13 No.1 - May
2 of 2 - Journal and tasting notes from visits to several
California wineries and vineyards.
The final destination of the trip was the 2005
Hospice du Rhône, (Friday and Saturday May 13th
and 14th in Paso Robles), and I'd left a few days early to
make some winery visits along the way.
A special thanks to Stephan Asseo, from L'Aventure.
In one of the busiest months of the year for Paso Robles
vintners (PR Wine Festival, Hospice du Rhône), Stephan
made the time to meet with us, bottling up several barrel
samples just prior to our arrival. And, thanks to Larry
Roberts of Caernarvon Cellars for arranging a one-stop tasting
experience for us to visit with several of Paso's smaller
producers at Paso Robles Wine Services. Thanks as well to
Jason Haas of Tablas Creek for his tireless efforts in tasting
us through many, many wines. Finally, thanks to Mat Garretson
for the amazing stamina to 'keep on trucking' throughout
the weekend by inviting people to stop by his winery for
an Open House - after what has to have been an exhausting
week beforehand. Rumor had it that he'd been up for the
last 24+ hours.
though barrel tasting is one of the most instructive ways
to sample wine, it is also something that causes more than
a little angst among winemakers. The fact is that the wines
being sampled from barrel haven't finished their infancy yet
- they are still going through growth and development in the
barrel, and haven't reached the point of bottling. Therefore,
winemakers are often reluctant to expose their barrel samples
to the public - concerned the wines may be misjudged or unappreciated
by tasters during this growth stage. Since
the tasting notes in this report contain many barrel samples,
please note that my impressions relate only to the wine at
its current stage of development.
Luis Obispo County
May 12, 2005 - Paso Robles
always taken a mini-Paso tour (with a little San Luis Obispo Co.
thrown in) on the Thursday before HdR, and this year would be no
exception - though what had become an annual sojourn to Alban Vnyds
was unfortunately going to be out of the picture. They were apparently
going to be heavy into bottling, plus our contact for all of these
years (Paul Wilkins) had departed to do his own consulting. Nevertheless,
Bob Summers had organized a tour-de-force day for us, which
was to begin with a stop at L'Aventure to visit with owner/winemaker
Stephan Asseo, followed by a multi-vintner tasting at Paso Robles
Wine Services, and finally a tour/tasting at Tablas Creek, with
of us followed each other caravan-style out of town and over to
which is tucked into the back country off Hwy 46 on the westside
of town. Once in past the gate, we parked over near the winery and
everybody got out to stretch and take a few pictures.
last time I'd visited here was two years ago (5/03
visit). I already knew the wines were starting to make a name
for themselves, but Stephan Asseo had some long range plans, so
I was interested to see if there had been any changes to the vineyard
plantings. Shortly after we arrived, Stephan stepped out of the
winery to meet us and offer a brief description of the property.
from Bordeaux in 1998, Stephan Asseo began looking in Paso for a
place to start anew with his family. He found his L'Aventure
in the last parcel he visited. Using
a backhoe to examine the limestone soil composition, he confirmed
that this was indeed the place he wanted. Despite the absence of
vines, and only a house on the property, after Stephan saw the soil,
he quickly visualized the potential for wine grapes.
after purchasing this parcel on Live Oak Road, Stephan planted vines
- lots of vines. In fact, he put in about 2,100 vines per acre -
nearly three times more density than normal. He tells us today that
he's calculated that one vine is roughly equivalent to one bottle
of wine, "and that's not B.S." he says assuredly. Intent
on striking a balance between ripeness and brix, Stephan planted
most of the vines with a north-south facing, though the Cabernet
is on the steep hillsides with southwest facing rows, and other
varieties facing to the east in order to get what he felt would
be more "elegant" qualities, in this 'Bordeaux meets the
L'Aventure Zinfandel - Paso Robles. Sourced from a Westside
vnyd about a mile away. Big and rich, ripe - but not over
the top. Lots of boysenberry and a dollop of raspberry. Excellent
balance and finish. 100% new oak, but wears it well.
L'Aventure Syrah - Estate. Made up of 20% Estate fruit.
Lots of dark berry, very young in mouthfeeel, obvious oak,
but handles it very well, very chewy and slightly jammy, perfect
ripeness and very nice balance, with long tasty finish.
