Downtown Paso Robles. (Courtesy photo)

Downtown Paso Robles. (Courtesy photo)

Don’t overlook the Cabernet Sauvignon of Paso Robles

The Paso Robles wine region was built on zinfandel.

The Paso Robles wine region was built on zinfandel and, in the last decade, has secured it standing as one of the world’s premier producers of Rhone-style blends with the likes of Saxum, TH Cellars, Denner, Tablas Creek and others.

Often overlooked, however, is the fact that reasonably priced cabernet sauvignon has been produced in the region since the 1970s when Dr. Stanley Hoffman first planted the varietal in the Adelaida Hills, west of town.

Similar to appellations in Napa Valley and northern Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, Paso Robles experiences major temperature shifts most days of up to 50 degrees. During the growing season, hot days and nights cooled by the Pacific Ocean provides the ideal terroir for fruit-forward Bordeaux-style wines, succulent with typically softer tannins than their northern neighbors.

Good quality cabernet sauvignon releases from Paso Robles are available within a broad cost range. I recently tasted the 2016 Four Vines “The Kinker” Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles ($20), sourced from east side vineyards and found full-bodied flavors of ripened fruit and spice with a spirited finish indicative of a more expensive wine.

Gary Eberle is considered a pioneer in the Paso Robles wine region. After college football and some advanced science degrees, he landed in Paso Robles in the late-1970s with a mindset to produce cabernet sauvignon. Settling on sixty-four acres in the east side, he released his first cabernet sauvignon in 1979 and continues through today, along with syrah, zinfandel and various Rhone varietals, to produce fine cabs that exceed expectations associated with the price.

The Eberle 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Vineyard Selection’ ($25) consists of 100 percent cabernet sauvignon sourced from multiple vineyards within the Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area). The juice is blended before 18 months barrel aging so the nuances of each are well integrated with rich flavors and mouthfeel.

The Eberle 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($45), as with previous vintages, is an elegant wine that remains one of the best of the varietal in the $50 range. Great stock and twenty-two month aging in 30 percent new French oak results in complex, layered flavors of dark fruit, herbs and spice.

The Hoffman Mountain Ranch vineyard, set at 2,200 feet elevation, is where it all started after winemaking icon André Tchelistcheff convinced Dr. Hoffman that the Adelaida Hills site was “a jewel of ecological elements” destined to produce great Bordeaux varietals.

Today, the Daou brothers, Georges and Daniel, are stewards of the historic land intent on sustaining its legacy. Amid production of Bordeaux, Rhone Valley and Burgundian-style wines is the highly rated and elegantly described 2016 Daou Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($85). Of note, I have found the 2017 vintage of this wine, with equally high ratings, at K&L Wines in San Francisco under $25.

Ever since the 1997 Justin “Isosceles” was served with lemon garlic-crusted lamb by the Clintons at a White House event hosting the King of Morocco, the full- bodied cabernet sauvignon-dominant Bordeaux blend has maintained consistently high acclaim. The 2016 Justin “Isosceles” ($76) showcases the high regional fruit- driven standard with herb and spice notes.

The 2016 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon ($27) and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($58) are two fine wines that originate from local limestone-laden soil and, once again, have a high quality/cost ratio.

The Just Inn, located in the Justin Estate vineyards offers a few stylish rooms that can accommodate from two to ten guests who can also enjoy brunch, lunch and wine-paired dinners at the on-site Restaurant at Justin. I spent an anniversary there years ago and loved it.

Among a large palate of wines produced by Adelaida Cellars winemaker Jeremy Weintrab, each vintage of his Viking Estate Vineyard Signature Cabernet Sauvignon ($90-100) stands among the best in the region.

When discussing good value cabernet sauvignon, the Le P’tit Paysan 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast, with small amounts of petit verdot added, deserves a mention, boasting ratings in the nineties and available for under $20.

Despite the fact that cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley and north Sonoma County is world-class, the Paso Robles region tenders extraordinary releases, many at a lower fare. Known for zinfandel and Rhone-style blends, lovers of Bordeaux wines will also be impressed with what’s available there.

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Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email him at sfewine@gmail.com. He is a guest columnist.

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