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Winery Profiles

In Depth: La Follette Wines

Winemaker Greg La Follette is making wine for a new wine brand and this time it bears his name. Mr. La Follette has been working in the wine business since 1991 when he was a research viticulturalist/enologist for André Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyards. He’s held consulting, research, winemaking and executive management roles at several top North Coast wineries since then, including Jarvis, Kendall-Jackson, Flowers, and Tandem Vineyards. He has also contributed at a number of overseas wineries, including Yarra Ridge in Australia.

Focus is a key theme of the new brand though, which is an evolution of Tandem Vineyards. Whereas Greg La Follette has usually worked for multiple wineries at the same time, he is now winemaker solely for La Follette Wines and doesn’t have any outside consulting contracts. “Now, winemaking is no longer my weekend and evening job,” said LaFollettte. This is good news, because his winemaking style is very hands on, varying substantially from one wine to the next as he tries to maximize expression of terroir. One example of this is the “fluff racking” he employs for Lorenzo Vineyard Chardonnay.

Fluff racking involves very carefully using a racking wand while the wine is being moved from the press in order to evenly distribute light, fluffy solids into each barrel while preventing heavier solids with stronger, earthier flavors from going in at all. “If you don’t fluff enough, you can wind up with a boring wine and not enough texture,” according to La Follette. He did his post-graduate thesis on how Burgundian winemaking techniques affect mouthfeel. Mouthfeel hadn’t yet been a focus in the characterization wine. La Follette was the first person to do so and puts a lot of emphasis on texture in his winemaking.

But Greg LaFollette isn’t about employing a bag of winemaking tricks to create a signature style. He sees both irony and a special opportunity in working on this eponymous brand. “My overall philosophy has been to focus on the wine, not the winemaker. I kind of railed for years against the machine that has the winemaker as rock star. When you think about the greatest vineyards in the world, you think of the vineyard not the winemaker. Here I am now with a brand with my own name on it... But really what I want us to do is focus on the wine which is the culmination of more than a quarter century of work, with a lot of vineyards that I’ve actually helped to establish and bring to fruition.”

Greg La Follette

To help make that happen at La Follette, the lineup of wines will also be more focused than was the Tandem portfolio. According to La Follette general manager Nancy Bailey, “La Follette is about Pinot Noir with a bit of Chardonnay. Tandem offered several different varietals, La Follette will offer just two, plus a Pinot Meunier for club members.” There are six La Follette wines scheduled for release around September of this year and one more, the 2008 La Follette Lorenzo Vineyard Chardonnay, to be released in February or March of 2011. The lineup includes three Chardonnay and four Pinot Noir, plus just two barrels of Pinot Meunier.

She added that the new brand plans to maintain “a compact lineup that will consistently show terroir and seasonal variation.” To that end, La Follette will be more focused with respect to vineyards too. Tandem produced wines from as many as fourteen vineyards. La Follette will use just four in vineyard-designate wines: Lorenzo Vineyard, Sangiacomo Vineyard (Roberts Road, Petaluma Gap), Manchester Ridge and Van der Kamp Vineyard. This ties in to the importance Greg La Follette places on site specificity,

“These wines are authentic to their sites. Each one of these wines is very different from each other. These wines represent the land, the soil, the rocks, the sun. And those kinds of things are much larger than any one person... You first completely let go of what you want to see and let the land speak to you and then help to interpret that... This for me is the most exciting and thrilling thing about being a winemaker.”

Greg La Follette and assistant winemaker Simone Sequeira make the wines at a facility in Sebastopol used by roughly 40 other labels. The winery, in a complex formerly used by Vacu-Dry to process apples, is not open to the public. Greg La Follette actually helped establish it in 2001 and was the first person to make wine there. Now known as Owl Ridge Wine Services, companies using it to make their wines include Kosta Browne, Londer Vineyards, Paul Hobbs, Wesmar Winery and Halleck Vineyard.

I was among the few wine writers invited to attend the first press tasting for La Follette. It took place in San Francisco at Baker & Banker restaurant. After we tasted and evaluated each wine in silence, Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein led a discussion of them with Greg La Follette, detailing the vineyards and the processes used for creating each wine.


