Saturday, May 4, 2013

Wining with Distinction in Paso...Part 2

The Goddess and JD continued their adventure at the new Cabs of Distinction event presented by the Paso Robles CAB Collective.

Day Two dawned gray and misty in Morro Bay, but it was clear and going to get hot at Windfall Farms in the Templeton/Creston region of Paso Robles. We had a solid breakfast of scones and coffee and vitamins, and headed inland.

The first event of the day was a winemaker panel moderated by writer and bon vivant, Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast, ably assisted by his terminally cute canine, Gus. The panel consisted of a broad range of experience in wine and in and out of Paso:

Gary Eberle, Steve Heimoff
  • Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery - Gary brought the greatest experience to the table, having first come to Paso in 1972. In 1973, he headed his family’s Estrella River Winery and produced 500,000 cases a year at its facility. In 1980, he co-founded the Paso Robles Appellation and in 1983, Gary opened the doors to his own Eberle Winery with the premiere of Eberle’s 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon. Thoughts from Gary: "Cab is gracious in the vineyard." "Put your tomatoes in the good soil and your grapes in the bad." On vintages in Paso: "1979 was the coldest, 1984 was the hottest, 1991 and 2007 the best."
  • Scott Shirley of Justin - Came to Paso from Napa where he worked at Opus One and the Hess Collection. Thoughts about Paso: "Great soil, great climate, great people." On making great wine: "Tannins, fruit, acidity for balance and harmony." He does extensive cooper trials every vintage in order to get the tastes he wants from his barrels. The 2009 Isosceles he presented was not one of his wines, as he is so new to Justin, but suggested it could still be laid down for another 3 - 4 years.
  • Kevin Willenborg of Vina Robles - Another Napa transplant, Kevin also has an impressive CV, including stints at Louis Martini, Rubicon, Firestone, Bridlewood, and a little French place known as Chateau Petrus. He likes Paso because of the high diurnal temperature variances, the very limited soil profile (very alkaline, high pH - good for fruit quality) and the rich, expressive, rounded tannins found in the estate wines at Vina Robles.
  • Steve Peck of J. Lohr - Steve came to J. Lohr after a long tenure at Joseph Phelps in Napa. He got a little geeky, speaking at length about the pyrazines in Cabernet that occur when the fruit is underripe - and often corrected by overripeness, causing flabby wines, but he made a point that the Goddess has often made: Perceptions in the wine world changed [about Paso's ability to create great wine - much discussed recently], not just Paso Robles. He gave an example of a review from the '70s which rated a J. Lohr wine over 90 points and cited descriptors that would get the same wine rated unacceptable in today's world.
  • David Galzignato of Jada - David, with a background at Krug and Duckhorn, holds the distinction of being the first full-time official winemaker at Jada, the smallest producer on the panel. Their first vintage was in 2005, and they make only 4000 cases total annually, using 11 grape varieties. David is changing things up, picking fruit only at night, switching to smaller bins for less inadvertent crushing, and is separating the Bordeaux varietals from the Rhones for a clear distinction. Jada is all estate grown fruit, although only 20 acres are used for Jada's wines, the rest all being sold to other winemakers.
  • Daniel Daou of Daou - Daniel is the one guy on the panel who has not spent his life in the wine business, but he is determined to make up time. He and his brother purchased a beautiful, high elevation property where the temperature variances are not as great as other areas in Paso. He said he came to Paso for the soil and the ability to ripen the tannins with natural acidity. His first vintages were all purchased fruit, but will be estate grown in the future. Being a smart guy, he's engaged wine guru Scott McLeod as a consultant, with great hopes for the future.
The panel started a bit late and ran a bit long, which cut into the Trade/Media tasting, but it was nice to stretch our legs and taste some current releases from the other producers who are part of the CAB Collective. Tasty wines from Adelaida, B&E, Chateau Margene, Daou, Eberle, HammerSky, J. Lohr, Jada, Justin, L'Aventure, Parrish Family, Robert Hall, Sextant, Venteux, and Vina Robles made our palates happy, especially a Cabernet Rose from Justin that was just right for a day that was rapidly warming up. Additional participants in the Grand tasting were Niner, Rangeland (a personal fave), Still Waters Vineyards, and Wild Horse Winery.

At 1 PM, we were encouraged to stop tasting and have lunch, provided by Dining with Andre. We were glad we did! Duck and pork cassoulet, bitter greens salad, eggplant salad, artisan bread, and the best brownies I've had in years, along with the various wines that were poured as winemakers walked around with bottles, made for a delicious ending to the trade portion of the event.

Because the tasting was shortened, the powers that be graciously offered us the chance to continue tasting, but the day was getting very hot - already in the mid-90s - and the Goddess being the delicate flower that she was, we fled the heat and returned to 57 degree Morro Bay after a short stop to pick up our member shipment at Dark Star Cellars.

Congratulations to the Paso Robles CAB Collective for a terrific event. I can't wait for next year! Cheers!
Photos of the winemaker panel from PRCC Facebook page

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