Albariño Summit Paso Robles 2016

Yesterday I attended the first ever Albariño Summit at Brecon Estate. The event began with a short seminar and was followed by a tasting where 24 wineries from California’s Central Coast poured their Albariño. There was also live music and Spanish-themed food for attendees to enjoy.

The Seminar prior to the tasting was a fabulous idea since it provided information regarding the history, winemaking styles and varietal characteristics of Albariño.

Apparently, there is still some debate regarding the origins of the grape: some say Portuguese, some say Spanish.  We were able to taste an Albariño from the Northern Portugal where some of the best Albariño is made and also a tank sample from Southern Portugal (this would not be bottled standalone but instead would be blended with other varietals). It was interesting to taste the cooler climate versus the warmer — and of course this came in handy when tasting Paso Robles based versus coastal Albariño later in the event.

During the seminar we also tasted a Tangent Albariño and heard from their winemaker. I was surprised to hear that there is currently less than 200 acres of Albariño planted in California. Tangent Wines, located in the Edna Valley, has the most planted acres. Clearly this is a varietal they feel does really well in their vineyards.

The final taste was a Brecon Albariño from their library. It was fun to taste a wine and hear about it while sitting by the very tank in which it was made.

A Few Facts

  • Prior to 1970 Albariño was not bottled as a standalone varietal in Portugal or Spain — today it is very popular, especially in the Northern areas of both countries
  • Albariño is a vigorous vine and will grow into old age with a large trunk and plenty of vigorous shoots. The vines are sensitive to direct sunlight and heat. The vine is easily identified by its heart shaped leaves.
  • The aromatics of this wine come from the grape (versus fermentation in oak). As a result, winemakers will often leave the crushed grapes in contact with the skin for greater aromatic extraction and will typically make the wine in stainless steel. Although, as we heard from the Brecon winemaker, it is sometimes aged oak barrels (he uses neutral oak and lets the wine sit on the lees).
  • Typical aromatics include: pine needles, turpentine, rose petal, banana and peach. There is also a salty element to Albariño that makes it pair extremely well with a wide range of seafood.
  • The grape is typically picked with a high acidity and can have a slight hint of green. As the wine ages it tends to show more yellow.

The Grand Tasting at Brecon, with plenty of trees for shade, was the perfect venue for an outdoor tasting. I wish I could say I tasted all of the Albariño poured; however, with 24 wineries pouring 1-2 wines that was way more than I wanted to tackle in a single event. I will say there were a few that really stood out including: Bodegas Paso Robles, Barr Estate, Shale Oak, TangentPear Valley and Per Cazo.

This was a lovely event complete with guitar music and food paired with the wine (ceviche, empanadas and fruit). The crowd was relaxed and I was happy to run into a few friends with several from other local wineries.

I hope they do this event again next year!

Photo Gallery (click to enlarge).

Paso Albariño – New Event!

AlbarinoSummitWebOne of the things I love about Paso Robles is that you can find so many different wines that thrive in the area. Cabernet Sauvignon is by far the most widely planted grape in the AVA, the red Rhônes are the most talked about, the jammy Zinfandels remind people of the early days and well somehow, the white wines don’t get much attention.

That is all about to change for Albariño. On June 13th, over 20 Central Coast wineries with gather in Paso Robles at Brecon Estate for the sole purpose of shining the light on this Spanish varietal. This is the first ever event dedicated to Albariño in the USA and will include both a seminar and a grand tasting.

The seminar is already sold out; however, if you are interested in attending the tasting you may purchase tickets on-line. The $35 ticket includes tastes of over 20 Albariño wines, live flamenco guitar and food pairings reminiscent of Northwestern Spain.

I plan on attending the seminar and tasting so will post the details after the event. I am looking forward to exploring this grape in depth and I’m especially interested to see what the sommelier has to say about food pairing.

 

Paso Robles Cabernet Franc

While some may view it as “the other Cabernet” or an “unappreciated grape”, to me Cabernet Franc is a star either standalone or as a component of a Bordeaux-style blend. It is after all the father of Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape known as the king of red wine.

