Monday, July 24, 2017

Visiting Paso Robles - Tasting Treana and Hope Family Wines

Our final vineyard stop was at Treana to hear owner and winemaker, Austin Hope, talk about another Paso Robles AVA and learn about the Hope Family Wines. The Treana Tasting Cellar is located on the Hope Family's Estate Vineyard in the Templeton Gap District. We arrived in the early evening for our tour and tasting.

The Templeton Gap District has more maritime influences than any other part of Paso Robles.  It sits below openings in the Santa Lucia range. Elevations extend from 700-1,800 feet. Higher elevations in the west create a path for ocean breezes and fog to come through creating a cooler, damper climate which leads to slower ripening times and a later harvests.

The Wines:


Treana Blanc 2014 - This wine is a blend of 45% Viognier, 45% Marsanne and 10% Rousanne, it is fresh and lively with tropical aromas and flavors and a light honeysuckle note, SRP $30.

Love and Hope Rosé - A true southern France blend of 47% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 11% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache Blanc, 3% Counoise and 2% Carignan, this light and refreshing rosé has aromas and flavors of peach and grapefruit with a savory note and a citrus finish. SRP $20

Treana 2014 - 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Syrah make up this full bodied big, red wine wine. Ripe blackberry and pomogranate dominate this wine's profile with dark chocolate, leather and smoke; rich, chewy and lengthy. SRP $45

Liberty School Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - Juicy aromas and flavors of boysenberry and pomegranate with black tea notes in the velvety finish. SRP $16

Treana Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - Bright aromas of blackberry with pomegranate and baking spices with a full body, similar flavors. velvety tannins and a bit of cedar in the long finish. SRP $30

Austin Hope Syrah 2014 - This line of wines are what Hope described as
bold and expressive, he hopes to showcase the best that the estate vineyards can do. He has high density plantings of Rhône varieties in one of the coldest parts of Paso Robles. This wine has intense aromas of ripe raspberry and blackberry with a full body, similar flavors and a slight savoriness in the smooth lingering mineral laced finish. SRP $55.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Visiting Paso Robles - Lunch at Justin with Winemaker, Scott Shirley

Justin Vineyards and Winery was our next stop for lunch and a tasting. The winery sits below rolling vineyards providing picturesque views all around. The beautiful landscaping and gardens ensure that the patio seats are highly prized for tastings.

The Restaurant at Justin is a Paso Robles dining destination. The restaurant features a farm-to-table menu with something for everyone on the eclectic list, choose from American home-style favorites to the internationally inspired. Each item comes with a
suggested wine pairing so you can create your own special meal. We started with a taste of the Justin Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2016 which was fresh, crisp and tropical.

Winemaker, Scott Shirley greeted us and took us on a mini-tour of the grounds. Shirley has an impressive background. He is a UC Davis graduate with a degree in biochemistry who honed his winemaking skills at some iconic Napa Valley wineries including Opus One. He doesn't rely only on his science background, he considers winemaking to be a bit of an art as well. He pointed out that his job is always easier because he starts with high quality fruit.

He shared the story of owner and company namesake, Justin Baldwin, who was drawn to Paso Robles in 1981. The rich limestone soils, steep hillsides and the wide diurnal swings seemed the perfect place to plant Bordeaux varieties. Thirty-six years later, Justin Vineyards and Winery now produces some of the most iconic wines from the Central Coast. Shirley joined the team in 2012 and says he has really enjoyed his time in Paso Robles and is proud of the wines they are making.

As we took our seats at the shaded patio table, Shirley recommended two things for the table to share: the pickled beets with goat feta, pine nuts, citrus and watercress and the Brussels sprouts prepared with blue cheese,
walnuts, pomegranate, and apple cider gastrique. He assured us that was the extent of his food knowledge, he was there to talk wine.

He poured the Justin Paso Robles Rosé 2016 to go with these vegetable laden starters. This refreshing Rosé is made in the Provencal style but is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Justin's flagship grape. It had cherry/berry aromas and flavors with a light herbal note in the fresh finish, it was perfect with the appetizers.