L'Aventure Optimus - Estate. Fascinating nose of
red and black fruit, full bodied, lightly chewy, with a nicegrilled
toast quality. 50% Syrah, 46% Cab, 4% Zin (future bottlings
will use Petite Verdot instead of Zin).
L'Aventure Optimus - Estate. Gorgeous nose of espresso-infused
dark fruit, lots of presence on the palate, and delicious
L'Aventure Syrah - Rim Rock Vnyd, Paso Robles. Here was
a treat,and will just be available via mailing list. This
fruit was grown on re-grafted stock in a vnyd far out toward
Cambria (near the ocean), not harvested on Nov 25th! This
was a dead ringer for an upscale Cote Rotie. 14.5% alcohol.
L'Aventure Cote D'Cote - Estate. This blend varies
with each vintage (i.e. '02 was 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah).
The '03 was 1/3 each Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. Nose is redolent
with blackberry compote and chocolate, full rich and smooth
on the palate, with somethign like a 2 minute finish. It's
not shy either, at 16.9% alcohol. But I'm telling you, you'd
never know it -- well, maybe after a couple of glasses you
L'Aventure Estate Cuvee - Estate. 66% Cab, 28%
Syrah, and 6% Petite Verdot. The hint of carmelized brown
sugar brings out the cassis in this otherwise blackberry-filled
nose. Beautifully ripened fruit, rich and chewy mouthfeel,
and huge long finish.
L'Aventure Syrah - Estate. Very nice red and black fruit
in the nose, and terrific balance of flavors and textures.
(Stephan suggested that we just take this bottle with us,
as it was sure to be eclipsed by the previous barrel samples.
But I prevailed, explaining we were up to it. It got lost.
years later, and Stephan now has about 58 acres planted with about
40% Cabernet, 30% Syrah, and 15% each Mourvedre and Petite Verdot,
as well as a very small amount (1 acre) of Grenache. The experiment
with Viognier is still that - an experient. From the outset, Stephan
Asseo's goal has been to be 100% Estate-grown fruit, figuring this
would take from 6-7 years to achieve.
Well, he appears to be on target, and expect to reach that
point by 2007. In further refining the estate wine program, Stephan
doesn't intend to bottle any vineyard designations, and will ultimately
be abandoning both Chardonnay and Zinfandel which was supplied from
contract sources. Not producing a Zin is tantamount to heresy in
these parts, but considering his goals, Zin just didn't fit in.
So, the last L'Aventure Zinfandel will be the '02, and it's a very
uses only new oak for the L'Aventure label (80% of his 1-yr old
barrels are sold off - 20% are kept for the Stephan Ridge line).
He'd recently racked all of his wines (moving them from one barrel
to another in order to clarify the wine). Since this process can
sometimes affect a wine's profile, Stephan had bottled some barrel
samples for us just prior to racking, so that the racking wouldn't
adversely influence our palates (thanks, Stephan). Also, because
Stephan was due to have another group in right after use, we'd brought
our own stemware to use for the tasting.
10-12 of us formed a large semi-circle in the barrel room, and Stephan
described each wine as he poured an ounce or two into each of our
glasses. We were filled with questions - everything from his frequent
use of new oak, to his pairing of Syrah with Cabernet as a final
blend. It's always instructive to taste wines with the winemaker.
But, when you have nearly a dozen people asking winemaking questions,
I would imagine it might be a bit daunting. Not so with Stephan,
however. He seemed quite at ease with our group, and though he feigned
a bit of nervousness initially, he had plenty of one-liners - made
even more delightful by his French accent. In fact, the accent probably
helped mask an expletive or two - barely (wink).
had a great time, and had even brought along a bottle of '00 L'
Aventure Syrah to share with Stephan and the others - though he
cautioned us not to expect much, since we'd already "destroyed"
our palates with the barrel samples. He was semi-serious - just
conveying to us what many of us already knew. But the older Syrah
smelled great, and those tastebuds that hadn't already been fried,
loved it! Soon, his next appointment arrived, which signaled the
time to move on with our day, and let Stephan continue with his
day as well.
Robles Wine Services
Anglim Roussanne - Fralich, Paso Robles. Honeyed nose
and lightly waxy mouthfeel. Vnyd had been re-grafted from
Syrah. Very nice!
