We brought some family members with us on our last trip to Paso Robles. This trip wasn’t about breaking new ground or seeking out new discoveries. Instead, we purposely visited some old favorites to show them [and remind us] what makes Paso such a special place for my wife Karen and me. So much of it is about the great people we know there and diversity and quality of the wines. No, it not all about that Zin or any other one grape. Truly, Paso Robles can be many different things to different people. And we could just as easily have visited five other of our favorite places. This was our Paso, this time.
Hitting town at the start of Labor Day weekend, the overriding message we got from everyone we talked to was that “harvest is EARLY [which we knew] and in many cases happening very quickly, yields are low [which sounds bad] but quality is OUTSTANDING!” So, when you read these articles, bear in mind that maybe the best is yet to come.
I can’t think of a better way to start a Paso Robles visit [or end one or be in the middle of one] than a stop at Denner Vineyards. Back in the days when I was prejudiced against beautifully architected wineries [the money should go in the wine, not the tasting room, right?], some good friends of ours at the time took us to Denner to explode that belief. Not only are the grounds amazing and the winery building truly a work of art, but the wines [primarily Rhone-based blends] are delicious and really showcase what I believe Paso does best. We’ve been club members ever since.
This visit, with picture perfect weather, we sat out on the patio and enjoyed the following:
2014 Rose – this year a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault and 10% Counoise, it was light and tasty and a perfect way to get our day started.
2014 Theresa – a refreshing white blend of 40% Rousanne, 20% Picpoul, 15% Marsanne, 15% Grenache Blanc and 10% Vermentino; the nice lingering finish from the Rousanne combined perfectly with a zestiness that I can only attribute to that touch of Vermentino.
2013 Grenache – with 4% Syrah and 4% Mourvedre. The raspberry notes leapt out of the glass on this one. Great example of this varietal and why I am turning into a huge Grenache fan.
2013 Ditch Digger – the blend changes every year, this time it is 50% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah, 5% Cinsaut and 5% Counoise. More of that great Grenache. 2013 must have been a great year for that varietal, at least here at Denner. In this case, the Grenache is clearly showcased but the other grapes are evident as well. Darker and richer than the Grenache mentioned above.
2013 Dirt Worshipper – 99% Syrah, 1% Rousanne. This is the kind of Syrah that reminds me how much I love this grape. Where Grenache is about red fruit, Syrah is definitely black fruit. Big, bold and delicious.
We also had an opportunity to chat a little with Denner General Manager Carol Rounsaville and discuss the history of the winery. Ron Denner purchased the property in 1997 and planted it in 1998. The winery’s first release was the 2002 Syrah; blends soon followed. Famed Saxum winemaker Justin Smith consulted early on, with Denner’s first official winemaker being Ron’s son Brian. Brian has since moved on to his own winery project in Oregon. Current winemaker Anthony Yount worked as assistant winemaker at Denner as well as at Villa Creek. He also has his own project. [You can read more about Anthony in Jon Bonne’s book The New California Wine.] Carol said that owner Ron Denner gives the winemaker full rein over the winemaking process, much as he did with San Luis Obispo architect John Mitchell who designed not only the tasting room but the entire winery.
Carol also told us that production is typically around 7,000 to 8,000 cases, although it will be lower with the current harvest. The common refrain on this trip was – quality is very high, but yields are LOW. That being said, here is some good news – for a while the Denner wine club [known as the Comus club] was closed to new members. But, it is currently open. So, now is your chance!
Denner Vineyards, 5414 Vineyard Dr, Paso Robles, CA 93446
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com