Uncorked Ventures Blog
How are you doing? Mark Aselstine here with Uncorked Ventures. We just had a couple things to talk about this morning. First is a bottle of wine that's actually showing up in our Explorations Wine Club this month. We'll get you a little bit closer. Great video work by me, I'm sure. It's a Vina Robles Red 4 red wine blend, which is Paso Robles, which I think is interesting kind of on two levels.
First and foremost, it's just a really good wine. And it's about $20 in Price Point. Wine Enthusiast Magazine put it at 90 points and editor's choice. I couldn't agree more. It's an interesting Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache Petite Sirah blend in almost equal parts, more or less, of all four. It's an easy-drinking red. It pairs well with kind of what we're getting into; summer, barbecues, and all that kind of stuff.
And then the winery itself, Vina Robles, is interesting in that it's kind of Old Paso almost. And I feel almost bad saying that because there's just so much hype around Paso Robles right now. And all of it is well deserved, but that's all West Side Paso, which is a little bit cooler, and that's kind of the way the industry's going, is a little bit cooler vineyard sites, a little bit denser, thicker wines.
Warmer sites, they harvest earlier, and sometimes the wines are a little bit thinner because they don't hang quite as long. That's probably apparent with this Red 4. It's a really good offering, and I also think it shows that, you know, people are too quick to discount the areas and the regions of more established sites that are no longer being talked about by the general public, or talked about in wine magazines. Vina Robles does just an excellent job making wines and they make it at a variety of price points. And they're worth a chance to spend some time if you ever find yourself in Paso. And it is East Side Paso, and there's some other good stuff going on over there.
But you know, these days I don't think everybody makes it east of the 101 Freeway, which is just too bad. So in any case, Mark Aselstine on Uncorked Ventures, that's Vina Robles, it's an R-4 red wine blend from Paso Robles, East Side Paso. There's more to see there than you might first think.
Bodega de Edgar
Bodega de Edgar is one of the newer wine projects in Paso Robles and has attracted a significant amount of attention for both the quality of the wine and what it means for the wider wine industry.
Owned by winemaker Edgar Torres who is the assistant winemaker at Barrel 27 by day, Bodega de Edgar focuses on three varietal specific wines and 5 blends. Of interest for our wine club members was his Tempranillo offering, which we featured in our Special Selections Wine Club a few month’s back after discovering it at an industry tasting in San Francisco.
Bodega de Edgar, in my estimation is an important project for a couple of reasons. First, he is helping to push the boundaries of the grapes and plantings in and around Paso Robles. One thing that made Paso become the preeminent wine destination that it is today was it’s willingness back in the 1980’s to buck the trend of plantings and focus on the Rhone varietals of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre which are so well suited for the western section of Paso. I’d love to see the region continue experimenting and Tempranillo especially seems like a grape which could achieve a level of consumer success and critical acceptance in the region. Not many well known wineries try to make it though which severely limits it's plantings and long term prospects. It’s nice to find a startup willing to get behind the grape.
Secondly, you’ve probably noticed the Spanish style winery name (in this case Bodega is being used as the Spainards do, to mean winery and not corner store as we sometimes see in New York City and elsewhere) and wine types being produced, both are a nod to the winemaker’s heritage. Edgar grew up in the coastal town of Cambria and while working as a waiter in Paso Robles, ended up making friends with a winemaker or two (like I said, Paso’s a cool little community of folks) and after some time as a Cellar Rat was promoted to what I consider, one of the best winemaking teams in California at Barrel 27.
That process of interest and then an internship of sorts I believe to be an important one in our industry. Winemaking is certainly as much art as science, feel as it is textbook and I’d hate the industry to go to a model in which a 4 year viticulture degree was the only way to start making wine. Let’s face it, not too many high school senior’s living outside of a few wine capitals, think making wine is a realistic career path. I certainly didn’t. That being said, plenty of people become interested in making wine, or the wine industry at some point of their life, so having a way for them to work professionally in the industry is important. Given some of the conversation and the way that winemakers work together during harvest, I think that learning from an established winemaker makes complete sense.
The focus on newer grapes for the area, an internship route to becoming a winemaker and simply interesting, unique and good wine all make Bodega de Edgar a new Paso Robles wine project that you should check out.
Our wine club members already have.
