The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2014

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88  /  the tasting panel  /  april 2014 Upon my arrival, I was whisked into an SUV, which careened up steep terrain, with Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub in the front seat and Paul Sowerby, National Sales Manager, in command of the wheel. At the top of Bobcat Crossing Estate Vineyard, Sowerby parked and jumped out, shouting, "Come on ladies!" summoning a dozen or so of the sheep tended by his wife Deborah, who live amidst the vines. Weintraub unhinged a gate and merged himself with the flock, offering handfuls of feed. "Our approach is to try to think of this land as something pre- cious," he said about their farming principles. "Our approach to making wine bears that in mind." Integrating farm animals is only one part of their process, but one that helps "practice healthy respect for the land," says Weintraub. The sheep are relocated before budbreak, I was assured, evoking hearty laughter at the thought of losing several tons of fruit to hungry sheep. We rode further up to a lookout point at 2,000 feet. A 360-degree view of Paso gives a sense of the diverse micro- climates formed by ridges at varying elevations and valleys formed by steep slopes that face in all directions. "Paso Robles is 30 miles from the ocean," said Sowerby point- ing west. "It's a degree warmer every mile east you go, as a generalization. "We're 14 miles from the ocean here," he continued pointing out the area slated for the Adelaida District AVA. Weintraub pointed to two sections of Zinfandel vines on a northerly facing slope where the soil pH changes radically from one point on the ridge to another, explain- ing that the fruit produced tastes quite different. But soil is not the "be-all, end-all," At J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines with Steve Peck Day two began at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, where estate vineyards sprawl as far as the eyes can see. Steve Peck, J. Lohr's Winemaker of Red Wines, was born in Ventura County in the town of Santa Paula. "I'm happy to be working close to home," said Peck, a tall, soft-spoken affable man. A U.C. Davis grad with years of experiences at Joseph Phelps in Napa, Peck is responsible for assembling the final blends. "Our team has created a unique vision for each wine in the J. Lohr Bordeaux program. One of the biggest responsibilities I bear as the winemaker is to glean the best lots and craft the final blends that you taste in the glass," says Peck. J. Lohr is a heavyweight for the Paso region. Their Seven Oaks Cab is the number-one-selling by-the-glass and by-the-bottle Cabernet over $14 in the U.S., with a market share of 16 percent, according to Nielsen reports. Peck was excited to share some of his smaller-production wines, his Cuvée and Hilltop series, each of which come in under 500 cases per annum. "For the Hilltop wines, we like 'em ready to go, so when the cork is pulled they are showing nicely. With the Cuvée, series we want consumers to hold these, as they will show nicely with age," said Peck. "I've always viewed J. Lohr as the gateway to Paso for consumers across the country, and chances are people's first taste of Paso is a wine I've made—and that is an authentically barrel-aged wine," said Peck. For Peck and the J. Lohr family, the Paso Robles CAB Collective brings together a community of high-tier producers who hope their efforts inspire a more educated consumer, one who can locate and find the best CABs in Paso. "I think our Seven Oaks Cab is the ground floor, and we get to share the stage with a great group of people. For new producers to the area, the Collective gives them a professional network to consult with and they enjoy the benefit of a good community evaluation of their wines." ADELAIDA 2010 Viking Cabernet Reserve. Full-bodied offering robust blackberry and blueberry notes; supple mouthfeel and structure followed by savory spice elements. At ADELAIDA Cellars with Jeremy Weintraub and Paul Sowerby Steve Peck. The J. Lohr 2011 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon. Lush and austere, silky texture unfolds with raspberry and cassis flavors; heartier notes develop, leading to a spicy finish. TP0414_072-101.indd 88 3/21/14 2:53 PM

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