As we had an array of red wines up next, I ordered the Patty Melt served with Holy Cow cheese, caramelized onions, thousand island dressing and a dill pickle on sourdough bread. This entree was listed as the suggested
pairing for their famed Isosceles wine.

The Reds:

Justin Justification Paso Robles 2014 - This wine is inspired by Bordeaux's Right Bank with its blend of 55% Cabernet Franc and 45% Merlot which is barrel aged in French Oak of which 50% was new. Bright cherry aromas and flavors with baking spice and smoke, full bodied and fresh with smooth tannins and a lingering finish.  SRP $50

Justin Savant Paso Robles 2014 - A somewhat unusual blend of 62% Syrah with 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Grenache aged in French Oak
barrels for 21 months of which 60% were new. This wine is intense and lush with jammy berry flavors, baking spices and a note of smoked meat with a full body, chewy tannins and a peppery note in the long finish. SRP $50

Justin Isosceles Paso Robles 2014 - This flagship wine is made from 73% Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% Cabernet Franc and 12% Merlot aged 21 months in new French Oak barrels. Rich and fragrant with blackberries, cassis and licorice, this full bodied red blend is big and bold yet still approachable with chewy tannins and a lengthy chocolate laced finish. SRP $72

All of the wines at Justin are recommended, as is a visit to the winery should you be visiting Paso Robles.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Visiting Paso Robles - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Halter Ranch Vineyard is located in a valley in the Adelaida District's western hills. Vineyard manager, Lucas Pope, met us outside near the tasting room with a chilled bottle of the 2016 Rosé to get our group refreshed and ready to see exactly from where those grapes that made up the wine in our glass came.

The rosé is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Picpoul Blanc, it was light and crisp with tropical notes over strawberry and grapefruit. All of the wines that Halter Ranch produces are made from estate grown grapes growing at elevations reaching 1750 feet on limestone-rich slopes. There is huge soil diversity in the top soils within the area, Pope explained, as we headed into the vineyard. This allows for a wide variety of grapes to grown,
primarily Bordeaux and Rhône varieties. Currently, 281 acres are under vine at the expansive 2000 acre ranch property.

Much of the land has been designated as an environmental preserve by the current owner, Pope revealed. He ensured that there were wildlife corridors for the deer and other animals to access the water that they had always enjoyed when the vineyard was under construction. He is interested in protecting the land for the continued use of future generations. Pope said they are certified sustainable and try to be as organic as possible.

After a walking tour to check out the terroir, we stopped for a vineyard tasting of a few of the current releases. All of the following wines along with the Rosé are recommended.

If you are planning on being in Paso Robles, go online and check out the many tasting and touring opportunities offered at Halter Ranch.

The wines:

Halter Ranch Grenache Blanc 2015 - This wine is 80% Grenache Blanc, which is the favorite white grape at the vineyard, along with 14% Picpoul Blanc, 4% Rousanne and 2% Viognier blended in. Medium-bodied with a creamy texture, this wine had aromas and flavors of melon and pear with a light honeysuckle note in the fresh, lingering finish. SRP $28

Halter Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Malbec and 7% Petit Verdot, this classic Bordeaux-styled red has bright aromas and flavors of pomegranate and cherry with a light earthy minerality; full-bodied, approachable and easy to enjoy now.

Halter Ranch Block 22 Syrah 2014 - This rich full-bodied red has intense fruity aromas and mouth-filling flavors of ripe mixed berries with a hint of smoke and cocoa in the long finish, SRP $55.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Visiting Paso Robles - Daou Vineyards and Winery



I had been in Paso Robles for about 24 hours as we drove to Daou Vineyards and Winery. I had admired the rugged natural beauty of the Santa Margarita Ranch AVA and the civilized ease of touring the more centrally located Vina Robles. As we approached Daou Mountain in the Adelaida District, I could see we had entered new territory again.

The mountain stands at an elevation of 2,200 feet in the coastal range west of the town of Paso Robles. The western hillside vineyard faces the Templeton Gap, an opening in the range that allows Pacific winds through which cool down the grapes. This leads to thicker skins giving structure and flavor all while maintaining natural acidity. The rows of vines are grown atop the coveted calcareous clay soils for which the area is famous.

