Tasting No. 229 (Virtual) – April 26, 2021 – Red Blends from California Central-South Coast


Tasting Overview:

The Central-South Coast of California (from San Francisco to Santa Bárbara) has earned a reputation for its excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.  These wines are produced in the valleys running east to west to the Pacific Ocean that benefit form the fog that comes through the valleys from the ocean resulting in cold nights and mornings and warm to hot afternoons. This thermal range is ideal for the wines in question. However, this only part of the history. the lands above the fog line with hot days and cool nights combined with the prevalent type of soils (composed of weathered granite, volcanic and marine sedimentary rocks overlayed with shallow combinations of sandstone, mudstone or calcareous shales) are ideal for growing Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. The Rhone type blends are becoming the raising stars of the Region. This tasting includes two red blends from Paso Robles one of the salient AVAs of the region.  This región is worth to explore more because its good quality, variety and reasonable prices.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Ginger Smart and Alfonso Sanchez:

2018 DAOU Vineyards, Pessimist Red Blend

2017 Vina Robles, The Arborist

The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Clara Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Alberto Gómez,  Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason,  Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices,Pedro Turina, German Zincke

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2018 DAOU Vineyards, Pessimist 

The Wine:  The 2018 Pessimist is inky and dark aubergine in color. A powerhouse vintage with a plethora fruit showcasing blueberry, boysenberry, plum and strawberry. Smoky notes of truffle and roasted coffee are accompanied by accents of floral consisting of lavender and lilac, highlighted by underlying nuances of buttered toast, vanilla, and a breath of cool wintergreen. Blend: 62% Petite Sirah, 20% Zinfandel, 16% Syrah, 2% Lagrein.

Winemaker Notes: The 2018 Pessimist is inky and dark aubergine in color. A powerhouse vintage with a plethora fruit showcasing blueberry, boysenberry, plum and strawberry. Smoky notes of truffle and roasted coffee are accompanied by accents of floral consisting of lavender and lilac, highlighted by underlying nuances of buttered toast, vanilla, and a breath of cool wintergreen. A veritable cascade of juicy berries, red cherries and huckleberries flood the palate while a river of lush fruit flavors overflow its banks. Voluptuous and robust while tempered with grace and elegance; a true gentle giant. The purity of fruit is elevated by its silky texture and hints of kirsch and cassis, olive and fennel. This wine displays a well- rounded and balanced finish that offers essences of blueberry and cranberry with prodigious persistence.

Jeb Dunnuck: The Pessimist cuvée by the Daou Brothers is always a good value for those who love opulent fruit, and the 2018 offers loads of sweet blue fruits, white chocolate, violets, and toasted spice aromas and flavors. Based on 62% Petite Sirah, 19% Zinfandel, and 17% Syrah, it’s full-bodied, decadent, and rich while staying light on its feet. I’d be happy to drink it

92 points- Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

90-92 points- Jeb Dunnuck

The Wienery: (From Wine.com) Paso Robles has made a name for itself as a source of supple, powerful, fruit-driven wines. But with eleven smaller sub-AVAs, there is actually quite a bit of diversity to be found in this inland portion of California’s Central Coast.

Just east over the Santa Lucia Mountains from the chilly Pacific Ocean, lie the coolest in the region: Adelaida, Templeton Gap and (Paso Robles) Willow Creek Districts, as well as York Mountain AVA and Santa Margarita Ranch. These all experience more ocean fog, wind and precipitation compared to the rest of the Paso sub-appellations. The San Miguel, (Paso Robles) Estrella, (Paso Robles) Geneso, (Paso Robles) Highlands, El Pomar and Creston Districts, along with San Juan Creek, are the hotter, more western appellations of the greater Paso Robles AVA.

This is mostly red wine country, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel standing out as the star performers. Other popular varieties include Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Grenache and Rhône blends, both red and white. There is a fairly uniform tendency here towards wines that are unapologetically bold and opulently fruit-driven, albeit with a surprising amount of acidity thanks to the region’s chilly nighttime temperatures.

In 1961, Dr. Stanley Hoffman, a Beverly Hills cardiologist, moved his family to Paso Robles to follow his dream of becoming a winemaker. Then known as Hoffman Mountain Ranch, the property produced notable wines and was widely considered the birthplace of modern winemaking in Paso Robles. However, its full potential lay unfulfilled for more than 30 years.

