By TOM MARQUARDT and PATRICK DARR
We are unabashed fans of wines from the Paso Robles region in California. Paso Robles is located at about the mid-point between San Francisco and Los Angeles and hugs the cool Pacific coast. The area is hot and arid during the growing season, providing an ideal climate. Cool nights coupled with warm daytime temperatures create an environment where grapes ripen but retain acidity.
Although more than 60 grape varieties are planted in this big region cabernet sauvignon has risen to be its most popular after years of being known more for its Rhone grape varieties.
Alas, there are still a lot of mediocre wines coming from Paso Robles, but over the last few years, we have been seeing significant progress in quality. Daou, for instance, is getting a lot of attention. So are Austin Hope and Justin Winery. One producer we recently discovered is McPrice Myers.
McPrice Myers hit a high mark when just recently its Beautiful Earth Red, an eclectic blend of red grape varieties, earned a berth in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines in the world – it was ranked 16.
The 2020 blend includes syrah, grenache, mourvedre, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, petite sirah and zinfandel – whew! Ripe and jammy plums, blueberries, cassis, red currants and a lush mouthfeel.
We also loved the McPrice Myers Beautiful Earth Paso Robles White ($35). This was the surprise of the month. A blend of grenache blanc and clairette blacha grapes, it has copious pear and graphite aromas followed by bright citrus and melon flavors. Those of you who want something different than chardonnay and sauvignon blanc will be delighted by this unique wine.
We also enjoy the wines from Justin Winery.
Often referred to as a GSM blend, the 2019 Justin Trilateral ($55) is composed of 48 percent syrah, 33 percent grenache, and 19 percent mourvedre. It is a distinctively California take on its French Rhone cousins. Abundant ripe berry and cherry elements dominate this blockbuster that sports 16.1 percent alcohol. Twelve months of aging in oak — 17 percent is new French oak –creates a soft oak frame to complement the ripe fruit. Drink now or age for at least 5 years.
The 2019 Justin Justification ($78) blend harkens to the wines of Bordeaux’s St. Emilion region. Composed of 65 percent cabernet franc and 35 percent merlot, this wine displays a distinctive California style with an exuberant burst of fruit accented with some herbal notes and a hint of mocha in a deep smooth rich package. Barrel-aged in French oak for 20 months, this beauty features a more moderate 15 percent alcohol.
Here are more fabulous wines from Paso Robles:
McPrice Myers High on the Hog Paso Robles Red 2020 ($25). A good value, this is a wild blend of grenache, petite sirah, syrah, zinfandel, mourvedre, malbec and lagrein. Big in alcohol, it sports a lot of red and black fruit flavors with a hint of spice and a floral nose.
McPrice Myers Fait Accompli Paso Robles 2020 ($55). This blend of syrah (46 percent), cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot is rich and silky jammy blackberry fruit flavors, good length and generous mouthfeel. Black currant and herbal aromas.
McPrice Myers Sel De La Terre Paso Robles Grenache 2020 ($55). This is one of the best examples of Paso Robles grenache grape that we have tasted. Very balanced with abundant black cherry and strawberry fruit and a hint of mocha. Soft tannins.
Thacher Constant Variable Red 2019 ($48). Magic happens when Rhone grape varieties come together and that is certainly the case with this blend of grenache, syrah, mourvedre, cinsaut, counoise and viognier. We loved its big bouquet and fresh fruit character. The producer uses oak judiciously to retain the qualities of each grape variety.
Cordant Wills Hills Grenache 2020 ($62). We loved this opulent grenache from a vineyard on the westside of Paso Robles. Fresh raspberry and strawberry flavors belie the complexity that make this more than a simple red wine. Floral aromas with a hint of cherry and pepper.
Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port 2010 ($65). Vintage port is very special because it is made in only great years and it is priced accordingly. Because this is from a single quinta vintage, it doesn’t need aging as much as a 20-year vintage port.
Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port ($20). If your dinner guests are looking for something easy to round off the evening – or if you’re looking for a night cap after they finally leave – consider a glass of port. At this price, it won’t set you back but you’ll still enjoy the aristocracy a port brings.
Dow’s 10-Year-Old Tawny Port ($39). There’s nothing like sipping a glass of port on a cold winter day. The price of this tawny port from Symington Family Estates won’t set you back, yet it delivers a lot of finesse. Cherry and plum notes with the classic almond and toffee aromas. Nice pepper notes on the palate. For an even bigger experience, spring for the 20-Year-Old Tawny Port ($67) — a nice gift for dad.
Lohr Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 ($60). Petit verdot is added to the cabernet sauvignon to soften the tannins and add another dimension to this terrific wine. Raspberry and black cherry notes with hints of mineral and chocolate.
Vara Albarino 2021 ($30). Bob Lindquist and Louisa Sawyer Lindquist of Albuquerque, NM, are working with estates in Spain and California to produce some very interesting wines. We liked this albarino from Edna Valley vineyards. Mouth-filling melon and peach flavors.
Pangea Apalta Vineyard Chile Syrah 2004 ($50-60). We were stunned by this ultra-premium syrah from Chile. Stunned. Full-bodied, and complex with dense blackberry and blueberry flavors.
La Nerthe Les Cassagnes Cote Du Rhone White ($24). A lovely blend of four of the classic white Cotes du Rhone grapes: grenache blanc, viognier, roussanne, and marsanne. Enticing notes of honey, citrus, pear and a floral element complete a rich, smooth elegant package.
Jordan Chardonnay Sonoma County Russian River Valley 2020 ($40). Jordan has crafted a very Burgundian style of chardonnay. Although aged in new French oak, only a minimal oak expression competes with the pear and apple fruit notes.
Rombauer Chardonnay Carneros 2021 ($42). A perennial winner with an amazing balance of elegant oak and abundant tropical fruits of pineapple, mango and orange.