I didn't know all of those details yet, I did know we had entered into a seemingly more magical place,
a place where the sunlight seemed to dance around the vines. Alive with color from the mounds of lavender and the many rose bushes, the 212 acre property was a hidden vineyard garden oasis.

The soil is known to promote healthy vines, Daniel Daou and his brother purchased the land a decade ago after searching for the right California location to grow and create world class Bordeaux-style wines. The soils of the estate property are very similar to the ones in Saint Émilion.

The vineyard had a different appearance than those we had seen thus far in Paso Robles. The vines are planted closer together at about 3 feet apart and trained into lower cordons about 18 inches above the ground. Daou believes this high density vine training technique leads to balanced grapes with more concentrated flavors.

Daou is also a believer in tracking those phenolics in the grapes throughout the growing season and into the winery. Phenols affect the color, flavor, feel and longevity of a wine. This information helps him decide not only his harvest dates but also shows him differences between blocks within the vineyard. He made the point that he chooses to make multiple tiers of wine so he always has a home for his own grapes and never feels compelled to compromise on quality in his premium wines.

The terroir of Daou Mountain encourages the estate grapes to easily ripen through an extended hangtime while maintaining their acidity. This  also helps to create naturally high levels of phenolics. Daou harvests slightly past peak at a higher brix which enables more extraction. Protecting the natural color, structure and flavors from the grapes in the winery is made easier with the phenolic tracking as well. The grapes have naturally high levels of tannins so he only uses the free run juice. He wants a wine that is drinkable upon release while maintaining its high structural quality for long age ability.

Daniel Daou was entertaining and informative as he enthusiastically toured us around and shared the specialness of Daou Vineyards and Winery. The combination of an ideal growing environment and the highest level of oversight and care are on display.  The beautiful location, the charming host and the exceptional wines all united for a very enchanting experience, don't miss it on your next trip to Paso Robles.

The Wine:

Daou Sauvignon Blanc 2016 - From what has been described as a perfect vintage, this wine club exclusive was fresh, crisp and fruity with an almost creamy lingering mineral-laced finish. This wine has sold out. SRP $50

Daou Chardonay Reserve  2015 - Full-bodied and rich with pear, lemon butter and toast nuances with a decidedly creamy, lush tropical finish. SRP $46

Daou Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014 - Full bodied, rich with dark fruit, coffee and licorice. SRP $56

Daou Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2014 - This wine has sold out. Structured, powerful, intense, cassis, blackberry, cocoa, rich lingering finish. SRP $85

Daou "Soul of a Lion" 2014 - This wine has sold out. It was a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Inky colored, complex, velvety soft tannins, bursting with classic aromas and flavors, this premium wine was the perfect balance of elegance and power. SRP $125

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Visiting Paso Robles - Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery

When we arrived to the expansive property, winemaker Kevin Willenborg was there to meet and greet in the tasting room and offer up a welcoming glass of the 2016 Vina Robles White4. This crisp white wine is an unusual blend of Viognier, Vermentino, Verdelho and Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh, crisp and round with fruity aromas of peach, pear and grapefruit, it was the perfect refresher before the tour and it makes a great anytime white with an SRP of $16.

In addition to the vineyards and the winery, Vina Robles also boasts an outdoor concert venue with a full schedule of premium acts like the Doobie Brothers and Chicago throughout the season. Guests at the amphitheater get to enjoy local wine and beer along with freshly prepared food at the shows. concert schedule prior to your trip.
If you are planning a trip to taste in Paso Robles and you are a music lover, you may want to check the

It is easy to make food part of your experience at Vina Robles as they offer a few gourmet pairing options from the savory to the sweet. They also have a full lunch menu offered on Thursday - Sunday or if you just want a snack, they offer a variety of tapas to enjoy with your wine tasting as well. Executive Chef Randy Torres oversees the various menus, reservations are recommended for the wine and food pairing experiences.