Dr. Hoffman hired André Tchelistcheff as a consultant, and together, they developed the Hoffman Mountain Ranch vineyard and winery, the first gravity-flow winery in America and first commercial-scale winery in Paso Robles. Tchelistcheff was a Russian enologist who became America’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker. He revolutionized Napa Valley wine making by concentrating on high-quality California Cabernet Sauvignon aged in small French oak barrels. Known affectionately as “Maestro” and “the dean of Americans winemakers,” Tchelistcheff mentored a long list of legendary California winemakers.

When Georges and Daniel acquired the original Hoffman Mountain Ranch property, they completely restored the original redwood winery preserving a vital part of Paso Robles history. The torch that Tchelistcheff and the Hoffman’s lit a half century ago passed to the Daou brothers along with the responsibility to fulfill the mountain’s long-held promise.

DAOU Mountain is created from a very rare soil, calcareous clay. This soil, famously found in Saint-Émilion and the right bank of Bordeaux, is composed of clay with a calcareous and limestone subsoil perfect for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varieties. This is the soil Georges and Daniel sought when they searched around the world for their dream vineyard. DAOU Mountain rises 2,200 feet in elevation in the hills of the Adelaida District on the west side of the Paso Robles AVA. With its steep mountain slopes of up to fifty-six percent, DAOU Mountain rises dramatically above the Coastal Range with breathtaking views from the highest winery on the Central Coast of California. The mountain is cooled by the Pacific Ocean, fourteen miles away, and gentle breezes that flow over the Templeton Gap.

Warm, temperate days and cool nights guarantee even ripening and vine balance every year. The terroir of DAOU Mountain yields harvests of fruit with extraordinary phenolics, small berries with intense flavors, aromas, and deep colors from a low skin-to-juice ratio. Georges and Daniel promise to fulfill this mountain’s destiny of becoming one of the world’s greatest vineyards.

Read more about this Winery here: https://daouvineyards.com/

2017 Vina Robles, The Arborist

The Wine: A caretaker of trees, The Arborist pays homage to the iconic Paso Robles oaks. This estate blend is made mainly of varieties grown in our Huerhuero Vineyard, located directly behind our winery in the rolling hills of Paso Robles. Here, warm afternoons and cool evening breezes shepherd the grapes to perfect ripeness. The clusters were picked during the cooler morning temperatures and cold soaked for two days prior to fermentation. Various pump-over techniques were implemented during progressive stages of fermentation to enhance fruit extraction and balance out the tannin structure. The wine was then aged in both small and large format French, Hungarian and American oak barrels for 18 months in order to add complexity while enhancing a soft, velvety finish. This fruit forward wine is a natural go-to for just about any meal.

(WE) This blend of 44% Syrah, 32% Petite Sirah, 18% Grenache and 6% Mourvèdre begins with aromas of charred oak and dried herbs that decorate the boysenberry-sorbet and soy-pepper-sauce elements. The palate is rustic while balanced between red-plum and smoke flavors (88Pts.)

The Winery: (From Wine Searcher)Paso Robles is located approximately halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco in northern San Luis Obispo County on California’s Central Coast. Here, the growing season is distinguished by a reciprocating climate of warm inland afternoons and cool marine-moderated evenings. To the west, the Santa Lucia Mountains border the coast and insulate the Paso Robles region, trapping heat during the daytime. Toward evening, however, coastal air billows inland through the Templeton Gap, a notch in the mountains, as well southward from the Salinas Valley. Temperature swings of 50 degrees are not unusual during the summer months. Such conditions are optimal for Bordeaux and Rhône varieties, with ample solar energy to develop fully defined flavors and sufficient natural cooling to maintain excellent acid structure and overall balance.

