Differentiation-Paso Robles Wines

Courtesy of Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance

{Photo Courtesy of Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. These wines were shipped as media samples. I received no other compensation.}

The beginning of the new school year is a time of gathering. Gathering information, identifying needs, discovering gifts. With a vast array of personalities, interests, backgrounds, and strengths, I have to find a way to reach each child, to make them feel seen every day. Differentiation in the classroom is providing supports and accommodations as needs arise. My role is to create an environment in which they can flourish, grow in confidence, take on challenges.

As I was reflecting on a shipment of wines from Paso Robles, I was reminded of my classroom, of all classrooms. The wines were promoted as an “A to Z” representation of the region. But that isn’t where the correlation ended. With eleven distinct AVAs, making up 40,000 acres of vineyards, the region is home to over sixty varieties. Vast diurnal swings, a wide range of soils make this region wildly diverse. It is a place where seemingly anything can grow. It is a matter of finding the right spot, the right vineyard management for the grape and location.

The Franciscan Friars began wine making in the region over two centuries ago. At the end of the 19th century, Andrew York planted the earliest Zinfandel which reigned until the 70s when Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir were introduced. It wasn’t until the 90s that Rhone and other Bordeaux varieties were planted. In 2007, it became an AVA and has spent a few recent years being named a top region according to different publications.

The shipment of six wines from Teuwen Communications was quite literally and A to Z exploration of the region. While not all letters were represented, it made me want to dive deeper into this oenological alphabet. While I rarely directly quote any press release in my reviews, this one went directly to the source. They spoke with each of the growers about the how and why for each variety and who could say it better? Look for their quotes in italics followed by my thoughts on each wine. Excuse the holiday themed pictures. I took the photos closer to when they arrived but it took me a while to taste and even longer to write.

A: Barr Estate Albariño 2016 Our grapes are grown in the Geneseo District located in the heart of the Paso Robles AVA. The vineyard is an ancient, alluvial basin with deposits of clay, sandy loam and gravel as are most areas of Albariño’s native home, Spain’s Rías Baixas. Ambient temperatures are similar to its Condado do Tea sub-region which produces a less fruit-driven and more earthy style of Albariño.”Greg Barr, Owner 

A big fan of Albariño in general; this was no exception. Pale straw in color. Beautiful stone fruit, melon, citrus, minerality and vibrant acidity. Paired beautifully with Jerk Chicken and mango kiwi salsa. ($17)

C: Niner Wine Estates Cabernet Franc 2014 In the cool Region II sub-AVA of Willow Creek, there’s just enough warmth for Cabernet Franc to shed its harsh green bell pepper character and coarse tannin, and allow the father of Cabernet Sauvignon to shine.”Patrick Muran, Winemaker 

Cabernet Franc is such an intriguing variety. My favorite of Bordeaux reds. This one was produced in a LEED certified winery and has 10% Malbec and 3% Cab Sauv. Barrel aged for 21 months, 14 in 50% new French oak. Nearly opaque red violet. Impactful brambly aromas and sweet spice. Black cherry and tart red finish. Structured and weighty. Looking forward to seeing what this full bodied wine does with more time in the bottle. ($65)


G: McPrice Myers Grenache Sel de la Terre 2015 Grenache does well (in Paso) primarily due to our climate.  The warm days and cool nights promote acid retention. Sere de la Terre’s vineyards’ soils showcase higher pH levels that inversely translate into lower pH grapes (i.e. freshness). Adelaida, Willow Creek, and the rolling hills of westside Paso Robles allow us to have some cooler north and east facing exposures, also promoting acid retention and freshness.”McPrice Myers, Owner & Winemaker 

This wine is 90% whole cluster pressedand spends 15-20 days on skins before aging in larger, neutral barrels. Ripe raspberry, Black cherry, fresh acidity, integrated gentle tannins and a smoky, spun sugar finish. This light to medium bodied wine leaves a beautiful impression. ($45)

M: Summerwood Marsanne Alta Colina 2016 “Marsanne grows particularly well on the westside of Paso Robles because it benefits from the daytime heat as well as cool evening temperature provided by the Templeton Gap. We experience a nice coastal influence most nights, often times accompanied by fog, which prevents the grape from over-ripening.”Mauricio Marchant, Winemaker 

Whole cluster pressed, fermented with 5 different yeasts and
some native fermentation. Aged for 12 months in 50% new French
oak casks and 50% neutral French oak barrels. Pear, baked tropical, lemon, honey and spice. Layered with acid and mineral notes, this would be a lovely Thanksgiving wine. $35

S: Clesi Wines Sangiovese 2015 “New Sangiovese clones came to the US in the late 1990’s introducing bolder styles of the variety balanced with bright elegance which are enhanced by Paso Robles’ warm days and cool evenings.”Adrienne Ferrara, Owner 

The label denotes a trifecta of “legacy, curiosity and culture” and the wine is a trifecta of red fruit, rose petals, and spice. A beautiful example of the variety which was fermented in macro bins and in neutral barrels. I’m looking forward to revisiting this one. ($36)

Z: Lone Madrone Zinfandel 2015 Why Zinfandel? Because it reflects the people who settle here, a little uneven, quite juicy, a bit spicy, rich in character, a touch alcoholic and ready to lead the charge. Oh and it fits the climate and soil quite nicely.”Neil Collins, Winemaker  

Native yeast and native malolactic fermentation, aged in Russian oak barrels and neutral oak puncheons. An explosive nose, juicy black cherry and black raspberries and black pepper. It bursts with fruit and exits with elegance. ($45)

This week I had to make adjustments. As I began to learn my students, when they thrive, when they struggle, I had to reflect and respond. I’m seeing strengths, I’m finding where I need to provide supports.

Each experience with the wines furthers my respect and intrigue for the growers and vintners. The growers of Paso Robles have studies their region, their varieties. they did not stay with the established. They continue to expand and explore. They continue to continue to adjust. Differentiation in the vineyard is helping Paso grow as a region and the results are leaving a lasting impression.




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Being a stay- at-home mom can leave one thirsting for a taste of the outside world, a world in which sentences are composed of more than three words. Being an educator means one is always seeking an opportunity to explore and learn. Being a woman with a need to connect can be a challenge when adult conversations are rare. In wine, I find the marriage of art and science, agriculture and storytelling provides limitless areas to explore. But it is the people that keep me engaged. The tenacity needed to keep the family dream alive, the risk to start anew, the trials and principles. I love the history of the vine, the impact of a season, the sentiment in the bottle. That is why I write. I write to tell their stories, to share a piece of mine. I write to learn as I teach others. I write to connect with new friends, to disconnect from the world. I write to celebrate what makes each of us unique, and that which ties us together.

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