CABS OF DISTINCTION: The Good, The Bad, & The Excellent

When approaching Paso Robles Cabernet it is important to remember despite the insistence of several producers or group entities or even armchair-quarterbacking, no comparative relationship with Northern California or Europe exists.  Paso Robles is Paso Robles.  Across-the board, there seems to be an expectation from the general public–and even an insistence by some producers–of alignment with other more-established Cab-producing regions when stylistically it is important to remember Paso is its own style and to compare it to another region is completely unfair–to both regions.  Paso will never taste like BDX.  Paso will never taste like Napa.  Just as Napa will never taste like BDX (and how many decades we been hearing THAT?!?!).  Being invited to a tasting of the crème de la crème of Cab-production in Paso Robles brings with it a set of expectations, and while for the local cheerleaders the experience may be nothing short of ethereal, for someone who continues to source wines from the acidic fringes of Paso Robles in addition to regular forays into Napa, Sonoma, and BDX, the experience can be enlightening at best and at worst, surprising.  One of the common themes which DOES align with the “best” wine in Napa: The more blingy it gets, the more user-friendly it gets.
20-odd wineries today representing the Paso Robles Cab Collective in their ‘Cabs of Distinction’ media lead-up the the Main Event in October.  Almost exclusively Cab, CF and Malbec.  Quick hits:

2012 THE FARM Cardinal   Light pretty floral nose a little raw egg viscous outlining of the simple adolescent fruit.  Nice and balanced, relatively unsophisticated.
2014 THE FARM Straight Cab barrel sample  Opaque purple with blistering tannins surrounding a core of solid solid fruit.  Chewy and dense but dumb at this point of its life.  Watch for this one.

2013 JUSTIN Isosceles:  Shockingly uninteresting despite the press it gets, flabby and round, oak omnipresent. Concentrated and viscous.  Light acid and mellow tannin.

2013 JLOHR Hilltop   Concentrated and solid, you have to keep reminding yourself this is a 25$ wine.  Probably the second-cheapest wine at this event and packed with terribly pretty fruit, floral, spice and balanced oak.  Integrated better than almost everything else in the room.
2012 JLOHR Cuvée POM   Soft elegant Merlot touches put you off-guard and then everything kicks in and the whole package explodes, mouth-filling, tannic, peppery goodness cram-packed with fruit.

2013 ANCIENT PEAKS regular Cab   Easily the cheapest bottle here, SRP 18$ but well-shopped down in the 12-13$ range.  If you’ve got 15$ in your budget and want a SERIOUS cab—not a bullshit over-ripe fat tourist bullshit jammy POS but a REAL cab, this is your baby.  You just can’t do any better than this.  This is wine.
2012 ANCIENT PEAKS Oyster Ridge   Beautiful structure is of course going to be the Ancient Peaks mantra.  Some of the most tannic wines in Paso, but manage to pull it off with incredible balance.  Brilliant minerality keeps it interesting.  This is great wine, fruit never taking a break.
2013 ANCIENT PEAKS White Label Cab   And now, in complete disregard for normal blogging procedure, I am going to talk about a wine which WAS NOT available to taste:  Disappointed the BRAND NEW Ancient Peaks WHITE LABEL CAB was not present.  Was going to be my main event but they opted not to bring it as it is not available outside the tasting room.  A total let-down.  I have been a huge fan of Oyster Ridge for many MANY years non-stop until the split second I stuck my nose in the White Label last week.  At that exact moment everything at ANCIENT PEAKS changed for me.  Arguably best Cab in Paso.  If they would have brought it, absolutely nothing in the room could have held a candle to it.  Do whatever you need to do to find this wine.

2013 RN ESTATE Cuvee du Trois really mellow stuff.  Unconcentrated and lacking compelling amounts of earth, spice or structure.  A little wet paper brings the only substantial mineral nuance across its mellow entirety.  I would have guessed maybe Merlot-driven.
2010 RN ESTATE Cuvee du Trois instantly shows everything the 2013 is headed for.  Two more distinctly related wines I can not easily remember.  Oxidized and flabby, tannins basically non-existent.  This thing seems totally shut down and disappointing—even in this company.

2013 DAOU Soul of a Lion  My first time with this particular Daou and expectations were high.  Most expensive wine in the room?  Not sure.  I suppose—after listening to and watching the winery’s publicity output for YEARS on style and focus—I was expecting something classically styled and intense.  I guess the part I wasn’t paying attention to was the marketing plan.  This wine is completely drinkable.  Completely totally 100% easily accessible–to everyone–today.  I suppose this is what people mean when they say “Paso has come a long way from stingy, acidic wines.”  Every day I feel more and more in the minority when I think a 2yo Cab should not be in a position of accessibility such as this.  Therefore, my notes:  2013 Soul of a Lion, Really closed in with an uninteresting sort of adolescent fruit, considerably shallower and more one-dimensional than expected, round and sweet and flabby with extremely manageable tannin.
2015 DAOU Soul of a Lion   Huge tobacco, no appeal of youth, oxidized.

2013 BRECON ESTATE Reserve Cab   Weird vegetal astringency in the nose; the rest of it quite one-dimensional.

2013  ADELAIDA Viking Vineyard Cab Dark dark purple, young edges lots of oak, but integrated will into heady spice and mint.  Supple fruit and decent acid and tannin.

2012 CALCAREOUS ‘Regular’ Cab I thought this wine was terribly oxidized.  Flabby and pruny and not smelling fresh.
2012 CALCAREOUS York Mountain (Gold Label)  Sumptuous but bright, a nice streak of acid bolsters the incredible ripeness and gobs of oak.  I love this wine.  I know it is big and ripe and oaky and goes against what I typically preach, but I really am a fan of this wine.  Petrichor and fresh bark propel the incredibly concentrated fruit along with aplomb and straight into the ample tannin.
2012 CALCAREOUS Black Label   Big, easily accessible, way too much oak, flabby and also feeling oxidized.

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One thought on “CABS OF DISTINCTION: The Good, The Bad, & The Excellent

  1. I have to say, I keep hearing about Ancient Peaks and have yet to try them.

    LOVE Calcareous, have always been curious about the Farm (since you can’t just go and taste there and it’s sort of in the boonies) and, frankly, was disappointed in everything I’ve ever had from Brecon.


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