Anglim Viognier - Bien Nacido, SBC. Lovely nose of pineapple
and floral scents. Rich, yet very balanced mouthfeel, with
just the right amount of weight.
Anglim Viognier - Fralich. More mineral-scented in th
enose, with a crisper mouthfeel and body than the B/N version.
Anglim Rose of Syrah - Paso Robles. Tons of fruit,
beautiful deep crimson color, juicy and slightly gripping
on the finish.
Anglim Syrah - Vista Creek, Paso Robles. Lots of raspberry
and dark cherry fruit, slightly gripping back end. Surprisingly
moderate extraction and balanced mouthfeel, considering this
was from an eastside vnyd. Very nice, and a sample of what
can be done well from this side of town.
Anglim Syrah - Fralich. Lots of blackberry, with a touch
of tar and mineral in the nose. Lively on the palate, lots
of black fruit and tasty finish.
Anglim Syrah - French Camp, Paso Robles. Interesting differences
in this slightly sweeter and more plush wine than the Fralich.
Like opposite sides of the same coin.
Anglim Two Angels Syrah - Paso Robles. Very nice
blend of vineyards, especially with 2% Roussanne added, which
seemed to punch up the aromatics.
Fralich Viognier - Estate. Pretty nose of flowers and
fruit. Seemingly a little sweeter than the Anglim version,
showing a touch of heat on a very nice finish.
Fralich Viognier - Estate. Very nice balance and flavor.
As with the '03, a perceptible light sweetness noted on the
Fralich White Wine - Estate. Made of 89% Verdhello,
and semmingly very Chardonnnay-like. Bit of waxy quality to
the mouthfeel, so this was something of a Roussanne meets
Chardonnay - well, for me, anyway.
Fralich Claret of Syrah - Estate. Somewhat leesy
nose of red and black fruit. Fleshy mouthfeel, good balance
Silver Stone Sauvignon Blanc - Arroyo Seco. Light grass
scent to the otherwise citrus nose and mouth. nice balance
Silver Stone Chardonnay - Arroyo Seco. Nice rich, slightly
sweet nose. Good body and balance, lightly sweet finish.
Silver Stone Pinot Noir - Bien Nacido/SLO. Nice red and
black cherry, touch of cola and earth. Nice mouthfeel, balance,
Silver Stone Syrah - Hall Ranch. Rich and smoky sweet
in nose and mouth. Very tasty, nice balance and finish.
Silver Stone Syrah - Paso Robles. More to the licorice
and tar than the Hall Ranch version. less sweet throughout.
Silver Stone Syrah - Monterey Co. Fascinating floral/alflafa
scent in the nose. slightly sweet mouthfeel, bit grippy on
the finish. An interesting wine to sit with for awhile.
Caernarvon Cuvee Frank Zinfandel - Paso Robles.
Nose of boysenberry pie, with a dollop of custardy-something.
Caernarvon Cuvee Frank Zinfandel - Paso Robles.
More to the blackberry spice side of Zin, with very nice balance
and flaovr. Primative clone, and very nice indeed.
Caernarvon Syrah - Blue Oaks. Lightly sweet and
smoky in the nose, with lots of blackberry fruit, and a long
Caernarvon Syrah - Eagle Point. Whoa! Gorgeous
fruit, thick and chewy mouthfeel, massive structure, terrific
Caernarvon Syrah - Arroyo Seco. Interesting toasted
herb quality, with sage and even a little rhubarb in the nose.
Full mouthfeel, good balance and finish.
drove back through Paso and over to Paso Robles Wine Services, a
large custom crush facility on the southeast side of town. Larry
Roberts of Caernarvon Cellars had suggested that our group stop
by before HdR, and he'd been able to put together a group of local
winemakers who also use the facility to pour their wines for us.
I'd visited here before, and had been impressed with several of
the wineries, and was looking forward to the return.
and chairs had been setup at the back of the facility, with Steve
Anglim, Harry Fralich, Debra Kleck, and Larry Roberts doing the
pouring of their respective labels. We had quite a variety of wine
and wine styles represented, and this was a unique opportunity to
taste some of the smaller Paso producers. I'd met most of the winemakers
and proprietors before, so it was see everybody again.
