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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Creating Pedigree: Cabernet & Paso Robles

Napa lays claim to Cabernet Sauvignon like they invented it. They didn’t of course in spite of being the dominant region in the U.S. However Paso Robles is positioning itself to challenge Napa and this central California region is producing Cabernet and Bordeaux blends offering terrific value and diversity, something Napa often takes for granted.

“There is something about the Napa Valley’s unique topography, climate and growing season that is perfectly suited to Cabernet,” says Ann Colgin of Napa’s Colgin Estate, whose Cabernets sell for $300 (ouch). “While Napa Valley wines can be expensive, there is no substitute for the pedigree of fruit this region is capable of producing.” And she’s correct…to a degree. But pedigree will only take you so far, you still need to deliver the goods, at a price and perceived value the consumer will buy. Let’s be honest – average wine consumers are not buying $300 bottles of Napa Cabernet.

“If you want to know how good Paso Robles Cabernet is,” suggests Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery, “have a blind tasting of Napa Cabernet and a Paso Robles Cabernet. We may not always come out on top, but we can compete against Bordeaux and Napa first growths,” he says. But can Paso Cabernet compete in an already crowded field? “Consumers can expect wines that are approachable immediately but yet will age beautifully for years,” says Daniel Daou of Daou Vineyards, one of the founders of PRCC. “An indication of a great terroir is where ripeness can be achieved most if not all the time. In Paso Robles we achieve ripeness consistently from year to year and our wines come from soils that are calcareous, so they don't have to be acidulated,” Daou says. Is Paso Robles the ideal spot to grow Cabernet? “I looked for 10 years for the perfect place to grow Cabernet,” Daou tells me, including searching Argentina, Spain and Bordeaux. “Paso is cooler than Calistoga, we have the right soils. I believe that Paso is the ultimate appellation for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, but we need a little time to reach our potential.”

Unconvinced? Well then the Paso Robles Cabernet Collective held April 25th - 30th is just for you. There are winery tasting room events, the ubiquitous Grand Tasting on Saturday, April 26th, winemaker dinners, and the like. Should you go? Yes. Will Paso Robles compete against Napa for Cabernet supremacy? Well, not for a while. But having sampled some of the top Cabernet producers like Daou, L’Aventure, Justin, Eberle, Jada, Vina Robles, Halter Ranch, Robert Hall and others, there is the possibility that if Napa blinks, Paso Robles will pounce, and attending the Paso Robles Cabernet Collective’s Cabs of Distinction will give you a window into the future.

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