There are over 35 varietals of grapes planted in the Paso Robles AVA, making up over 26,000 acres. Varietals differ from common, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, to obscure, such as Albarino. The kinds of grapes planted in a certain area can give you a real sense of place: what the weather is like, soil conditions, and more. So what do we have planted and why? I explore that here!
Paso Robles is well-known for producing great wines from varietals originating in the Rhone region of France. Currently, we have three Rhone varietals planted on the vineyard: Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. This Spring, we will be adding one more: Viognier. We also have a traditional Bordeaux varietal, Merlot, planted and will be adding Cabernet Sauvignon this Spring as well. If you are curious about the differences between the varietals and why they work on our vineyard, read on!
There are currently 326 acres of Grenache planted in San Luis Obispo County, two acres at Paso de Record Vineyard. Originating in the warm climate in the South of France’s Rhone region, this grape is generally used in blends. We use it, combined with Syrah, for Randy’s Red. Another common use for the Grenache grape is to make dry rose wine, delicious in the Summer! The wines made from this grape are typically rich and high in alcohol, because of the high sugar content achieved before harvest, and contribute a wonderful fruit component when blended with more refined grapes such as Syrah. You typically get lots of bright fruit flavors, specifically cherry, in wines made with the Grenache grape.
The Syrah grape also originates in France’s Rhone region, but does well in both warm and cool climates. There are 2,770 acres of this versatile grape planted in San Luis Obispo County, which approximately 2,600 are in the more specific Paso Robles region. We currently have eight acres of Syrah and will probably plant more in the future. Syrah is a hearty grape with thick skin that does well in most climates. The flavor profiles of wines made from Syrah can differ greatly depending on the climate they were grown in. Warmer climate Syrahs typically have flavors of dried fruit, dark fruit, pepper and cured meats, and with an abundance of tannin, contributes structure when blended with fruitier varietals such as Grenache and Mourvedre. This grape is an important part of Randy’s Red but will also make a solo debut with the release of the 2010 wines this Summer.
Mourvedre is another varietal grown extensively throughout France and even Spain. While there are no specific number on the amount of Mourvedre grown in San Lis Obispo County (or the Paso Robles region) it is one of several red varietals that make up 150 acres of “other varietals” grown throughout the county. We planted one acre in the Spring of 2011 and are planning to plant one more in the Spring of 2012. We plan to use this grape to blend with the Syrah and Grenache to make a traditional GSM (Grenache / Syrah / Mourvedre) blend that are so popular in France, Australia, and now California! Mourvedre typically adds a spicy characteristic to these blends and on it’s own displays more spice and herbal characteristics than fruit.
Merlot is one of the most popular red grapes grown in the world. Originating in the Bordeaux region of France, there are 4,244 acres planted in San Luis Obispo County, 25 of those acres are at Paso de Record. Near perfect growing conditions are a must for a good Merlot crop. Even ripening is important to ensure lush flavors that are not overwhelmed by an herbaceous quality that occurs when the grapes are either under or over-ripe. This traditional varietal is typically soft, fruity and known for its great approachability. There are a range of flavors associated with Merlot, but we like the rich, bright, fruit that is achieved in our wine.
Probably the only more popular red grape than Merlot would be Cabernet Sauvignon. Widely planted throughout the Bordeaux region in France, it is also the most widely planted red grape in California. Currently, there are 9,540 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in San Luis Obispo County, all of which are in the Paso Robles region. Typically more complex than Merlot, this varietal is rich in color and flavor. We will be planting 6 acres this Spring and have not decided yet if we will be bottling a Cab or selling all of the fruit. Other vineyards in our area grow Cabernet Sauvignon and we find them to be delicious!
