This month we dive into some incredible wines from the fastest growing wine region in California. With over 200 different wineries in the Paso Robles AVA, we picked some very fun 8 wines from 8 different wineries.
Typically people hear that Cab is King in Paso with over 49% of all planted acerage is Cabernet Sauvignon. But there are some great varities other than Cab to consider. We will taste two Cabernets this month along with a Sparkling wine, a Chardonnay, Merlot, Red Blend, Cab Franc, and a tooth staining Petite Sirah. So join us for a fun month of California wines.
1 (4) Opolo Sparkling Wine- General California Appellation- CA (First for Gold, Fourth for Platinum)
Sometimes, simplicity is a virtue. This is the case with the Opolo Sparking Wine. This 100% Colombard is put through the Charmat or ‘Tank’ Method and results in a clean, playful aperitif. This wine pours a pale straw color with green hues. The nose offers almond, lemongrass, gravel, and green apple. The palate features fine-grained bubbles with an off-dry collection of apple, peach, and almond supplemented by high acid a medium-sweet finish. This is an excellent palate cleanser prior to jumping into a tasting of larger reds.
2 Callaway Cellars 2018 ‘Ely’ Chardonnay – Paso Robles AVA- CA
Warm climates like Paso Robles are oft maligned in the eyes of Old-World Chardonnay afficionados, as the results often are anything but subtle. For lovers of rich, fruit-driven renditions however, Paso Robles represents a budding force in their production. Given the amount of sun and general lack of rain the region receives, Chardonnay-based wines from Paso are plump and often oaked to double-down on the richness factor. Callaway’s ‘Ely’ is no exception, being a 100% variety wine put through 100% Malolactic Fermentation and time in 50% new oak. The result is a medium gold-colored wine with yellow hues. The nose offers ripe tropical fruits supplemented by notes brought on by the oak such as vanilla and Crème Brule. The texture is creamy, with notes of baked orchard fruits, caramel, butter, and toast. This would do well with fish or poultry accompanied by a cream-based sauce.
3 Broadside 2018 ‘Margarita Vineyard’ Merlot- Santa Margarita Ranch AVA-CA
The Santa Margarita Ranch is likely a familiar name to many of you, as it is the AVA popularized by one our favorite Paso producers: Ancient Peaks. This southern-most growing region of Paso features a , comparatively, cool growing season given its proximity to San Luis Obispo and its surrounding bodies of water. That doesn’t take away from the fact that these indeed Paso-grown Bordeaux varieties in this case, which means you are getting some ripe and rich. The Broadside ‘Margarita Vineyard’ Merlot is 78% Merlot and 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, pouring a medium ruby color with black-blue hues. Aromas of reduced black cherry, plum, mocha, and sweet tobacco make up the nose, while the palate features supple tannins enveloping plush blue and black berries. This could be a steak wine, but a more decadent version (short ribs, braised renditions) would be preferable.
4 J & J Cellars 2019 ‘Two Tradesmen’ Cabernet Sauvignon- Paso Robles AVA-CA
Paso Robles’ historical significance lies in its emphasis on Rhone varieties and its part in introducing them to the California viticultural scene. It’s current significance, however, rests in its high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Virtually every part of Paso Robles’ climate, from the abundant sun exposure, diverse soils, and winemaking precedent (Napa, Sonoma, Lake County, etc.), Generally, Cab’s from this area are characterized by heavy extract, sweet tannins, and profiles centered around fruit and baking spice, much like the ‘Two Tradesmen’. This Cabernet is blended with small amounts of Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot, both of which add to a lusciously dark ruby color with blue and black hues. Aromas of vanilla, cherry, crème de cassis, and sweet baking spice make up the nose. Sweet velvety tannins and low acid outline the full body, with cherry and blueberry cobbler notes throughout. This wine might be best as a rich accompaniment to a rich red meat-based dish, or as the pairing to a selection of various chocolates.