Hans Nef, the owner, is from Switzerland. He wanted to incorporate his European heritage and the opportunities he has found in California into Vina Robles. You find this on the lunch menu with the Älplermagronen, a mac-n-cheese made with Swiss cheeses and served with local apple sauce. You also find this philosophy in some of the wine blends.

The 2016 Vina Robles Red4 is a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Willenborg feels the addition of the Petite Sirah adds more backbone to the easy-drinking Rhône style blend. Medium body, moderate tannins with cherry, leather and a light tobacco note in the smooth finish. A great anytime red with an SRP of $17 and paired here with the Swiss style mac-n-cheese.

Other wines from the Tasting Lunch:

Vina Robles Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016 - Sourced from the estate Jardine Vineyard, this crisp dry
white has tropical fruit aromas with grapefruit and lemongrass with a clean citrus finish. It was served at the winery with tartufo salad. SRP $16

Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2014 - Sweet cherry/berry aromas with tobacco and licorice; dry, with a full body, velvety tannins and a long juicy finish paired with grilled mushroom and cheese sandwich on local sourdough bread. SRP $26

Vina Robles Estate Petite Sirah 2013 - Full bodied, big and chewy with effusive boysenberry, cocoa and nutmeg characters in a long rich finish served with Paso tri-tip on ciabatta with house made truffle potato chips.  SRP $29

Vina Robles Suendero 2013 - From their Cuvée Collection, this wine is sourced from a vineyard that sits at 1,770 feet on calcareous soils just twelve miles from the Pacific Ocean. Blackberry, raspberry and light floral aromas elegantly mix with the full body and chewy tannins,  trailing off slowly in a mineral-laced finish served alongside a raspberry sorbet made with the Red4 wine.   SRP $56

The Visiting Paso Robles series continues, check back here every Monday and Saturday all month long.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Visiting Paso Robles - J. Lohr Vineyards

J. Lohr Vineyards set up shop in Paso Robles thirty years ago when founder Jerry Lohr choose the region to produce world class Cabernet Sauvignon. Our group met assistant winemaker, Brenden Wood at the renowned Hilltop Vineyard to taste some of the new releases.

Wood joined J. Lohr in 2004 as a lab tech with a focus on quality control. He has been the assistant winemaker under Steve Peck for a decade now. Wood says he likes the small lot production techniques that J. Lohr promotes even though it is a larger winery. Wood talked about the different tiers of wine that they produce, from the every day drinkers to club exclusives, in the hopes that they are creating a wine for everyone.

The Tasting:

The Gesture line was originally created for the wine club members but is now available for purchase to all. Find it in the tasting room and on-line. Both of the following wines are from the 2016 vintage which was a bit cooler helping to create fruitier wines with great acidity.

J. Lohr Gesture Grenache Rosé 2016 - With only 302 cases produced, this wine has sold out. It was quite refreshing with strawberry and tropical notes.

J. Lohr Gesture Viognier 2016 - Also a smaller production at 545 cases, the grapes for this wine were
sourced from the Gean Vineyard in the Adelaida District which has shallow rocky soil on mountain hillsides and a climate similar to the Rohône. The medium bodied white was lush and ripe with nectarine, honeysuckle and a stony minerality in the lingering finish. 14.5% ABV / SRP $30

From the more widely available and wallet friendly Estate Series:
J. Lohr Los Osos Merlot 2014 - The grapes for this wine come from the cooler El Pomar District of Paso Robles where the fast draining soils naturally limit vine growth and improve the wine quality. Bright aromas and flavors of plum, mocha and nutmeg in a medium body with smooth tannins and a light toasted note in the finish. 13.8% ABV / SRP $15

From the Cuvée Series which consists of  three different Bordeaux-styled blends which Wood explained was their highest level of wine from premium Paso Robles vineyards made only in the best vintages:
 J. Lohr Cuvée Series St. E 2013 - With a nod to the wines of St Emilion in Bordeaux, this wine is a blend of 63% Cabernet Franc, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot and 4% Malbec grown on gravelly well-drained soil during an ideal growing season. The wine is ripe with red plum and dark berry aromas and flavors with espresso, dark chocolate and a light savory note in the long finish. There were only 994 six pack cases produced. 14% ABV / SRP $50