Bob Summers had previously taken sandwich orders from folks, and
picked up them up at Dining with Andre, a small bakery in
town, so we were all set for lunch after we'd finished with the
Anglim produces vineyard-designate Rhône wines using fruit
from such growers as Fralich Vineyard and French Camp Vineyard in
Paso Robles, and Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria. I'd first
met Steve last year, when I went up to attend the annual Paso Robles
Wine University, a two-day "introductory course" in wine
growing and wine making, hosted by the PR Vintner's Assn. His wines
were impressive - very well balanced, and not at all oversized.
uses custom small production techniques where the grapes are gently
crushed to retain 50 to 70% whole berries, and then transferred
to small open-top fermenters where they're cold soaked for 1 to
4 days, and inoculated with various yeast cultures. He punches down
three to five times a day by hand, generally fermenting to dryness.
Once fermentation is complete, he moves the wine directly into varying
percentages of new French oak barrels for aging, keeping press lots
separate until final blending. He racks the wine as little as needed
in the intervening 12 to 18 months.
Anglim white wines are also whole cluster pressed. The juice is
chilled to a fermentation temperature of 50ºF, allowed to settle,
and then transferred to a combination of tanks and French oak cooperage
for fermentation. When dry, the wines are aged on the lees for 4
to 6 months to develop complexity.Production at Anglim is 2,000
to 3,000 cases per year.
still recall the first time I met Harry Fralich. It was HdR in '03,
and I was walking down one of the aisles at the Grand Tasting scouting
for untapped wealth - some newer wineries that were still under
the critic's radar, when I heard someone say, "hey, come on
over here and taste our wine. We won't bite. Hey, com'n, give our
wines a try," he challenged. Being hailed over to a table isn't
a real common occurrence at tastings - well, unless they're drinking
more wine behind the counter, than in front of it. Either I couldn't
resist - or I couldn't get away, but I was drawn to the couple at
the table. Introductions revealed that they were Harry and Ruth
Fralich, local vineyard owners seemingly having the time of their
lives just mixing it up with all these Rhône-loving people.
I'm not sure if they weren't getting enough action at their table,
or if they just loved talking to people, but they were both obviously
gregarious, and this was certainly a prime setting. We hit it off
immediately, and Harry insisted that I pay a visit to the vineyard
sometime soon to see what he'd accomplished. Well, I haven't found
the time to get to his vineyard as yet, but it was really nice to
run into him again.
and Ruth Fralich purchased a 20 acre property on the east side of
Templeton in 1980, in an area Harry refers to as the "Templeton
Bench." Harry started his vineyard in 1989, but still continued
to work his "day job," at Hughes Aircraft in Los Angeles,
until 1993. But, the year before he left Hughes, he noticed the
stirrings of a Rhône revolution, both locally and throughout
the world. Harry decided to concentrate on Rhône
varieties and set his sights on working with winemakers and wineries
of a similar mind - people that would put the same effort into crafting
wines that he would into growing grapes.
he's now making about 1,000 cases of wine under his own label, Harry
intends to keep the project small and will continue to sell about
80% of his fruit to other wineries.
and Debra Kleck are the people behind Silve Stone Wines, and its
initial vintage of 1997. Dan Kleck, has been making wine for the
past 26 years, beginning his career in the mid-1970s, by focusing
on the Long Island region in New York, where he was involved with
Chardonnays, Merlots and other varietals at wineries such as Hargrave
Vineyard, Bidwell Vineyards and Palmer Vineyards.
1998, the couple migrated west to California so Dan could work with
Jess Jackson, managing wine production at K-Js largest facility
in Monterey, and working with fruit from properties stretching throughout
the Central Coast. The focus at K-J Monterey was Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay, and Dan was involved in the creation of the initial
vintages of these varietals under the Great Estates label. Later,
he went on to create the Carmel Road wine project, under the Artisans
& Estates umbrella.
left K-J in 2002 to continue work on his own wine labels, Red Horse
Ranch and Silver Stone. Drawing on the experience gained with k-J,
Dan sources fruit from all over the state for the Silver Stone label,
while the Red Horse Ranch will concentrate on the Central Coast,
currently Zinfandel from Paso Robles. He also consults with several
vineyard owners, and assists in establishing new micro-wineries
on the Central Coast. He likes working with up-and-coming vineyard
properties: "working with small growers tending well-placed
varietals, and with exceptional fruit and location potential to
develop artisan wine projects," Dan says.
met Dan, along with Steve Anglim during the same visit last year.
