Paso’s Peachy Canyon closes in on 30 years

Since 1988, Peachy Canyon has been producing distinct wines from Paso Robles. As with many wineries that have been in Paso that long, Zinfandel stands at the core of what they do. Over the years, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhone varieties, and in a couple of cases, fine Pinot Noir have popped up and made a stand in Paso. However, Zinfandel remains the grape that many people think of and drink when they pop the cork on a bottle of Paso wine for the very first time.

That’s a good thing, too, because Paso Robles has a ton of producers growing and bottling distinct examples of Zinfandel. Some are single vineyard efforts, others Paso wide cuvees, and still more focus on a sub appellation. Peachy Canyon has their fair share of Zinfandels in a wide portfolio. Here’s a look at some current Zinfandel releases, as well as a couple of other fine wines from Peachy Canyon.

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Peachy Canyon 2014 Incredible Red ($14)

This is mostly Zinfandel (98%) with a splash of Petite Sirah (2%) blended in. If you’re looking for that everyday house red that provides lots of hedonistic drinking pleasure for a reasonable price, here’s a more than solid option. Black fruit aromas and Mexican vanilla bean are evident on the nose. The palate is full flavored, juicy and loaded with red and black fruit flavors. Boysenberry, bits of brown sugar and more are evident on the above average and somewhat lusty finish.

Peachy Canyon 2012 Cirque du Vin ($19)

This blend is comprised of Syrah (60%), Petite Sirah (28%), Zinfandel (5%), Merlot (3%), Malbec (2%) and Tannat (2%). Violet and plum aromas lead the nose. The palate is filled with bits of savory herb, dried cherry, raspberry and more. A touch of bacon fat leads the finish along with bits of toast and continued fruit flavors. This seamless blend will satisfy a crowd with varied tastes. The under-$20 price point makes it a no-brainer purchase.

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Oso Libre embraces sustainability in Paso Robles

The seeds of Oso Libre were planted in 1996 when Chris and Linda Behr purchased 90 acres of property. Over the next 11 years, they took what had been undeveloped land and turned it into a vineyard and cattle ranch. On their property, they utilize sustainable farming methods and also embrace renewable energies. Paso Robles has several distinct growing regions. Oso Libre sits in the Adelaida District, which is way out west in Paso, just 10 miles from the Pacific. Their property sits at an elevation of approximately 1,300 feet. I recently tasted through a selection of the family-owned winery’s offerings and found a lot to like. Everything I tasted was undoubtedly Paso – delicious, loaded with solid fruit, obvious curb appeal and reasonably priced for the quality in the bottle. Here’s a look at four wines to reach for at your next dinner.

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Oso Libre 2012 Osezno Zinfandel ($38)

All of the fruit came from the La Vista Vineyard in the Adelaida section of Paso Robles. It was aged over 20 months in a combination of new Hungarian (30%) and neutral French (70%) oak. 860 cases were produced. The beautifully engaging nose is loaded with red jam fruit and wisps of vanilla bean. Oodles of fresh, vibrant red fruit and spice flavors dominate the juicy palate. Pepper, hints of cinnamon and continued red fruit flavors are evident on the above average finish. This fruit-driven Zin retains excellent balance and will pair well with a wider array of foods than most Zinfandels.

Oso Libre 2011 Querida Cabernet Sauvignon ($42)

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (90%), some Merlot (10%) was also blended in. All of the fruit came from the Abernathy Vineyard in Adelaida. It was aged over 14 months in new Hungarian (30%) and neutral French (30%) oak. 360 cases were produced. Paso is best known for Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. However, there is an increasing number of well-heeled Cabernet’s emerging, and this is one of them. Juicy black and red fruit aromas leap from the nose here along with bits of savory herbs. Raspberry and cherry flavors are evident on the palate, which has good depth. Bits of earth, spice and more appear on the solid finish. This Cabernet has racy acid and approachable tannins. Drink it over the next five years. Pair it with red meat for best results.

