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Raising the Bar in Paso Robles: Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year” for 2010.

by DAH on November 18th, 2010

A primary reason for my 2008 move from Mendocino County to San Luis Obispo County was the plant my career in what seemed to be California’s most exciting and fast-developing wine region. It was important, too (or course) to live closer to our Clayhouse Wines and Red Cedar Vineyard, the largest winegrowing enterprises inside Middleton Family Wines.

Paso Robles, the largest appellation in San Luis Obispo County, has grown swiftly, with 26,000 vineyard acres and an increase over the past decade from 35 to over 180 bonded wineries. When I first visited Paso Robles, on a winery consulting project in the mid-1990s, it was pretty sleepy, and those few dozen wineries didn’t seem to be making much impact in the world of wine. Things here have changed a lot.

Success in the wine business doesn’t come with just getting bigger (although sometimes it seems so). Getting bigger AND more desirable is what yields the best profit. And Paso Robles is growing in critical perception, too.

“… the quality increases each year, and the potential is as promising as any place in the New World.” (Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate)

“Paso Robles is red wine country, and while the winemakers here turn out splendid Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignons and Petite Sirahs, it is the blends that are Paso Robles’ emerging stars.” (Steve Heimoff, The Wine Enthusiast)

Add The Wine Spectator to the wine pundit chorus singing Paso’s praises. A red blend from Paso Robles, Saxum 2007 James Berry Vineyard, has just been named Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year” for 2010. Check out the video announcement HERE (and forgive the rather blatant teleprompter reading of James Laube, who is a taster and writer, not a presenter).

I’m fortunate enough to have tasted the Saxum 2007 James Berry Vineyard (a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah) a couple of times … including at a public wine tasting where Justin Smith was offering samples of his hard-to-find wine to all comers (already knowing it had scored so well with so many wine writers). This, by the way, is another fine feature of Paso Robles: Most of the winemakers are rather friendly and unassuming.

Here’s how things line up in my marketing mind:
1. Paso Robles is a fast growing wine region;
2. Our Clayhouse Wines is a fast growing Paso Robles winery;
3. Red blends from Paso Robles are critically acclaimed;
4. Clayhouse Adobe Red (a red blend) is our most widely distributed and fastest growing wine.
It seems like we ought to be able to make something good out of this situation.

DAH is David Anthony Hance

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3 Comments
  1. Scot Burns permalink

    “Looking for the next Saxum?” – James Laube’s post on Wine Spectator’s blog mentions Saxum neighbors Benson Cellars, caliza Winery and Terry Hoage …

    http://www.winespectator.com/blogs/show/id/44068

    • I like Caliza quite a lot, and would add Booker and Torrin to a short-list of best in Paso: Saxum, Linne Calodo, Denner, Tablas Creek, Caliza, Booker, Torrin. Selfishly speaking, for Middleton Family Wines, our Clayhouse Estate “Show Pony” Petite Sirah is worth a taste, too.

  2. Thanks for such a wonderful article! I’m glad to see that more and more people are appreciating the wonderful Paso Robles area, and that this Wine Spectator nod is affirmation of that.

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