Just to provide a very different perspective on the Syrah & Cabernet grape varieties featured & discussed on Day One, we assembled 2 panels for Day Two, with some very amazing talent from the Central Coast of California to foster & continue the open discussions.
DAY TWO, Panel One–“Central Coast Syrah”
–Matt Dees. Jonata. Jonata is a top echelon wine project, which is the Santa Barbara-n sister of Napa Valley’s much heralded Screaming Eagle winery. The estate vineyard is located in the Ballard Canyon, southeast & therefore warmer than the Pinot Noir country of the highly acclaimed Santa Rita Hills. As we have seen over the years, this special site, under the direction of winemaker Matt Dees & iconic superstar wine consultant, Michel Rolland, has been producing some super high scoring, sought after Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon based red wines.
–Justin Smith, Saxum. I think most would agree, Justin is one of the most prominent wine figures in the Paso Robles appellation & deservedly so. His family own & run the very revered James Berry Vineyard. His own label, Saxum, is one of the very top collectibles out of all of California. In fact his 2007 Saxum “James Berry” bottling garnered 100 points AND was selected at the top of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines. In addition, Justin has helped many top level wineries to kick start their project by helping them select a site, advise on the planting & even winemaking. Who better to provide insight into the Paso Robles appellation than he?
–Adam Tolmach, Ojai. I am one of those BIG fans who believe the Ojai Syrah from Bien Nacido Vineyard is one of the true standout Syrah based red wines in all of America. In the 1980’s/early 1990’s, owner/winemaker Adam Tolmach was co-founding winemaker/partner of Au Bon Climat, which specialized in Chardonnay & Pinot Noir done with Old World sensibilities. We were so thankful when Adam founded Ojai & added Syrah to his portfolio. With the 1992 vintage Adam convinced the Miller family to plant Z Block, up atop the hill rising above Bien Nacido proper (Santa Maria Valley). It really was this parcel & what it offered & his Old World sensibilities that catapulted the Ojai Syrah to the head of the class. He is more than a top winemaker. Adam Tolmach is “Hall of Fame” in my book & it is an honor having him on the panel.
DAY TWO, Panel Two–“Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon”
–Matt Dees, Jonata (Ballard Canyon). El Desafio de Jonata is one of the most highly acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon based out of the Santa Barbara appellation & we asked founding winemaker Matt Dees to shed some light on the evolution of this wine. Unlike its neighbors, the Jonata estate vineyard sits on sand. How does Cabernet fair in such soils? To show us what can be, Matt shared his 2005 with us.
–Guillaume Febre, Clos Solène (Paso Robles). Clos Solène is the fulfillment of a dream for Guillaume & his wife Solène. In the beginning, his family has crafted wine and farmed wineries in Narbonne, South of France for the past three generations. “Guillaume lived on the winery in the south of France, Château Saint-Eugénie, until he was 22. He was attending University in 2000 when his family decided to sell its land and move the wine business to Bordeaux, in the Côtes de Bourg, Northwest Bordeaux City“. Guillaume instead chose to move to California where he worked with Stephane Asseo at L’Aventure for many years. It is understandable given his past that he works with both red Rhone varietals & Cabernet Sauvignon.
–Tyler Thomas, Star Lane (Happy Canyon). I remember back in the early 1990’s, Bryan Babcock noting the huge potential he felt Cabernet grown in Happy Canyon had. Winemaker Tyler Thomas was recommended to us by Matt Dees of Jonata, saying Tyler is the one who can help us understand the insights & potential this appellation has.
–Michael Sinor, Ancient Peaks (Paso Robles). We included Michael Sinor & the wines of Ancient Peaks, so we could be reminded of the great value these wines offer. Estate grown fruit, from a family owned & operated vineyard, 1000 feet in elevation in southern Paso Robles…….all at $18 a bottle retail? As a wine buyer, one of our jobs is finding such value driven, quality wines. What a discovery this was for us & we wanted Michael to provide insight into the project.