Tasting – and Pairing – Warson Wines

I’ve met winemaker Paul Warson a couple of times at the popular Masters of Taste event in Pasadena. In one follow up article I had written this about him, “Warson is a seasoned winemaker with roots at UC Davis. He has made wine in places such as Australia, Napa, and the Central Coast. His longest tenure was with Foley and their Firestone property.”

At large events like Masters of Taste I don’t have a lot of time or space to make tasting notes so when he offered me six of his wines to review at home I happily agreed. Below are descriptions of each wine from the website by Paul in italics, followed by my tasting notes.

The Wines

2019 Sauvignon Blanc, $20

I always respected Sauvignon Blanc grown in Happy Canyon. Being warmer than the rest of the Santa Ynez Valley, it shows riper flavors earlier. With notes of grapefruit, passion fruit, and green melon, both on the nose and the palate. This wine screams to be either enjoyed by itself or paired with hard cheeses, and minerally shellfish.

EB: Light gold in color with a darker edge, then came aromas that reminded me of sweetened pineapple, lemon gelato, pear, white peach, wet granite, and a hint of white flower. The taste – lucky for me – brought forward all that fresh fruit from the nose to the palate with the addition of tangerine. It had a nice round mouthfeel, with a low to medium acidity and a very long finish. Truth be told most Sauvignon Blancs are too acidic for me, and one glass is enough, but not this one. We enjoyed the entire bottle. Would pair with a shellfish salad, cheese, or a Carbonara.

2018 Viognier, $26

The sweet aroma of honeysuckle presents itself with lush peach and apricot aromas balancing the floral intensity. Fermented in neutral barrels the palate is viscous, but firm.

EB: The color of pale sunlight, with a slightly golder tinged edge. The nose was full of nutfruit – apricot and peach – as well as pear, lemon zest, white port, wet river rock and maybe even the hint of a Port Tonic. The taste had a mild acidity surrounding lots of apricot and peach, sweet Meyer lemon and had a medium finish.

Eddie was planning to make an orange marmalade topped Mahi Mahi for dinner that I thought would complement the Viognier, and it didn’t…only because after we opened the wine, he realized he had bought cod. So being the fab former-firefighter chef he is, he quickly scrapped the original recipe for a Louisiana Court-Bouillon (aka a Cajun Court Bouillon) with peppers, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth and garlic. Though not my original choice, we both felt that the wine cut the acid in the tomatoes as well as the Cajun spices. I also noted that the fish tasted super fresh (though frozen) which I also attribute to the wine.

2019 Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills, $45

This wine was a long time in the making. Crafted using traditional burgundian practices this wine aged 14 months total in barrel–eleven months on the lees, with an additional 3 months in neutral oak. Papaya, pear, and Fuji apple, complemented by toasty oak and vanilla. With 80% new oak and 100% Malo, this wine is sure to delight and surprise you. This wine was made with minimal intervention and may tartrate crystals may appear.

EB: The wine was a color of pale gold with a slightly green edge. Aromas included lemon, orange, apple, and a wee bit of oak. The palate made me think of bruised apple, ripe peach, lemon wedge…all very tingly…and then notes of cream, a little bit of honey and salinity. Over the course of just a few minutes I enjoyed the wine more and more. This was the only wine I didn’t have a pairing for. Why? Because we had already planned an easy dinner of BLTs and French Fries and finished the Chardonnay before we got to eat! So, the conclusion is drink alone, or with food, and you’ll be fine.

2020 Rose, Santa Ynez, $22

Blood orange, rose hips, and raspberry aromas brightly spring from the glass. Comprised of Grenache and a small percentage of Grenache blanc. The full palate, though defined by its soft tannins, is balanced by its acidity.

EB: Turning to my food pairing book, What to Drink With What You Eat, I read that Caesar salad is complemented by Rose wine. We were to see, but first we examine without food. A very pretty salmon to rose gold color greeted me and from there, on the nose, I noted peach in light syrup, lemon-lime soda, cantaloupe, minerality, cool wet rocks and steel. The palate delivered lots of minerality, medium acidity and layers of lemon, cherry, and peach. With the Caesar salad the lemon was brought more forward in the wine and dressing, and the acidity in the wine cut through the creamy dressing perfectly. 

2018 GSM Blend 1102, $36

Flaunting warm and inviting tones of black and red berries, toasty oak, supple leather and violets. Inspired by classic Old World wines, this blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre is playful yet nuanced and could be sniffed all day.

EB: Planning on a dinner of Beef Stroganoff, and again referring to the pairing book (What To Drink With What You Eat) a Rhone wine was suggested. This one by Paul fit the bill perfectly. It was a deep garnet color with a redder edge and opaque. The nose was filled with plum, dark cherry, blackberry jam, sweet pipe tobacco, both milk and dark chocolate and wet dark earth. Having it without and then with the pasta, I tasted this rich, velvety, big, dark, and spicy wine thoroughly. It was very balanced, between the dark fruit and spice, and was reluctant to pour the last taste of it. For the price, it’s a steal.

2019 The Nines, $55

Years that end with the number nine have been significant in my professional career. This wine honors our first vintage in 2019. This wine is a blend of 85% Petit Verdot and 15% Cabernet Franc and aged for 22 months in new French oak barrels.

EB: This one sounded very interesting to me. For Paul’s personal bond to the number nine, and I love most any wine that has Cabernet Franc in the blend. The wine was a dark purple color, and completely opaque. The nose is robust – with dark berry, crushed black cherry, spiced plum, mint, tree bark, smoke, and stewed mushroom. Going in for a taste, I found that same dark fruit, tri-color pepper tickling my palate, jalapeno berry jelly, light to medium tannins and a long finish. Enjoyed the play of fruit and spice in the mouth. I had no pairing plans when I sampled the wine, but I think it would go well with an appetizer board that had some of that spicy jelly to top different cured meats and both soft and hard cheeses. One last note: I wouldn’t describe The Nines as sweet, but it’s certainly has hit its sweet spot. Don’t need to age imho. Also, the wine is 14.8 percent alcohol, which I searched for on the label as I felt it but didn’t feel the heat from = relaxing.

Warson Wines website

Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in the first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Proof Awards, Cellarmasters, LA Wine Competition, Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.