We originally met Anthony a couple of years back when we happened to have a free afternoon in Paso Robles and through a conversation with the folks over at Barrel 27, it was suggested that Anthony was someone we absolutely had to meet, oh and as is typical in Paso, they called over and made our appointment for us. Paso’s a small winemaking community that really does look out for one and other. While plenty of wine regions talk about their comradely, as an outsider it seems more apparent in Paso than it does elsewhere.
In a lot of ways, Anthony represents exactly what’s so exciting about the whole scene in Paso Robles. First, he’s young. In fact he’s probably the only winemaker (at a major winery at least and Denner is among the 3 most important properties in Paso) I’ve come across clearly younger than I am. Secondly, he was among the first class of winemakers coming out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s viticulture department. For generations UC Davis has in essence, been the only game in town when it comes to educating winemakers in California. Calpoly, given it’s proximity to the outstanding wine regions in both Paso and Santa Barbara stands to push Davis in ways that no other domestic winemaker training program has been able to, to date. Lastly and most importantly, he makes damn good wine.
If you were to ask my wife and I to make a list of winery based wine clubs that we’d gladly join at full retail, we’d probably both create a rather short list. After all, it’s easy to get accustomed to samples and buying at California wholesale or better. In any case, Kinero would be the only winery at we’d both include on our lists that focuses on white wine. That’s partly because the wine is really good, they are undoubtedly complex white wines and it’s also partly because we have both enjoyed our time and conversations with Anthony when we’ve met him in person, even picking up a few cases of wine at one point at his house on a Sunday afternoon as we were driving through Paso Robles. With any small winery, even one coming from an established winemaker, personality counts.
So what makes the wines at Kinero so unique and perhaps more importantly, how do these white wines differ than those Anthony makes at Denner Vineyards?
To start, I find there to be a greater amount of acidity in the Kinero offerings. The Denner white’s really do remind me of what you might associate with a style in Napa, bigger and rounder fruit. Tasting room and critical stars all, to be sure. Kinero offers, in my estimation a more natural expression of the grapes involved especially the Rustler (Roussane) and Alice (Grenache Blanc).
Secondly, you’ll also note that there is a notable difference in price points involved for the wine’s we are talking about. At $22 Alice is among the best deals in California wine and at $30 the Rustler deserves an even greater amount of attention than it already receives in the press.
The Rustler I think also introduces a concept why winemaker personal labels can be an interesting and unique way to access great wine.
Denner Vineyards is located next door to the famed James Berry Vineyard. If you aren’t familiar with James Berry (you should be) Robert Parker once called it one of the 5 Grand Cru vineyards in the state of California. That is, if we borrowed the French naming convention for the quality of a site, the James Berry Vineyard would be among the 5 best in the state and the absolute best in Paso Robles. Owned by Saxum Vineyards, their James Berry vineyard designate wines have consistently achieved critical scores of 95 points and above, often while costing $70 or more per bottle.
With Kinero’s Rustler priced at $30, that’s an incredible opportunity to taste some of the best fruit in California and really the world, at an affordable, reasonable price point.
Oh and if you’re wondering how that relationship between a rival winemaker and a great winery might have been born, the James Berry and Denner Vineyards are separated by what amounts to a golf cart path.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the short intro to Kinero Cellars and Anthony Yount. He is a winemaker and a wine label worth checking out the next time you’re looking for an interesting, unique and simply good white wine.
What's New in Paso Robles
So, we’ve written about a few wineries in Paso Robles already but over the past few weeks and months a few interesting wineries have been introduced to us. We thought our readers and eventually our customers, would enjoy these wines as we all continue to search for more great wine. Over the remainder of the week, we’ll be featuring three wineries from Paso that you should probably know, for a variety of reasons.
The wineries of Paso Robles are crafting incredible wines that are priced fairly for the quality and the area still offers a unique and a tasting atmosphere where the average consumer can enjoy themselves at a variety of vineyards. Paso has been called everything from the “Next Napa” to “Like visiting Napa in the 1970’s” while I don’t want to comment on either of those statements, I know that it does seem that the cheaper land prices and great sense of working together in Paso pervades the wine industry and leads to really, really good wine especially given the price points involved.
