Desparada Wines of Paso Robles – The Most Important Winery In The Most Important Wine Region In California

                     Just a Few of Vailia’s Must-Haves – Desparada Wines

 

Centered at the halfway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Paso Robles has been one of my favorite hunting grounds for unique, thoroughly one-of-a-kind wines for years. It’s where I first discovered the Rhone Ranger glories of L’Aventure, and stumbled upon the mind-bending Syrahs grown in the western reaches of Paso Robles by Justin Smith of Saxum. Also home to some of the most prized bottlings in my personal collection – Linne Calodo – Paso Robles is one wine region I simply cannot visit often enough.

In the early days, the A-listers could be counted on a few fingers, to include the aforementioned and – of course – the ethereal Zins of Turley. That’s all changed though, with a new group of settlers finding their way to Paso Robles over the past decade, lured to the gentle rolling hills of this chaparral environment. Vineyard owners seem to be everywhere these days – eager to rent their homes when you come to town – thanks to the need for high quality grapes by some big name producers here.

But I’ve fallen in love with the wines of a winery I hope remains as boutique and under the radar as they’ve been for years. That winery is Desparada, and its owner Vailia is among my top 5 – make that 3 – very favorite people in the wine business. My wife and I recently paid a visit to Paso Robles, and our two hours in the cellar with Vailia were unforgettable.

The first thing you notice about Vailia is that smile. It’s real; never departing from her face, it reaches all the way to her eyes. That smile is as real as the wines she makes, wines that now fill at least 50% of our small 15 case “cellar” at home. Wines that speak of Vailia equally as much as Paso Robles and the single vineyards she sources from. Wines that perfectly speak of varietal – she works with so many, so unique – and, just as important, wines that allow each unique vintage to share their story. Vailia is a tremendous winemaker. As such, she thoroughly understands and respects her role as steward.

Working with some of Paso Robles’ great single vineyards and perfectly tended vineyards, Vailia has shown me bottles of shockingly delicious blends spanning multiple vintages. My first experience has turned into a vertical of “Sackcloth & Ashes”, a multi-site, multi-varietal blend which I first encountered with the 2012 vintage. Now into my fourth vintage, I will attest that this striking wine – Cabernet, Petit Sirah, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec; hailing from the Happy Canyon, Coghlan, Roadrunner, Santa Barbara Highlands and Vogelzang vineyards – is one of the most profound of its type; worth 2-3 times what we pay.

Then there’s the vertical of “Borderlands” I cannot keep my hands off. Another stunning blend – this time equal parts Cab, Cab Franc, Grenache and Syrah – from the Coghlan, Santa Barbara Highlands, Spanish Springs and White Haw vineyards, it is so immensely irresistible that I’ve asked my wife to hide two bottles of each vintage from me. How Vailia bottles such deeply soulful wines at these earthbound prices is one of life’s great mysteries.

But there’s so much more – so VERY much more. So many shockingly delicious versions of Sauvignon Blanc; one that I’ve “blind” tasted my Francophile buddies on and convinced them it was La Mission Haut Brion Blanc (go ahead, look up the price difference). Amphorae fermented and aged wines of every type and description. Barrel fermented, stainless fermented wines based on the same varietal – just so Vailia can follow their evolution. Italian varietals, Spanish varietals – that truly and completely honor their native land while reflecting Paso Robles AND Vailia.

I’ll close now – probably said too much already (just can’t keep a secret) – by encouraging you to (at the very least) sign up for the

Desparada newsletter

the wines will quite possibly change your outlook…

 

 

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AmByth Estate – Biodynamic Beauty

ambyth

While on our recent tour in search of the perfect location for our next venture, I took a few moments one early morning to check the hotel computer, just in case my in-box had any surprises for me.  My passion for the world of biodynamic wines has me sharing every tidbit of information I come across these days so it’s not unusual to have 40 or 50 new emails waiting for me some mornings.  This particular morning, with its crisp clean Virginia air and cool blue sky greeting me, would see my in-box offering me one of the more personally exciting notes I’ve received lately.

I suppose most folks wouldn’t think twice about receiving a short note from Demeter-USA, in fact I’d be willing to bet a majority of folks have never heard of the organization.  But for me, with all the efforts I’ve put forth in the formation of our new company, beginning with the months of research that have gone towards this new business plan, all with the end goal in sight of a venture based almost exclusively on biodynamic wines and organic foods, this note was a sort of recognition.  It was, in a way, a small beacon, if you will, perhaps nudging me forward, encouraging me to not give up hope. 

The work we’ve put into this plan of ours, this plan to build a business that offers wine drinkers the purity and expressiveness that is the natural result of biodynamic wine making, has been intense.  We now are turning our attention to gathering like-minded individuals to build the foundation, and these are the times that try my soul.  But the letter from the Marketing Director from Demeter-USA has given me just enough encouragement to move forward.  My dedication to these products, fueled even more by a taste of AmByth Estate’s wines, continues….

AmByth Estate, based in Templeton, CA, is a Demeter certified biodynamic vineyard producing Demeter certified biodynamic wines.  For those new to, or newly interested in the world of biodynamic wines, I encourage a visit to http://www.demeter-usa.org/ for a brief introduction.  My place in this picture is one of advocate or ambassador.  I have tasted enough of these types of wines to know how good they can be and to have formed a preference for them, resulting in my dedication to building a company that will offer them to the public.  Demeter, however, offers insights on the “how’s” and “why’s” of biodynamics. 

Returning to AmByth Estate now, we find ourselves in the appellation of Paso Robles, at the region’s first and ONLY certified biodynamic winery.  Much like another of my favorite producers, and very much in keeping with the philosophies, you’ll find only native yeasts here.  Engage with me, or any wine-maker serious about terroir, and you’ll have yourself hours of conversation on that one fact alone; native yeast is one paramount factor to producing wines that speak of their origin.  And these wines from AmByth (the Welsh word meaning “forever”), as I’m fond of saying, scream of their place and time.

AmByth Estate is most-known for their Grenache, and it is precisely this wine that I find particularly worthy of your attention.  Revealing complexities and nuances reminiscent of France’s Chateauneufs from producers like Villeneuve or single vineyard Rhone producers such as Montirius, this is a Grenache for pleasure seekers.  Bursting with black and red fruits, all wrapped in a delicious frame of assorted spices and perfect acidity, this beauty will marry well with not only grilled meats, but your favorite pastas and medium cheeses, too.  The purity and balanced alcohol level make it a wine for the entire meal and the aromas continue to develop for hours.  Take your time with this one, you’ll be rewarded….

And at $135 a three-pack ($45 per bottle), it’s a great buy, too!

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And as always, I’d like to know what you think: chambertin@sbcglobal.net