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Grgich Hills Estate: A Napa Valley legend

There are certain producers whose name must be included when discussing Napa Valley’s rise to prominence in the wine world. Grgich Hill Cellars is on the shortlist. Back in the ‘70s, founder Mike Grgich was the winemaker at Chateau Montelana. It was Mike who produced the 1973 Chardonnay that ultimately won the Paris Tasting in 1976. Up against many French wines, Chateau Montelena won that day. But really it was Napa Valley as a whole that was the beneficiary, and Mike’s wine was what captured the prize. A year later, Grgich Hills Estate was born.

40 years after that tasting in Paris, Mike Grgich’s name is one of the few that must be mentioned in the same breath as Robert Mondavi when discussing the most important people in Napa Valley history. Grgich Hills has continued to make world class wines that speak strongly of their Napa Valley origins. Here’s a look at three of their current releases. These are wines that are available around the country and offer a peek into why Napa Valley is one of the greatest wine-growing regions in the world – not to mention why Mike Grgich is one of the most legendary figures to make wine there.

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Grgich Hills Estate 2013 Chardonnay ($43)

The fruit for this wine came from Estate Vineyards in American Canyon and Carneros. It’s composed entirely of Chardonnay. It was fermented and aged in French oak over a period of 10 months in a combination of new (40%) and neutral (60%) oak. 30,300 cases were produced. From the first whiff to the last sip, what stands out most about this Chardonnay is the pure expression of fruit. The oak regimen provides accents but never detracts from that. Aromas of white peach and apple light up the nose. Bartlett pear, subtle nutmeg and golden delicious apple flavors are all present on the palate. Continuing spices and a host of minerals drive the impressive, crisp and refreshing finish. Mike Grgich has been making world class Napa Valley Chardonnay for over 40 years, and this is the latest example.

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Four delicious reds for $20 and under

If you scan the shelves of your local wine shop, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that you can spend virtually any amount of money on a bottle of wine. That could be just a few dollars or literally thousands. Of course, most of us aren’t going to spend anywhere near the upper end, and the bottom end is, shall we say, hit and miss. That leaves a very wide middle ground to consider.

Within that I have often found the $15 to $20 range to be of interest for a number of reasons. On the one hand, while no dollar figure guarantees you’re going to like a wine, spending more than $15 increases the odds that it’s a well-made selection. And for a lot of wine drinkers, $20 is a bit of a glass ceiling for everyday drinking. So here are four red wines that perfectly fit into that price window. Two of them are from California’s Paso Robles, and the others are from Chile’s Viña Ventisquero. Both of those areas also represent places one can still find a lot of outstanding values for everyday drinking, which is precisely what these wines represent to me.

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Chronic Cellars 2013 Suite Petite ($15)

Suite Petite is composed of Petite Sirah (87 percent) and Syrah (13 percent). I’ll tell you a secret about my wine tastes: I love Petite Sirah. The truth is, when I’m out tasting, I will never turn down a Petite Sirah, no matter what. So with that in mind, I’m always interested in drinking them and seeing what they’re like. This example from Chronic Cellars does a really nice job for $15. The dark nose is full of violet and plum aromas, along with bits of leather and sage. Black cherry, blackberry and an avalanche of dark fruits mark the juicy palate. Plum pudding spices, black pepper and a touch of chocolate sauce are evident on the finish. Nice tannins and sufficient acid provide solid structure. If you like your wine dark and somewhat brooding, here you go.

Chronic Cellars 2014 Purple Paradise ($15)

This offering is a blend of Zinfandel (70 percent), Syrah (14 percent), Petite Sirah (11 percent) and Grenache (5 percent). This Zinfandel-dominated wine has a healthy dollop of Petite Sirah blended in, which I’m quite fond of. Not just because I love Petite Sirah, though – Zinfandel and Petite Sirah are great partners. If they were in a band together, Zin would provide the screaming lead guitar and Petite Sirah would hold down the bottom end with some deep bass notes. Red raspberry aromas lead the nose. Blueberry, plum and more raspberry are evident on the somewhat jam-laden palate. Toast, white pepper and strawberry notes are all evident on the clean finish. Whether your Tuesday night dinner consists of pizza, burgers or a tamale pie casserole, this wine is going to carry the day for a song.

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