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Visiting Paso Robles - Ancient Peaks Winery & The Santa Margarita Ranch AVA

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Shake off your traveler's fatigue and start your trip the way that I did with a visit to Ancient Peaks Winery for some refreshing Ancient Peaks Rosé 2016 made from 100% Pinot Noir from the cool estate Margarita Vineyard site in the Santa Margarita Ranch AVA. Fresh and crisp with cherry, peach and zippy grapefruit notes, this limited release wine will revive even the most weary of wine lovers and have them ready to explore the terroir from which it came.

How do you do that?
Go across the street and you will find the Margarita Adventures office for all of your Paso Robles adventuring needs. You can book these experiences on-line in advance of your trip. I recommend the zip-lining jaunt to get your adrenaline pumping while allowing you to see some amazing views while learning the history of the southernmost portion of the Paso Robles area which includes Wild West tales of Frank and Jesse James.

This two and a half hour tour gives the more daring an incredible view of a California landmark, the Santa Margarita Ranch. The area's wine history began in 1790, sixty years before California became a state. Franciscan friars planted vineyards upon their arrival and others followed. Today, the ranch practices sustainable grape growing and is a part of the historic California Mission Trail.

The marine influence from the Pacific Ocean combined with the typical cold spring weather creates a long and late growing season. There are five unique soil types in the area- ancient seabeds, granitic, rocky alluvium, shale and volcanic. There are no other vineyards nearby, the Margarita Vineyard stands alone in the Santa Margarita AVA.

The tour includes six zip-lines which span over 7,800 feet with an amazing 2,800 foot valley crossing over a Pinot Noir vineyard with expansive views. Drink plenty of water prior and during as there is some walking/hiking involved.


When the tour is over, head back to the Ancient Peaks Winery tasting room where tour goers receive discounted tasting fees and discounts on wine purchases. Try the super smooth Ancient Peaks Oyster Ridge Red 2013, a juicy yet elegant Cabernet-Sauvgnon based wine to celebrate your successful zip-lining experience.

Stay tuned here all month every Monday and Saturday for a summer vacation to Paso Robles.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Paso Robles - California’s Fastest Growing Wine Region

Photo courtesy of Paso Robles Wine Alliance.
Located just six miles from the Pacific Ocean on the inland side of the Santa Lucia Coastal Mountains lies Paso Robles, now California’s fastest growing wine region.  With 40,000 acres of land under vine currently and over 200 wineries producing, there is a lot to discover in this sizable Central Coast appellation.

How large is it? For comparison sake, Napa Valley has approximately 225,000 total acres in its delineated area making it about 1/3 the size of Paso Robles. Comparing actual vineyard land currently in use, there is only a difference of 5,000 acres between the two with Napa ahead with 45,000 acres of land under vine. Paso Robles, however, has over 600,000 total acres of land within its boundaries which may allow for it to enjoy even greater expansion in the future.


In 2014, eleven new AVAs within the Paso Robles AVA were recognized as distinct wine growing sub-regions. Wines sporting these new designated labels will soon become more common in the market. 

Why does this matter? The unique characteristics that each of these sub-region’s possess are due to the differences in their terroir. Things like different types of soils, amount of sun exposure, vineyard elevation, level of rainfall and temperature range are aspects of terroir which can influence the quality and taste of the grapes grown there and eventually influence the resulting wine. 

The advantage of these special micro-climates being identified for consumers is the greater ease in finding other wines with similar characteristics to previously enjoyed Paso Robles wines. By more precisely defining the provenance of the grapes, consumers can choose to buy or not buy certain varietals from certain areas. The front labels of the area’s wines will continue to include the name Paso Robles with the new AVA designation to further simplify for the wine buyer where the grapes were grown.


Paso Robles grows a diverse assortment of grapes but the majority of their production is red wine, only 12% of the grapes grown are white varieties. Right now, look for exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and easy drinking New World style red blends from the area but don’t be surprised to see more of their smaller production dry rosé and interesting white varietals and blends in the market as the region continues growing.

