Thursday, May 5, 2011


Cass Winery shoe tree bird condos

Cass Vineyard and Winery in on the eastside of Paso Robles, in California's Central Coast AVA.  They are due east of Templeton Gap, which brings the cool breezes in from the ocean.  They do get hot, though, during the day.  That's what helps ripen the Rhone grape varieties they grow.

Cass utilizes only estate-grown fruit.  The vineyards are all around the tasting room, which I had a chance to visit recently.  I didn't go out and literally touch the grapes, but they say you can.

The tasting room is spartan, with a visible, metallic kitchen area where picnic lunches are prepared if you wish to take your meal down a path to an oak-shaded picnic area.  There is also seating in the shady front area, near the door of the tasting room.  Also just outside the tasting room door is the most unusual birdhouse in the Central Coast (pictured).

When Cass says they grow Rhone varietals, they really mean it.  From their website:
"A unique feature of our wine making is that all of the Rhone grapes we grow are ENTAV certified.  ENTAV (Establissement National Technique pour l’Amelioration de la Viticulture) is the national agency of France responsible for the quality of wine grape varieities.  Over 90% of all French Vineyards are started with ENTAV certified plants and are only recently available in California.  Consequently, these are among the very first wines made from ENTAV grapes grown here."

It was busy in the tasting room for my visit, with everyone wearing several different hats to accomplish different jobs at once.  Here are the wines of Cass winemaker Lood Kotze which were poured for me that day:

Viognier 2009 - All stainless steel, the Viognier is produced using a South African yeast.  A somewhat tart nose makes the creaminess in the mouth a bit of a surprise.  Nice acidity is doubled on the citrus finish.  They tell me the 2010 vintage should have an even rounder mouthfeel.

Roussanne 2009 - Fermented in stainless, this wine is mineral-driven on the nose and palate.  Pears and citrus finish with a nutty aftertaste.

Oasis Rosé 2009 - Grenache and Syrah make up most of this blend, but nine varieties in all are used.  A touch off-dry, it's got beautiful red fruit from front to finish.

Rockin' One Red 2008 - Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Petite Sirah make up this heritage wine for Cass - "the one that started it all!"  It has a great nose full of red fruit and herbs with a touch of eucalyptus in the flavor profile.  It's my favorite from their menu.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 - Rich and ripe, this Cab shows silky smooth cassis flavors with a bit of graphite.

A couple of new additions were poured: the '09 Mourvèdre has a nose of chocolate-covered cherry - it's a customer favorite - and the '09 Grenache has a bright cherry nose, wonderful acidity and stirring minerality.

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