Saturday Sips: Some Gems from the Paso Robles AVA

Back in October, I attended a Paso Robles tasting at Corkbuzz hosted by Teuwen Communications. Through the years I have tasted many wines from this area but they were almost always Syrah or Syrah-dominated wines. I had no idea that there was such a vast offering in the area, 40 varieties, until this last tasting. The region has some 200 wineries and 40,000 acres under vine. Most producers make fewer than 5000 cases. It has great diurnal temperature changes so grapes can reach their full phenolic ripeness and the season is a long one so a variety of early and later blooming grapes can flourish here. Most of the wines made here are blends,. Paso Robles AVA has 11 sub AVAs which I haven’t really explored. The Salinas Rover splits the area and two major distincts in soil can be seen. According to their literature, “generally characterized by rolling hills east of the Salinas River and steeper hillsides, cut by small canyons, west of the Salinas River. The area is also impacted both by the Santa Lucia mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. The also have something called the Templeton Gap which I had never heard of until this tasting. Defined as, “a 500-700 overall drop in elevation between the Paso Robles region and Morro Bay ” which allows Pacific  cool air to meet hot air and create a kind of a “sea fog”  which provides needed respite for the grapes, twice a day. The whole area rests on the Pacific plate which is comprised of ancient seabed materials, rich in marine fossils. The soils are a mix of calcareous, siliceous, clay and sandy loam.

I really enjoyed the Tablas Creek range that I tried, particularly the white blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul. The wines are all organic and biodynamic certified and largely dry-farmed. These Rhone-style blends also go through natural yeast fermentation. Authentic and lovely, they aren’t inexpensive but definitely worth it.

I also really enjoyed their rose, a blend of Grenache, Mourvédre, Syrah, and Counoise.

I tried wines from Opolo Vineyards. This one was made from 100% Roussanne and was a  beauty. This winery has 300 acres of vines and grow many varieties – 32 in all. This one at $26 was a real find, I loved the body and texture.

The Villa Creek Cellars wines were more in line with my past experience of Paso Robles wines – big bold reds. This winery has 60 acres and they are certified biodynamic and organic as well. The Willow Creek Cuvée pictured on the right is made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvédre. Also not expensive, it was a big bold wine that would be perfect with a roast. The wine on the left, called Avenger 2015 was a blend of Syrah, Petite Syrah, Grenache and Mourvédre. It was rich and chewy with juicy tannins and fit the Rhone style wine profile I had imagined.

There were a host of other wines that day but my camera died and I don’t have the other wines pictured except for one winery which focused on Italian grapes rather than French and which I will write about separately.

It was a lovely tasting and completely opened my eyes to all I have been missing about Paso Robles. I look forward to discovering more.

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