Though Paso Robles has been gaining new interest from drinkers and investors as the wines win awards and earn higher scores from critics, the region is not new to wine production. The area’s wine history begins in the year 1790, sixty years before California even became a state, when Franciscan friars first planted vineyards upon their arrival in a place now known as the Santa Margarita Ranch. 

In modern times, this historic property is a destination for thrill seeking wine lovers who wish to zip-line from the hillsides and fly over bucolic Pinot Noir vineyards in between tastings. 

I did that last month on my trip to Paso Robles, follow along here all through July every Monday and Saturday as I show you what's happening in Paso Robles now.

Monday, June 19, 2017

New Chile Pequeños Tasting - Houston

"Long and thin it will always remain, 
but Chile is packing a lot of excitement into such a confined space." ~ Tim Atkins, M.W. 

The quote above summarizes the message from the Wines of Chile seminar at the New Chile Pequeños Tasting in Houston last month delivered by Master Sommelier candidate Steven McDonald. 

The excitement stems from Chile beginning to more fully utilize its  diverse range of soils and climates to push the country's viticultural limits. If you think the country only produces wines from its signature grape,  Carménère, it is time for you to rethink Chilean wine. 75% of all the grapes grown are red but there are a range of different varieties being produced. 

This tasting focused on site specific artisan wines from cooler high elevation terroirs.  These unique growing areas support specific varieties more easily and contribute to the purity of style.

The wine:

Aquitania Sol de Sol 2014 - This 100% Chardonnay wine was sourced from a cold southern vineyard area in the Malleco Valley which has a climate similar to Oregon with clay and granite soils. It spent 8 months in French Oak barrels with twice weekly lees stirring and no racking. Interesting, refreshing, creamy with medium body, medium + acidity with lemon, mushroom and a light mineral finish. SRP $35

Casa Silva Los Lingues 2014 -From the Colchagua Valley, this 100% Carménère wine is sourced from 14 year old vines planted at an elevation of 1475 feet on stony clay soil. Each vineyard block is vinified separately with aging in oak barrels for 10-12 months for 80% of the wine. McDonald discussed the careful farming required to get the most out of what he referred to as "a tricky grape." Spicy and fruity with raspberry jam, pink peppercorn and a bit of leather with a medium + body and medium acidity and tannins with a smooth red fruit finish. SRP $20

Garcés Silva Amayna 2013 - This sustainable  100% Pinot Noir from the Leyda Valley was grown on decomposed granite with alluvial stones and calcium deposits. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and was aged for 12 months in French oak, of which 15% was new. Blueberries, blackberries and a bit of an oxidized quality on the nose with a cranberry and licorice flavor and a slight nuttiness in the finish. SRP $35

De Martino Gallardia 2016 - This Cinsault is from the Itata Valley where it was dry-farmed on its original rootstock on granite soil. It underwent a short semi-carbonic maceration and was fermented with native yeasts. Fresh and fruity with a medium body, medium + acidity and pomegranate aromas and flavors, McDonald commented "it has a naturalness, a crunchy underripe quality that I like." SRP $19.99

Maquis Franco 2010 - From the Colchagua Valley, this 100% Cabernet Franc is sustainably grown on alluvial soils over a layer of gravel. The wine is then aged in French oak barrels for 14 months creating a full bodied ripe red with medium + fine grained tannins, medium acidity with raspberry aromas and flavors, a slight minty note and a lingering finish. SRP $85

Calcu Futa 2010 - This sustainably produced 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from granitic and clay soils in the Colchagua Valley. It spent 18 months in French oak barrels creating a fresh, structured, well-balanced full bodied red with floral aromas, blackberry and raspberry aromas and flavors, chewy tannins, medium + acidity and a light touch of vanilla in the long finish. SRP $65

All the wines are highly recommended; they are unique, delicious and reflective of the diverse terroir of Chile!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Notes from a Santenay Tasting and Seminar

Last week at the Texas Wine School, Guy Stout shared his knowledge with Houston wine professionals on the village appellation of Santenay located in the Côte de Beaune growing area in Bourgogne, also known as the Burgundy wine region of France.

