|Don and the Golden Bear|
Don Brady is originally from Texas, but doesn’t that explain the whole of it. I like many people from Texas and the wine scene there represented best by the Hill Country is coming of age, albeit slowly and with great challenges. Don learned winemaking there, came to California, and has been the only winemaker that Robert Hall Winery in Paso Robles has ever known. And that, my friends, is a good thing. I’ve known Don for years, and he makes terrific wine, so to spend some time at the winery tasting room and taste with him is always a welcome experience. The winery had just won a major victory at the California State Fair Wine Competition (which I was a judge at) so Don was feeling pretty damn good. And why not? Robert Hall Winery located on the Eastside of Paso Robles hammers out 60,000 cases (nearly a quarter of a million bottles) of wine mainly dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon. 2nd is Syrah, and Rhone varieties which Paso does okay with but the Bordeaux varieties are quickly becoming their signature. “We have the heat units to get Cabernet ripe here,” Don says with his slight Texas drawl.
But it is Merlot, that quirky, under appreciated and weirdly mis-understood grape where Don hits a home run, year after year. And he and I share a secret love of this maligned grape, in part because Don seems to understand the soul of Merlot better than most people in California. I offer a review of his 2010 Merlot here (2010 MERLOT), and the 2011 is currently available. My cohort in wine Joe Roberts of 1 Wine Dude tasted it at my urging, and rated it a B+ and Joe knows what the hell he’s doing. Definitely put Robert Hall Winery on your short list when you visit Paso Robles.
What We Tasted Together:
~2011 Syrah ($18) is blended with a little Grenache resulting in a bacon fat, smooth mouthfeel.
~2004 Merlot (N/A) Don graciously pulls out a 2004 Merlot for me (oh yeah, baby) and it shows that Don has been attentive to Merlot for a long time. The wine, no longer available though I savored each sip, is rich with blackberry, blueberry, cedar, cocoa, vanilla and the ability to make you audibly say, “wow.” And this, to me, is where Robert Hall Winery shines “I think Robert Hall Merlot is one of the best wines we make it’s a nice counterpart to Cabernet. It can be crazy good, but the world doesn’t see it.”
~2011 Meritage ($40) Mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with a little Cab Franc and Petit Verdot, it’s a hefty, lush blend. ROBERT HALL WINES