California’s Central Coast is a large area that encompasses many distinct growing regions. Rob Murray Vineyards is located in Paso Robles and produces wine from both there and the Santa Barbara area. The winery’s proprietor owns and manages more than 1,000 acres of vineyard and produce wines under a handful of different names. I recently sat down and tasted side by side through a number of their current releases. Here are the four that really stood out to me.
Force of Nature 2013 Chardonnay ($22.50)
All of the fruit for this wine (100 percent Chardonnay) came from a single vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. It was aged over 10 months in a combination of new French oak (20 percent), neutral oak (30 percent) and stainless steel (50 percent). Pear and lemon zest aromas inform the lovely nose of this Chardonnay. The palate is studded with white peach, Anjou pear and guava flavors. Limestone, pie crust, lemon curd and a bevy of spices all emerge on the lengthy finish, along with a touch of crème fraiche. Bottom line this is a juicy, Chardonnay loaded with appealing fruit flavors.
Force of Nature 2013 Zinfandel ($22.50)
This wine is made up entirely of Zinfandel from the Mossfire Ranch in Paso Robles, which is planted to the Rockpile Clone. It was aged over 12 months in a combination of new (20 percent) and third use (80 percent) French oak. Red raspberry and plum aromas lead the nose, along with a dollop of blueberry. The palate is stuffed with jam-laden fruits such as black raspberry and wild strawberry, along with black pepper and bits of cinnamon. Dark chocolate, blackberry and a tiny wisp of espresso are each in play on the long, somewhat lusty finish. If you think of Paso only for Zinfandels that are too big and high in alcohol, think again. This is a terrific example of a refined and proportionate Zinfandel.
Tooth & Nail 2012 The Fiend ($26.99)
The fruit for this blend came from the Tolliver Ranch in Paso Robles. The Fiend combines Malbec (80 percent) with Syrah (20 percent). It was aged over 26 months in French oak; 30 percent of the barrels were new. Bits of sage and thyme join dark fruit aromas on the nose. The palate is stuffed with oodles of delicious and even-keeled dark fruit flavors such as plum and blueberry. Dark dusty chocolate, spices and chicory are all present on the above average finish. The tannins here are soft and lush lending to a velvety mouthfeel. This is a real subtle depth to the flavors and layers here that is worth mentioning, as it is a wine far from hitting you over the head like some of the Coast blends you’ll find on the shelf. The Fiend is a wine that can — and probably should — be savored in fine company with a lovely meal.
Tooth & Nail 2012 The Possessor ($26.99)
Cabernet Sauvignon (70 percent), Syrah (12 percent), Petite Sirah (10 percent) and Malbec (8 percent) were blended together. It was aged over 16 months in 30 percent new French oak. Kirsch liqueur aromas are prominent on the nose, along with wisps of bay leaf. The palate features plums galore and bits of spice that reverberate. Minerals, hints of smoked meat and plenty of sweet berry fruits mark the finish alongside a hint of black tea. The Possessor is an extremely tightknit and cohesive blend; none of the varietals jump out and steal the show. They work together to form a sum different than the parts.
Some wines from the Paso Robles region have a reputation for being big and over-extracted. That’s not at all the case here. All four wines are full of fruit and provide tons of dynamic flavors. Each one of them is also more than fairly priced for the quality in the bottle. The Chardonnay in particular is a real steal of a deal. It exhibits the sort of complexity and richness I expect from bottles priced closer to $40. And it demands mentioning, these wines are all interesting, which is something I want in my wines of course. Drink these up, they’re delicious!