The SOMM Journal

June / July 2015

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38 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2015 This spring, the Quaff Report hit the road at the invitation of the Paso Robles CAB (Cabernet and Bordeaux) Collective to evaluate Cabernet Sauvignons from near and far at its three-day "CABs of Distinction" trade event. The Collective, whose mission is to promote the Bordeaux varieties for which Paso Robles is becoming known, includes 24 family-owned member wineries, most of which produce fewer than 5,000 cases a year. Long known for its Rhône varietals and blends, Paso Robles— one of California's larger AVAs, with 614,000 acres, 32,000 of which are under vine—has made great inroads with Bordeaux varieties, which now exceed 55% of all wine grapes from the region. Our task: blind taste through six Cabernets from uniden - tified regions to arrive at an understanding of these hyper-local blends and how they compare to other great Cabs of the world. Six California sommeliers joined panel captain Mike Madrigale for the blind tasting: Darius Allyn, MS, most recently of Giada at the Cromwell Hotel (Las Vegas); Paul Coker, Michael Mina's Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis (Monarch Beach); Jared Hooper, Faith & Flower (Los Angeles); Terence Leavey, Spago Beverly Hills; Augustus Miller, of recently closed Charlie Palmer (Costa Mesa); and Naureen Zaim of Smoke.Oil.Salt (West Hollywood). After Mike thanked the audience "for coming to watch us taste wine," he advised the panel on house rules: "Tell us what you taste and if you like it or not. We're not trying to find aromas of freshly cut garden hose or things like that—we are just tasting the wine on its merits." As the panel tasted through the six samples, a recurring theme was the increasingly narrow gap between Old and New World wines as each borrows characteristics such as restraint, fruit and acid, from the other. "In New versus Old World, you used to be able to say who [was] winning that battle between fruit and earth," Paul noted. "I think across the board something we tend to see in Cabernet-dominant wines is heavy use of oak, and none of these are screaming oak. I think they all sort of celebrate the fruit itself rather than what's been done in the winery." Mike agreed, saying in most of the wines, "Over the last couple of years or so there's been kind of a change where you find Old World wines tasting quite fruity and less mineral and the New World wines trying to get that . . . tannic structure and acidity." That was demonstrated in what turned out to be the unani - mous surprise of the tasting: the Château-Léoville Barton Saint- Julien, which expressed such a bright aspect with eucalyptus and sleek graphite tones, that everyone was convinced it was a Napa mountain AVA. Mike noted its "very fresh, mentholy-black fruit," and Darius commented on the crossover between Old and New World attributes. "There's a lot of mineral flavor coming out of this, and that tobacco . . . savory, leather tone and olive. It seems like Napa fruit to me because of the ripeness—maybe not as complex as wine number one on the palate, but a lot of flavor," Darius said. Upon the reveal, he noted that Léoville was known for a 1 2 5 3 6 4 7 ➊ Team captain Mike Madrigale, ➋ Darius Allyn, MS., ➌ Paul Coker, ➍ Naureen Zaim, ➎ Augustus Miller, ➏ Terence Leavey, ➐ Jared Hooper.

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