When I started writing this series of articles about the lighter wines Karen and I have been drinking recently, I hadn’t really thought that so many of them would be from Paso Robles. After all, Paso’s reputation [at least in my mind] is for big delicious Reds, and there certainly are a lot of those coming from this area. And we don’t limit ourselves to PR’s AVAs, as I expect you know. But, as I’ve said, great winemakers make great wine, regardless of color, and here are three more wineries that produce some of our favorite lighter wines from the area. As an added bonus, they are all somehow connected to each other.
We’ve actually known Guillaume Fabre of Clos Solene www.clossolene.com the longest of these three, having met him at an event back in 2009. He was pouring his first vintage – a delicious Roussanne – and was still assistant winemaker at L’Aventure. But 2009 was long ago. We’ve followed him to the shared Paso Underground tasting room in downtown to Paso Robles and then to Tin City just south of downtown Paso. Now he and his wife Solene have their own property in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles, from which they are creating some of the best wines in the region. I’ve always felt that his Red wines did a great job of showing how their inherent power could be softened into elegance without losing the characteristics of Paso.
The lighter wines are equally as stylish. Karen loves all of them when “paired with our “Snacks– Hunkered Down” nights of charcuterie and/or smoked fish, various cheeses, dried and fresh fruit, followed by lemon cookies or a scoop of ice cream.”
The pink La Rose is a Rhone blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah, made from grapes specifically farmed for rosé – no saignee here! Very pale in color that belies the complexity of the wine itself.
Clos Solene’s Hommage Blanc is a classic white Rhone blend of mainly Roussanne plus Viognier and Grenache Blanc. Karen found it to be “full bodied…flowers, fruit, spices…”
Finally, En Coulisse is 100% Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley’s Bien Nacido Vineyards. A nice rich Chard, and [per Karen] “not overpowering with oak, vanilla or butter but fruit forward…”
Guillaume is also partner in another Paso Robles winery with his brother Arnaud –
Benom Wines www.benomwines.com. They originally took over Clos Solene’s spot in Tin City, although I believe they have now moved to a larger space in the same area.
The name Benom is a riff on the French word “binôme” which translates to “a project together”. These French brothers have successfully combined their homeland’s heritage with all that Paso has to offer, with their blends showing what can be done by them in a place with no rules. No surprise, again, that the red wines are great, but this article is focusing on these lighter wines.
The L’Essor rosé combines Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon and Contrast is a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Neither of these could be made back home due to the rules about combining grapes from different regions. And they clearly should be. Karen loved the “bright fruit” of the L’Essor and found the Contrast to be “crisp, clean, full of fruit…”
As I mentioned at the start, this article is about three wineries that are somehow connected. Arnaud Fabre of Benom is also marketing director at Law Estate Wines www.lawestatewines.com, another winery that we first tasted at a festival. This time it was the Ojai Wine Festival back in 2013, when Karen came up to me and said “you really have to try Law”. As always, she was right and we have been big fans since. We met GM Oliver Esparham at the Ojai Festival and have visited him and the rest of our friends at Law at the state-of-the-art winery and tasting room many times – once even before it was complete. The winery and vineyards high up on Peachy Canyon are amazing in their own right. But, that would mean nothing if the wines didn’t match. And they definitely do. The Law wines are truly some of the best ones around.
With regard to lighter wines, Law makes two. The Rosé blend is typically Grenache based while the white Rhone blend Soph [named after the Laws’ granddaughter] is usually about half Roussanne. The exact blends vary from year to year for both of these, but they are always stunning and are present on our table [and in our glasses] often. I love that the description on the website refers to Soph as “an extremely moreish wine”. We definitely agree on that.
Next article, we’ll finally leave Paso Robles and look at wines from farther north. Unless I change my mind.
Law Estate Wines
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 30 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 President of MCP Financial, which provides outsourced controller services. Michael can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.