, family owned outfit in San Miguel, the group has grown grapes and citrus for 100 years.  I was struck by the lightness and freshness of their 2006 Vintage Flight Cabernet Sauvignon.  It reminds me a bit of an Italian red.  Barrel-aged for two years in French, American and Hungarian oak. this may be the "summer red wine" of the show.  Their 2008 Tempranillo is spicy - you may think Syrah, but it's not.  The 2007 Juliet Fiero Zinfandel is brash and spicy - a little too much for my taste.  Their '07 Petite Sirah seems lighter than I would expect from a PS, but it still has guts.  By the way, all the J & J Cellars wines I tasted are available for under $20.  Bargains.

Lone Madrone
I was particularly looking forward to sampling Lone Madrone's white blend, La Mezcla again.  Alas, they could not send a representative to this show.  One wine was available, however - the 2007 blend called The Will.  Sweet on the nose and dry on the palate, this mixture of 41% Grenache, 40% Petite Sirah and 19% Zinfandel is everything you would expect a blend like this to be.

Nevarez
Their '07 Cabernet Sauvignon is dry and fruity with pencil lead on the palate.  The '07 Nevarez Vineyard Syrah is almost dessert-wine sweet and rich with spices.  I can't help but feel that many Christmas parties will be brightened up by this wine.  And many barbecues, too.  The '08 Roussanne has a great nutty nose and guava on the palate.

Ranchita Canyon 
The 2007 Pinot Noir contains Monterey County grapes.  It's pale purple, a bit faint on the nose but smooth as silk.  The nose on their old-vine Zinfandel (planted in 1970) is what purple smells like.  A tiny bit of Petite Sirah is included, and it's brambly and smooth.  Fusion - their '05 Grenache/Petite Sirah blend - is a dark wine they refer to as "the beauty and the beast."  Ranchita has a 2005 Cabernet Franc that is deep and heavy, very smooth with an intensely grapey nose.

Rotta Winery
One of the few dessert wines at the show is from Rotta.  Their non-vintage Black Monukka features grapes which are in barrels, out in the sun, for two years.  The burnt-caramel and raisin flavor is sherry-esque, if there is such a thing.

Roxo Port Cellars
This Paso producer produces primarily Port.  Nothing but Port, in fact.  One of the more interesting stops among the tables, Roxo has quite a variety of delicious Port wines which are all fortified with neutral grape spirits to allow the fruit to put on the show.  The Paso Melange is made with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.  The Ruby Tradicional is a combination of five Portuguese varietals, all grown in Paso Robles.  Roxo's Negrette is big and bold and begs for chocolate.  They also have a Barbera Port and the Magia Preta, made from a half-and-half blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  Truly a niche producer, Roxo fills the niche quite nicely.

Terry Hoage Vineyards
The Pick, an '07 Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre blend shows lively cherry accents.  The 46 - just Grenache and Syrah in this 50/50 blend - has spicy raspberry flavors.

Treana /Hope Family Wines
 

The 2007 Treana is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah.  It's luscious and full of berries and tobacco notes.  The white Treana - 55% Marsanne and 45% Viognier - has flowers to spare on the nose and an enticing grapefruit core.  The Austin Hope Syrah 2008 is all Syrah all the time, estate grown with very fine tannins and a silky, even velvety texture.  It's one of my favorites of the show.

Venteux Vineyards
Venteux's Fleur Blanc is a Viognier/Roussanne/Marsanne blend in which the Viognier does not take over.  There's a lovely floral nose, but a nutty guava flavor that's irresistible.  Their 2007 blend of Petite Sirah, Mouvèdre and Syrah shows the dark side of cherry.  Tache La Verre, I'm told, means "stain the glass," and that's what this big, beautiful '07 Syrah does.  Santa Barbara County fruit with a big nose and lots of tannins.  The 2007 Estate Petite Sirah is deep, dark and delicious with a long finish.