2008 La Follette Chardonnay Lorenzo Vineyard, Russian River Valley - 100 cases, 14.6% alc., $37.99.
Greg La Follette characterizes this wine as “layered, lush, fleshy and spicy” and the closest to a “California-style” Chardonnay of the three. One of the oldest vineyards in the Russian River Valley, La Follette says, “this is the one vineyard [where] I actually have my hands on every single vine every single year.” He uses fluff racking on this wine to provide texture while maintaining fresh aromas and flavors. This is also the only vineyard for which uses just one specific cooperage. The particular small-production barrels complement, rather than dominate, the wine’s natural spice.

My notes: Medium intensity lemon-green in color with legs and a moderately intense nose of butter, spice-poached pear, bruised apple, canned peaches and peach pit. It is supple on the palate with lightly perceptible tannins. It has flavors of butterscotch, buttered rum, poached pear, fleshy peach and a very long finish. Very Highly Recommended.


2008 La Follette Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast - 395 cases, 14.1% alc., $29.99
Greg La Follette said that this is one of coolest, and latest ripening, vineyards in Sonoma County. He sees its unique signature as a “feral, sauvage et animal” quality which Evan Goldstein also describes as matchstick. “Most California winemakers and small children will run away from a wine like this in barrel screaming,” joked La Follette, “but when my French buddies come taste with me they smell it and say, “Ha, I am at home.””

These characteristics of the vineyard are amplified by inclusion of a lot of solids, there is no fluff racking for this wine. The presence of considerable solids also leads to higher fermentation temperatures which in turn brings out a “yeast stress aroma signature” that adds its own feral aspect and increases textural interest.

My notes: Medium plus intensity lemon-gold with legs and aromas of mineral, yellow and green apple, mild spice, oak and matchstick. Full bodied and lightly creamy with light tannins and flavors of apple butter, nectarine, cinnamon and vanilla. Highly Recommended.


2008 La Follette Chardonnay Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge - 272 cases, 14.5% alc., $47.99
This is the ultimate example of La Follette’s hands-on winemaking and attention to detail with respect to Chardonnay production. The vineyard, characterized by delicacy and perfume, includes three Chardonnay clones, Dijon 76, Old Wente and a very recently developed Chardonnay musqué clone called Dijon 809 which is noted for floral aromas. Vinification for the Dijon 76 and Old Wente clones is done by including all of the good solids, but not fluff racking, sticking with wild yeasts for fermentation and then using intentional reduction (preventing the juice and wine from being exposed to any oxygen).

But, for the the Dijon 809 only, he keeps the juice in contact with the de-stemmed skins for as much as 36 hours. This increases the aromatics but also the phenolics. Since these phenolics can cause wine to turn brown or pink, and also take on a bitterness, he puts the juice through controlled oxidation - the opposite of the intentional reduction used for the other two clones. This lets the juice go through the color changes so that it doesn’t occur in the wine. It also takes away the bitterness. According to La Follette, the resulting wine will start out more golden than a typical Chardonnay, but will hold that color for a long time and age very well.

The Dijon 809 is then put through a basket press, not a bladder or tank press. Yield from a basket press is only 75% of what the other presses would achieve. But, the basket is more delicate and doesn’t extract harsh compounds from the skins. The juice is cold settled and fined using skim milk, egg whites and bentonite to further reduce the phenolics and proteins before vinification takes place.

My notes: Medium plus intensity lemon-gold in color, no legs. The nose is forward, yet delicate and pretty, and includes peach, spice, melon and flowers. The palate is fully-bodied, creamy and intensely flavorful. Vanilla, butter, baked peach, butterscotch, sweet spice and poached pear are easily discerned. Very Highly Recommended.