5 Hearst Ranch 2018 ‘Lone Oak’ Cabernet Franc-Paso Robles AVA- CA
Cabernet Franc, perhaps more than any other red variety, can vary heavily based on the terroir. As a blending grape in St. Emilion and the rest of the Right Bank, it offers acidity, structure, and earth tones. As the star of the show in Saumur, Chinon, and Bourgueil, it’s a nuanced, acid-driven bomb of savory flavors. As for the new world, it becomes something else entirely; something displayed expertly by Hearst Ranch’s rendition. This Cab Franc is supplemented by Merlot and Petit Verdot, pouring a medium ruby color with purple hues. Aromas of dark chocolate, cherry, raspberry, espresso and forest floor arise from the glass. The palate is medium+ bodied, with elegant, dusty tannins and medium acid supplementing mineral-driven notes of graphite, tobacco, and reduced red fruits.
6 DAOU 2018 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon- Paso Robles AVA-CA (Big Dog)
Daou has experienced a meteoric rise to being one of the faces of Paso Robles in the last decade, competing with other monster Paso Robles brands for market visibility. The impressive thing about this rise is that it has largely been done with a concealed hand, as the vast majority of the wines in their catalog never see retail. Having had personal experience with the winery and the reserve lot, most of these wines represents a different member of their family or a significant piece of history with names such as ‘1740’ (After the bell on the logo) or Soul of A Lion (After the Daou brothers’ father). However, the most tamely named reserve wine might showcase the winery the best of all. This Cabernet is blended with Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc to add structure, and is aged in 50% New French Oak for 15 months. The result is a deep ruby-colored wine with purple hues, offering aromas of humidor, baker’s chocolate, anise and cassis. The palate is full-bodied with present, subtle tannins and restrained acidity. Globs of dark chocolate and dark berries dominate, supplemented by subtle spice, minerality, and vanilla.
7 Vina Robles 2018 Petite Sirah- Paso Robles AVA-CA
Though perhaps not quite as notable and accomplished as Zinfandel, there are few grapes quite as synonymous with California as Petite Sirah. Petite Sirah, or Durif, is a cross of Syrah and Peloursin that often displays an intense inky-dark color, black fruit flavors, and ferocious tannins. As such, they often face elongated stays in oak in order to encourage softening of said tannins, much like Vina Robles’ example, which sits in oak for 20 months. This wine pours a near impassable purple with blue and black hues, offering aromas of cassis, savory baking spice and smoked meat. The palate is full bodied, with intense, dusty tannins surround a savory blend of soy sauce, blueberries, and roast game, finishing with a lengthy sweet finish of coffee and vanilla. Petite Sirah is difficult to pair with food, but one of the classic pairings is chicken mole.
8 Nelle 2017 ‘Bedlam’- Central Coast AVA- CA (Baby Big Dog)
A decadent multi-AVA blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Petite Sirah, this small production red from Nelle expresses all the hedonistic, rich tendencies of its varieties. Pouring a deep ruby with black/blue hues, this wine offers aromas of bacon fat, macerated berries, black pepper, and herbs de Provence. The palate is rich, with formidable tannins and balanced acidity. The monstrous 15.8 ABV is obscured by the wine’s structure and fruit, consisting of reduced raspberry, cassis, and blueberry, earth, and spicy, concentrated oak.
Since 1986, Paso Robles Wine Country has experienced a true renaissance. From boutique wineries producing less than 1,200 cases per year to high-production facilities boasting 100,000 cases or more annually, Paso Robles winemakers are cultivating distinct, high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux wines that earn national and worldwide recognition each and every year.
Working alongside well-respected Central Coast winemakers, many of whom boast multiple generations of rich, winemaking and wine grape growing heritage, this new crop of rebel rousing vintners share an independent spirit, dedication to quality and immense passion for crafting the best Cabernet Sauvignon and red Bordeaux varietals in the world.
Creating the best wines in California
When it comes down to it, Paso Robles Cabernet producers are indeed preoccupied with a lofty goal: Capturing the terroir, or specific sense of place, within each bottle. When carried out successfully, Paso’s bold Bordeaux wines reflect the land — and no two Paso Robles vineyards are the same. In Paso Robles Wine Country, geological diversity abounds, and a single vineyard block may contain a multitude of soil types. Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals flourish, as the climate, long growing season and soil work together to promote consistent physiological ripeness season after season.