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Paso's Cab Comeback Tasting & Seminar - California Wine Festival


San Miguel Room, The Fess Parker Santa Barbara Hotel, 633 East Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, California, 93103, USA


Paso’s Cab Comeback was the second event of the California Wine Festival.  It was held on Friday, July 17th from 5pm – 6pm at The Fess Parker Hotel, an elegant resort set right on the beachfront, about half a mile from downtown Santa Barbara.

The seminar was set up in response to the recent increase in Rhone varietals being produced.  Paso Robles is a fantastic location for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and this was an opportunity for some Paso Robles winemakers to explain how they have elevated their brands and are now competing with the best of best, including Napa.


The Paso Robles CAB (Cabernet and Bordeaux) Collective was established to promote the Paso Robles AVA (and its sub-appellations) in producing quality Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals.  All of the panel are members.


The panel consisted of Mike Sinor (, Mike Mooney (, David Parrish ( and Steve Martell (  The Moderator was Matt Kettmann of Wine Enthusiast Magazine and the Santa Barbara Independent.


The seminar kicked off with some general observations.


  • In terms of popularity, Malbec is dominant, closely followed by Petit Verdot. 

  • Traditional grapes, Caladoc and Marselan, developed in France in the 70’s, are starting to re-appear on wine labels. 

  • Quality of wine is improving; this is expected to continue over the next 10 years.

  • Smaller blocks of different plantings in different aspects in relation to the sun are now more commonly seen. 

  • The Cabernet Sauvignon crop this year is looking a little light; this is mainly attributed to cooler weather affecting pollination.  As such, the panel are anticipating a drop in yields of between 30-50%.

  • Choice of rootstock continues to be important due to the drought conditions which California faces; some rootstocks forage better for water than others.


Each speaker took the opportunity to tell us a little more about their winery and heritage.


Mike Sinor spoke about Ancient Peaks.  The vineyard was planted by the Robert Mondavi family in the late 90’s and is the southernmost vineyard in Paso Robles.  (Mondavi owns more vineyards in Paso Robles than in Napa.)  All grapes are grown on the Historic Santa Margarita Ranch, where grapes were first planted by Franciscan missionaries. The Santa Margarita Vineyard AVA was one of the new sub-appellations of the Paso Robles AVA recognised in 2014. 


There are 5 distinct soil types in the Santa Margarita Vineyard however one of the more unusual are the large white oceanic oyster shells.  There are about 1000 acres under vine and being located only 14 miles from the Pacific, it is one of the coolest areas in the region.  Ancient Peaks is family owned and cultivates 16 varietals.  They also sell grapes to other wineries. 


Mike brought the 2012 Oyster Ridge, which he described as “the best of the best”.  It is $50 a bottle and represents 4% of what they produce.  It is a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petite Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec.  Mike personally re-assesses areas for quality on an annual basis and estimated that 30% of his vineyard is currently producing fruit for their top wines.


Steve Martell is winemaker at Sextant Wines which was established in 2004.  Steve brought the 2012 Kamal; a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Charbono and Malbec.  Sextant cultivates 5 different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon and produced 700 cases of this wine.  It was aged in French oak for 35 months, 30% of which was new and is $42 a bottle.    


The names Sextant and Kamal are taken from old world navigation instruments, and Sextant’s motto is “It’s sexy time!”


Much of the fruit grown in Paso Robles ends up in wines made in Napa and Sonoma, however, under US federal law, at least 85% of the grapes must come from the AVA named on the bottle.  Wines with a Paso Robles label cannot generally command as high prices as those from Napa or Sonoma.


David Parrish spoke about Parrish Family Vineyard.  His vineyard is located at the tip of the Creston District in Paso Robles.  Creston is another new sub-appellation of Paso Robles approved in 2014.  David brought the 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  The current release is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Creston Ranch and a blend of 4 different clones on 2 different rootstocks.  This creates more complexity.  The vineyards are located 1200 foot in elevation and receive ocean breezes.  Soils are calcareous, similar to Bordeaux, which give good colour to the wines.  The grapes for this wine were harvested on October 30, 2012 and the tannins are soft even though the wine is still young.  Parrish Family Vineyard also sells grapes to wineries in Sonoma County. 


David’s grandfather, Earl Henderson, was a grape grower in Fresno in the 1900’s.  He sold up his own 90 acres, relocated to Atascadero and planted and managed a new vineyard of more than 500 acres comprising mainly Charbono and Zinfandel.  Due to Prohibition, he was unable to set up his own winery, so he sold grapes privately.  It was only when David became involved some 70 years later that consideration was given to opening a winery and the Parrish Family began making wine in 2004. 


Mike Mooney talked to us about Chateau Margene - also located in Creston.  He and David are neighbours.


The winery was established in 1997 and the first wine produced was a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Mike brought the 2012 Cask 4 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, made with whole berries and open top fermentation.  It was aged in 100% new French oak and is $96 a bottle.


Chateau Margene only produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux style wines.  Mike cultivates 3 different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, mostly from Creston, and uses mainly French oak for ageing.  The winery produces 3000 cases in total per year and remains a family business; Mike’s wife, Margene, is CFO and his son is Assistant Winemaker. 


Chateau Margene offer a “Barrel Room Experience” at the estate which provides an up close and personal look at how they make their wines. 


The seminar today was very interesting and interactive, and there was also time for some Q&A.  All of the wines we tasted were superb, each had their own unique flavours and characteristics; it would be impossible to choose a favourite.


Copyright of - July 2015

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