California is a wondrous place especially when it comes to growing produce. California boasts of being the salad bowl of the country, the place where happy cows live, the land citrus and strawberries, and most importantly in my mind, great, great wine with new regions constantly emerging as enologists and vinegrowers hone in on specific microclimates or varying soil types that will deliver something that has the potential to be completely different than the plot of land just across the road. Yes, the state continues to deal with drought and water issues, coupled with climate change, fire issues, labor shortages, and a pandemic, and it is surprising that California’s farmers, ranchers, vintners, and dairy producers continue to deliver. Lucky for us, they do, delighting us with produce that tastes like the land, and wine that holds a sense of place.
From Temecula to Anderson Valley just about every variety in the world is planted in California. International varieties we know and love as well as unconventional options that adapt to the environment, eventually find permanent placement in the winery portfolio. Let’s sip through the state and enjoy a few options from both categories. We will start our journey of the state with a few selections from Paso Robles, and taste through the state in a few upcoming posts.
Paso Robles has grown to become one of the most exciting regions in the state thanks to the region’s diversity, experiencing varying soil types, elevations, and overall terroir. Enjoying twelve different AVAs within the Central California region covering 40,000 acres where 60 different varieties are grown, you can enjoy jammy, earthy old vine Zinfandel, elevated Cabernet Sauvignon, powerful Rhone-style reds, and fragrant white wines. Alta Colina, an organically farmed winery that began in 2003 specializing in Rhone varieties nestled in the Adelaida District, is best known for its spicy, smoky Syrah but its aromatic Viognier, filled with floral notes of honeysuckle, peach blossom, and gardenia, envelopes the palate taking you on a springtime journey.
Alta Colina 12 O’Clock High Viognier ($42) leaps from the glass with these aromas followed by layers of white peach, apricot, golden apple, fresh wisteria, and a hint of earthy minerality. Balanced and lovely, perfect for enjoying with fresh spring vegetables, lightly grilled or poached fish, or even creamy, cheesy pasta dishes.
Justin Winery has been a wine staple in Paso Robles for decades, establishing the winery in 1981 with a focus on crafting stellar wine from Bordeaux varieties that revealed the quality available in the region. The winery has easily exceeded its goal to create world class wines, especially in their range of premium signature blends, like their stellar Iscolese blending predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and Justification blending only floral Cabernet Franc with juicy plum filled Merlot, a nod to Bordeaux’s Right Bank (a personal favorite.) Perfect for sipping from spring well through summer, Justin Rose ($20) melds soft herb notes of lavender, mint, and sagebrush, with crisp red apple and red berry.
Edgy, unique, and very fun, the heart of Rabble Wines is in the believers and dreamers, creating an approachable brand ready to take the wine world by storm. With a focus on taking care of Mother Earth, the winery has partnered with One Tree Planted to donate trees for purchases. (Don’t we love to enjoy a tasty wine that we know will give back to an essential cause.) Easy, juicy, and inviting, Rabble Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) showcases food-friendly Cabernet layering ripe cherry, blackberry, toasted sweet spice, like nutmeg and allspice, with touched of woody herb, cedar, violet and wildflower. Pair with brisket tacos, barbecue ribs, or grilled tri-tip.