The scale of soil diversity throughout Paso Robles is tremendous and it is not unusual to have several types within one vineyard site. Primarily, bedrock is composed of weathered granite, volcanic and marine sedimentary rocks overlayed with shallow combinations of sandstone, mudstone or calcareous shales. This is a stark comparison to the deep, fertile soils predominately found elsewhere in California. Despite its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Paso Robles’ climate is remarkably warm and continental. This is due largely to to the hills that lie between the main vineyard areas and the coast. These shield the area from climate-moderating coastal influences, meaning hot days and cool nights almost everywhere within the AVA. The region is not entirely bereft of refreshing coastal breezes, however, thanks to the “Templeton Gap”. This is not a single gap per se, but a series of narrow river valleys that bisect the Santa Lucia range, collectively allowing Paso Robles to “breathe” cool, coastal air in the afternoon and early evening. Regions vary in climate largely due to their proximity to the Templeton Gap and their relationship to the shielding effects of the Santa Lucia range and the Temblor Range to the east. 

(From the Winery’s webpage) Vina Robles is the result of a unique personal trajectory, one that led founder Hans Nef from a rural village outside Zurich, Switzerland to the rugged terrain of California’s Central Coast.

As a child in Switzerland, Nef learned to appreciate his rural surroundings and the blessings of agriculture. It was this special appreciation that lead him to expand his interests into agricultural land in the southern United States in the early 1990s. At the same time, he leveraged his passion for fine wine into his own wine import business, furthering his appreciation for California wines.

Each time Nef traveled to the U.S., his desire to grow his own wine became more intense. He discovered Paso Robles in the mid-1990s and quickly became enamored with the emergent wine country. Here, where the Pacific coastline unfolds into rugged ranchlands and cowboy ambiance, a new generation of California winemakers was turning Paso Robles into one of the world’s most dynamic winegrowing regions.

Nef was inspired to embark on his own idea for a Paso Robles winery, one that would honor his European roots while embracing the unique growing region in order to pursue his dream of producing world-class wines.

In 1996 Nef selected longtime friend and business associate Hans – R. Michel, a Swiss expatriate, as managing partner. A year later, the duo planted the first of what would later become six vineyards in Paso Robles, and soon thereafter Vina Robles was born. Winemaker Kevin Willenborg joined the team in 2012.

Read More about ViNa Robles here: https://www.vinarobles.com

Technical Notes 

Compiled and edited by Ginger Smart and Alfonso Sanchez from various sources, most importantly Wien Folly, Wine Searcher and Wine.com

 The Southern Central Coast of California

(From Wine Folly) The Central Coast Viticultural Area that extends from the south of San Francisco all the way to Santa Barbara, California and contains 40 AVAs including Paso Robles, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey, and Santa Barbara and each of these sub-regions specializes in different types and expressions of wine. Central Coast produces some of California’s most intriguing, up-and-coming wines and each region has its own top-performing varieties, what makes each area unique.  The Central Coast is planted with 90,300 acres (36.500 hectares) of vineyards. Currently, the most widely planted variety is Chardonnay. The majority of the vineyards are located in the valleys that run east to west to the Pacific. The benefit of being along the coast is that the cold, moist air gets pulled in and creates a layer of morning cloud cover which reduces temperatures and sun exposure on the grapes. This is why cool climate varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir excel in the coastal regions of the Central Coast AVA. Notable Cool and Coastal AVAs are:

  • Santa Cruz Mountains: The mountains to the west of Silicon valley were originally planted with vines by French immigrants in the early 1900s. The upper slopes and western side are known for Pinot Noir, whereas the more inland areas produce elegant examples of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet, and Syrah.
  • Sta Rita Hills: This region was featured in the blockbuster flick Sideways and perhaps because of the press (and partly because of the quality), SRH has since become one of the most famous Pinot Noir and Chardonnay regions on the West Coast.
  • San Luis Obispo: Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley are the 2 AVAs in SLO that produce outstanding, rich Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.
  • San Benito: An intermediate climate area with a vein of limestone soils that’s become known for Pinot Noir (look up Calera) but there is potential for elegant styles of Sangiovese, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Franc.
  • Monterey: A larger encompassing region with many large scale vineyard farms producing a great deal of the bulk Chardonnay and Merlot that we see labeled “Central Coast” in grocery stores. Still, within Monterey AVA, there are several great sub-regions including Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone, and Arroyo Seco.
  • Santa Maria Valley: Home to the California’s largest connected vineyard, Bien Nacido, which has 900 acres in Santa Maria Valley. The region is more intermediate in terms of climate and is hailed for its lusher styles of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.