The lone white grape varietal, we are planting two acres this Spring. Confined to the Rhone Valley in France, it wasn’t until the 1990’s that this varietal became popular in other regions. There are currently 333 acres planted in San Luis Obispo County. This varietal does well in the warm climate of Paso Robles and is more well-suited to the area than other popular white varietals such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc (although those are minimally planted in the region as well.) Viognier typically has a wonderful floral aroma and stone fruit characteristics. Sometimes, Viognier is co-fermeted with Syrah to add to the aroma of the wine. We are excited to experiment with this versatile grape!
I hope this quick education on the different varietals on our vineyard provides some insight to what is going on at Paso de Record, today and in the future!
With Christmas just days away, here are five fabulous gift ideas for the wine lover on your list. Links will take you to major retailer websites to make your shopping even easier. Ready, set, shop!
1) A decanter is an ideal gift that serves two functions: decanting wine and a beautiful display piece. High quality decanters are available anywhere from $70 to over $400 depending on how much you want to spend. You can’t go wrong with a simple design, but if you want to splurge, I recommend the Riedel Crystal 72-Ounce Paloma Wine Decanter.
2) To save space in your refrigerator and still keep your wine at the optimum temperature, a wine refrigerator is a necessity for any serious wine drinker! Prices range depending on how big you want to go, but for an excellent “starter” wine refrigerator, I recommend this Frigidaire Wine Cooler. This 18-bottle wine refrigerator has a sleek, tall design that should fit easily in any small space!
3) While not everyone may have a use for this, those that are not able to consume an entire bottle of wine in one sitting will enjoy this thoughtful gift! Don’t let leftover wine go to waste, simply use this Vacuum Wine Preserver to save excess wine to enjoy the following day. For the small price tag, it will be well worth it to invest in this device to make sure not a drop of your delicious wine is compromised.
4) Short on space? Here are two solutions – one for storing wine bottles, another for storing wine glasses! This 5-Bottle Wall Mount-Stacking Wine Rack is perfect for putting those beautiful bottles on display. Just make sure to mount it on a wall that doesn’t get direct sunlight. To keep wine glasses out of your precious cabinet space, install this Mounted Stemrack and keep your wine glasses organized and easily accessible!
5) Cheese is a wonderful pairing with wine and I have yet to meet a wine lover that is not also a cheese lover! Put together a gift of accessories that can be used together or on their own, whether entertaining, or enjoying an evening snack. This Cheese Dome is perfect for outdoor entertaining. Make sure your guests know what they are eating with these reusable Cheese Markers. Finish this gift off with a set of two Cheese Knives and hope to be invited over soon to enjoy some wine and cheese!
Have a wonderful holiday season filled with good food, wine, and loved ones!
Do you have a favorite wine related gift idea?
It’s that time of year again… Time to finalize the blend for Randy’s Red. Last year, I posted a couple pictures on Facebook to capture the process, but this year, we are really going to get into the “science” behind it on the blog! With all of us (Randy, Anne, Tricia, and Mindy) planning to be home for the holidays, it will be the perfect opportunity to taste and experiment with different blends. So how do we do it?
First, we have been tasting the 2010 wines from the barrel to see how they have been evolving on their own. The last time we tasted with our winemaker, Eric, we were all impressed and excited at how they were developing. In fact, we have decided to add one more wine to the line-up for the 2010 vintage. We are so pleased with how the 2010 Syrah is tasting on its own, we are planning to bottle a very limited amount next Spring.
Anne and winemaker Eric working on a blend for Randy's Red.
For the 2009 Randy’s Red, we decided on a blend of 66% Grenache and 33% Syrah. How did we come to this decision? We pulled barrel samples of each of the wines, and got to work with a measuring cup, lots of glasses, and a notepad.
Barrel samples of 2009 wines.
We started out tasting each wine on its own. From there, we blended, tasted, took notes, and repeated. The Grenache provided the majority of the fruit characteristics, but was a little “hot” or high in alcohol. The Syrah didn’t show quite as much fruit as the Grenache, but provided much needed structure and tannins to ensure a balanced blend. We didn’t want the alcohol of the Grenache to overwhelm the blend, so it was a matter of finding the right combo that allowed both wines to shine yet complement each other at the same time. We tried several different blends and eventually settled on the final of 66% Grenache and 33% Syrah.
