So it's a little odd to hear so many wine pundits touting the wonders of Paso Cabernets as if the region didn't exist before last year when Wine Enthusiast named it Region of the Year. Cabernet is what put Paso on the map, with Rhones and Zinfandel coming close on its heels. Now, as up-and-coming winemakers learn more about Paso and its many microclimates and terroir, more well-made, premium wines are evolving.
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." To this end, they have provided extensive access to the winemakers of the member wineries using barrel, current release and rare and reserve tastings along with special lunches and dinners designed to show the versatility of Paso Cabs.
Wednesday, we attended the En Primeur tasting at the beautiful Paso Robles Inn ballroom with barrel tastings from the 28 member wineries' as-yet-unreleased 2013 vintage, followed by the current release tasting, followed by dinner at Le Vigne Winery with winemaker Michael Barreto.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the term "En Primeur", it means that you're tasting young wines, still in barrel, not yet bottled, and not to be released for up to 2 or more years. As you can imagine, tasting baby Cabernets, full of big fruit and even bigger tannins, takes a toll on one's palate even if you swirl, sniff, sip, and spit as I do. It was wonderful to chat with the winemakers about their vision of what the wines will be in another 18 to 24 months in barrel, but by the time we were treated to the current releases, we were already tired and wished that the barrel samples and current releases could have been tasted side-by-side. Still, it was good to see how the 2010s and 2011s had matured, even though most of them could stay in the bottle for another 5 - 10 years and be even better.
As the current release tasting came to an end, we washed our purple hands (your hands get purple from the wine splashed and dripped into and around the wine glasses), tried to clear some of the purple/black from our teeth (your teeth get purple from the deep, dark wine), and headed over to long-time favorite Le Vigne Winery for dinner. Winemaker Michael Barreto told us how he came to Paso and Le Vigne as we eagerly dove into the delicious dinner prepared by his wife, Joey.
There was Flan! and tiny cups of espresso to wake us up for the drive back to the hotel.
And those were just the barrel tastings!
We fell into bed with the knowledge that Day 2 would provide even more opportunities to expand our palates - and our waistlines.
Stay tuned for Day 2 when we attend a vintner panel discussion, have lunch at Pomar Junction Winery, indulge in a Library/Rare and Reserve tasting at the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom, and finish up with a one-of-a-kind barbeque at JUSTIN. Cheers!