Last month I attended a panel discussion about Cabernet Franc at the WiVI Central Coast Conference hosted by Wine Business Monthly. The panel was interesting and they selected three different wine regions with a winemaker from each region participating in the panel and discussing 3-4 Cabernet Francs.

 

Venue

This month the Paso Robles CAB Collective held their annual Trade and Media event “CABs of Distinction” at the bucolic Allegretto Resort in Paso Robles, California. CAB in this case stands for Cabernet and Bordeaux, with the collective “promoting the full potential of the Paso Robles appellation in producing superior quality, age-worthy, balanced, classic Cabernet Sauvignon and red Bordeaux varietals to consumers and media worldwide”.

CabFrancFlight

I attended the En Primeur & Current Vintage Walk-Around Tasting and was delighted with the wines I tasted. I was, however, saving my palate for the panel session “The Other Cabernet”. Needless to say the panel was discussing (and tasting) Cabernet Franc. This time the panel was moderated by Bob Bath, a CIA Sommelier, and the discussion was dedicated to wines produced in the Paso Robles AVA.

Consistent comments from the panel:

  • Cabernet Franc, as a noble grape, deserves more credit
  • Often plays the role of “Best supporting actor”
  • “Coming out” in Paso and around the world
  • Paso Cabernet Francs are not as herbaceous, tend to have a nice ripe quality
  • Cabernet Franc is the “ultimate foodie wine”
  • Does extremely well when planted in “choice” hilltop sites

The panel included the following winemakers who discussed the wines we tasted:

Jeremy indicated only 3 acres of Cabernet Franc are planted on the estate vineyard. As a winemaker he felt Paso was well suited to the varietal since the grape is able to ripen and have a nice level of acidity. The decision to make a standalone Cabernet Franc is made each vintage based on what the grape delivers. The 2013 Cabernet Franc Viking Vineyard Signature Series we tasted clearly made the cut. With less than 300 cases made, this wine is mostly sold to club members and guests of the tasting room.

For Damian, making an estate Cabernet Franc was accidental. When he purchased the property, the fruit was not sold, so he brought it into the winery. The Cabernet Franc on his property was grafted onto old Chardonnay vines planted on the top of a hill with calcareous soils. Although Damian had experience with Cabernet Franc in Europe, Astralia and Napa, he wasn’t really a fan until he worked with the estate Cabernet Franc. The black tea leaf appealed to his tastes and he has now made the varietal a part of his offering. In some vintages he will do a little blending. We tasted the 2013 Cabernet Franc which had a little Malbec in the blend — I would say this was the best wine of the ones tasted during the seminar.

As a 4th generation winemaker, it was interesting to hear from Anthony about a California winery that has been making wine for 99 years. They do not grow any Cabernet Franc in their Paso Robles vineyards, but instead purchase the fruit from other growers. The reason given for this was that the varietal often has vineyard disease such as red blotch. We tasted the 2012 San Simean Cabernet Franc — it must have been a very limited production since I couldn’t find it on-line.

Mike actually let us sample two wines. The 2013 Margene Cabernet Franc which was very approachable, a little floral — this one was made by his wife with a little creative blending and I would say it had lovely feminine notes. The second was 2012 Cask 7 Cabernet Franc and was 100% Cabernet Franc made in 100% new oak. I have to say it may need some time. Of the two I give my vote to Margene. Once again, both of these wines are likely very limited in production since I was unable to find them on-line.

Overall, I think the panel made some good points, and I do believe there are some very good Cabernet Francs in the Paso Robles area. I do, however, appreciate and enjoy Cabernet Franc from a couple of regions in France as well as Napa. While the panel all emphasized how “ripe” Paso Cabernet Franc could be and how less herbaceous it was, I actually like the clove, tea leaf and herbaceous side of the varietal. Don’t get me wrong, I love the violet, floral nose and some ripe fruit, I just think if you let it get too ripe you have lost the essence of the varietal.