Blend, taste, take notes, repeat.
I’ll be sure to post with an update of the 2010 blending trials. We are really excited because of the quality of the 2010 wines and hope to come up with a blend that rivals the 2009 Randy’s Red!
What varietals do you enjoy when blended together? Do you have a favorite blend from Paso Robles?
Fall is arguably the most beautiful time in the vineyard. The grapes have been harvested and it’s now time for the vines to shine! Here are some of my favorite pics taken in our vineyard on 11/11/11 by Randy.
Firewood cut from vines we pulled out last Spring.
If you look closely, you can see the photographer!
A good view of our new vines and area to be planted next Spring.
What a sunset!
The calm before the storm.
The creek is dry now, will it run again this winter?
The last of the green turning into magnificent fall colors.
From the sky to the vines, beautiful, vibrant colors!
We hope you are enjoying the changing of the seasons as much as we are!
Hopefully, you have discovered by now that we use screw caps instead of corks. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Twist away and enjoy! There is much controversy right now over which is a better closure – corks or screw caps. While there is no definitive scientific answer yet, I thought I would show arguments for both closures to help you understand how we came to our decision.
There were MANY decisions to make when it came to the packaging of our wine. From what kind of glass to buy (foreign? domestic?) to what kind of paper to use for the label (textured? colored?) to how we were going to close the wine.
I have a friend who is a sales person for a reputable cork company so I initially turned to him when researching what kind of cork to use. After a quick yet in-depth education on natural cork products, I was convinced this is the direction we needed to go. I figured this would be the easiest part of the never-ending packaging decision making! Until I spoke with the rest of the team.
My family had a different idea of what we should use, they were all about the screw caps. It didn’t take long for them to convince me to change my mind. I had no objection to wine closed with screw caps, I just assumed we would use cork. Lesson learned, from then on, I never made any assumptions regarding RFW again!
Notice I left out synthetic corks. I am not going to include these in the post, because while they are an option, there was no hesitation in excluding them from the start. Synthetic corks are made of plastic and are hard to remove and hard to put back in the bottle. Enough said.
Hands down, screw caps win the price comparison. You can get a cheap cork for as little as $0.10 each (my guess is that Two-buck Chuck uses these) or as much as $1.40 each for a super premium natural cork. Not to mention the price of the tin capsule that covers the natural cork… Screw caps, on the other hand, are $0.16 each. No need to cover the closure with another material (one less decision to make!) when using a screw cap.
Now would also be a good time to bring up the problem of the presence of TCA in wine. This bacteria can be found, on average, in 5% of all wine closed with a natural cork, resulting in what you may be familiar with as “corked wine”. There is no possibility of a wine being spoiled by this bacteria if it is closed with a screw cap, so we had to take this point into consideration when looking at the price of both options.
This is a touchy subject in the wine industry right now. As most growers and wineries, we strive to be good stewards of the environment and approach all aspects of our operation with sustainability as a high priority. Recently, one of the largest cork suppliers in the world launched a campaign for corks naming them the earth-friendly option. I have had a difficult time finding any significant research on the environmental impact of corks versus screw caps. It makes me wonder if the “earth-friendly option” campaign is in response to the increasing market share screw caps have achieved lately… Just a thought, nothing to back up my theory except a minor in Marketing.
Let’s start with the production process. Corks are harvested from a special type of oak tree found in the Mediterranean. These trees can live for up to 200 years, and it takes seven to nine years to grow the outer bark that is used for corks. These trees do not require much in the way of irrigation, pesticides, or herbicides. Very environmentally friendly so far! Screw caps are made from an aluminum exterior and plastic or tin interior lining. The process of producing screw caps involved the use of large amounts of water and electricity.
