The SOMM Journal

February / March 2017

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Page 57 of 116

{ }  57 Collaboration, Not Competition Each sub-appellation has a unique set of characteristics and many of the vintners agreed they are a far better tool for consumers than "East Side" and "West Side," a reference to Highway 101, which runs north-south through the city of Paso Robles. "Dividing them up I think helps the consumer when there are vintages that are maybe better in one area than another," said Parrish. Cynthia Lohr echoed this sentiment, stating, "With differentiation, we have the perfect opportunity to educate consumers and really draw them in from the standpoint of 'What is the beauty of Paso Robles Cabernet? Why there are so many different flavor profiles and subtleties?'" Those vintners who sourced from multiple sub-appellations also appreciated the opportu - nity to blend various profiles. "We have all these different flavors to play with, and then we add different French oak at different toast levels from different-grain barrels—we have this gigantic spice rack of flavors to play with," said Mooney. Both Mooney and Parrish also noted that they approach the fruit from each region differently, both in the vineyard and in the winery. However, most agreed it would be difficult to pinpoint a wine's sub-appellation in a blind tasting. As Kevin Sass, winemaker for Halter Ranch, put it: "There's so much variability of what people do around here depending on style that you're never going to be able to say, 'Oh, Adelaida.' I think the hand of the winemaker is so much more influential here." In terms of geology and soils, Austin Hope, president and winemaker of Hope Family Wines, who focuses heavily on soil profiles before deciding where to plant, lease or source, explained that many of these "interesting soils" are pocketed throughout Paso Robles, so it's ultimately very site-specific and not necessarily AVA-specific. Damian Grindley, proprietor and winemaker of Brecon Estate in the Adelaida District, said, "One of the great things is there are so many microclimates; there are so many nuances between the different vineyards, and then you blend them together and use different winemakers and different oaks—it seems like there is no right way or wrong way to do it. And there are a bunch of different expressions of the varietal." Grindley then summed up the overall sentiment of everyone interviewed: "The great thing about the CAB Collective and Paso Robles in general is everyone's not out for themselves. They're out for raising the game of Paso Robles overall." Look for our Paso Robles CAB Collective Somm Camp report in the June-July issue. Paso Robles Estrella District: "Interesting Soils" Austin Hope works with multiple producers throughout Paso Robles but specifically focuses on the Estrella and Creston Districts for his Treana Cabernet Sauvignon program. "We quickly learned that Cabernet was a great thing to grow out there in Estrella; there are some interesting soils that straddle the Estrella District, and they also show up in the Creston District." The primary soils Hope seeks for Cabernet are gravelly, pebbly, well- drained soils. RN Estate owner and winemaker Roger Nicolas owns a 40-acre hilltop property in the Estrella District. A former restaurant professional, Nicolas chose this site "because I thought it was ideal for growing Bordeaux varieties." Nicolas added, "The Cabernet here works so well, and it's so easy to deal with—here on our vineyard anyway. It just gives what you expect from it." Nicolas prefers a leaner-style Cabernet, and he described the profile: "Aromas and flavors of black licorice and cas - sis—that's what hits me from the great wines from the Left Bank of Bordeaux, and I'm able to get that from here." The Hope Family Estate vineyards, located in the Templeton Gap, had originally been planted to Cabernet and Zinfandel. Due to the very cool growing conditions, they decided to replant to Rhône varieties instead, focusing on the Estrella District and Creston District sub- AVAs for their Cabernet program. "Templeton Gap is actually the coolest site of all the sub-AVAs; we have fewer growing degree days and fewer heat units that happen. Cabernet needs heat, and people [consumers] don't realize that," said Hope. Gary Eberle's lifetime contribution to the Paso Robles wine community has earned him the nickname the "Godfather of Paso Robles." The former Penn State football player/biologist fell in love with wine during graduate school, where he was studying cellular genetics. With a change of heart, he then moved west to study enology at U.C. Davis and was introduced to Paso Robles by his professors in May 1973. "Of all the areas they looked at, Paso Robles was one of the ones they were most enthusiastic about, and I was the Sherpa," Eberle laughed. He helped establish much of the Estrella region in the 1970s and started his own winery in 1979. His 1987 Cabernet Sauvignon (from what is now the Geneseo District AVA) is the perfect example of the aging potential for Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine showed minimal bricking with dusty, subtle aromas of tobacco and cedar. The palate was surprising as the fruit was still so bright. Flavors of cassis and red currant were still apparent with hints of smoke. The tan- nin and acidity was grippy, which led us to conclude that this wine still had plenty more time left in the bottle.

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