The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2014

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JASON "JC" DIEFENDERFER, HOPE FAMILY WINERY When future winemakers Jason "JC" Diefenderfer and Austin Hope met in high school, Syrah was still in its infant stage of development in Paso Robles. Two decades later, the old chums are busy making extraordinary wines with the pristine fruit from the high-density rows of Syrah vines planted on the calcareous soils at the Hope Family Estate in Templeton, just south of Paso Robles. Diefenderfer, who was originally hired by the Hope family in 1998, now oversees the winemaking program. To him, the current release of the Hope Family 2011 Syrah exemplifies what is happening at the estate vineyard. Made with four special clones of Syrah (470, 383, Caldwell and Alban), the wine is layered with lofty aromas and deep flavors of ripe blueberry, blackberry, licorice, seared meats, black pepper, mineral, wild mushrooms, fine tannins and a smooth suede texture. "We don't make wines only for wine geeks or big, extracted wines that critics like. Instead, we make wines we love to drink," says Diefenderfer. Now that's attitude with a purpose. STEWART CAMERON, ANCIENT PEAKS WINERY At the southern end of the Paso Robles AVA, a special segment of the Margarita Vineyard owned by Ancient Peaks Winery is decorated with large petrified oyster shells deposited by uplifted sea beds. Since joining the winemaking team at Ancient Peaks in 2006, Stewart Cameron has mastered the art of interweaving the personality of the vineyard into the special estate cuvée called Oyster Ridge. In the 2010 vintage currently available in the market, Cameron says each variety makes its own statement in the blend: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon provide deep flavors of ripe berries, mineral, smooth tannins and firm structure; Petit Verdot adds floral aromas, color and structure; Cabernet Franc adds red and blue fruits, fresh violet and wild herbs; and the dark inky fruit flavors of Petite Sirah, sourced from the Wittstrom Vineyard north of Paso Robles, help fill in the mid-palate. Elegant and complex with a long, smooth finish, it's a fantastic wine to pair with lasagna, steak, lamb shank or elk medallions—Cameron's favorite dish served at The Range, a magnificent restaurant located in the quaint village of Santa Margarita. KEVIN WILLENBORG, VINA ROBLES WINERY As a young intern working at Château Pétrus, Kevin Willenborg was exposed to the heady French belief that the flavors, texture and aromas of wine can be intertwined into the fabric of life. After crafting a string of successful wines at Louis M. Martini and Rubicon in Napa Valley, Firestone and Bridlewood in Santa Ynez Valley and Cedar Creek in Canada's Okanagan Valley, Willenborg is now applying his artisan approach to the wines he makes at Vina Robles Winery in Paso Robles. The Vina Robles 2012 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Willenborg's debut release from the winery, features vibrant flavors of fresh guava, grapefruit, passion fruit, mineral and a crisp citrusy finish. When asked about food pairings, Willenborg says he likes the energetic wine with gourmet salads, shellfish, chicken or "served all by itself for instant satisfaction." Oh la-la! TP0414_072-101.indd 85 3/21/14 2:52 PM

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