Both corks and screw caps are recyclable, although you must compost the corks at home or find a place to drop them off for the ReCork America Project. I also hear that corks are in high demand by fifth grade teachers around the holidays. Screw caps, while not as usable for art supplies as corks, can be tossed into your recycling bin at home. Cork is not approved for recycling in most cities.
One aspect of earth-friendlyness highlighted by the screw cap industry is how much product does not go to waste when using screw caps as a closure. If in fact 5% of wine is affected by TCA, that is a lot of glass, paper, and most importantly wine, that is going to waste!
Studies show that most of the wine purchased in the United States is consumed within 24 hours. Knowing this, long term aging (10+ years) is not what we are most concerned with when deciding on a closure. However, there have been some very interesting experiments done recently regarding the age-ability of wine under different types of closures.
One study that I like to refer to when touting the positive aspects of screw caps was conducted by Old Bridge Cellars in Australia. Basically, they took one wine, the 1999 Leasingham Estate Clare Valley Semillon and used 14 different closure types. They systematically analyzed the wine over a decade using sensory and analytical methods.
This study eliminates the argument that wine does not have the ability to age under a screw cap, as one independent taster, who sampled the wine after 10 years, determined it to be “classic aged Semillon”. The study was originally conceived to determine the best type of cork to use, they had no expectation of the performance of the screw cap!
The most important (to me) aspect of this study is that it proves that wine closed with natural and synthetic corks may not age consistently. Being in the marketing and sales aspect of the industry, consistency is key. There are so many other factors that can affect the outcome of a wine year to year, the last thing we need is a closure that almost guarantees a lack of consistency.
Old Bridge Cellars Study
Until recently, screw caps were perceived as the closure of choice for “cheap wines”. Fortunately, in 1998 Plumpjack Winery in Napa Valley decided to experiment with screw caps and closed half of their expensive reserve wine, a 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon, with a screw cap. To this day, they offer wine closed with both options. This progressive move by a high-end winery helped others in the industry take screw caps seriously as a viable closure for all wines, no matter the price point.
The biggest argument for corks in this category is the “romance” that some people associate to their overall experience when opening a bottle of wine. How you enjoy wine is important, but for myself, and according to endless studies on the drinking habits of the Millennial generation, screw caps do not detract from it. Sure, natural cork closures are a more traditional option, but RFW is about the past just as much as it is about the future.
Taking price, environmental impacts, age-ability, and perception into consideration when deciding on a closure was very important. While screw caps may not be the right choice for every winery right now, it works for us. We have had a very positive response so far to our closure of choice. We hope you enjoy it too!
What do you prefer? Wine closed with natural cork or screw caps?
Recently, we joined a local CSA (community supported agriculture). While I don’t always know what it is that comes in our box (rutabagas? what do I do with rutabagas??), I was really excited when I discovered some red bell peppers in our most recent box! Something I can work with! I started making this dish a few years ago and it is now “in the rotation” meaning that it has received approval from family members and is a go-to dish when creativity or time is scarce.
A little smaller than what I get from the store, but this should help with portion control!
Wine pairing for this dish is a no-brainer. The seasoning gives the meat a little kick so the abundance of fruit and the great structure of the 2009 Randy’s Red are necessary to complement this meal . You don’t want your food to overwhelm your wine, and I think the Randy’s Red will stand up well to the dish and be the perfect accompaniment.
Let’s get to the recipe. Here are a list of ingredients you will need to make Tricia’s Stuffed Peppers (serves 4):
4 medium size bell peppers (red is the economical choice, but if yellow or orange are on sale, try those!)
1 package (approximately 1 lb) extra lean ground turkey (you can use ground beef, but we are trying to be health conscious here!)
1 package Lawry’s low-sodium taco seasoning
2/3 cup water
1 cup shredded cheese (I like to use cheddar or colby jack, and I said TRYING to be health concsious)
1 medium chopped white onion
All the ingredients you need -- pretty simple!
