Whenever someone mentions Paso Robles wine country my thoughts drift to all things big and jammy. Paso Robles is hot, really hot, and when you add this heat to ripening grapes, you can end up with lots and lots of sugar and very little acidity. This makes for wines that would be better served on a slice of toast then they would in a glass.
Quite a few wineries grow their grapes in this big style. Some have built that ripeness into a brand that would make Joe Walsh proud. However, if you sit down to eat anything but grilled meats slathered in barbeque sauce with these wines, your palate will suffer. This said, not all wineries in Paso strive to make overblown fruit bombs that will get you drunk on two glasses. There are a select few producers that exercise restraint and strive for balance in their wines.
The shining star of this category is Tablas Creek. The vineyards of Tablas were planted in 1989 in the westernmost end of Paso. The soils there are rich with limestone, much like the soils of the Rhone Valley. This is no coincidence. Robert Haas, an American wine importer, took his love of French wines and partnered with the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel. Together they selected a site that most resembled that of the Rhone Valley and subsequently populated it with the appropriate varietals. Grenache, Mouvedre, Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne are planted in a brilliantly cool area of Paso Robles.
You could spend a whole day tasting through and waxing poetic about all the wines made at Tablas Creek, but let's focus on a stellar recent addition to the lineup. The 2010 Patelin de Tablas is a delicious wine at an approachable price. Whereas some of the Tablas wines are priced near thirty dollars and up, and justifiably so, the Patelin wines hit the shelves for under twenty bucks. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise, the Patelin provides bright fruit, dark brooding undertones and refreshing acidity. I could easily drink this wine every night, with or without food, with or without company. Take this bottle under your arm, pick up a rifle and go shoot yourself some pigeon. This is a great wine for any game or pork, or even a simple plate of prosciutto and salumi.
Tablas Creek Vineyard; 2010 Patelin, retails about $16.
Los Angeles resident Michael Newsome, a wine buyer for Whole Foods and a Certified Italian Wine Specialist, joins us every Tuesday for an exploration of California wine. See his previous posts here.
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