White Wines: Unexpected Pleasures from Paso Robles, CA
By Cindy Rynning- Guest Blogger
Paso Robles was named Wine Region of the Year in 2013 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, yet more than a few wine lovers aren’t familiar with the area or its wines. Located between San Francisco and Los Angeles and about 40 minutes east of the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find this bucolic town along Highway 101. It’s a quick drive from the airports in San Jose (2 ½ hours) or San Luis Obispo (40 minutes). Paso Robles is a must-visit area for anyone who appreciates beautiful, memorable wines. For me, it’s a region that continues to surprise and delight. During a recent Twitter chat, I explored, once again, those that, for many, is unexpected: the white wines of Paso Robles.
Bordeaux, Rhone, and an ever-growing list of Italian and Spanish grape varieties are not only cultivated but thriving in the 614,000 acre Paso Robles AVA; 32,000 acres are in wine grape vines, the third largest wine region in California. The region has eleven specific viticultural areas.
Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas Blanc 2016 ($25)
My first trip to Paso Robles a few years ago included a stop at Tablas Creek Vineyard, the result of a long friendship between the Perrin family of Rhone Valley’s Chateau de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. Their partnership in 1985 led to the purchase of 120 acres in the Las Tablas district of west Paso Robles in 1989. Thanks to a terroir of limestone soil, rugged hills, and an optimal climate, traditional Rhone varietals were planted and continue to thrive. I craved each sip of the red wines I tasted at Tablas Creek, but those whites…Magnifique!
Depth, power, balance, and vivacity are just a few words to describe the Patelin de Tablas Blanc 2016, a luscious blend of 52% Grenache Blanc, 24% Viognier, 12% Roussanne, 9% Marsanne, and 3% Clairette Blanche, varieties also cultivated in the Rhone Valley of France. Bright, fresh white flowers, pineapple, nectarine, and spice notes burst from the glass upon my first whiff. On the palate, exotic flavors of peach skin, beeswax, wet stone, juicy and tart apple were braided with a chalky minerality and delightful salinity. Lip-smacking acidity and a lush finish of spice and fruit were ever-so memorable.
Adelaida Vineyard & Winery Chardonnay HMR 2016 ($40)
On my first trip to the region, I experienced the wines of Adelaida Vineyard & Winery, as well. Family owned vineyards are found in the hillside of the Adelaida District, a mere 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Chalky limestone soils, cool breezes from the sea, and a diurnal temperature swing of 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit are factors that affect the grapes grown.
Only four acres of Chardonnay, cultivated on chalky-rock soil, are produced at Adelaida. Chardonnay lovers will be mesmerized by the HMR 2016. Aromas of wildflowers, almonds, and honey drizzled apples led to a palate replete with zesty lemon confit, spiced toast with melted butter, juicy melon, and gravel-like minerality. Creamy and rich, the grapes were fermented and aged in 85% neutral barrels with stirring of the lees and aged in 10% new French oak barrels and 5% in one stainless steel tank for 8 months. Divine.
Vina Robles Vineyards and Winery White4 2016 ($16)
Vina Robles winery founder Hans Nef, originally from a small village outside of Zurich, Switzerland, had a mission to bring his European heritage to the New World in order to produce unique estate-crafted wines. In 1996, he purchased land in Paso Robles and partnered with Swiss expatriate and a longtime friend to establish Vina Robles. Last year, I was fortunate to visit Vina Robles Vineyards and Winery after a two-day Cabs of Distinction conference focusing on…the glory of Cabernet grown in Paso Robles. Yet, the white wines I tasted at the winery were stunning – the White4 2016 is no exception.
A joyous blend of 45% Viognier, 27% Sauvignon Blanc, 17% Verdelho, and 11% Vermentino, aromas of lemon, sweet flowers, apricots, and honey burst from the glass. On the broad and balanced palate, racy acidity and a cord of minerality were woven amongst notes of sea salt, beeswax, pear, peach, and orange peel. The juicy finish was lingering…
Justin Vineyards & Winery Rose 2016 ($22.50)
Of the four wineries represented at the twitter tasting, this is the only I haven’t experienced in real life…and this must change! When Justin Baldwin purchased 160 acres, rich in limestone soil, he had a goal: make world-class Bordeaux-style blends in Paso Robles. By all accounts, this mission is being accomplished year after year. His first Cabernet Sauvignon under the Justin label was released in 1986. Now, Justin combines Old World techniques (hand harvesting, small-barrel aging in French oak, for example) with New World technology.
The crisp, refreshing Rose 2016 is of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose and palate, I discovered bright acidity with peach, tart cherry and apple, subtle flavors of grapefruit, dried flowers, apricot, red currant, and thyme. With a savory, layered finish, this Rose is absolutely delightful.