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds. Place the peppers in a pot of boiling water. Let cook for 5 – 10 minutes. Carefully remove the peppers from the water and place on a paper towel to drain.
Brown the ground turkey. Add the seasoning pack, 2/3 cup water, and chopped onion. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 10 minutes. When most of the water has been absorbed, add most of the cheese and stir well so that cheese melts.
The meat mixture simmering.
Place the peppers in an oven safe dish and fill with meat mixture. Sprinkle the top with remaining cheese and place in oven. Bake for 5 – 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbling on top.
Remove peppers from oven, place on plate and serve with rice, beans (I like Rosaritas No Fat Chile Lime Refried Beans), or other side. Enjoy!
The final product. If anyone knows how to make refried beans look good, please let me know in the comments!!
What are you making for dinner tonight??
For the last six months, we have been planning what I like to call the equivalent of another Record Family wedding. Otherwise known as our first annual release celebration. The big event took place on June 25th and I am relieved to say it was a success! Thanks to all who joined us and made the first party such an unforgettable experience! I thought it would be fun to do a series of blog posts about different aspects of the party – the food, the wine (and other beverages), and all the extras that made this event so special.
So let’s start with the important stuff – the food! Creating a menu was harder than it sounds. We wanted this to be a “simple family BBQ”… in the process, I learned that sometimes it takes even more planning and work to make an event come off as “simple”. We tried to use as many local vendors as we could for the food in an attempt to not only be sustainable, but a good neighbor as well! Here are the details:
We purchased the sausage for the appetizers and all of the meat for the BBQ from local meat purveyor, J&R Meats. What a selection! A few weeks before the party, Randy was contemplating using a variety of meat for the BBQ – lamb, goat, pork, beef, chicken, etc. In the end, we went with beef and pork, a whopping 100 pounds, in an attempt to keep it simple! We used a spicy rub for flavor. For an appetizer, we chose two different sausages, a buffalo apple sausage and a basil garlic sausage with brown mustard for dipping. We prepared the meat for the deep pit BBQ and started the fire the night before. More about the deep pit BBQ to come in the “extras” post!
For sides, we went with coleslaw and beans. The coleslaw came from Mo’s BBQ in San Luis Obispo, by far our favorite! We ordered 30 quarts to feed everyone, and sadly, there were no leftovers. We will be ordering more next year! The beans were homemade, from scratch. No cans used here! We started with 25 pounds of dry pinto beans and soaked them overnight. After sauteing some onion and garlic, we added the beans and chicken stock and cooked them for several hours. Simple, but delicious!
To add a little spice, we made quacamole from 25 pounds of avocados supplied to us from Southern California, and brought in 10 quarts of pico de gallo from local restaurant, Tortilla Town. Both toppings were fresh and flavorful. The white corn tortillas used for the tacos were from a local shop, Tortilleria Sinaloa, made fresh that morning. For dessert, one of our guests (and wife of our vineyard manager) made the most amazing brownies – not the kind from a box – several varieties, all delicious!
Check out the slideshow to get a visual taste of the food highlights from the party. We hope you plan to join us next year!
We made it! One month and two days after bottling, we tasted our wine for the first time. It was one long month! It is rare that the four of us (Randy, Anne, Tricia, and Mindy) all make it home to San Jacinto at the same time. We took advantage of this rare occurance last Saturday evening and decided it was the perfect opportunity to taste the first vintage of Record Family Wines.
Randy opening the 2009 Randy's Red
We had tasted barrel samples of the wines several times during the winemaking process. Each time, we were pleased with how the wine was developing. In addition to tasting each barrel separately, we would do our own blending trials with the barrel samples to get an idea of how the final products would taste. In essence, we had a feel for how the wine would taste, but, to be honest, were a little nervous to taste it for the first time out of the bottle!
Tricia, Randy, and Mindy in the barrel room at Zenaida Winery.