Dan had invited us over to his house to try both he and Steve's
wines, and I admired a painting on the wall. Hey, that looks familiar,
I said. Oh, I painted that, Dan said, as it finally dawned on me
where I'd seen a similar one before. Augie Hug has one or more hanging
at his cooperative tasting room in Paso, Coastal
known as "Dr. Fermento" (after a wine column he wrote
for a weekly paper in San Luis Obispo), former home winemaker Larry
Roberts is now in the thick of it. He began making wine as an amateur
in 1980, with 200 lbs. of Paso Robles Zinfandel grapes and produced
"home wine" until 1997, winning "Best of" awards
at the Mid State Fair and Golds at the California State Fair. Emboldened,
he began making commercial wine in 1996 for the new Rio Seco label,
working three vintages and releasing their first three wines, including
a very well received 1996 "Cherry Vineyard" Zinfandel.
In 1998, he began making wine for Penman Springs Vineyard, another
eastside Paso grower, producing multiple varieties for their label
and his own startup label, Caernarvon Cellars (first releases
the 2001 vintage Larry has added Paso's Vista del Rey Vineyards
to his list of clients, and he's also doing some graphic design
work for Central Coast wineries, including label design. Judging
from what I tasted of his Syrahs, he's going to see an increased
demand for his services - as well as his wine. Until his website
is up, you can contact Larry at Lrob@charter.net.
could have easily stayed here for the rest of the day, but we had
an appointment with Jason Haas at Tablas Creek for a mini-tour and
maxi-tasting, and we sure didn't want to miss that.
Tablas Creek Côte de Tablas Blanc - Estate. Definitely
Viognier driven, with lots of floral accents to the lightly
crisp citrus fruit. Stainless steel fermented. 45% Viognier,
32% Marsanne, 16% Grenache Blanc , 7% Roussanne.
Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc - Estate. Much richer in mouthfeel
than the Côte, with a nice smooth slightly waxy mouthfeel,
and drawn-out finish. 68% Roussanne, 27% Grenache Blanc, 5%
Tablas Creek Roussanne - Estate. Slightly sweet nose of
lemon-lime and floral scents. Very nice balance, with crisp
flavors and a very long finish.
Tablas Creek Rosé - Estate. The mostly Mourvedre
blend comes through in mouthfeel more than the nose, with
a nice meaty texture and taste, and almost chewy finish. Bottled
in Stelvin screw caps. 62% Mourvèdre, 28% Grenache
Noir, 10% Counoise.
Tablas Creek Côte de Tablas - Estate. Lovely blend
of 45% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre, 12% Counoise makes
this smooth, yet very intricate in flavors on the palate.
Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel - Estate. Bit of 'French
Stink' (kind of earthy/barnyard quality) noted in the nose.
Big and rich, very meaty in mouthfeel, with a long smooth
finish. 57% Mourvedre, 27% Syrah, 10% Grenache, 6% Counoise.
Tablas Creek Las Tablas - Glenrose Vnyd. Beautiful
nose of tar and herbs, slightly soft at mid-palate and through
the otherwise long finish. Made from Tables clones grown under
their regimen at the nearby Glenrose Vnyd (purpose= same growing
techniques - different soils). 35% Syrah, 29% Mourvedre, 26%
Grenache, 10% Counoise.
Tablas Creek Vermentino - Estate. (Also known as Rolle)
Very citrusy and quite crisp in acids, seemingly lighter in
fruit - but also imbued with more pepper and spice.
Tablas Creek Grenache Blanc - Estate. Lemon-lime aromas
and flavors, with just a touch of sweetness, good acids, and
rich fruit. This variety of white has become all the rage
of late. It's crisp and delicious, and seemingly goes with
Tablas Creek Bergeron - Estate. Basically Roussanne, specially
bottled as it is might be in the Savoie region of France.
Lightly rich with a light citrusy quality. Certainly more
under-fruited than what most of us expect from Roussanne,
this nonetheless is very enjoyable.