2008 La Follette Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - 2324 cases, 14.6% alc., $29.99
Created primarily for restaurants’ by-the-glass programs, this wine is a blend of of components from six different vineyards. La Follette says, “if you listen close enough you can pick them out, but my goal is to make it very hard to pick them out.” He wants to showcase the hallmarks of the Sonoma Coast region as a whole: color, a strong backbone and texture, and layers of aroma and flavor. And, unlike some regional blends that consist of leftovers from single-vineyard efforts, the first blend of this wine is made very early. That wine is then adjusted frequently by adding more components over a period of months until the desired profile is achieved.

My notes: Dark ruby with legs and an inviting nose of black cherry, cocoa, earth, charcoal and a hint of meat. The mouthfeel is like slightly coarse silk with somewhat prominent, grainy tannins balanced by juicy black and red cherry. The fruit is framed by mild oaky spice and the flavors last quite a long time. An excellent value and Very Highly Recommended.


2008 La Follette Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast - 433 cases, 14.3% alc., $39.99
La Follette has been working with the vineyard since 1984 and says the wine is the most feminine of his single-vineyard Pinot Noir. Spice and acidity are signatures of the vineyard. I have been impressed with 2008 Sangiacomo (Roberts Road) Pinot Noir, even more so than the very fine 2007s. I asked La Follette to describe the two vintages. He said that while “2007 was perfect, maybe too perfect,” 2008 had just enough moist, cool weather late in the year to keep the grapes smaller than normal, resulting in a greater skin to juice ratio.

My notes: Ruby in the glass with legs and attractive aromas of cherry, delicate spice and caramel. On the palate it’s smooth — almost creamy — with flavors of juicy cherry and caramel. Highly Recommended.


2008 La Follette Pinot Noir Van Der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain - 494 cases, 15.1% alc., $39.99
Whereas Sangiacomo Roberts Road is the lowest (60 ft) vineyard on Sonoma Mountain, Van Der Kamp is the very highest at 1200 ft. Among other things, this means that it’s top soil is very thin relative that of Sangiacomo, so the vines are less vigorous, leading to a more structured wine.

In an effort to avoid off-flavors that might have affected these grapes due to the intense forest fires of 2008, La Follette wanted to minimize crushing of the grapes. He therefore used a high percentage of whole clusters and also carbonic fermentation in this wine which also includes 5% Pinot Meunier. The results are very good.

My notes: Medium dark ruby with a pale meniscus and legs, the nose is wild cherry and spice. The palate holds a complex mix of dark fruit, caramel, charcoal, spiced meat and slate. Highly Recommended.


2008 La Follette Pinot Noir Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge - 214 cases, 14.6% alc., $49.99
Manchester Ridge Vineyard is located in a very remote part of Mendocino County. It’s a three-and-a-half hour drive from La Follette’s Sebastopol winery, the last hour of which is on treacherous and rutted dirt logging roads. Greg La Follette likens the wine to some of the fine Pinot Noir has recently made in Chile with it’s “old school herbal quality.” As with the Van der Kamp, he used a lot of whole cluster, carbonic fermentation to avoid any possibility of smoke taint.

My notes: The wine is dark ruby in color with a fascinating nose of cranberry, strawberry, dried herb, orange peel, light brown spice and tobacco leaf. It offers a rich, creamy mouthfeel with flavors of cranberry, cherry cream, spice, orange peel and raspberry. The finish is extremely long. This is one of the best Pinots I have had this year and it gets my Highest Recommendation.


The La Follette Wines is owned by Pete and Terri Kight. In 2008, Mr. Kight purchased Tandem Vineyards from Greg La Follette, retaining him as winemaker. The Tandem Vineyards brand is being discontinued in favor of the new brand and approach of La Follette. Tandem wines can still be found in the market, but the winery has sold through their inventory and won’t produce any more under that label.

Pete Kight founded CheckFree Corporation and served as its Chairman and CEO until it was sold to Fiserv in 2007. His longtime passion for wine led him to acquire Quivira Vineyards & Winery of Dry Creek Valley in 2006 and to become a partner in Torbreck (Barossa Valley, Australia) with its founder Dave Powell.

Disclosure: These wines were tasted non-blind at a press event in the presence of the winemaker.