Santenay is situated in the southern portion of the Côte de Beaune on limestone based soils which receive ideal morning sun exposure. The area primarily produces well structured red wines from Pinot Noir but they also produce some elegant white wine from Chardonnay as well.

Santenay earned AOC status in 1937. Wine wasn't the only liquid of interest at the time, a hot springs spa was a major attraction in the area until 1998 when it was closed. The wines of the region, however, have maintained their attraction through their reputation for quality and charm.

There are twelve Premiers Crus Climats within the Santenay appellation. In Bourgogne, Climats are plots of land that have been delimited by winemakers for generations, some as far back as the 7th century. Unfortunately, we did not get to taste them all. The sample we did enjoy, however, has inspired me to seek more wines from Santenay in the near future.

The wines:

Santenay "Clos de Malte" by Maison Louis Jadot 2013 - This white wine was sourced from a seven hectare Monopole vineyard on the foot of the Montagne des Troix Croix of which only one hectare is devoted to Chardonnay. From a vintage that Stout described as "lean, for both production and style", the wine was dry with a medium body and medium plus acidity with fruity aromas and flavors of green apple and yellow plum, a nutty nuance with a bit of tartness in the fresh finish. "I like it," pronounced Stout.

Santenay 1er Cru Clos des Gravières by Domaine Bachey-Legros 2015 - From a highly respected premier cru vineyard site for red wines, this white wine was aromatically interesting with a slight musty earthiness combined with fruity meyer lemon and yellow plum flavor. Dry, rounder with medium acidity, a slightly chewy texture and juicy citrus in the lingering mineral-laced finish.

Santenay by Domaine Jacques Bavard 2014 - Stout called this village level red "a classic Pinot Noir" from it's bright ruby color to its cherry, cranberry and forest floor aromas and flavors. Dry with medium acidity and moderate tannins, Stout said this wine was both "simple and easy to enjoy."


Santenay 1er Cru Gravières by Domaine Jessiaume 2014 - Bright floral aromas with juicy cherry and pomegranate flavors, dry, medium bodied with moderate tannins and medium+ acidity, Stout referred to this wine as "a gazelle that was ready to run".

Santenay 1er Cru Clos Rousseau by Domaine Jean-Claude Regnaudot et Fils - Stout sniffed, swirled and tasted this wine and announced to the group, "It's going to be hard to move past this one!" Bright aromas of ripe Bing cherries and forest floor, dry, medium bodied, medium+ chewy tannins and medium+ acidity with juicy plum and cherry flavors with a truffled savory note in the finish.

Santenay 1er Cru Maladière by Domaine Lucien Muzard et Fils - Less youthful seeming than the previous wines from the slight orangish tint to the rim to the slightly oxidized note on the nose but equally elegant. Aromas and flavors of cranberries, truffles and forest floor with a medium body and medium acidity and tannins, this dry red also has a touch of spiciness in the finish.

Sophisticated, energetic and full of character; the wines from this tasting are all highly recommended.

Wines tasted on May 29, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Alto Adige: Taste Italian Wines at Their Peak" - My Notes from a Seminar and Tasting

Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser moderated an Alto Adige winery panel last week in Houston with speakers Armin Gratl of Cantina Valle Isarco, Andi Punter of Franz Haas and Kathrin Werth of Muri-Gries Wine Estate and Monastery Cellar.

These are my notes from the "Alto Adige: Taste Italian Wines at Their Peak" seminar and tasting.

The Wines:

The first two hail from Italy's northernmost wine growing zone, Valle Isarco, which is home to 860 acres of vineyards set at steep elevations of 1312 to 3117 feet, they are densely planted and terraced. The mica schist and sandy gravel soils of the area add a mineral component to the wines while the Alpine influence enhances the purity. White wine makes of 95% of production, Muller Thurgau and Gewürztraminer are important grapes along with Sylvaner and Kerner.