Tablas Creek Mouvèdre - Estate. Interesting leather
and wild game quality in the nose, along with dark cherry
and a touch of smoke. Not nearly as gamey in flavor, with
a nice smooth mouthfeel and long finish. Neutral oak used
Tablas Creek Syrah - Estate. Nice dark fruit, slightly
brooding in aroma. Very good balance; not at all overly extracted,
with nice flavor profile and finish.
Tablas Creek Panopoly - Estate. Dense, yet bright
in aromas, with both red and black fruit, fabulous balance,
and a very nice hint of bittersweet chocolate on the long
finish. 80% Mourvedre, 13% Grenache, 7% Syrah
Tablas Creek Tannat - Estate. Very Petite Sirah-like in
nose, though not quite as impenetrable, and a bit more looser
in structure. The 16% Cab may have imparted just a touch of
sweet prune, but without tasting 100% Tannat - it's difficult
to tell. 84% Tannat, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tablas Creek Vin de Paille - Estate. Made in
the traditional method of drying the grapes on straw mats.
Nice fruit, very good balance - not overly rich, but very
nice. 50% Viognier, 25% Grenache Blanc, 25% Marsanne
back through town, we headed out to Paso's westside. When we arrived,
cars filled the small parking lot, and spilled out onto the side
road. What the heck was going on, I wondered. Turned out there was
one other tour going on, and more than a few guests in the tasting
room area. No matter, we found Jason and followed him outside to
start our tour.
Haas describes the soil at Tablas Creek
the back of the parking lot, Tablas Creek has conveniently left
several "windows," or openings built right into the retaining
wall. These work perfectly, allowing visitors to see a cross-section
of the calcareous soil structure (see
photo), unique to this westside area of Paso.
gave us story of how Tablas Creek was started as a joint venture
between the Haas and Perrin (Ch. Beaucastel) families. In 1989 Robert
Haas and François Perrin had searched the Peachy Canyon area
looking for what they thought would be an ideal soil location for
growing Rhone varietals in California. What they found in Paso Robles
was an area filled with a combination of soft and hard limestone
- one very similar to that of Chateauneuf du Pape. This area is
quite rocky, and a large amount of rocks and stones in the soil
is often desirable. In fact, winemaker Neil Collins jokes about
how even after they had cleared the vineyard sites of most of the
larger rocks prior to planting, the things still "...seem to
creep back at night by themselves."
mitigation: note the metal plates attached between the large
barrels at upper right)
the past, many of us had been able to take the vineyard and nursery
tour here, so Bob had asked if we could focus on some interesting
varietals and just chat. Besides, Tablas has apparently ceased its
nursery operations, having now partnered with NovaVine of Sonoma
to produce the Tablas Clone grafted vines. This made me all the
more glad to have toured the nursery while it was here (link
to '02 visit). The Tablas Creek wines are getting better with
each vintage. And, there are some different things going on in the
winery now. In addition to vinifying some unusual varieties, an
interesting trial is the Glenrose experiment: Tablas clone fruit
grown in another Paso vineyard, then vinified at Tablas Creek using
the same techniques as with their own fruit. Purpose: to see the
effects of grower methods and terroir compared to Estate-grown fruit.
mitigation: note the cross braces added to the tank uprights)
interesting development was the effect the December '03 earthquake
had on the how the wineries made their barrel rooms more secure.
During that quake, Tablas Creek sustained damage to many of its
barrels, in particular a very large Seguin-Moreau barrel that was
filled with wine actually lifted off its concrete and wood supports,
falling onto a tank fitting that pierced the bottom of the barrel
'03 pictures). Needless to say, a river of red wine poured out
from inside the storage room from this as well as other barrels.
All-in-all, Tablas Creek lost about 1,000 cases of wine due to the
mitigate potential future damage, they decided to stack barrels
no more than 4-high on their regular barrels racks. They also eliminated
the concrete and wood pylons that previously held the large fudrons,
replacing them with cross-braced steel uprights and metal fittings
between the larger barrels to further strengthen them. also, because
the upright legs on the tanks had experienced some buckling, they
also added cross-bracing to these vessels as well, and tied them
into the catwalk above.