Where there isn’t morning cloud cover, there is a very different wine scene. The inland regions and ridges receive ample sunshine and a long, hot, dry growing season, so you’ll see a prevalence of warm to hot climate grapes excel here including everything from Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre to Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Notable warmer and inland AVAs are:

Paso Robles: One of the most exciting regions for Syrah and other Rhône varieties on the West Coast. The area also produces a great deal of pocketbook-friendly, smoky, and satisfying Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • Santa Ynez Valley: Moving inland from Sta Rita Hills, it gets noticeably hotter and you’ll find a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah.
  • Ballard Canyon: Noted for being slightly cooler than the Santa Ynez Valley because of massive temperature shifts between night and day. Ballard Canyon has a keen focus on Syrah and other Rhône varieties including Grenache, Viognier, and Roussanne.
  • Hames and San Antonio Valleys: The inner-most regions of Monterey contain some of the largest bulk wine production farms and wineries. There is potential here considering the presence of limestone soils but quality will need to start in the vineyards.

The southern Central Coast of California is an up-and-coming wine district in general.  It has very rapidly become one of the best wine areas in the world, outside of Burgundy itself, for Pinot Noir.  Chardonnay is equally exciting, and Italian varietals could well be the most prized wines of the new millennium, The San Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County had a flourishing wine industry in pre-Prohibition times; Santa Barbara town itself was once dotted with vineyards. Yet most of the area was devoid of vines in the 1960s. Firestone, in the Santa Ynez Valley, established vineyards in 1972 and then others followed.

Quite why Santa Barbara of all areas in the southern Central Coast has become the mecca for Pinot Noir specialists is difficult to unravel. In the late 1980s, California seemed the least likely place to be in a position to challenge Burgundy for the Holy Grail of winemaking.  Oregon and New Zealand looked much more likely, but they have both since proved too small and prone to inconsistency.  If it was going to be California, no one a decade or so ago was going to put their money on Santa Barbara, way down south, just a stone’s throw from Los Angeles; Carneros or Russian River Valley seemed a more likely bet. The foundations for Santa Barbara’s sudden surge of wonderful Pinot Noir wines were laid innocently in the 1970s, when the land was relatively cheap and planted with this variety in order to supply the sparkling wine industry in the north of the state. It is impossible to pinpoint exactly when local winemakers realized the potential of making their own still wine, but much of California’s finest, purest, and most consistent Pinot Noir wines now come from this valley. The San Ynez Valley makes the best Santa Barbara Pinot.

The southern Central Coast is a cool place (thermally).  Despite its southerly latitude, the southern Central Coast is by far one of the coolest wine areas in the state. The reason has to do with the way the valleys lie.  Thanks to California’s tumultuous geologic past, most of the valleys in the state were formed in an essentially north to south direction 9think of Napa and Sonoma as well as the huge Central Valley, for example). Unusually for California, however, the wine valleys of the southern Central Coast were formed so that they run basically east to west, enabling them to become direct conduits for fog and cold offshore breezes that barrel (blow strongly) inland from the Pacific Ocean.  Summer in the Santa Maria Valley is goose bump season, the average summer temperature is only 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not surprisingly, this is chardonnay and pinot noir country, for while it is possible to make either wine in a warm region, top-class chardonnays and pinots – the kind that have character, focus, and complexity – are almost exclusively the provenance of cool places (consider Champagne, Burgundy, Oregon, Carneros). Chardonnay represents 60% of the wine grown in the area. There are also some warm pockets of land where snappy sauvignon blancs are made. The red grapes of renown (deservedly) are Pinot Noir and Syrah, which in the hands of great producers here can make very delicious wines full of personality. Wineries located elsewhere buy San Ynez grapes and make good wines from them, some of the very top wines are made by local producers.

As for the wineries themselves, early on the middle and southern Central Coast was a haven for tiny, creative wine companies on shoestring budgets headed by maverick winemakers who intuitively understood the region’s potential. One of the best and a typical example is Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, often described as looking more like a Hell’s Angel than a vintner.   By the late 1980s, however, so many delicious wines were coming out of the region that big companies moved in and snapped up vineyard land at comparatively rock-bottom prices. Among the large wineries that now own extensive vineyards in the middle and southern Central Coast are Robert Mondavi, Kendall Jackson, and Beringer Blass Wine Estates (the later owns Meridian Vineyards in Paso Robles and in the Napa Valley, Beringer  Vineyards).



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