The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2015

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Page 99 of 136

december 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  99 "We've done a ton of vineyard trials pairing rootstock and clonal material and find that it takes a little longer for the vines to reach the point where we see the fine, resolved tannins that dif- ferentiate the best wines," said Hope. "We notice an evolution between years four and five and another plateau of quality in years eight through ten." Careful evaluation of cluster weights and tannin absorption rates help inform picking decisions which vary according to district. According to Diefenderfer, there's a move away from vertical shoot positioning (VSP) canopy training and a return to the "Paso sprawl" that allows slower ripening and protects fruit from light strike. Factors like high density-planting, deficit irrigation management based on careful data analysis and state-of-the- art machine harvesting also give Hope an edge on quality in the field. In the winery, Diefenderfer uses a "bulldog" in lieu of a pump to push wine out of the barrel with forced nitrogen. The process eliminates the need for fining and additional sulfur to ward off oxidation. He also prefers to let malolactic fermentation take place in barrel and, with a noticeably dry barrel room, he relies mostly on inert ozone to maintain the health of a large rotation of barrels. With extraordinary quality measures in place in the vineyard and winery, the only place left to look is in the glass. Having undergone a recent label refresh, Liberty School is easy on the eyes, and at $15 SRP both wines are prepared to take on the competition in the $20–25 segment. The mono-varietal Merlot shows powdery aromas of ripe plum, pomegranate and vanilla, acidity that's on the plus side of medium and medium-bodied tannins with second- ary notes of tea leaf, earth and dark spice. While Cabernet Sauvignon yields were down in 2013, quality remained high as evidenced by mid-palate intensity and tasty varietal character in a wine that's leaner and complex with predominately red fruit and notes of dried caraway seed and vanilla. With the future of winegrowing in Paso Robles focused on identifying and adopting best practices for each of the eleven sub-AVAs, Austin Hope is way ahead of the curve and keeping Hope Family Wines at the top of the class. *Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance 2008 Media Kit Acknowledgement to Jim Gerakaris, CWE, Sommelier and Educator at JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery for his report "The 11 New Paso Robles Sub Appellations." Liberty School 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and Liberty School 2014 Merlot.

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