80 acres of the property are planted, leaving about 35 more for
expansion. Production is currently about 14,000 cases, and Jason
said that the final goal is 23,000-25,000 cases. Long known for
their blends of he winery is also experimenting a bit with Rhône
single-varietal bottlings, such as Grenache Blanc, Syrah, and Mourvedre
- many of which we tasted on this tour. In addition, Bob Summers
generously purchased a bottle of Panopoly for all of us to try.
This mostly Mourvedre-based wine is more 'barrel select,' and it
a gorgeous example of of Tablas' blending power. Was it mere coincidence
that Robert Haas picked that particular time to come and join us
for tasting? Maybe, but I'd like to think that he could smell the
our visit over, we all headed back to town. Dinner for the evening
was at Paris
Restaurant, just off the town square in Paso. Working with Chef
Claude Chazalon, Bob Summers had arranged an eight-course
meal for our table of 14, and we'd brought specific wines to
match the courses.
- Saturday, May 13-14, 2005 - Paso Robles
early, I headed over to the Fair Grounds for some coffee and danish,
and chatted with other early arrivals for a few minutes before heading
down to the first seminar. Then, we were off and running for the
2005 Hospice du Rhône.
Friday was a full day, and the evening was a BBQ/bash with many
other folks at one of the local motels. Saturday too, was packed
with activities, including a final BBQ dinner - essentially a BYO
party for all the attendees.
, May 15, 2005 - Paso Robles
morning came early, given the festivities from the night before.
Mat Garretson has traditionally held an Open House at his winery
the day after HdR. It seemed like a crazy idea to me - a celebratory
open house coming right on the heels of several days of baccanalia.
But, from Mat's perspective - he'd already been up all night debreifing
with his HdR cohorts, so why not! Bully for you Mat, and I just
had to stop by on my way out of town - to say thanks, as well as
hoist a few ...more!
Garretson Reliquary White. Mostly Marsanne and Roussanne,
with just a touch of Viognier. Subtle nose, with a nice aroma
of apricot and peach. Lightly sweet and juicy mouthfeel, with
just a touch of pepper.
Garretson Roussanne. Rozet Vnyd. Sweet, waxy and floral
with a bit of citrus in both nose and mouth. Delicious throughout,
and nice long finish.
Garretson Roussanne. James Berry Vnyd. Sweet, waxy and
floral with a bit of citrus in both nose and mouth. Delicious
throughout, and nice long finish.
Garretson Grenache Blanc. Somewhat sweet in mouthfeel,
nice citrusy flavors and aroma, very tasty. Still needs to
finish malolactic, which may knock down some of the sweetness.
Garretson "G" White. Considered an 'entry level'
wine, this is still packed with fruit, if lighter in mouthfeel,
with nice lightly sweet white peach aromas and flavors,and
nice crisp finish.
Garretson Rose. Blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache,
this is certainly darker than most Roses, but what a gorgeous
color! Bit of buttered popcorn in the nose, backed up by floral
and meaty aromas. Nice fleshy and meaty mouthfeel, with a
nice crispness to finish.
Garretson "G" Red. Blend of Syrah and Grenache,
with quite ripe black and red fruits, very nice mouthfeel
and finish. Slightly soft and very drinkable, this is another
of Mat's entry level wines.
Garretson Grenache. Lots of raspberry and a bit of blackberry
in the nose and mouth, with very good balance and finish.
Garretson Mourvedre. Big meaty nose, with lots of gripping
tannins on th epalate and a very long finish.
Garretson Craic Syrah. Beautiful nose of dark
fruit, bit of tar and licorice. Tight on the palate, but there's
ample fruit, very good balance, and a long smooth finish.
Garretson Aisling Syrah. Much more herbed than
the Craic, with leather and tobacco as well. More approachable
in mouthfeel, nice balance and finish.
Garretson Syrah - Rozet Vnyd. Nose of blackberry, licorice
and black pepper. Somewhat tight on mouthfeel, with spicy
dark fruit and smooth long finish.
Garretson Mon Amie Syrah - Bassetti Vnyd. Rich
and deep black fruit nose. Big mouthfeel, lightly sweet herbs
and spice, with massive mid-palate and very long finish.
