Expectantly garnet, mild sediment, clear and bright. Gorgeous nose, not super-concentrated, but layers and layers of all the good stuff you want in a cab: Ripe blackberry and oak and mint and cinnamon and nutmeg, pencil box, vanilla ice-cream and a little flabby banana-alcohol. There’s not gobs of anything, and a lot of it blows off to near-nothingness with considerable air, but there is not a TRACE of tiredness or oxidation or prune. It literally does not smell like a 16YO wine. There’s a shocking lack of tertiary–it’s just clean and normal.
There’s a reason I like this wine so much, and it is a reason that will piss a bunch of folks off in one sentence. Trust me, I’m used to it. Those who know me well know the Central Coast is not my first love–I moved here 15 years ago after spending most of my California life drinking the wines of the North Coast. The reason I have been such a huge fan of Hilltop over the years is because: it is the most Napa-Sonoma-like of any Paso Robles wine I have found. Now don’t fuckin lecture me–remember who you’re talking to–you don’t need to go off about how we are not supposed to compare regions and every region needs to express itself and every terroir is different and comparisons are blah blah blah blah and how everything doesn’t have to be compared to Napa just stop. Trust me I get all that. Preachin to the choir. But I will say it again: Hilltop is the closest thing I have found that has all the proper fittings and none of the weirdness that young AVA’s can have, to solid, 25-30 dollar Napa & Sonoma cab. It’s just really cleanly and professionally made and presents well on a world-stage. Probably the best missionary Paso has on a national market shoulder-to-shoulder with supermarket darlings from better-known wine regions.
Now it is startin to show some age. An hour in the glass and a bit of tertiary is comin off it. But I’ve been tasting it from the get-go and let me tell you what: This is a fun-drinking bottle of wine. Plush and mildly elegant, like a Men’s Warehouse suit–it kinda feels like a million bucks but you know you got it for $300 bucks with a free tie. Dark bitter rhubarb and tea leaves soil the mild–and honestly?: faded–fruit, beautiful full biting cherry, orange blossoms, HdP and tannins like being licked by a kitten. The finish is where a wine like this is at. A glorious sweet nectar off into the sunset.
Are you still angry? Ya OK, that’s cool.
2003 J. LOHR ‘Hilltop’ Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 14.9