By Michael Cervin
Napa lays claim to Cabernet Sauvignon like they invented it. Certainly they are a dominant region where it’s grown in the U.S., but Paso Robles is positioning itself to give Napa a run for its money and this central California region is producing Cabernet and Bordeaux blends offering incredible value and diversity, something Napa has strayed from.
“There is something about the Napa Valley’s unique topography, climate and growing season that is perfectly suited to Cabernet,” says Ann Colgin of Napa’s highly regarded Colgin Estate, whose Cabernets sell for $300. “While Napa Valley wines can be expensive, there is no substitute for the pedigree of fruit this region is capable of producing,” she says. And that is the conventional wisdom of many Cabernet lovers – that the pedigree, the history and provenance are with Napa. But true wisdom dictates that conventional wisdom, of necessity, must evolve. And the times, as they say, are a’ changing.
“If you want to know how good Paso Robles Cabernet is,” suggests, Gary Eberle of the multi-award winning Eberle Winery, “have a blind tasting of Napa Cabernets and a Paso Robles Cabernet. We may not always come out on top, but we can compete against Bordeaux and Napa first growths,” he says. And this is the precise reason that the Paso Robles Cabernet Collective (PRCC) was born. You might equate the warm Paso climate with Zinfandel, more so than Cabernet. But consider this: The Paso Robles wine region is 614,000 acres with over 40 varietals in the ground. Plantings by percentage are Zinfandel at 9%, Syrah and Rhone varietals at 17%, and Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varieties at a whopping 55%. And with a shorter learning curve than Napa, Paso is exerting itself. The newly formed PRCC is now flexing its Cabernet muscle with a “CABs of Distinction” grand tasting, a consumer-focused event for Cabernet lovers.
But can Paso Cabernet compete in an already crowded field? “Consumers can expect wines that are approachable immediately but yet will age beautifully well for years,” says Daniel Daou of DAOU Vineyards, one of the lead wineries. “An indication of a great terroir is where ripeness can be achieved most if not all the time. In Paso Robles we achieve ripeness consistently from year to year and our wines come from soils that are calcareous, so they don't have to be acidulated,” Daou says. “Napa and other great regions in the world cannot boast these incredible advantages,” he says. That’s a pretty bold claim but ultimately age-worthy Cabernet is about ripeness and balance. “It’s normal for Paso to see huge diurnal temperature swings of 40 to 50 degrees during the growing season and that’s great for the development of flavors and balanced acidity,” says Michael Mooney of Chateau Margene, adding that there are 45 different soil series and 13 different micro-climates allowing for a price-point diversity. Whereas Napa ain’t cheap anymore, Paso offers value.
A few examples to consider: Justin Winery is well-known for their high-end Isosceles, but they also produce a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) that reflects what’s best about inexpensive Cab from Paso: moderately bright fruit with a back note of earth and smoke, while the J. Lohr Cuvee Pom (a Merlot dominate blend at $50) reflects an earthy dust quality with mild tannins and black berry fruit. Vina Robles’ 2009 Suendero (a blend of Cab and Petit Verdot, $49) is deeply rustic with blackberry fruit. And you have the voluptuous DAOU Vineyard Soul of a Lion, a high-end Bordeaux blend at $100 and the Chateau Margene 2009 Cabernet Reserve ($52) both of which prove that the tight refined structure of classic Cabernet is being made in Paso. Across the board these wines showcase a livelier fruit profile, much better with food while still being balanced with mild tannins.
“I can tell you that we have barely seen the top of the iceberg in terms of quality for what is coming out of this appellation,” says Mooney. Certainly the national wine press has been kind to Paso’s Cabernets but the question remains will Paso Robles ultimately define itself with Cabernet as a flagship wine? Chances are good that a kind of “Napa South” will emerge and that Paso will break free from the current attempts to link it to Napa as a Cabernet cousin. Daniel Daou sums it up best: “Let me be 100 percent clear - I believe that Paso is the ultimate appellation for growing Cabernet Sauvignon but we need a little time to reach our potential. Changes in the vineyards as well as willingness for many more wineries to push the envelope in creating a higher end product will show the potential of this terroir in the next few years.” Apparently Paso is planning on a new pedigree.
There’s one way to find out if Daou is correct. Head to the PRCC CABs of Distinction event on Saturday, April 27. Winemakers will be on hand as well as music and artisanal food purveyors. There will be the obligatory winemaker dinners hosted in key Paso Robles restaurants on Friday, April 26, with a Who’s Who of the best Paso area restaurants including Thomas Hill Organics, Robert’s, Paso Terra, Il Cortile, Bistro Laurent, and McPhee's. www.pasoroblescab.com
Social functions often share some common features such as small talk, refreshments, and glasses of wine. The latter, in particular, is becoming almost a social convention in every gathering. Apart from being the drink of choice for such events, wine is becoming more popular among Americans because of its proven health benefits when enjoyed in moderate amounts.
In the past several decades, Americans no longer needed to go very far to savor wide varieties of quality vintage. California is home to a good number of vineyards that easily hold their own in the face of noted international labels. Wineries in Paso Robles, for instance, are a good place for budding wine connoisseurs to hone their wine-tasting skills and for aspiring sommeliers to familiarize themselves with new varieties.
