A Tasting Tour of Paso Robles

Touring Paso Robles Via Wine
I recently received a nice set of wines from Paso Robles Wine Country, highlighting the variety of wines being produced in the region. It’s been a few years since I’ve visited, so I was happy to get reacquainted Paso Robles through the wines!

Disclosure: I received these wines as samples. No other compensation was provided, all opinions expressed are mine.

Paso Robles wine map courtesy of https://pasowine.com/

Where’s Paso Robles?
Fly to San Francisco, pick up your rental car and head south. Paso Robles wine country is about a 3 hour drive  on US Highway 101. Paso Robles is know for warm, dry days and cool nights. A wide variety of grapes are grown, historically, Zinfandel was key. Then Cabernet Sauvignon came. More recently, the area has been recognized as a great place for Southern Rhone grapes. Of course, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon still abound. As usual, I wanted to try the wines with food, so I opened several while I was smoking some short ribs on a cold winter’s afternoon.

Our Tasting Tour
The PR agency suggested an A to Z tour of the wines, who am I to argue? Here we go!

A: Barr Estate Albariño 2016 — You can find the Barr Estate website here for more information. Our grapes are grown in the Geneseo District located in the heart of the Paso Robles AVA. The vineyard is an ancient, alluvial basin with deposits of clay, sandy loam and gravel as are most areas of Albariño’s native home, Spain’s Rías Baixas. Ambient temperatures are similar to its Condado do Tea sub-region which produces a less fruit-driven and more earthy style of Albariño.” — Greg Barr, Owner

Barr Estate Winery Albariño Paso Robles 2016 13.2% abv ($17 SRP or online here)
Eye: Clear, pale yellow with a touch of green.
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Fresh, ripe cantaloupe, ripe nectarine. Intense ripe fruit, with a bit of chalk underneath.
Mouth: Dry, medium body. Medium+ texture. Medium alcohol. Flavors are more lean, lemons, chalk, a bit of saline character. Medium+ length finish with a touch of bitterness in the finish. A nice representation of Albarino!

C: Niner Wine Estates Cabernet Franc 2014 — You can find the Niner Wine Estates website here for more information. In the cool Region II sub-AVA of Willow Creek, there’s just enough warmth for Cabernet Franc to shed its harsh green bell pepper character and coarse tannin, and allow the father of Cabernet Sauvignon to shine.” — Patrick Muran, Winemaker 

Niner Wine Estates Reserve Cabernet Franc Paso Robles 2014 14.5%abv ($65 SRP)
Eye: Clear, deep ruby with a purple rim
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Red fruit – cranberries and blue fruit – ripe blueberries. Cocoa, vanilla, a touch of smoke. A bit of fresh garden herbs – rosemary
Mouth: Dry, full body. Rich texture and abundant fruit. Medium acidity, Medium+ tannins. Flavors of dark fruits, raisins, graphite. Medium length finish. It’s a nice international style example of Cabernet Franc. Personally, I miss the touch of green bell pepper, but that’s not everyone’s cup of tea!

G: McPrice Myers Grenache Sel de la Terre 2015  — You can find the McPrice Myers website here for more information. Grenache does well (in Paso) primarily due to our climate.  The warm days and cool nights promote acid retention. Sere de la Terre’s vineyards’ soils showcase higher pH levels that inversely translate into lower pH grapes (i.e. freshness). Adelaida, Willow Creek, and the rolling hills of westside Paso Robles allow us to have some cooler north and east facing exposures, also promoting acid retention and freshness.” — McPrice Myers, Owner & Winemaker 

McPrice Myers “Sel de la Terre” Paso Robles Grenache 2015 15.2% abv ($45 SRP or online here)
Eye: Slight haze, medium intensity ruby with ruby stained legs.
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Red fruit with cinnamon, pepper and a touch of eucalyptus. A bit of heat noticeable on the nose.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity flavor. Medium acidity, medium+ tannins. Surprisingly tannic for Grenache. Red fruit – strawberry pie filling with cinnamon. Full body with high alcohol. It’s a big, tannic wine with full fruit flavors, and some noticeable oak. Wine has held up very nicely on days two and three.  It has good structure and would be fine to hold for several years, although it’s enjoyable now for the international style palate.

M: Summerwood Marsanne Alta Colina 2016  — You can find the Summerwood website here for more information. “Marsanne grows particularly well on the westside of Paso Robles because it benefits from the daytime heat as well as cool evening temperature provided by the Templeton Gap. We experience a nice coastal influence most nights, often times accompanied by fog, which prevents the grape from over-ripening.” — Mauricio Marchant, Winemaker 

Summerwood Marsanne Alta Colina Vineyard Paso Robles 2016 15%abv ($35 SRP or online here)
Eye: Clear, deep lemon color. Slowly forms legs
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Honey, white flowers, tangerine, beeswax.
Mouth: Dry, full body, mouth coating rich texture. Flavors of beeswax, dried apricots, almonds complete with a touch of bitterness in the finish. Long finish, with lingering flavor of dried apricots.

The Marsanne was my overall winner with the braised short ribs. Somehow, the braising process fit the rich white more than the rich, fruity reds. Similar to the Rhone Valley, the Paso Robles climate seems to suit Marsanne very well.

S: Clesi Wines Sangiovese 2015 — You can find the Clesi Wines website here for more information.“ New Sangiovese clones came to the US in the late 1990’s introducing bolder styles of the variety balanced with bright elegance which are enhanced by Paso Robles’ warm days and cool evenings.” — Adrienne Ferrara, Owner 

Clesi Sangiovese Paso Robles 2015 14.5% abv ($36 SRP or online here)
Eye: Clear, medium ruby with a ruby edge. Very lightly stained legs
Nose: Clean, medium+ intensity. Rich impression with ripe cherries, tomato leaf, and a touch of caramel.
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity. Rich texture, full body with medium acidity and medium+ tannins. Warm, ripe cherry pie filling with a bit of graphite and woody impression. Quite different from an old world impression of Sangiovese, this one offers warm ripe fruit with just a touch of earthy character.

Z: Lone Madrone Zinfandel 2015 (SRP $45) — You can find the Lone Madrone website here for more information. Why Zinfandel? Because it reflects the people who settle here, a little uneven, quite juicy, a bit spicy, rich in character, a touch alcoholic and ready to lead the charge. Oh and it fits the climate and soil quite nicely.” — Neil Collins, Winemaker  

Lone Madrone “Dry Farmed Bailey Ranch Vineyard” Zinfandel 2015 Paso Robles Adelaida District 15% ($45 SRP or online here)
Eye: Slightly hazy, deep intensity ruby with a garnet rim. Lightly stained legs
Nose: Clean, medium intensity. Blueberries, caramel, vanilla, black pepper
Mouth: Dry, medium+ intensity. Medium acidity, medium- tannins. Intense sweet red fruit-strawberries with ripe blueberries. Fruits are ripe but nice and fresh. Baking spices – vanilla, caramel, pecans.

Slow Smoked Short Ribs in a Braising Sauce
I finished up a taste test of 4 of the wines (all I could handle at once!) over a dinner of smoked then braised short ribs. All the wines were nice with the meal; for my taste, the Summerwood Marsanne was just right. At home in the Southern Rhone, Marsanne seems well suited to Paso Robles and a rich white wine seemed perfect with the ribs on a cold evening. You might have a different favorite, you’ll just have to give them all a try!



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