In any case, there’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on in Paso from their continued focus on Rhone varietals, to increasingly high quality Cabernet Sauvignon and their continued, if sometimes futile search for vineyard sites cool enough for Pinot Noir. Perhaps the most interesting group of wines being produced in Paso are white wines which are made from Rhone’s, but are dense and interesting enough to make even the most ardent “I don’t drink white’s” guy stand up and take notice.
I will freely admit that we love Paso Robles and the wines that are being produced there. It’s been called such romantic terms as “The Next Napa” and “Like visiting Napa in the 70’s” which I’m not sure I agree with simply because there is a real discernable start up culture which is apparent in the Paso Robles wine industry.
That start up culture has led Paso Robles to be a go to spot of sorts for us at Uncorked Ventures, with some of our favorite wineries being found there from Alta Colina, Denner, Herman Story, Kinero and many, many others.
Ok, since we said this was going to be about Stanford, here we go: You might be wondering about the winery name, it’s a take, or a take off on the nickname for Stanford (campus is simply referred to as the farm) and The Farm Winery is owned and operated by two Stanford MBA graduates.
The Farm Winery is a partnership between two couples, one from South America and one from California, that’s a setup that we can appreciate having family of our own in South America as well. Jim and Azmina Madsen took the pilgrimage to Napa Valley (anyone who lives in the Bay Area for any length of time, does the same) with friends from their Stanford MBA program, Santiago and Mercedes Achaval. If that Achaval name sounds familiar it should, it was during this trip to Napa Valley that Santiago decided to become a winemaker and eventually a winery carrying his name, Achaval-Ferrer would grow to become perhaps the most famous winery in South America.
Eventually fate and friendship brought the friends back together with the Madsen’s buying a piece of property in Paso Robles with the intention of starting a new winery. Given their friendship, I am willing to guess that their list of possible winemakers would be a short one. Located on the west side of Paso Robles, this is one of the more unique wine growing regions in the world for the complexity and levity it can add to wines. While it’s the quality of wines that makes us want to share these wines with our customers, but additionally, we thought that The Farm Winery was important for the simple reason that winemaker here, is among the most famous in the world. Achaval spends his days making wine in South America, so harvest and most of the hands on winemaking work takes place in the opposite season (harvest is in April instead of October allowing a winemaker to be hands on in both places). To us, that was an important point and a setup that we’re likely to see long into the future.
For the past few decades we’ve been firmly into the realm of the superstar consulting winemaker. Many wine drinkers recognize the name Michele Rolland, but don’t realize how busy the man truly is. A few years ago we realized he consulting on close to 30 wines in Napa alone, while making wine for his namesake winery in France during the same time periods.
Having famous winemakers from the Southern Hemisphere come to America isn’t new, but having them come while keeping the wineries which made them famous is. Frankly, it’s a better setup for a long term commitment than jet setting and not being able to be actively involved in some of the first decisions that have to be made during harvest and beyond.
Lastly, it is important to mention that The Farm Winery is crafting a range of wines that include the usual Westside Paso Robles standout Rhone varietals, but also a selection of Cabernet Sauvignon.
We have a great deal of respect for Steve Heimoff from Wine Enthusiast, so we’ll simply allow him to sell the quality of Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvingon:
“I’ve been saying for years that it was only a matter of time before this happened. No disrespect to Napa, but it never made much sense to me that one region, and one only, could excel at a particular varietal, in this case Cabernet Sauvignon. The temperature in the cooler parts of Paso Robles–notably those affected by the Templeton Gap, which sucks in maritime air from the Cambria coast–is ideal for ripening the grapes. Not all areas are exposed to the westerly breezes; the topography of these hills is complicated. But on the hottest days, when it’s well above 100 in Paso Robles town and to the east, it’s dependably cooler throughout the hills, and the higher the elevation, the more the temperature drops”
Lastly, we have a set of tasting notes available for the Touchy Feely Grenach/Syrah blend that we shipped a couple of months back:
Tasting Notes "Touchy-Feely" Rhone Varietal Red 2009: The Touch-Feely is a Rhone blend of 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah. It boasts very ripe aromas of huckleberry and plum with an earth/stem component. Full and lush on the palate, it is nicely structured and flavorful with lot of ripe plum fruit with hint of loam and cocoa powder. Aged in new French oak for 24 months, it is still young with firm ripe tannins, lots of alcohol with light bitterness (15% alc) and a persistent finish. A delicious wine that could use an additional 12 months of bottle aging.
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