While there are some other types, most wines are generally classified into red and white. Red wines are the result of pressing whole red or black grapes with skins on. White wine comes from fermenting the clear juice of any grape variety. Novice drinkers should learn to read the label and discern the wine’s particulars, such as grape variety, region, flavor, and the vintage year.
Other factors to consider are the tannins and the acidity of the wine. Tannins come from the grapes’ stalk and skins, and tend to taste bitter in young wine, only becoming more subtle as the drink ages. Meanwhile, the acidity content helps bring out the flavor of other ingredients. Caution is required, however, as high acidity can result in a sour-taste while low levels will make the wine taste too flat, and become more prone to spoilage.
Makers of excellent Paso Robles wine such as those from Daou Vineyards may have more exquisite vintages available. These types are usually made with select grape varieties, and aged to perfection under controlled conditions. While somewhat esoteric and luxurious in character, such wines could be procured under exclusive membership programs. Members-only perks also include a quarterly delivery of bottles of wine to one's doorstep.
You don't need to be a connoisseur to appreciate the fine taste of wine; but some knowledge will come in handy the next time you find yourself holding a flute or Boccalino at a reception, or even enjoying a bottle on a quiet night with loved ones at home. After all, wouldn't you want to get an idea of what it is that makes wine so delightful?
We are proud to share that Wilfred Wong, the "wine guru" of BevMo!, has given our first 100% Estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon a 98 point score, a rating only given to approximately 3 out of 10,000 wines every year!
The Estate Collection wines are available for members only & won't be here long...
"One of the great wines of the world, this is just the beginning!!!" says Wilfred Wong, Cellar Master, BEVMO!
A very impressive visit with the Daou brothers! Wines were outstanding and the long term projects look solid!
2010 Daou SOUL OF A LION (PASO ROBLES) ADELAIDA MOUNTAINS SRP: $100.00 (98) Deep ruby color; outstanding aroma, very concentrated, intoxicating; black currants, black olives, oak, and more; medium to full bodied; dry, nice acidity, well balanced; black olives, blackberries flavors, some cocoa powder; medium finish.
[74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot]
[Barrel aging: 22 months in 100% new French oak]
[100% free run, estate grown]
[Daniel Daou, Proprietor/Winemaker; Georges Daou, Proprietor]
Grown, Produced and Bottled at the Estate Daou Vineyards, Paso Robles, CA
Olives and olive oil have become a big part of Paso Robles, to the point that we even have our own Olive Festival that takes place every August. Now when you’re out driving amongst all the wineries and grape vines you will also notice numerous properties covered in olive trees, it really is an amazing farming community.
On that note, DAOU released their Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the second harvest and of course, my wife and I had to go up to the tasting room to give it a whirl. If you are a foodie in any way and love olive oil, it really is a must try! My wife and I had a recent conversation with Daniel Daou in which he revealed his love of food, but more importantly his love of food and wine as a compliment to one another; so this venture into olive oil just seems right.
I wanted to include an excerpt from the olive oil notes in the tasting room: “Our orchards are planted on heavy limestone soil with high density to minimize yield and achieve a high standard of quality. The olives are gently stone crushed then cold pressed and decanted producing 100% unfiltered extra virgin olive oil. This unique blend of four olives, Arbosana, Arbequina, Frantollio, and Pendolino, creates a long lasting taste that is lightly buttery.”
That last part had to make you a little hungry, right? Next time you travel up to DAOU Mountain, check out their olive oil, sip on some wine, and enjoy those amazing views! Cheers!
So here we are, it’s 2012 and we’re here in the heart of wine country, otherwise known as paradise but more officially known as Paso Robles. This is the first blog post for DAOU Vineyards so I thought some introductions would be in order.
My name is Matt, I’ve lived here in Paso Robles for about nine years and I’m a wine club member at DAOU; having a wine club member write the blog will offer some interesting perspective over time. My wife, Annie and I also have a local wine blog and do our share of visiting and supporting local wineries and events. It truly is a magical time in Paso Robles!
I first met Daniel Daou about four years ago at a wine event but did not go for an official tasting until six months ago or so, prior to the new tasting facility being open. I was not only impressed with how hands- on Daniel is but how engaging he was to chat with…and to top it off, the wines were very impressive. His passion for wine and winemaking are evident!
Daniel’s partner in crime is his brother Georges Daou, who I look forward to spending some time with to get to know him better. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know more of the DAOU team as I’ve gone tasting there, and they really are a very welcoming group of people.
The elephant in the room is the property…at roughly 2,200 feet it is the highest wine tasting room in Paso Robles which has indescribable views. It’s one of those places you really just have to see to believe (or check out the videos here on the website). The newly opened tasting room is a piece of art as well, it is large but comfortable. The last time I was there I sat on the couch by the fire and felt as though I was in someone’s living room. The outdoor area has not been warm enough to go outside and enjoy yet, but I am looking forward to spending time out there and appreciating those amazing and endless views I mentioned before.
The goal with this blog is to be to post a couple of times per month so you’re not being buried with articles to read but I want to offer interesting glimpses into Paso Robles and the DAOU experience. After all, that is what Paso Robles is all about: the experience, which is why I think DAOU fits in so well here. They understand the importance of all of that and it shows in the final product and in the people.
I look forward to seeing and hearing from you…Cheers!
We are pleased to announce the launch of our new website! View our new labels and bottle photography. Sip it. Savor it slowly. And join the family.