2nd Annual Paso Robles CAB Collective
Cover photo by Tram Tran, ©ATOD Magazine
I make wine because it’s fun! Life is too short to be doing anything else! I don’t live to work anymore. I love what I’m doing and I do it at my own pace.
– Michael Mooney, Chateau Margene
Paso Robles is known as a city in the middle of California that most mispronounce (pronounced Pass-oh Ro-bulls) or think is just a stop on the way to Napa. However, Paso Robles is much much more. “Paso” is quickly making it’s mark to being one of the most beautiful wine and culinary landscapes in the region. In fact it has taken the art of wine making, sustainability, and culinary curiosities to a level all its own. And rightfully so! With a rich history of travelers and agriculture, it’s story is one I think everyone should know.
Recently invited to attend the 2nd Annual Paso Robles CAB Collective, I could not wait to explore the grapes and those that make it. For those of us who have traveled all around in search of a good wine, sometimes there is a bit of pretension or dare I say, elitism, that rears its head in the process. Wine, while breathtakingly sophisticated, was never meant to be an experience that required privilege. While it’s certainly had its moments where it seems as such, wine was made throughout its history to bring people together over a meal, to encourage friendly conversation, to break down political walls and have influence in the complexity of flavor profiles on a plate. Wine is love from the soil. Nature’s ode to something rather transparent and lovely. So, it seems befitting we embrace that and the story that exists behind the birth of so many wineries, particularly, in this instance – those in Paso Robles.
Attending the CAB Collective, I was pleasantly pleased to walk into the historic Paso Robles Inn Ballroom to find rows of barrels, prestigious winemakers and reps, empty awaiting stem glasses, bottles of Fiji Water, and a plenitude of local wines to sample. While all are intriguing I make it a point to only taste a handful or less each day simply because after too long, the palate is spoiled in my opinion and the true nature of the wines become compromised.
I wander through the room and decide which winemakers I will indulge in. Below is a list of those I ventured to sip. Every single one has a discerning profile and I plan to go back to do a proper tasting at each winery individually. Below is a list of those I tried:
22720 El Camino Real | Santa Margarita, CA
(805) 365-7045 | www.ancientpeaks.com
Winemaker: Mike Sinor
2007 Cabernet | 2007 Oyster Ridge
Known for choosing the best fruits of the best blocks, of the 3 sections, one is Oyster Ridge. This was a very interesting and complex wine that had remnants of berry with the rawness of the earth.
BON NICHE CELLARS
2627 Golden Eagle Way | San Miguel, CA
(805) 286-7789 | www.bonniche.com
Winemaker: Wally Murray
2010 Voûtes | 2009 Chemin
The wines do have that essence of the French countryside with the rustic Paso feel.
CASS VINEYARD & WINERY
7350 Linne Road | Paso Robles, CA
(805) 239-1730 | www.casswines.com
Winemaker: Lood Katze
2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon | 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Honestly, it’s the man pouring the wine, CASS Partner, Ted Plemons, with his charismatic smile and charm that invites you to try CASS. The wines are playful and well balanced.
6996 Peachy Canyon Road | Paso Robles, CA
4385 La Panza Road | Creston, CA
(805) 238-3500 | www.chateaumargene.com
Winemaker: Michael Mooney
2012 Cask 4 Cabernet Sauvignon | 2007 Beau Lelange
Michael Mooney’s passion is so incredibly contagious and the wines? Well they are genuinely full of the heart, sophistication, and ease I was all too happy to partake of. And ask for seconds.
2777 Hidden Mountain Road | Paso Robles, CA
(805) 226-5460 | www.daouvineyards.com
Winemaker: Daniel Daou
Soul of a Lion
2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon | 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
The barrel samplling was a bit earthy but its the Reserve Cabs that are distinctly different, especially on the nose.
8910 Adelaida Road | Paso Robles, CA
(805) 226-9455 | www.halterranch.com
Winemaker: Kevin Sass
2010 Ancestor | 2007 Block 41 Cabernet Sauvignon
I had the pleasure of flying over Halter Ranch in a helicopter ride earlier that day with Travel Air Paso. Gorgeous property and the bit I sampled only lured me in to want to spend more time learning more about their varietals and process.
11680 Chimney Rock Road | Paso Robles, CA
(805) 238-6932 | www.justinwinery.com
Winemaker: Scott Shirley
2013 Rose | 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon | 2012 Justification | 2011 Isosceles
I became a fan of the Bordeaux blends of JUSTIN in 2009. It was the 2007 Isosceles that got my attention. This year, I enjoyed the 2011 Justification, aged 18 months in French oak. It’s also worth mentioning that the Winery itself has a gorgeous and modest array of suites on site and has undergone a total transformation with a remodel. Definitely worth looking into.
