Paso Robles: Seductive
2018s and 2019s
BY JOSH RAYNOLDS | JULY 07, 2022
The 2018 and 2019 vintages in Paso Robles produced a great
number of outstanding wines, in many cases the best showings of a winery’s work
that I have yet tasted. The top examples of both year’s wines are marked by energy,
precision and complexity and are destined for long aging, assuming readers have
the willpower to resist their upfront, seductive fruitiness.
The Adelaida District is home to Paso Robles' highest altitude sites as well as some of the oldest vines in the region.
Recent Growing Seasons
The 2019 growing season started slowly, with abundant,
much-needed rainfall in the early spring that helped to replenish the groundwater
that has been diminishing over the last decade. Spring weather was cooler than
usual, and while the summer was warm, it was rarely excessively hot, which
allowed the fruit to ripen slowly and evenly. In most cases, these conditions
pushed the harvest into the third week of September and even later for cooler
vineyards that lie closer to the Pacific Ocean on the appellation’s west side.
The resulting wines show distinct clarity and fine detail, with fresh fruit
character and harmonious tannins that will allow them to be enjoyed soon after
release. However, it would be a mistake to underestimate the ageworthiness of
numerous reds and even whites, which I suspect will enjoy long aging curves
thanks to their balance.
Speaking of whites, I continue to be impressed by the
increasing quality of so many examples from the area. Making whites that show
vibrancy and complexity is no easy task in a region that is consistently warm
and often blazingly hot. An increasing number of wineries are managing to pull
it off, resulting in quite a few wines that are now truly world class. The vast
majority of whites here are made from Rhône varieties, notably Viognier,
Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and, increasingly, Clairette Blanche. While there are
bottlings that should age gracefully, most of them are best enjoyed soon after
release, especially the Viognier and Viognier-based blends. I have long found
these grapes, regardless of where they are grown, a safer bet to drink on the
young side rather than with more than a few years of bottle age.
Prepping barrels at Tooth & Nail Winery, the most formidable structure on the west side's Highway 46.
The appealing traits of the 2019s mark the 2018s as well. The
majority of 2018s have now been released and most of them were reviewed last
year. I found that many of the reds as well as whites that I tasted last year
have put on a bit of weight since then, but with no noticeable loss of energy
or detail. As with the 2019s, the 2018s show noteworthy freshness allied to
juicy, expressive fruit qualities that makes many of them highly attractive
already. Again, the vibrancy and balance of the wines, along with harmonious
tannins, should make the best bottlings excellent cellar candidates.
By now most followers of Paso Robles are familiar with the
potential issues with the red wines of 2020 that were the result of smoke
damage caused by wildfires in nearby areas, mostly in neighboring Monterey. I
haven’t had the chance to try very many finished or bottled examples from the
vintage yet and will withhold judgement now, but most producers have noted that
many of their vineyards were affected by the settling smoke and have adjusted
their production accordingly. It will clearly be a vintage to choose from
selectively, especially with so many outstanding 2019s and 2018s in the market.
The wine library at Saxum, located in the deepest part of their hillside cave. Function over beauty.
The Dining Scene in Paso Robles
The Paso Robles region has steadily become a serious tourist
draw. There are an increasing number of excellent, even world-class restaurants
to choose from now, with the most noteworthy being Les Petite Canailles and Six
Test Kitchen. Chef Julien Asseo, the owner of Les Petites Canailles and son of
L’Aventure’s Stephan Asseo, has an extensive history working in high positions in
the restaurants of Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy, and it shows in his superb
cooking, which, in my opinion, is at the top level of all restaurants on the
west coast. I have not yet had the chance to try the adventurous and highly
imaginative food at Chef Ricky Odbert’s Six Test Kitchen, which isn’t
surprising given that there are only 12 seats, with two turns per day and the
restaurant is closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. In addition, it is the
only restaurant in the region to have earned a Michelin star. Maybe one night
I’ll get lucky!
I tasted these wines during my trip to the region last
November as well as numerous wines here in New York this past spring.
© 2022, Vinous. No portion of this article may be copied, shared or re-distributed without prior consent from Vinous. Doing so is not only a violation of our copyright, but also threatens the survival of independent wine criticism.
You Might Also Enjoy
Paso Robles 2018 & 2017: Grace and Power, Josh Raynolds, December 2020
Paso Robles Can’t Stop Winning, Josh Raynolds, February 2020
Paso Robles 2016 & 2015: New Releases, Josh Raynolds, September 2018
Paso Robles Copes, Adapts and Evolves, Josh Raynolds, November 2017