Wine Reviews: Paso Robles

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-05-2020

I’ve enjoyed Paso Robles wines for many years, but it wasn’t until a visit there in 2017 that I began to understand why. Over the course of a week, I found beautiful landscapes, complex and diverse soils, and a tight-knit community with an encouraging sense of collaboration and experimentation.

I fell in love with many different elements that make the region special, from its proximity to the coast, the ancient seabed soils, and the amount of small producers who seemed to be doing their own thing on their own terms. After coming back, I wrote that “Paso Robles’ dynamic wine culture is a standing invitation to travelers,” and I long for the time when it is safe to take up that invitation again.

Vailia From. Credit: Desparada Wines

But, while stuck at home, I jumped at the chance to taste some exciting new releases from this Central California region, and attend a virtual tasting with some Paso winemakers.

I especially enjoyed listening to Desparada Wines proprietor and winemaker Vailia From, who makes wine in Paso’s Tin City. It’s a large collection of warehouse and outdoor space that offers boutique winemakers a chance to share equipment and collaborate in a way that might not otherwise be financially feasible. Small lot wines, craft beers, ciders, and distilled spirits abound here. If you’re ever going to Paso, it’s a must-see spot.

After visiting Paso Robles once, From decided to move there, working at a co-op before striking off on her own label. She said it was the welcoming environment and down-to-earth locals that made her want to stick around. “It’s really communal. There are so many awesome people here,” said From. “Your neighbor has your back. There’s not a lot of pretention. There’s not a lot of douchebags.”

I couldn’t have summed it up any better myself.

While Paso’s calling card is red wines (made largely from Bordeaux, Rhone, Spanish and Italian grapes), the white wines made here are some of my personal favorites. Don’t think Paso can do legit Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo? I beg to differ.

The wines in this report were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2018 Desparada Chenin Blanc Kleio USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles Highlands District
SRP: $34
Beautiful straw color. Inviting aromas of lemon, quince, along with shaved ginger, honey, and complex notes of oyster shell and chalk. Crisp and tense on the palate, racy but shows some depth of texture as well. Brisk acidity balances wonderfully with a slightly waxy mouthfeel and delicious lemon, quince and apricot fruit. Notes of chalk, mineral, white tea and shaved ginger add all sorts of complexity. Has a pure, focused appeal. I guess there’s a place for everything in Paso Robles, as this is wonderful Chenin Blanc. 11.4% alcohol. (91 points IJB)

2018 Parrish Family Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles Adelaida DIstrict
SRP: $27
Light yellow color. Aromas of gushing limes with honeydew and white peach, along with chalky, white tea, wildflower and sage tones – so bright. Beautiful acidity frames the wine so well, gorgeous texture, bright and zesty but shows roundness as well. Lemons, white peaches, green melon, tangy, precise fruit mixed with honey, talc, white flowers and white pepper. Crazy mineral focus – this is surprisingly lovely and complex. (91 points IJB)

2019 Robert Hall Cavern Select Vermentino USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $24
Light yellow color. Breezy yet deep, inviting nose of lime, apricot and lemon with nettle, wild clover, chalk, with some honeyed white tea. Zippy acidity frames the palate nicely, it stays crisp but shows plump, juicy texture. Key lime, yellow plums and apricot fruit mix well with notes of dandelion, orange blossom, sliced cucumber, and these chalky mineral tones. The sur lie aging (in a mix of Acacia and old French oak) seems like a good choice, as this is such a bright wine, the slight creamy and nutshell notes add depth. Like so many Paso Robles white wines I find, the value here is impressive. (89 points IJB)

2019 Sextant Estate Verdejo X-Series USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $28
Medium gold color. Brisk, salty nose over lime, lemon peel, green apple, with complex, impressive depth of crushed shells, white flowers and dandelion notes – really complex arozzmas. Precise and focused on the palate with lively acidity and a salty, oceanic, oyster shell aesthetic, that is so attractive. Lime, lemon and kiwi fruit blend well with these mountain stream, rocky, floral components. It has this Muscadet-esque, dry Portuguese white-homage feel, but with its own depth and flair. Highly recommended if any of this sounds like your style. (92 points IJB)

2019 Jada Viognier USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles Willow Creek District
SRP: $40
Medium yellow color. Aromas boast ripe peach and green melon, mixed with yellow and orange flowers (not too over-the-top, though) with honey, and interesting notes of chalk dust and shells. A waxy, creamy texture on the palate – not too heavy, I repeat, not too heavy – this 13.6% Viognier may change some minds if you’re not usually a fan. It shows white peaches, pineapple and lime, mixed with dusty, salty, mineral and shell tones. Dandelion and orange blossoms add complexity. Obviously Viognier, but it also shows a sleekness and freshness that I find rare for this variety. Spends four months in a mix of new oak and stainless steel. (90 points IJB)

Credit: Bodega de Edgar

2017 Bodega de Edgar Toro de Paso USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $48
Deep purple color. Smoky, barbecue sauce aromas meet sweet plums and blackberries, topped in black pepper glaze, warm clay and paved road tones. Deep and juicy on the palate, full, chewy tannins, and the refreshing acidity really holds this together well. Blackberry and cherry compote mix with complex notes of mesquite, black pepper, roasted chestnut, mint, beef jerky. Juicy but savory, ripe but fresh and expressive. I’d love to see this in three to five years, too. 90% Tempranillo and 10% Carignan. (91 points IJB)

2016 Indigene Cellars Ambiente USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $35
Deep purple color. Nose sports plum sauce, sweet cherries and raisings with notes of earth, cocoa, mint and charcoal. On the palate, this is full and suave with juicy tannins and medium acidity. Flavors of plum sauce and blueberry jam mix with cocoa, anise cookie, leather and clove tones. Bold but shows integrated, subtle complexity and should open up nicely over the next few years. Sangiovese, Malbec and Merlot. (89 points IJB)

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