Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Paso Robles Westside Redwine Jailbreak. Zowie!

The genie is out of the bottle, the secret is out. The beans are spilled, the horse is out of the barn. News from Wine Spectator just last week has just put Paso Robles, particularly the mountainousWestside, on the world’s wine map…indelibly, permanently, forever, and always. Justin Smith, Paso’s winemaker extraordinaire, was just awarded the Best Wine of the Year (that’s international & worldwide, folks), from his James Berry Vineyard, for his GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre) blend. That is in no small measure, an achievement 99.9% of Napa wineries strive for year after year…and never attain. Matter of fact, all the wineries of the world strive for that.

Earlier, Saxum had earned a 100 pt. rating in WS, one of only 4 awarded worldwide. Napa had one, Saxum had theirs, and Bordeaux had two. Now Justin’s Saxum has the #1 wine in the world…and here in our former one horse town, El Paso de Robles. Well, no more. No more Napa, Sonoma, Bordeaux, Rhone River, looking down their noses at Paso Robles. Tablas Creek’s Rhone, Chateau d’ Castel came in with a 94 pt Rhone, and just for good measure, our south county neighbor, John Alban’s Edna Valley Syrah earned 97 pts.

Ready for it or not, Paso Robles has arrived on the wine scene, and the above list is just a hint of that. In past several years, Stefan Asseo’s L’Aventure landed a half dozen 94s to 98s in WS, Matt Trevisan’s Linne Calodo routinely has wines in the mid 90s, Eric Jensen’s Booker Vineyard is in the 90’s and Jack Creek Cellars has Pinots, Chardonnays, and Syrahs in 90+ range. What is significant about these wineries for Cerro Prieto is that virtually all those wineries are within a one mile radius of our steep mountain vineyard. Saxum a mile NW(just 2 hills over), Linne Calodo a mile south, Jack Creek a mile SW, Booker and L’Aventure a mile East. In other words we are surrounded not just by world acclaimed vintners, we are dead center in the heart of vineyards with world class terroir.

It is no accident that wines from these vineyards all are receiving world acclaim. We are located in the best place anywhere to consistently produce world class wines. In just two short years of producing only 400 cases/ yr, Cerro Prieto has garnered 2 International Gold Medals( amongst 3300 and 2700 international entries), a 92 point Wine Enthusiast wine( Paso Bordo, our Cab/ Syrah), another Merlot that is one of Chef Magazine’s 10 Marvelous Merlots(sandwiched between Cakebread and Duckhorn), and yet another accolade of one of the best 12 wines under $50 in 805 Living magazine(Nov 2010). The fruit doesn’t fall too far from the tree, and world class vineyards do not grow far from one another. Point in fact: we are all within a very tight radius of one another. If you haven’t been here, and you love wine…great wine, you need to come.

Traditionally, for years, wines from the Paso Robles region were shipped up north to the Napa wineries, who early on recognized the potential for Paso's red wine grapes, and could get them at half to one third the price of similar quality Napa grapes. Why wouldn't they buy from Paso? Now that is changing and fewer and fewer grapes still make the trip to Napa. Sure, grape farmers who hang 8 tons/acre, and maybe even 10 tons/acre still ship their winegrapes elsewhere. But the high yields are coming down, the overall grapes being produced here are of distinctly better quality (overall) than even 5 yrs ago. The mantra, "Less is more" is starting to get a foothold , even with the most dyed in the wool farmer.

And then there are the vintners who have been low yield devotees all along...the names all mentioned above. They are not alone, but they are certainly in the vanguard of low yield plus world class terroir equals world class wines. Justin Smith and others mentioned above are all part of that "Paso equals world class wines" group. We, as fellow vintners, have much to be thankful for hard working, savvy guys like Justin. He, and they, have finally broken through often enough, high enough, to cement Paso's claim to one of the places to go for world's best wines. We are a mere 3 or 4 decades old, and the new Paso vintners are but a handful of yrs old. Bordeaux is 400 yrs old, and yet, we are catching them. We have caught them...and not just Bordeaux, but Napa too. That is why Napa as well as others have been down here buying up Paso wineries as well as grapes.

We are blessed with the God given terroir. We now have a cadre of winemakers who are aware great wines start in the vineyard, and have maximized that fact, in addition to using their superior talents as vintners. Napa may have the cachet... but Paso has the bright shining future. For us the future is now. It is here. It has been so acclaimed by Wine Spectator, not to mention Wine Enthusiast, who was ahead of the curve of WS. If planning a wine tasting/ buying trip, you should come here. Anybody that does is not disappointed.

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