VILLA SAN JULIETTE
6385 Cross Canyons Road
San Miguel, CA
(805) 476-0014 | www.villasanjuliette.com
Winemaker: Matt Ortman
Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 Red Chorum | 2010 Romantique
Though I’m a fan of the VSJ Chorum Red, I do enjoy the Cab. VSJ has the luxury of having Matt Ortman be both Winemaker and COO. With 9 varietals, I’m a fan of the reds. (And their other line of wines, Fat Monk). I was fortunate enough to spend 5 days staying as a guest on the VSJ Winery Estate so be on the look out for more on that!
*Thank you to the CAB Collective for giving me a look at what the city offers. Looking forward to coming back to explore!
ADELAIDA Cellars, Ancient Peaks Winery, B & E Vineyard, Calcareous Vineyard, Chateau Margene, DAOU Vineyards & Winery, Eberle Winery, HammerSky Vineyards, Hunt Cellars, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Jada Vineyard, JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery, L’Aventure, Le Vigne Winery, Parrish Family Vineyards, Record Family Wines, Robert Hall Winery, Sextant Wines, and Vina Robles
Formed in 2012, the Paso Robles CAB (Cabernet and Bordeaux) Collective (PRCC) strives to promote the full potential of the Paso Robles AVA in producing superior-quality, classic and age-worthy Cabernet and Bordeaux varietals to consumers, trade and media worldwide.
The grass-roots non-profit organization was formed with the belief that the Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec grown in the Paso Robles appellation—and the subsequent quality of the wines produced—is under-represented in the marketplace and across the wine industry. The PRCC seeks to improve awareness regarding the distinctive attributes of Paso Robles Cabernet and red Bordeaux varietals through events, education and initiatives that confirm the appellation’s growing reputation for producing luscious, well-rounded Bordeaux varietals that compete with like-varietals on a global stage.
Open to all wineries that produce superior-quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals in the Paso Robles AVA, member wineries have the opportunity to work with and learn from other members. The organization is designed to create a network of knowledgeable and experienced industry professionals to assist each other from viticulture to production, marketing and finally, sales.
The PRCC is governed by a board of five director members. Three of these members are permanent members who cooperated closely to found the organization and include a representative of the following wineries: DAOU Vineyards & Winery, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines and JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery. The fourth and fifth seat are elected every year by PRCC members to ensure balanced representation. These seats are currently represented by Jada Vineyard & Winery and Chateau Margene. Other founding members who actively participated in the creation of the PRCC include ADELAIDA Cellars, Eberle Winery, Vina Robles and Chateau Margene.
ABOUT Paso Robles
The Paso Robles Rancho (25,993.18 acres also known as the Paso de Robles Land Grant) was originally granted to Pedro Narvaez, who soon after gave over the estate to Petronilo Rios. In 1857, the entire rancho was purchased by James H. Blackburn, Daniel Drew Blackburn, and Lazarus Godehaux for $8,000. At the time of the purchase, there was very little of the townsite—only the remains of the original log shanty built by Father Juan Cabot of San Miguel Mission around the main spring located on the Northeast corner of what is now 10th and Spring Streets. This same site was the home of the first bathhouse in 1864, containing eight wooden tubs, and later the site of the first hotel—Hotel El Paso de Robles, which opened in 1891.
As far back as 1795, Paso Robles has been spoken of and written about as “California’s oldest watering place”—the place to go for springs and mud baths. In 1864, a correspondent to the San Francisco Bulletin wrote that there was every prospect of the Paso Robles hot springs becoming the watering place of the state. By 1868 people were coming from as far away as Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, and even Alabama. Besides the well-known mud baths, there were the Iron Spring and the Sand Spring, which bubbles through the sand and was said to produce delightful sensations.
Paso Robles’ growth as industry—wine—has a long history with the area. Wine grapes were introduced to the Paso Robles soil in 1797 by the Spanish conquistadors and Franciscan missionaries. Spanish explorer Francisco Cortez envisioned an abundant wine-producing operation and encouraged settlers from Mexico and other parts of California to cultivate the land. The first vineyardists in the area were the Padres of the Mission San Miguel, and their old fermentation vats and grapevine artwork can still be seen at the Mission, north of the city of Paso Robles.