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Tasted—5 Rhone Variety Wines from Clos Solene

I was in Paso Robles last weekend for the Cabs of Distinction events (more on that soon). There I met up with Guillaume Fabre, production manager at L’Aventure winery where he’s worked since arriving from France in 2004. As of 2007 he’s also been producing Rhone-varietal wines under his own label, Clos Solene. I stopped by for a tasting of his current releases on my way out of town.

I first tasted Clos Solene at a Rhone Rangers Paso Robles Chapter event several years ago. Guillaume poured just one wine then, a Roussanne, but it was gorgeous and easily one of the best wines that day. Subsequently I’ve tasted with him twice, both times in the barrel room at L’Aventure where he makes his wine. Recently, Clos Solene took a big step forward, opening a downtown Paso Robles tasting room with three other producers.

Paso Underground features the wines of Aaron (excellent Petite Sirah), Clos Solene, Edmond August (Rhone varieties from Paso’s west side) and Turtle Rock Vineyards (not to be confused with Turtle Rock Ridge of Ramona Valley). The room has just opened, so tastings are by appointment. The address is 1140 Pine Street but its dedicated entrance is actually through a gate on the back side of the block next to the party patio at Villa Creek restaurant.

Clos Solene uses only hand-picked westside Paso fruit, principally from the Russell Family Vineyard right next to the L'Aventure Vineyard in the Templeton Gap, a funnel for cool Pacific breezes. Clos Solene white wines include Saxum, Booker and James Berry grapes. The de-stemmed berries undergo a cold soak for most of the wines, red and white. Barrel fermentation is also a common thread and Fabre gets hands-on with that, vigorously rolling barrels several times a day to mix fruit and juice.

My tasting notes follow this photo of Guillaume Fabre pulling samples from his barrels in 2011.

Photo: Fred Swan

2011 Clos Solene Essence de Roussanne, Paso Robles - $60
This winsome wine of 100% Roussanne from the Saxum and Booker Vineyards opens with pretty aromas of pear, stone fruit, white flowers and a squeeze of sweet citrus. The palate is nearly full-bodied but supple with flavors of nectarine, white flowers, sweet citrus and spice that glide effortlessly across the dance floor. The best Roussanne I've had in some time. 7 months in French oak, 20% new. 100 cases made. Drink now through 2015. Highly Recommended+

2012 Clos Solene La Rose, Paso Robles - $35
La Rose was made saignée-style from Russell Family Vineyard Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. The fermentation was cool and the wine saw no oak. A pretty, light coral pink color and scents of strawberry and raspberry lead to the lithe palate of medium body with light, talc-like tannins and red berry flavors. Good length. 50 cases made. Drink now through 2014. Recommended+

2011 Clos Solene La Petite Solene, Paso Robles - $55
The 2011 La Petite Solene and 2011 Harmonie, poured sequentially, stand in marked contrast. La Petite Solene is 70% Syrah, 30% Grenache and spent 15 months in once- and twice-used French oak. The ruby red wine has a gorgeous, ebullient nose of blackberry, black cherry and that thick raspberry syrup you find inside some chocolates. Fine-grained tannins and acidity, both just north of medium, preside over delectably ripe black cherry and spice on a palate of medium-plus body. Satisfyingly long. 50 cases made. Drink now through 2018. If you decant, do it immediately before consumption.Highly Recommended+

2011 Clos Solene Harmonie, Paso Robles - $80
Like La Petite, the 2011 Clos Solene Harmonie fruit comes from the Russell Family Vineyard. This time, however, the blend is 41% Grenache, 27% Syrah and 22% Mourvedre with 15% of the barrels new. The result is a much more masculine wine. The nose, earth and blackberry, shows confidence but not the big smile of La Petite. The palate is again medium-plus in body and has just slightly less acidity but tannins that are a step heavier and create a lightly chalky texture. The tall, dark and handsome flavors include black cherry, blackberry, and tangy dark spice and will open up further if you serve them a plate of duck. 100 cases made. Drink now through 2020. Very Highly Recommended

2011 Clos Solene Sweet Clementine, Paso Robles - $60/375ml
I suspect Sweet Clementine could be habit-forming. It's a sweet, fortified wine made in the style of Banyuls (at least 50% late-harvest Grenache Noir, no Muscat, fortifying alcohol added during maceration). In this case, the wine is almost all Grenache with just 3% Syrah. It was barrel-fermented and aged for 14 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. The nose and palate are full of lively, fresh red berries, cherry and brown spice. The considerable sweetness is checked by mouthwatering acidity and moderate, talc-like tannins. The wine is limber in the mouth, not at all syrupy or cloying. The classic pairing for this type of wine is a chocolate dessert and I can't argue with that. But it would be just as good with a savory-sweet dish like duck with cherry glaze or molé sauce. Or all by itself... 50 cases made. Drink now through 2016. Very Highly Recommended

Interpreting my wine ratings


Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid adds off as personal recommendations or who getting samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews directly from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

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