The French region of Bordeaux is the traditional home of meaty, sophisticated, age-worthy reds, whites, and dessert wines. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon thrive. Red Bordeaux can be the epitome of fine wine. The best wines exhibit a wonderful complexity of aromas and flavors, great elegance and refinement and an ability to age gracefully - some for a hundred years.
Paso Robles is a region located in San Luis Obispo County, California. It has approximately 40,000 vineyard acres planted with wine grapes, and is known for Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rhône-style wines. Grapes were first introduced into the Paso Robles area in 1797 by missionaries at Mission San Miguel Arcangel, where more than one thousand vines were planted. Commercial wine growing, however, wasn't started until the 1880s with the establishment of Ascension Winery, known for many years as York Mountain Winery and now as Epoch, the longest continuously operating winery in the county.
Wine #1 - 2017 Château Fontenille Grand Bordeaux, Entre-deux-Mers, 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Sauvignon Gris, 20% Muscadelle, 20% Semillon. 12.5% Alcohol. Château de Fontenille has a long history dating back to the 13th century. A pilgrimage route protected by UNESCO runs through the vineyards to the neighboring Abbey de la Sauve Majeure, whose monks tended the vines for hundreds of years. Current owner Stéphane Defraine bought the estate in 1989. Château de Fontenille is 121 acres; 42 acres are planted with white varieties and 79 acres with red. The soils are a mixture of clay, silica, and gravel. After harvest, the white varieties are macerated on the skins for 10 to 24 hours. The wine is fermented in tank at approximately 60 to 64°F (16 to 18°C) and aged in stainless steel on the fine lees to give extra body and complexity to the blend. 12.5% Alcohol. 9100+ cases produced. The Semillon tones down the acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc, creating a honeyed, stony wine with bright acidity on the finish. Delish!
Wine #2 - 2017 Ancient Peaks Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Margarita Ranch AVA, Paso Robles – 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Aromas of jasmine, guava and grapefruit, with flavors of tropical fruit, honeydew melon, peach and lime peel. Crisp acidity and mineral notes on the finish. The 2017 vintage comes entirely from Block 41 at Margarita Vineyard, where the vines occupy rocky alluvial soils that vary in density, elevation and exposure. Margarita Vineyard stands alone as the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles region, nestled into the rugged Santa Lucia Mountain range just 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the new Santa Margarita Ranch AVA. The mountain peaks act as a gateway for cool marine air, resulting in an extended growing season that yields fruit with uncommon depth and structure. 6 months aging in stainless steel. 12.5% Alcohol. The great fruit on the palate balances the tart acid. Refreshing and tasty.
Wine #3 - 2016 Chateau Grimard AOC Red Bordeaux – A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Chateau Grimard is a small, three generation-old family estate located in the commune of Lugon, just outside the Fronsac region on the right-bank of Bordeaux. The vines have an average age of 25 years. Deep red-purple color, a lush bouquet, and ripe plummy-cassis fruit with good structure. It is a wine with more definition and character than most other petite chateaux, which is in part due to the excellent location of the property, where the Merlot grape thrives in the area’s clay soils. Chateau Grimard is vinified and matured in stainless steel tanks. Tobacco and earth on the nose lead the way to soft red fruit on the palate. Ripe, but not overripe. An easy-to-drink Bordeaux, and a super value.
Wine #4 - 2016 Dracaena Wines Cabernet Franc, Estrella District AVA, Paso Robles – 100% Cabernet Franc. Dracaena is a boutique project of Lori and Mike Budd. The grapes for this wine have been sourced from the Plummer Vineyard, located on the East side of Paso Robles in the Estrella District AVA. Deep ruby in color with aromas of milk chocolate, cherry, and tobacco, with hints of vanilla and white pepper. On the palate, black cherry, tobacco, leather, and cedar, with ripe tannins. Aged 20 months in 20% New French oak. 14.4% Alcohol. 150 cases produced. A delicious New World Cab Franc with enough complexity to satisfy the wine nerds, without scaring off the newbies.
Wine #5 - 2012 Château Rauzan-Ségla, Margaux – 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot. Deep ruby in appearance, aromas of blueberry and vanilla on the nose. On the palate, it is medium bodied with silky tannins. 20% New French Oak. 13.5% Alcohol. 8,000+ cases produced. Ségla is the second wine of the prestigious Château Rauzan Ségla. The history of Château Rauzan-Ségla dates back to 1661 when Pierre de Rauzan acquired the estate. Rauzan-Ségla grew in reputation in a remarkable way and produced some of the most highly rated wines in Bordeaux. They delighted many well-known dignitaries, most notably Thomas Jefferson who came across this wine during his visit to Bordeaux in 1787, subsequently placing an order for several cases in 1790. Some decades later, the historic 1855 Bordeaux Classification ranked Château Rauzan-Ségla as a 2nd Growth. Today, the property is owned by the Wertheimer family of the fashion house Chanel and managed by Nicolas Audebert. Wow. Just wow. If you can get some of this beautiful wine, DO IT.
Wine #6 - 2013 Seven Angels Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles – Gold Medal Winner 2016 San Francisco Int’l Wine Competition. A full-bodied Cab with elegant dark fruit on the nose. Black cherry, licorice with a hint of baking vanilla on the mid-palate, with spicy, black pepper on this well-balanced wine. 21 months in French Oak (50% new). 14.6% Alcohol. 193 cases produced. Disclaimer: I do work in the tasting room at Seven Angels. Having said that, I was surprised at how well this wine showed next to the
Ségla. While definitely a New World version of Cab Sauv (and I suspect with a small percentage of Petite Sirah), this wine has great texture and good complexity. Very tasty.
Wine #7 – 2015 Chateau Roumieu Haut Barsac Sauternes – Roumieu is located on the clay limestone plateau of Haut Barsac. There is a layer of ancient red sand that is so deep, the vines have to go down over 10 meters to find nutrients. The estate has been in the family since eighteenth century, and the current owner/winemaker, Catherine Goyaud, hopes to hand it down to her sons eventually. This is 89% botrytized Semillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc, 1% Muscadelle, late-harvested to emphasize the honeyed sweetness Sauternes is famous for. The wines are fermented in stainless steel and aged in 70% new French oak, for 18 months. 3300+ cases produced. Honestly, you can't do a Bordeaux tasting without a Sauternes! This was the perfect way to end the evening.
Next month: The Rhone Valley vs. Paso Robles!