Alto Adige Valle Isarco Sylvaner DOC Aristos 2015 by Cantina Valle Isarco -  Lively aromas and flavors of melon and apricot with a distinct mineralty that Gaiser called "classic to the area". 14% ABV

Alto Adige Valle Isarco Kerner DOC 2016 by Abbazia di Novacella - Fresh, elegant with green apple, citrus and a mineral-laced finish. 14.1% ABV

The next were from the central Adige Valley which is located between Bolzano and Merano and has 637 vineyard acres at elevations of 820 to 2953 feet. In this area there are grapes on the hills and apples in the valleys. The hillside grapes are on red porphyry soils, some limestone areas and sandy loam at lower levels. 63% of the production is for white wines from Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc with the reds made primarily from Schiava and Lagrein.

Alto Adige Pinot Bianco DOC Sirmian 2015 by Nals Margreid - Clean and elegant with apricot, stony notes and a slight bitterness in the finish. 13.5% ABV

Alto Adige Terlano Sauvignon DOC Quarz 2015 by Cantina Terlano - Interesting profile for a Sauvignon Blanc, more saline minerality, subtle fruit, slightly citrus finish. 14% ABV

The next two were from the Oltradige zone where Lago di Caldaro sits in the heart of the hilly 4156 vineyard acres sitting at elevations ranging from
984 to 2297 feet above sea level on limestone and porphyry soils. The wine production here is more balanced with 56% white and 44% red wine made, grapes include Schiava, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer.

Alto Adige Pinot Grigio DOC Anger 2016 by Cantina Produttori San Michele Appiano - The name Anger translates to "a piece of land near home". Gaiser commeneted that it was "all about the lees contact with this wine" which gave it "balance, intensity and lift." Bright, fresh aromas of green apple and pear with a light bitter note in the finish.

Alto Adige Lago di Caldaro Scelto Classico DOC Bischofsleiten 2015 by Castel Sallegg - This wine's name is due to its historic site, the former home of the Bishops of Trentino. Intense raspberry, smooth, pure.

From Bolzano's 1695 vineyard acres set at elevations of 820 to 2953 feet on primarily porphyry soils with gravel on slopes and alluvial on the valley floor, one finds more red wine, it is produced at 70% to the only 30% white. This is due to the warm sunny micro-climate caused by the protection of the mountains and the temperature moderation from the Adige and Isarco Rivers. Schiava, Lagrein, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Blanc are the main grapes in this zone.

Alto Adige Santa Maddalena Classico DOC  Huck am Bach 2015 - This label has existed since 1919. The grapes come from the hilltops, 90% Schiava and 10% Lagrein and are co-fermented. Interesting, tart berries, lingering spice note.

Alto Adige Lagrein Riserva DOC Abtei Muri 2014 by Muri-Gries Wine Estate/Monastery Cellar - A valley floor vineyard with old vines from 1933 still trained to the Pergola System and younger vines now being trained in the Guyot method. Gaiser proclaimed it, "A great food wine that more people should be pouring." Ripe dark berries, chocolate, long finish.

Bassa Atesina is the home of the next two wines. The southern warmer zone in the lower part of Alto Adige is influenced by the mild temperatures of Lake Garda. The largest of the growing zones at 4618 acres with vineyards sitting at elevations of 656 to 3773 feet on mixed soils of limestone, dolomite, loamy rubble, along with sandy marl in the south. Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir are important grapes in this area though there is also Chardonnay, Schiava and Gewürztraminer continues to thrive in its homeland of Tramine.  67% of the zone's production is white.

Alto Adige Pinot Nero DOC 2014 by Franz Haas - Punter shared that Pinot Noir had been in the region since the 1860's. It is 1/3 of the production at this private estate. Fresh aromas and flavors of red cherry, forest floor with a lingering mineral-laced finish. Both elegant and pleasantly easy, it was a crowd favorite at the tasting.

Alto Adige Gewürztraminer DOC Kastelaz 2013 by Elena Walch - Modern production methods
including cold maceration, temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation and cultured yeast created a dry, fresh, higher acid Gewürztraminer with all the classic aromas and flavors, lovely.

Excellent wines, all are recommended!