Tuesday, May 17, 2011

STARS OF PASO ROBLES RECAP


Stars Of Paso Robles

When Paso Robles shows up to pour wine, count me in.  The Stars Of Paso Robles event - staged by Southern California's premier wine event outfit, Ian Blackburn's Learn About Wine - featured one great taste after another.  I attended the Beverly Hills trade event at McCormick & Schmick's on the afternoon of May 13, 2011.  Friday the 13th was never so good.

A roomful of Paso Robles wines meant a roomful of big aromas, big flavors, great acidity and meaty minerals to taste.  It also meant a roomful of high alcohol, but that's how it goes in Paso.  Every vintage seems to be described as a "spike year."

As I made my way from table to table, it was amazing how many superlative wines were poured.  There were plenty of great reds on hand, but in Paso they know how to do whites, too.  Every table offered at least two wines which were worthy of mention.  I narrowed it down to just those I marked with stars, in the interest of keeping this post from getting out of hand.

Here are my favorites from the Stars Of Paso Robles event:

Adelaida Cellars showed their 2009 Pavanne, a blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Viognier with great acidity, green apples and minerals.

Alta Colina's Maggie Tillman poured her family's efforts.  The reds showed big tannins as a rule, and they rocked.  I was most taken with the 2009 12 O'Clock High, a white blend of estate-grown Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc.  Stone fruit and tropical notes are met with honey and minerals and a racy acidity that plays big on the finish.

Bianchi Winery showed a Zinfandel which is lightly tinted and highly expressive on the nose with big black tea aromas and a nice brambly taste.  It has an alcohol level of 15.4%, but it doesn't drink like it.

Flying Nymph boxCass Vineyard and Winery had a table full of great wines to pour, but partner Ted Plemons was fixated on the big box of Flying Nymph Syrah/Mourvèdre/Grenache which he says is becoming very popular with bars and restaurants due to the high profit margin it offers.  That's an 18-liter box inside the display cabinet he had made for it.  The fruity wine is tasty, but I liked everything else on the table better.

The Cinquain Cellars table was highlighted by the '07 Syrah which won a gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition a couple of years ago.  Coffee and Coke on the nose with spicy dark fruit on the palate bowled me over.

Dubost Ranch winemaker and vineyard manager Zachary Raines had an astounding '07 Zinfandel from the Cushman Vineyard.  40-year-old vines are dry-farmed and tobacco shows up on the nose right through to the amazing port-like finish.  When I raised an eyebrow at the 17.2% alcohol number, I was told with a shrug, "It was a hot year."  It's still a hot year.

Hammersky Vineyards had some interesting offerings, notably the Cab/Merlot blend with firm tannins and smooth mouthfeel.  Table spokesman Brandon described it as the wine "for filet mignon, not T-bone."  Their 100% Merlot was a big blast of fruit and smoke.

Joel Peterson of Hope Family Wines poured both his Austin Hope line as well as the Treana label.  The Austin Hope Grenache - tons of minerality - and Treana White blend of Marsanne and Viognier - huge tropical - were both excellent.  I was really drawn to the new Westside Red Troublemaker, a multi-year vintage with a dark, funky nose and palate and gigantic minerals - all for $20.

JK Wine Company winemaker Justin Kahler poured his '09 Katin Viognier.  The grapes are from Paso Robles' Templeton Gap and the 100% varietal wine shows tremendous aromas of honeysuckle and a tempting, flinty salinity from the minerals Paso is famous for.

Niner Wine Estates poured one of my favorites at the event - their 2008 Sangiovese.  It's a brand new release with an extremely lush nose featuring flowers, cherries and smoke.  The palate shows sour cherry and a fabulous minerality.  There's 5% Barbera in the mix.

Roxo Port Cellars is one of my favorite tables at events featuring Paso Robles wines.  The chocolatey Cabernet Franc Port and the candy-like Cab/Syrah Port both are astounding, but theTraditional blend of Portuguese varieties moved me.  Souzau leads the way instead of Touriga Nacional in the '07 vintage.

Villa Creek Cellars poured their '08 Mas de Maha, a blend of Tempranillo, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan.  This wine puts the Paso spin on the Spanish grape, with red fruit on the nose and lots of minerals on the palate.  There's a nice herbal profile from the whole-cluster fermentation employed.