The SOMM Journal

June / July 2015

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22 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2015 { living history } PASO ROBLES'S EPOCH ESTATE WINES HONORS HISTORY WHILE MAKING A GOOD BIT OF ITS OWN by Jaime C. Lewis What Was Old Is New Again AS PROGRESSIVE AS HE WAS, IGNACY JAN PADEREWSKI, the Polish virtuoso pianist and diplomat-cum-viticulturist, could not have imagined that the 1913 vineyard he planted in Paso Robles would still be a bellwether property today. But thanks to two very savvy, upcycling investors and a tenacious young winemaker, the Paderewski Vineyard and nearby York Mountain have once again become home to a sought-after Paso Robles brand, Epoch Estate Wines. When discussing Epoch, it's tough not to rely on superlatives: It's Paso Robles' oldest bonded winery; the York Mountain AVA was the first federally recognized appellation in the region, and at the highest elevation (1,500 feet, colder than Burgundy). Still, the Paderewski Vineyard was fallow and the York Mountain Winery was little more than a dilapidated building when geologists Bill and Liz Armstrong purchased them in the mid- 2000s. By 2010, Winemaker Jordan Fiorentini joined the team (fresh from serving as Head Winemaker for Chalk Hill Winery in Sonoma) and was soon working with the Armstrongs and their architects to design a new winemaking facility that reflected the Epoch motif of old and new, side by side. Fiorentini's winemaking, like everything at Epoch, walks a taut wire between progress and tradition, confidence and humility. The effect is polished, soulful wines made with biodynamic and organic methods from two West Side vineyards: Paderewski Vineyard, with its classically-Paso limestone, high-pH soils; and the younger, windswept Catapult Vineyard, composed of lower-pH shale. Fiorentini experiments with methods like whole-cluster fermentation on Grenache and skin contact on Viognier, as well as materials like concrete, amphorae and foudres. And while wines like the 2011 Veracity (57% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre, 18% Syrah, 651 cases) reflect admiration for Châteauneuf-du-Pape, she's never straightjacketed with regard to style. One wine, Creativity, is a free-for-all label that allows allows her to play with each vintage, and several acres of Tempranillo and two rows of Zinfandel (the result of clippings from one vine by the creek bed that was planted by Paderewski himself in the early 1900s) spice up an otherwise Rhône-centric repertoire. Next up for Epoch is a new tasting room built from the existing walls of the old York Mountain Winery, as well as a newly-planted York Mountain Vineyard, just up the road. "[Owner, Bill Armstrong] often says, 'What was old is new again,'" says Fiorentini, "and that's been the true story of Epoch all along. It's not about what makes sense on paper but really preserving what's here for generations to come." EPOCH AT A GLANCE EPOCH ESTATE WINES Built: 2014 Architect: Brian Korte, AIA, San Antonio, TX PADEREWSKI VINEYARD Planted: 2004 (originally 1913) Red varieties: Grenache, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel White varieties: Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc, and Viognier Acreage: 67 under vine, 350 total Soils: limestone, calcareous, rocky pH: low to mid 8 AVA: Paso Robles District: Willow Creek CATAPULT VINEYARD Planted: 2008 Red varieties: Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Tempranillo White varieties: Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier Acreage: 28 under vine, 35 total Soils: shale, clay, silt, rocky pH: high-5 AVA: Paso Robles District: Willow Creek Top: Epoch owners Liz and Bill Armstrong. Above: Winemaker Jordan Fiorentini in the Paderewski Vineyard. PHOTO COURTESY OF EPOCH ESTATE WINES PHOTOS BRITTANY APP, COURTESY OF EPOCH ESTATE WINES

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