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Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook. Also check outour comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Tasting Wine at Caymus Vineyards in Napa Valley

Caymus Vineyards is one of Napa Valley’s best-known wineries. Its fame comes not from a fancy tasting room nor shocking price points but simply from the consistently high quality of their wines. Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon wines are the equivalent of blue chip stocks — or what blue chip stocks used to be. You can count on the Cabernet Sauvignon from Caymus to meet or exceed expectations every year.

Neither Caymus Vineyards' top-of-the-line Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley nor the “regular” Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley have been awarded less than 91 points by Wine Spectator since 1997, a vintage which that magazine panned region-wide. It's the only wine to have been named their "Wine of the Year" twice, and also has two #2 and one #3 placements. One can argue, and many do, that Wine Spectator is not the ultimate arbiter of quality. Yet, few would suggest that the Caymus wines' scores are undeserved. But you don’t have to take Wine Spectator’s word for it anyway. Unlike many of the top-scoring Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon  wines which you can’t taste unless you buy a bottle — if they let you buy one — you can taste Caymus wines at the winery.

New Tasting Room Opens - Stark and Cartograph at Garagiste Healdsburg

Garagiste Healdsburg, a new tasting room and micro-winery in downtown Healdsburg, is now open for your sipping pleasure. It pairs two small-production wine labels, Stark Wines and Cartograph in a spacious industrial-chic facility that I suspect will become a very popular hangout.

Garagiste Healdsburg opened for tasting on July 30, 2011.

Garagiste is a French term, coined in Bordeaux, that referred to a group of micro-wineries that began cropping up in the 1990‘s. Some of them were literally located in the owners’ garages. True to the name, Garagiste Healdsburg is more than a tasting room. It is a licensed micro-winery — in a building that was an auto dealer's garage some 80 years ago. Wine will be made right behind the tasting bar in a room visible through a large glass window. Garagiste Healdsburg offers tasting pours of all their wines for $5 but sells them by the glass or bottle too. There is plenty of room at the tasting bar, but you can also grab a comfortable seat inside or relax on the front patio.

Christian Stark tends the tasting bar during the pre-opening party for friends and family.

The Stark Wines are made by Christian Stark. Over the past ten years, in addition to making his own wine, he has worked under and/or been mentored by a number local winemakers including David Georges, then of Davis Bynum. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy, Christian seeks to make full-bodied, fruit-forward wines that also work at the dinner table. Stark Wines’ current releases are the 2009 Stark Viognier Damiano Vineyard Sierra Foothills, 2009 Stark Chardonnay Windsor Oaks Vineyard Russian River Valley and the 2006 Stark Syrah Teldeschi & Unti Vineyards Dry Creek Valley.

Christian & Jen Stark of Stark Wine at Garagiste Healdsburg moments before the Grand Opening.

Alan Baker and Serena Lourie met at Crushpad in San Francisco where Alan went to work in 2005. After collaborating closely together on a number of wines, Alan and Serena's mutual attractions to wine and each other led them to Healdsburg and the creation of Cartograph in 2009. Alan, the winemaker, strives for balanced Pinot Noir that emphasizes character and complexity and over concentration and intensity. He favors early harvests to preserve signature vineyard characteristics in the fruit and ensure food-friendliness. In addition to vineyard-designate Pinot Noir from Split Rock and Two Pisces, both in the Sonoma Coast AVA, Cartograph offers one white wine. It is the 2009 Cartograph Floodgate Vineyard Gewurtztraminer Russian River Valley, a dry, unoaked wine modeled after the Gewurtztraminers of Alsace.

Cartograph's Serena Lourie & Alan Baker making guests feel welcome at Garagiste Healdsburg.

I like the feel of Garagiste Healdsburg. It is sleek and open, yet friendly. Alan Baker constructed many of the decorative elements himself using parts from an old crusher/destemmer. They visually tie the urban-industrial space together with the craft of winemaking, creating a unique and memorable personality.

A view into the winery/barrel room at Garagiste Healdsburg.

Garagiste Healdsburg offers a spacious tasting area.

Alan Baker made many of the decorative elements, including this chandelier, from a crusher/destemmer.

You can watch the people strolling by on Healdsburg Ave. while enjoying wine on the patio.

