It is obvious that this parcel was at one time under an ocean & Paso Robles has an abundance of of these calcareous/ silaceous clay soils, especially on the “westside” of Highway 101.
It really is these soils which can result in very interesting & unique wines when the right genetic plant material & farming is involved…AND of course winemaking.
It wasn’t that long ago when I used to pass by Paso Robles on my way from the vineyards up north heading south down to the Santa Barbara growing regions. I had at that time thought of Paso as being too hot (100 degree days) to produce interesting wines. We were taught in the old days about more temperature “zones” as being more pertinent as to where what grape variety should be planted where.
On one of my early visits to Paso Robles (to see Peachy Canyon & Justin) that I was absolutely blown away by all of the limestone/silaceous clay soils which could be seen as virtually every turn in the road heading west.
After tasting through the many Zins at Peachy Canyon (a very hot Zin producer at the time) I walked away disappointed by the over all quality. I was however quite intrigued with the terrific wines I tasted at Justin Vineyards & Winery, especially the Cabernet Franc & some of the “experimental” lots of their Syrah. I remember telling Justin Baldwin that although their Cabernet based reds were superb, I truly believed that the future of Paso would be Rhone grape varieties such as Syrah & Grenache. I was amazed at the minerality & buoyancy (created by the soil) found in these kinds of grape varieties rather than just fruit/grape qualities.
Then on one visit Debby Baldwin suggested I check out 2 young winemaking bucks–Justin Smith & Matt Trevisan of a new wine project being formed named Linne Calodo.
I was absolutely blown away with their red wines (& a Viognier/Roussanne white blend that Justin & his father made under their house in their James Berry vineyard)”. I knew we were on to something! this dynamic duo have since gone their separate ways….Justin with Saxum & Matt keeping Linne Calodo, which has worked out well considering the sensational wines each are producing under their own labels).
Shortly thereafter, at a Hospice de Rhone Wine Festival I was fortunate to be part of a small blind tasting of 20 something Syrahs. I was amazed at how black the wines were BUT was even more impressed at the incredible buoyancy the soils manifested itself in the resulting wines. The hightlight which I will never forget was glass #9, as it had character, specifically soil character unlike anything I had previously tasted out of California. This particular wine came from the Glen Rose Vineyard. We were on the road early the next morning to check this site out.
When we arrived I was mesmerized at how white the vineyard appeared. Furthermore, the soil seemed so meager the vines there looked sickly & wimpy…..AND even the little amounts of weeds scattered here & there were greatly affected. On a subsequent visit which I took Bryan Babcock to see this site, Bryan thought this site maybe TOO marginal & that the vines could have challenges with chlorosis. ( Chlorosis is typically caused when leaves do not have enough nutrients to synthesise all the chlorophyll they need.) I left there understanding how challenging these soils really can be & if handled smartly & passionately, the results could be something quite special.
Needless to say, I have been hooked ever since. I truly believe Paso Robles is one of those parts of California with HUGE potential for producing interesting & unique wines, both white & red as winegrowers & makers “settle in”& better understand how to extract all of the potential the soil & vines can offer.
It really all starts with the soil.