The Paso CAB Collective was created in 2012 as a "grass-roots non-profit organization...formed with the belief that the Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec grown in the Paso Robles appellation—and the subsequent quality of the wines produced—is under-represented in the marketplace and across the wine industry."
The tables in the ballroom were set for a large number of media and sommelier guests, but it appeared that many folks may have had too much fun the night before and decided not to attend. It was their loss, as the discussion was lively and thought-provoking.
All of the winemakers are also growers, an important point for this panel who were closely questioned by audience members not just about climate and soil, but about the clones used in Paso. I've been in discussions about clones when talking about Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but this was the first time that specific Cabernet Sauvignon clones were identified for Paso's many microclimates. In addition to the ENTAV clones from France (being used in a new program at Sextant), there is a series of heritage clones. The workhorse clones of Cabernet Sauvignon were clones 7 (also known as the Concannon or Wente clone) and clone 8, both of which were taken as cuttings from the same vine at the Concannon Vineyard in St. Helena. The best known of the new clones from France is 337, which reliably gives reasonable yields of smallish berries, and has fruit-forward flavors. Daniel Daou also proudly offered the information that his vineyard is the first in Paso to plant the much-lauded To Kalon clone (from the famous Napa vineyard), which is similar to Clone 6, but yields 20% less fruit, with small, intensely flavorful berries, resulting in less juice, but higher phenolics.
David Parrish spoke eloquently about light management to control pyrazines, those pesky unripe elements that make Cab taste like green pepper, heat ("growing degree days"), and the wonderful calcareous soils found in Paso providing minerality and acidity. He also uses falcons to deal with pests; since he stopped using nets to keep out birds, relying solely on falcons to eat and drive away other birds, he has zero bird damage. That's a big deal.
Mike Mooney talked about the Grower Degree Index (GDI) that goes back 17 years and covers the temperature patterns in the Paso area. Creston, where Chateau Margene is located, is one of the coolest regions in an AVA that has huge diurnal shifts - 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day can drop to 50 degrees or less at night. This is good for the grapes, as they create sugar during the day and balance it with acid at night.
Geeky enough for you? There was much more, but I'll spare you before your eyes glaze over.
Most importantly, all the winemakers agreed that their goal was to make sure that Paso was on the map for high quality, age-able, premium Cabernets.
|Dana Merrill @ Pomar|
We broke for lunch at this point and headed to Pomar Junction. The Merrill family’s agricultural heritage and grape growing history dates back 8 generations. Today Dana and Marsha Merrill and son Matthew farm the vineyards, while Matthew's winemaking is complemented by winemaker Jim Shumate.After nearly 30 years of growing grapes for many of the finest wineries in California, including those in Napa (Oooh, you thought all Napa Cabs are 100% grown in Napa? No.), the Merrills decided to produce their own wines. All wines produced are exclusively farmed by the Merrills who believe that control from planting and pruning through harvest, fermentation and cellaring is critical for success. They received certification to the SIP (Sustainability in Practice) program within the Central Coast Vineyard Team. Also, Dana was the first San Luis Obispo County Chair of the California Assn. of Winegrape Growers, a charter member of the pioneering vineyard Sustainability group, the Central Coast Vineyard Team, and is a past two term Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.
We wanted to stay and sit on the veranda and stare out over the sea of vines, but we headed back to the Paso Robles Inn for a round of Rare and Reserve wines being offered. I must admit that, at this point, the Goddess was...done. My palate and my body rebelled at the thought of more Cabernet, so I turned to JD, said, "You're going to have to write up this portion of the tasting," and went outside to sit on the porch, drink water, and chat up new friends from dinner and lunch. Stay tuned for JD's post about the Rare and Reserve wines.
|BBQ @ Justin|
Stay tuned for the rest of our adventure in Paso Robles, as we visit one of the most beautiful properties in the region, Daou Vineyards, for a taste of the future, and JD reports on the Rare and Reserve wines from the CAB Collective.