Garagiste Healdsburg is located at 439 Healdsburg Avenue, just two blocks north of the square. It is open Thursday through Monday, 11am to 6pm, and by appointment on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tasting flights are $5. Wines by the glass are $7 for white and $10 for red. Garagiste is also available for private events.

Garagiste Healdsburg is the micro winery and tasting room for Cartograph and Stark Wine.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to All photos by Fred Swan. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Winery Profile: Two Shepherds

I recently put together a blind tasting of 12 wines for a small panel of wine professionals. The theme was “surprising California wines” aka “California wines that even Europhiles will love.” There were a number of heavy hitters in the lineup, winemakers and wineries that have been celebrated for decades. But the favorite that night was the 2010 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc, that winery’s first commercial vintage.

I had an ulterior motive in pouring that wine. I had tasted it twice before and been very impressed. I wanted to review it, but I know Two Shepherds’ proprietor/winemaker, William Allen, well. I wanted to pour his Grenache Blanc blind for other trusted palates to validate my opinion and avoid any concerns of bias.

two_shepherds_logoAfter the formal tasting and discussion of all 12 wines, the 2010 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc was one of two bottles which my associates immediately drained. [The other was the 2006 Suacci Carciere Pinot Noir*.] They didn’t just like the wine. They were enthused by it. “Who made this?” “Where can I get it?” “How much is it?” “What do you mean it’s sold out!?!”

They might also have asked, “How does somebody make a wine like this in their first commercial vintage?” Technically, William Allen launched his winery and made that juice in just a few months. But, that wine had been fermenting in his mind for years.

William Allen didn’t grow up in the wine business. He was born and raised in Bermuda, an island country highly inhospitable to growing wine grapes. He went to college at Auburn and then dove into high-tech business on the East Coast. A tech job still pays his bills.

Allen’s interest in wine started very gradually. There was wine at business dinners and then, eventually, a bus tour of Napa Valley at the end of a sales trip to San Francisco. His appreciation for wine grew. Napa became his go-to for wine drinking and touring.

In 1999, he took a job in Petaluma. Exploring the wineries near his new home, he fell in love with northern Sonoma County. He began collecting wine and filled a 120-bottle cellar. He sought out small, unique wineries. Soon, he was also studying wine and taking classes.

Around the same time, he started to make beer at home. He quickly learned the importance of sanitation and topping. He became familiar with fermentation and working with a variety of yeasts. Five years ago he made his first garage wine.

Allen started with an old-fashioned press and carboys — thick glass bottles with a 5-gallon capacity. [Carboys are good vessels for micro-lot winemaking. Small barrels are hard to find and their evaporation rate is much higher than standard barrels.] He experimented with native yeasts. He also experienced and successfully worked through his first stuck fermentation.

By the end of that first year of home winemaking, Allen’s new hobby had become a passion. Over the ensuing four years, he devoted his off days to volunteering at wineries in order to learn all aspects of wine production. He picked. He crushed. He cleaned. Among the wineries and winemakers he spent a great deal of time were David Mounts of Mounts Family Winery, Anthony Yount of Kinero Cellars and Kenny Likitprakong of Hobo Wines.

At the same time, the continually sleep-deprived Allen created, a blog focused on Sonoma County’s wine country. Being a blogger brought opportunities to taste a wider range of wines and meet winemakers from all over the world. Not afraid to seem like a geek, he always asked detailed questions about growing and making wine.

Somewhere along the way, Rhone-variety wines stole his heart. He had liked Viognier for years, but not tasted many of the other wines until he started volunteering and writing. A Kinero Grenache Blanc was his epiphany wine.

Kinero is the personal project of Anthony Yount, the winemaker at Denner Vineyards in Paso Robles. For Kinero, Yount makes only white wine, experimenting with vessels, aging and what he prefers to call “feral yeast” fermentation. He strives for delicacy and finesse in his whites. In addition to Yount, Allen has says he’s been inspired by people such as Randall Grahm, who would eventually advise him on vineyard selection, and Bill Frick, who he calls an unsung hero of Rhone-variety wines in Sonoma County

Allen’s personal preference is for an “old world” style of wine: nuanced, framed by naturally-prominent acidity and made without much manipulation. As a result, he is a minimalist winemaker and doesn’t let grapes hang on the vine very long. He favors native yeasts and neutral oak barrels.

