I recently spent some time in Paso Robles visiting old favorites like Adelaida Cellars and Tablas Creek from the Adelaida appellation as well as TH Cellars, a new breed of Rhone producers in the nearby Willow Creek appellation.
After inquiring as to the availability of Tony Hermann, Resident Wine Educator, we started at Adelaida Cellars, with roots going back more than 50 years. It began when Dr. Stanley Hoffman created the Hoffman Mountain Ranch Vineyard in 1964, after finding ideal climate and limestone-laden soils to grow his beloved Burgundian and other French varietals.
In the early 1970s, the neighboring Van Steenwyk Family followed Dr. Hoffman’s lead and began purchasing prime vineyard land like the Viking Estate and, in 1994, the original Hoffman Ranch Vineyard.
Today, Adelaida is still owned by the Van Steenwyk Family and consists of 2,000 total acres, mostly natural hillsides, with 730 acres in walnuts and 180 acres of vineyards. They farm twenty different varietals, mostly Rhone and, recently have added some Portuguese grapes to the high elevation Bobcat Ranch Estate. Their vineyards are all certified sustainable and yield 9,000 to 12,000 cases annually.
Since my last visit, Adelaida has added a very large, but elegantly appointed tasting facility that include’s member’s lounges, private tasting rooms and a space for wine dinners or wedding receptions. People can even get married on a hilltop bluff with 360-degree views.
Something that has not changed since my last visit is Tony Hermann, who is articulate and knowledgeable and makes any Adelaida tasting experience special. He is in-demand, but request him anyway.
Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub arrived in 2012. After receiving a political science degree in New York, he found himself making French varietals in Paso Robles, via a Master’s in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis and some hands-on experience.
Adelaida has evolved in recent years. Their labels now pay homage to the landscape and Jeremy’s tenet to make wine that reflects the land in which it was grown Some of their standard releases like cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and syrah remain while others are gone, and, to begin, Tony opened two new white Rhone varietals from Anna’s Vineyard: the Grenache Blanc 2016 ($35), aged ten months in neutral oak on its “chateau” yeast and the Picpoul Blanc 2016 ($35), a crisp, flavorful release and fitting pair with shellfish.
The Adelaida Rose 2017 is also new and is as complex as any Rhone blend with 55% grenache, 14% mourvedre, 13% cinsault, 12% counoise and six percent carignane, except the grapes are picked earlier and the juice has little skin contact.
Pinot noir is extremely rare in Paso Robles, yet the 33-acre HMR Vineyard has some of the oldest low-yield vines on the Central Coast. The Pinot Noir 2016 HMR Vineyard ($60) is partially whole-cluster fermented, spending 16 months in French oak. It is Old World in its personality with earthy aromas and flavors, spice hints and a nice mouthfeel.
Jeremy loves mourvedre and it is featured in his Anna’s Red 2015 Anna’s Estate Vineyard ($45), uniquely blended with cinsault, counoise, grenache and petit sirah after aging separately. I found deep, balanced flavors of dark fruit and berry with peppery spice notes. This wine will evolve nicely, but is drinkable now.
In the Côte-Rôtie style, the Adelaida Syrah 2016 ($45), awarded 92-points from Wine Advocate, adds 10% viognier, a white varietal that surprisingly adds flavor and darkens the color of the wine. There is a forest floor quality to the aromas along with dark fruit and spice. Balanced, rich dark fruit, coffee and peppery flavors treat the palate through an extended finish.
Shatter is something that occurs in grapes that experience some type of weather disturbance during budding, requiring the removal of damaged stock. As a result, the yield of the Cabernet Sauvignon Adelaida District 2015 ($35), with added malbec and petit verdot was 50% of normal creating a concentrated wine that is drinkable now.
Most of the grapes for the Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Select Adelaida District 2015 ($60) comes from the esteemed Viking Vineyard. Added malbec and petite verdot and 20 months aging in 50% new French oak build bold, full-bodied flavors that peak on the finish.
Iconic in the history of Paso Robles wines, Adelaida Cellars remain on the cutting edge of the future and should not be overlooked on your next visit.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.