Paso Robles wines

Paso Robles Wines with Restraint

woman on wine with amy reiley

Since I started writing on the subject, American wine as just gotten bigger and bigger. And I’m not just talking in popularity. I mean in style, body and alcohol levels. And that, my friends, is not a good thing!

The percentage of alcohol has been creeping up, up, up over the past few years as wine drinkers demand (or at least are perceived to demand) more flavorful, more full-bodied wines. We can all appreciate a nice body, but the critics, myself included, have finally started to shout “Enough is enough!” It looks like the vintners are finally in agreement with us. At a recent tasting of wines from the Paso Robles region—a California winegrowing region with a hot climate, perfect for producing stratosphere-busting high alcohol wines—I enjoyed wines showing much-needed restraint. Now, they aren’t the lowest alcohol wines (not even close). But for their climate, Paso Robles vintners seem to be pulling back on the kind of alcohol that smacks you in the face and instead celebrating the joys of nuance. Here are just a few of the nicely balanced, shapely-bodied numbers coming out of Paso Robles today.

Grey Wolf Cellars
2009 Chardonnay
Certainly not restrained by Chablis’ standards but for a California Chard, this wine has elegance with bright citrus fruit, subtly nutty notes and honey with a creamy texture.

Anglim Winery
2008 Grenache Blanc
A pretty wine with citrus blossom on the nose, its flavors are relatively subtle with grapefruit, citrus zest and a hint of spice.

Paso Robles winesTablas Creek
2008 Cotes de Tablas Blanc
A crisp spring/summer white, it has zippy acidity, elegant minerality and the flavor of licorice (anise-not redvines!) lingering at the end.

Kiamie Wine Cellars
2006 Meritage
Don’t get me wrong, this is still a big, bad wine by Old World standards, but for a Paso Meritage it is smooth with layers of flavors including blackberry and black currant, leather and spice.

Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines
2007 Cuvee des Cinq
Again, this is not a light-weight wine by anyone’s definition, but this Rhone-style blend offers surprising elegance with both berry and earthy flavors and a touch of spice.


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1 reply
  1. Peter Rubissow
    Peter Rubissow says:

    Amy, you are right on the money. In my opinion, the all all-pervasive, overblown, so-called “hedonistic” California wines which have been so popular for the past decade are now being counterbalanced with fresher, brighter wines that actually show a sense of place and varietal character. Up until recently, when marketing these “fruit bomb” wines, many California wineries have been describing the rich “terroir” therein, while in fact any remnant of terroir has been hidden behind thick boobsy layers of heavy-handed oak, sweet fruit and syrupy bombast. Let me be clear. That is NOT Table Wine. Those wines are wonderful, sexy and fun as an aperitif or for sipping on the porch/couch (or in the tub), but when it comes time for dinner, balanced, bright, expressive wines made from grapes picked a few weeks earlier in the season are what it’s all about. In my opinion, good wine should be re-freshing – in the true sense of the word: ie: to refresh ones palate between bites and nibbles. Conversely, wines that are overblown, and sexed up, tend to defresh (you heard it here first) the palate by saturating it with too much of everything. I believe a brighter wine future awaits us all in California and globally, as winemakers around the world swing toward making wines with more life, freshness and genuine regional expression. The old school is out. The new school is in. People’s palates are getting smarter and more informed, and in the process, we are all learning that “hedonistic” wines are just one ASPECT of winemaking style, not the only style. The ever-growing interest in wines made in a fresher, terroir-based style is what’s next in the wine world. I for one am glad, as this means that in the vintages ahead we will see more and more wines from around the world that actually intrigue and refresh our tired palates. Mmmmm. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

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