Garretson Bullador Syrah - Hoage Vnyd. Nice dark
fruit nose. Big, slightly sweet mouthfeel, lots of fruit,
Garretson Reliquary Red. Nose of red and black fruit,
with just a bit of licorice. Slightly sweet mouthfeel, raspberry
and blackberry flavors, long balanced finish.
Garretson Syrah - Rozet Vnyd. Big and loaded with black
fruit, saddle leather, and licorice. Chewy mouthfeel, very
good balance and nice long finish
Garretson Mon Amie Syrah - Bassetti Vnyd. Lots
of blackberry, touch of coffee, herbs and spice. Beautiful
balance, plenty of chewy fruit, nice balance and finish.
pulled in about 9:30am, and there were already people in the tasting
room. Mat poured everybody through everything he had in bottle,
and then invited us all into the tasting room for barrel samples.
Navy pilot Mat Garretson had an Viognier epiphany and decided he
wanted to get into the wine
Garretson descends a stack of barrels after pulling a thief-full
Arriving in Paso Robles, he started his new career with Eberle winery.
At the time, everybody wore more than a few hats, so Mat was getting
experience in many facets of the business - from vineyard to bottle.
From here, Mat moved on to Wild Horse, where he was Brand Manager,
which served him well when it came time to market his own wines.
started his own winery in 1997, though he fully expected to keep
his 'day job,' while making wine. But, he decided to chance it and
gave up the day job, moving into his current space just off Hwy
46 East in 2000. Since that time, Mat's place has become Ground
Zero for many a burgeoning winemaker, and more than a few 'names'
have made their own wines right here, including: Matt Trevesan (Linne
Calodo), Justin Smith (Saxum), Chris Cherry (Villa Creek), Augie
Hug (Hug Cellars), and Shawn Mitchell (Palm Cellars). Mat feels
he'll just be here for an interim basis, and has every intention
of building his own winery someday.
like to push the envelope, and also seems to be on the cutting edge
of a lot of things. For instance, the Garretson label is nothing
if not distinctive. Its bright colors and Gaelic names for many
of the wines are meant to grab attention, and 'thumb noses at pretentiousness.'
Mat jokes that his wife Amie calls the label, "Garish-son,"
but Mat likes the 'Crayola' comparison, and feels that his wines
stand out. Mat was also one of the first in Paso to get into the
synthetic closure (aka plastic cork), and tried the closures for
a couple of years as a way to prevent his wines from becoming 'corked'
from TCA - a mold that causes wine corks to transmit "off"
aromas and flavors to wine. Not completely satisfied with the results,
Mat has not switched to Stelvin closures, a screwcap of sorts that
has very wide usage in other parts of the world. About 97% of the
Garretson line is now under Stelvin.
Mat buys all of his fruit from the Westside Paso, but he and wife
Amie have plans to buy some vineyard land - hopefully sooner, rather
than later. He purchases grapes on long term contracts, producing
20 different wines under the Garretson label. Mat says that he wants
each of his wines to be "vineyard driven, rather than style
driven," and this is not more aptly shown in his 3-8 Syrah
bottlings. Total production is about 15,000 cases anually.
bottle (some barrel samples)...
Palm Cellars Carlita's Grenache. Lots of nice
spiced raspberry aromas.
Palm Cellars Syrah. Dark and brooding
Palm Cellars Syrah. Nutty richness, very good mouthfeel
Palm Cellars Zinfandel. Lots of nicely ripened boysenberry
Palm Cellars Zinfandel. Fascinating nose of sweet thick
visit with Mat over, no time was lost getting to Palm
Cellars, the small Paso-based label owned by Shawn Mitchell.
Shawn has worked in the wine industry for over 15 years and "has
a great passion for everything from racy, minerally Germans, to
fine Burgundys, to in your face Aussies." Though he seems to
like many divergant styles, Shawn feels his own wines are "closer
to Australian, but with higher acids." Production is about
arrived to meet with some other people, and offered to show us what
he had from '03 & '04. We jumped at the chance, as his wines
have been one of the recent big breakthrough wines out of Paso.
Sourcing fruit from Westside vineyards, Shawn is making some rich
and ripe reds that have all the approachability and balance necessary
to be major league. Get'em while they're still available.
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- Eric Anderson