To provide a little change during this trip to Paso we decided to visit new wineries that we had not tried. One winery that we visited just outside of Creston was Chateau Margene. I have had many Paso residents that know the types of wines that I enjoy recommend this winery; lucky for me we were lucky to have Larry and Gloria Stahly with us on this trek to the East side. I am so glad they had this as one of our stops. On our visit we were lucky to run into Michael Mooney the owner/vintner of Chateau Margene. He was in the process of packing and getting ready to prepare for the opening of their new tasting room in Morro Bay. As is typical with Paso Robles wineries, he stopped what he was doing and began talking to us about his wines.
During our discussion, I found out that he was on the board of the Paso Robles CAB Collective. CAB stands for Cabernet and Bordeaux and the organization known as PRCC for short was originally established by DAOU Vineyards & Winery, J. Lohr Vineyards & Winery and Justin Vineyards & Winery. Every year the founding members elect two seats. The goal of the PRCC is to bring attention to the quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends produced in Paso, and second, to connect local growers and vintners to help continue raising the bar for Cabs and Bordeaux wines from the area. Though the Rhone Rangers have had a major impact on Paso with Rhone varietals there are only 17% Rhone varietals verses 55% Bordeaux varietals grown in Paso Vineyards. Mike Mooney of Chateau Margene was elected and occupies one of the seats on the board of the PRCC as well as JADA Vineyards and Winery.
PRCC’s goal is to show everyone the quality of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux (Meritage) wines from the area. Chateau Margene, like DAOU, definitely produces wines that will blow you away. We started our tasting off with a Grenache Blanc. The wine was crisp with an excellent balance of acid followed by a slight apple finish. The next wine varietals poured were absolute winners for my wife – Pinot Noirs! Mike poured a 2012 Mooney Family Pinot Noir from the Boekenoogen Vineyard that was unbelievable. The grapes used are from one of my favorite regions, Santa Lucia Highlands. This pinot was not for the light weight pinot drinkers it had a beautiful extraction displaying fantastic depth and dark color. The cherry flavor coats the mouth and lasts forever on the palate. An absolutely beautiful wine.
Next we stepped into the world of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends. To start out, we were poured a 2011 Meritage, which is the name for American Bordeaux blend, known as Claret in Britain. This style of wine can have one or more of these specific five varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec. Carmenere is a sixth varietal that can be used but rarely is. The Meritage produced by Mike has 40% Cab Franc, 35% Merlot and 25 % Cabernet Sauvignon. The flavors of dark fruits along with silky smooth tannins are spectacular. The Cabernet Franc definitely makes its presence center stage in this wine and is unique because you do not see Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot as the primary or base grape in this Meritage. I am not complaining as I love this varietal and this wine was perfectly made.
Though we tried many different wines, and I highly recommend them all, I want to mention one of his estate wines called Cask 4. It is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with 50% of the grapes being estate grown. We were honored to try this wine as it has only been bottled for four months. WOW! Have you ever tasted a wine that is this young and is drinking this phenomenal that you start to wonder if it is possible to get any better with age?! This wine was beautiful. You can see the passion that Mike Mooney puts into his wine. Mike is so intent on not allowing any type of influences affect his wines that the Cabernet and Meritage are processed in a completely separate room than his Pinot Noir. He does this to prevent any possible influence from the different yeasts that are used among other things allowing control in preserving the pristine profile expected for each varietal. Even his barrels are made by bending the staves using water rather than heat, thus lowering the toasty aromas from the barrels that would affect the wine. Such details are what create great wines.
The wines from Chateau Margene show that Mike takes great pride in making them. This is also a family run winery, Chateau Margene is named after Mike’s wife, Margene. Mike’s son and daughter-in-law are also an active part at the winery. If you visit the winery, there is a nice selection of varietals to enhance anyone’s palate and all are excellent. Chateau Margene again reinforces that welcome feeling that I am trying to showcase in this series of articles from my last trip. Even when you are not known when you walk in you definitely become part of the family at the winery. What a great feeling.