The Paso Robles Cab Collective is a group of wineries that are focused on creating Bordeaux wines and blends in Paso Robles. This is the third year of the Cab Collective, this year called the Cabs of Distinction event, that gives trade and media a 3-day opportunity to taste and go to seminars to better our knowledge of the region’s wines – and give equal time and thought to Bordeaux varietals over the the Zins and Rhônes that Paso is famous for. (Just like Rhone Rangers and Pinot Days type events, the Cab Collective’s goal is that we will share what we’ve learned with our readers, etc.)
At the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom for our first seminar and tasting we experienced a few minutes of audio problems, but no one really cared because, heck, we were at a wine event so while we waited…we tasted.
Besides getting started on the tasting I did a check off in my head of what was to come: first the brief welcome, barrel and new release tasting from some of the Cab Collective member wineries, dinner (and a grappa tasting!) would be at Opolo Vineyards, a sommelier-led class in the morning, lunch (I didn’t know this yet) at Rotta Winery, maybe some wine tasting on our own (which ended up being a spirits tasting at Re:Find Distillery in Villicana Winery) being shuttled to more wine tasting and a dinner at Villa San Juliette Vineyard and then the last day at J. Lohr Vineyards having lunch, learning how to blend and then finally to Vina Robles for another lesson and tasting.
Before I could think about it any further…the audio was corrected and the reception began.
Daniel Daou, the rock star looking winemaker with microphone in hand, greeted me with, “I still like your bikini photo best…” and then picked up the mike to address the crowd. I can now see why this charming winemaker gets so many “likes” on my Facebook page. Of course the fact that he makes killer wines also has something to do with it!
Daou told the crowd, “We don’t get a bad vintage often…it’s our trademark” as “our region achieves ripeness year after year” delivering wines of “perfect balance.” Daou continued, “Several years ago…we set on a path to work together…required a lot of work, resources, money…even replanting…wineries joined in and accomplished today what you are about to taste.”
Daou then thanked the Cab Collective sponsors for their funds and resources…gave us a teaser about the seminars to come and introduced Wine Country Alliance President Jennifer Porter, who, in turn introduced Chris Taranto, Communications Director of Wine Country Alliance.
Taranto said that what he is presenting “could be presented by all of the people here today” that had come to represent the wineries. The slide show began with Zinfandel…the grape that got Paso Robles on the map. Established in the 80s, Rhone and Bordeaux varieties are the largest in the region, Taranto said, and most are family owned, small-case production. There are now over 200 wineries and 3,200 vineyard acres, 146 of that 200 have tasting rooms.
What makes Paso unique? According to Taranto Paso Robles is the hottest of the coolest regions, depending on how close to the ocean, and that calcareous soils prevail all over the area – more than any other California AVAs.
In a slide of a side view, from Morrow Bay, we saw the mountain ranges, and how the fogs can get trapped in the area; as well as wind and cooler air. Taranto said that Paso “benefits from proximity to the ocean, and proximity from the ocean.”
In 2007 59 vintners came together to set 11 separate AVAs as the land was very diverse. Approved by Nov 9, 2014 wineries could now use new labels with their set district. So “preserving Paso as a whole” was accomplished.
Porter added, “We are really friendly…non judgmental, approachable…” our manifesto includes the words, “there are no rules…this is the Place to Grow Wild.” Porter said that we would see that in the blends the winemakers are making as they are “just trying to be welcoming…taking the snobbery out of wine.”
Now, back to the tasting.
As usual I photographed all of the wines I liked in particular. But here are a few comments to the photos:
Justin Winery winemaker Scott Shirley’s barrel tasting of his latest was freaking outstanding and we hoped he could make single bottles from that one barrel instead of making what will definitely be a killer blend. No such luck unless we get his home address.
Red Soles was a new one for me, and of equal interest to some great wines is that they are distilling spirits – must learn more about that soon in another visit. Suffice it to say if you make if from grapes (or any fruit) they are allowed to sell it from a winery tasting room. Rumor is that there are twenty wineries in Paso now doing this!
The latest Suendero 2011 blend from Vina Robles blew my socks off. And their 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon was great too.
Bon Niche was new for me, we had two blends, loved both, especially the 2011 Chemin blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
My new fave find of the tasting, Rotta, and his SBR blend – you’ll read about more as we ended up getting over there for a full tasting over lunch in Part II of this tale running on May 22.
Halter Ranch killed me with their first 2012 Malbec, gotta get me some more of that as well as their latest Ancestor 2012 vintage.
Loved J. Lohr, and we had a two hour tasting coming up with them and Vina Robles during this same trip.
The latest Soul of a Lion blend from DAOU was very remarkable. Need more.
Michael Mooney’s latest for Chateau Margene, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, was yummy and good to drink now.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com