Allen says, his homemade wines were good. But making Southern Rhone-style wines at "friends and family volumes" was difficult. To make the blends, he had to vinifiy tiny amounts of several varieties. After a few vintages of that — and of championing low-alcohol, less extracted wines on his blog — he decided it was “time to put his money where his keyboard was.”

Two Shepherds first commercial vintage, 2010, was made at Old World Winery. Once vinification was complete, he moved to Inspiration Vineyards where Jon Phillips helped him with bottling, TTB approvals, etc. Total production was 175 cases. The 2011 Two Shepherds’ wines were made at Inspiration Vineyards from start to finish.

The 2010 and 2011 Two Shepherds wines include only sourced fruit. The Grenache Blanc comes from the Saarloos Vineyard in Santa Ynez. Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne and most of the red wine grapes are sourced from Saralee’s Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. For 2010, he also took some red from Livermore. Now, he’s also working with Ron Mansfield, an acclaimed grower and vineyard manager in the El Dorado AVA.

In a few seasons, there will be estate fruit in Two Shepherds reds. In 2011, William Allen began planting a 1,500 vine Grenache vineyard of his own in the Russian River Valley. He doesn’t have plans to grow other varieties there. The plot is limited in size and he’s also concerned suspects site would be too cool for grapes such as Mourvedre which can be unpleasant if not thoroughly ripe.

Of the four wines in Two Shepherds initial offering, the Grenache Blanc might be considered the flagship. The variety has become a critical darling in recent years and, of course, it’s still the one closest to Allen’s heart. His version of Grenache Blanc also differs more from convention than do his other wines.

The common perception of Grenache Blanc in the the Southern Rhone is that of a somewhat neutral grape prone to high-alcohol and flab. Many California Grenache Blanc varietal wines show complexity and balance. But they still tend to be treated like Chardonnay: achieving medium+ to full body and getting an aromatic and flavor boost from new oak. In contrast, the Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc sees no new oak and wears acidity as a badge of honor.

Tasted: Three Wines from Two Shepherds’ 2010 Vintage

2010 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyards, Santa Ynez Valley, $24
Pale-lemon green with tartrate crystals. It smells of lemon rind, herb, tart peach, green apple and white flowers. In the mouth, there is a lightly creamy medium body with medium+ acidity and flavors that include grapefruit rind, green apple skin, preserved lemon and mineral. The finish is long and juicy. A refreshingly crisp and tangy Grenache Blanc. 13.8% alcohol. Highly Recommended+

This wine is sold out at the winery. You may still be able to find some at retail. The 2011 has just been released and was recently recommended by Jon Bonne of the SF Chronicle. I’ll be picking up a bottle to review soon.



2010 Two Shepherds MRV White Rhone Blend Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley, $24
This blend of Marsanne (47%), Roussanne (47%) and Viognier (6%) is lemon-colored in the glass. The nose is of moderate intensity with an interesting range of flavors: delicate white flowers, lightly buttered toast, yellow apple and balsa wood. In the mouth it has medium+ body and acidity creating creamy and juicy sensations simultaneously. The flavors are understated, yet attractive. I found citrus, yellow apple skin, clementine peel, baking spice and mineral, culminating with a medium+, mouth-watering finish. 14.2% alcohol. Highly Recommended


2010 Two Shepherds GSM Blend Russian River Valley, $32
Medium ruby colored, slightly foggy and showing a little sediment suggesting that the wine is unfined and unfiltered. On the nose there is sour cherry, raspberry, black tea, rhubarb with a happy freshness overall that reminded me a little of some Beaujolais. The palate is medium-bodied with medium+ acidity and medium tannins. Flavors of tart red fruit and rosemary linger for a medium+ finish. A light and lively Grenache-centric wine that will go well with roast chicken or steak tartare. Grenache 50%, 25% each Syrah and Mourvedre. 13.8% alcohol. Recommended+

