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Discovering The Real Paso Robles

By Charles Olken

Sometimes old notions die hard. And sometimes they are deserved. Paso Robles, AVA and place, challenges me on both fronts.

It is, by many accounts, an old, dusty town in the middle of nowhere. Its wines are heavy and too ripe and only unrequited lovers of high alcohol need apply.

It is a changing place both in terms of the quality of life forces like restaurants and galleries and interesting shops, and its wines are, in turns out, not necessarily all overdone. Indeed, even some whose alcohols would top the charts in most California tastings do not taste of dried grapes, glycerin and unbuffered heat.

That said, Paso Robles has something of an identity crisis brought about by the not always friendly banter between the ripeness advocates and the balance advocates. Many of the newer wineries will privately talk about being advised that Paso is about intensity, concentration and potency. And to be sure, some of those newcomers have given in and made wines that go beyond their desired style. But, last week, down there tasting through a series of new wines, it became clear that some of the wineries are pulling back. To be sure, they want depth and structure, but they are also willing to give up some of the power potential of their vineyards in search of balance, fruit and acidity.

It is not always easy, but at the Paso Robles Cabernet Collective tasting, wines from folks like Adelaida, Daou, Jada, Halter Ranch, Parrish Family and Red Soles—to name those that come to mind at this late hour, have shown that there is more to Paso Robles than oomph alone.

And, as if to make the point, a wine we had at lunch showed that a lighter hand is, indeed, a possibility, and so I want to give a shout out to my new favorite “unheard of” variety—Chenin Blanc—and the version from the Lone Madrone Winery. I miss Chenin Blanc, although I will drink almost any from the Loire Valley that shows up on local wine lists, and it would be the irony of ironies if it made a comeback of sorts in Paso Robles.

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Paso Rep
by TomHill
Posted on:4/29/2014 11:16:06 AM


Pretty much agree here w/ what you say. Because of many of  the Rhones from there, they sorta get tarred & feathered as producing big/ripe/fruit & oak bombs...wines that play well in Monktown. But you only have to look at TablasCreek to note that they can produce Rhones of restraint & balance & elegance.

   And, like you, I tend to see that more in the Cabs than the Rhones.

But...egads...CheninBlanc?? That is soooo...yesterday...Charlie!! :-)

Like you, I'm seeing some very good/interesting CB's being made in Calif...oftentimes from old-vine stuff. That Chalone CB '07 that Darrell sells (still) is amazing juice.  Old-vine stuff that, alas, has been pulled up there.

   Didn't StanleyHoffman grow CheninBlanc in his day?? I seem to remember some white of his that was pretty good. I would think they could make good CB there in Paso. Selling it might be a whole nuther story. Not many of us ole foggies around who appreciate the grape.

   And.....psssttt, Charlie...I can tell you where there's some Ribolla planted down in Templeton!!!  :-)


Paso Robles CAB Collective
by Gerald Stidham
Posted on:4/29/2014 11:51:33 AM

The real Paso Robles is truly evolving Charles, and at break-neck speed, thanks to the efforts of many new winemakers to the AVA, with particular emphasis towards the CAB Collective.   Last weekend's gathering showcased the best of the best and proved first hand that Paso's Cab Sauvs are world class, competitively priced and can compete with anyone, anywhere.   It's no longer a sleepy little 30-winery cow town along the 101 Freeway, but an exploding 300 winery AVA getting prep'd to designate eleven sub-AVA's, major expansion of infrastructure, wonderful restaurants and a momentum which will inevitably put Paso Robles on the world's wine stage for good.

Gerald Stidham, Eagle America Consulting 

Ripe Paso
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:4/29/2014 12:52:16 PM


Re Chenin Blanc. I like it and wish there were more of it in these parts. There are places in Paso were the cool ocean breezes actually keeps temps quite low. And I suspect the soon to arrive sub-AVA system will encourage greater, more specific identification and exploration of those areas. 

But, ripeness is not necessarily damnable on its face despite the efforts of some persons in the biz to make it so. I would specifically point to wines from Epoch, Law and Adelaida for red Rhones as instances in which ripe wines come with fruit, depth, structure and balance and which steer free of the overripe excess. 

And, yes, it is the Cab makers who are making the more restrained wines at this point. 

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