*The 2006 Suacci Carciere Pinot Noir is no longer available at the winery in sufficient volume to sell on it's own. (I bought the last available cases a few years ago, but did give you guys fair warning in an article... Anyway, the few remaining bottles they have are being sold as part of a wood-boxed, three-vintage vertical set.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Vina Robles Winery of Paso Robles

Vina Robles is a Paso Robles winery that I've found to offer very good wines and excellent value. The winery is located on the east side of Paso Robles, but uses fruit from a variety of locations. Most of the wines are based on Bordeaux or Rhone varieties, but they also offer Zinfandel and Verdehlo.

During a recent visit to Vina Robles, I tasted six wines:
  • 2009 Vina Robles White4 - Recommended, see my full review, based on a formal review tasting.
  • 2009 Vina Robles Verdehlo - 100% Verdehlo from the Huerhuero Vineyard.
  • 2007 Vina Robles Halter Ranch Meritage - 68% Cabernet Sauvignon with a whopping 32% Petit Verdot, from the Adelaide Hills in west Paso Robles
  • 2007 Vina Robles Suendero - 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot from Adelaide Springs Ranch, in the hills just 12 miles form the Pacific Ocean. Recommended
  • 2007 Vina Robles Signature - An inky estate blend. 66% Huerhuero Petit Verdot and 34% Creston Petit Sirah. Recommended (A formal review tasting is pending.)
  • 2008 Vina Robles Petite Sirah Creston Valley Vineyard - 100% Petit Sirah from the Creston Valley Vineyard, an estate vineyard southeast of Paso Robles. One of the best Petit Sirah I've had in a while. It had an almost ideal balance of structure, rich juicy fruit and oak accents. Highly Recommended

Here are some past NorCal Wine reviews of Vina Robles wines:
2009 Vina Robles Sauvignon Blanc Jardine Vineyard Paso Robles

2007 Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon HuerHuero Paso Robles

Vina Robles has a very attractive, 14,000 square foot hospitality center at 3700 Mill Road in Paso Robles. It includes not just a tasting room but also a shop, an art gallery and a large banquet room. The tasting room, shop and art gallery are open daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day (10 - 6 Summer, 10 - 5 Winter).

A tasting of three wines is available for free. More thorough tastings can be had for a small fee: Estate $7, Reserve $10 ($15 with cheese). Most wine tasting is done at the counter but the room is large, open and has two seating areas where you can relax with your glass if you like. There is also outdoor seating.

The retail shop offers not just wine, books, t-shirts and accessories, but also a deli section with items from Dean & Deluca. The banquet room is very spacious and Vina Robles has an on-site caterer, Trumpet Vine.

Vina Robles was founded in 1996 by Swiss businessmen Hans Nef and Hans Michel, the winery’s managing partner. They established three new Paso Robles vineyards at that time: Huerhuero, Jardine and Pleasant Valley. Those vineyards comprise roughly 1,500 acres and are at the heart of many Vina Robles wines. The winery also manages some 4,000 additional vineyard acres, some of which are estate, and sources grapes from Lodi too.


Since its first release in 1999, Vina Robles wines have been made by Matthias Gubler, also a native of Switzerland. However, Vina Robles announced on May 16 that Mr. Gubler would be returning to Maienfeld, Switzerland to concentrate on the operation of his family’s vineyard there, as has been his long-term intention. He will remain with Vina Robles as contributing winemaker.

The new head winemaker at Vina Robles is Nicholas de Luca, 39. For the last six years, he has been Director of Vineyards and Winemaking at Dieberg & Star Lane Vineyards, a maker of fine Pinot Noir in Santa Ynez. Prior to that, Mr. de Luca served at a number of wineries including Byington (Los Gatos), William-Selyem (Healdsburg), Cline Cellars (Sonoma) and Highfield Estate (Marlborough, NZ). Vina Robles assistant winemakers, Julie Holme and Craig Holme remain on board.


If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Photos by Fred Swan. Map courtesy of Vina Robles. All rights reserved.