Of course, we were not content to taste just our wine and gush over how much we like it and how easy it is going to be to sell! Oh no, there is a bit of a competitive streak in the Record genes. The previous week, we found a 2009 California Merlot and a 2009 Central Coast Syrah / Grenache blend to compare our wines to. We were pleasantly surprised at how our wines compared, especially considering that our approach during the winemaking process has been relatively simplistic. We want to showcase our grapes, not manipulate them into a wine you can find anywhere. As Mindy so eloquently stated: “Anyone can do over ripe sawdust!”
The details: The 2009 Merlot is a very elegant wine. Lots of fruit but soft tannins make this wine enjoyable right now. We think our vineyard is very well suited to produce a consistently outstanding Merlot, every year. Our vineyard manager did not push the fruit to a level of ripeness that would result in an unbalanced wine and our winemaker really let the fruit shine through in the finished product. We used a combination of neutral French and American oak barrels to age this wine for 14 months before bottling, resulting in a well-balanced, wine with just a hint of well-integrated oak.
The 2009 Randy’s Red is definitely the more “masculine” of the two wines. The 33% Syrah provides loads of dark fruit while the 66% Grenache packs a punch with intense fruit, an inky color, and a bit of heat. The combination of the two varietals express a complexity that we didn’t find as exciting when tasting the wines on their own. These two varietals work so well together, in our vineyard and in the bottle! While we all enjoyed this wine, the consensus is that it will mellow out a little and become even better as it ages.
We are all thrilled to see how the wines change and evolve during the aging process. We hope you join us on this exciting journey!
If there is one thing that I have learned from my experiences in different aspects of the wine industry, it is that nothing happens overnight. Making new sales placements, launching a new brand from inception, or deciding on what to plant next – all of these things take dedication, patience, and time!
We recently decided to take out a block of Syrah vines (Block 1) from our vineyard. While we have been talking about the possibility of replanting for a couple of years now, we finally took the first step to make this happen. So what goes into a decision like this? A few things we considered:
1) Is what we currently have planted working for us? Right now we have 16 acres, divided into two blocks, planted to Syrah. These blocks were planted in different years, are different clones, and on different rootstock. The particular block we are removing has shown susceptibility to two different issues that are reducing the potential yields and overall health of the vines. In short, no, the vines that are currently planted are NOT working for us, time for a change!
2) What varietals should we plant? Now that we have determined a change needs to be made, the real work begins. We talked to many different industry professionals when trying to decide what to plant. So many things to take into consideration, what works in our specific micro-climate, what is there a shortage of in our region, what are consumers drinking, what do we like?
3) When can we re-plant? As much as we would like to rip out the existing vines and re-plant as soon as a decision has been made, it’s just not that simple…Nurseries only have so much inventory of certain varietals on certain rootstock. If the combination we want is not readily available, the nursery needs time to get it ready for us. There are certain times of year that are acceptable times to plant. We are planning to use a combination of dormant vines (planting takes place in April or May) and green growing vines (planting takes place in late May or June). A lot of planning goes into getting the amount of vines needed at the right time!
So…what are we going to do? Here is a breakdown of what will go in over the next year:
Approximately 2 acres of Mourvedre. We will plant about 1 acre of vines this spring and 1 acre in the spring of 2012, all dormant vines.
Approximately 2 acres of Viognier. We will plant all of the vines in the spring of 2012, all dormant vines.
Approximately 6.5 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. We will plant just over 5 acres in the spring of 2012 as dormant vines and the remaining acreage in late spring as green growing vines.
We are excited with our decision. But as I mentioned before, nothing happens overnight. Once the new vines are planted, our patience will really be tested. It will be another three years before we see results from our new vines. In the meantime, we can start planning for what we will do with these new varietals. So many opportunities for future wines under the Record Family Wines label: Viognier, Mourvedre, traditional GSM, Syrah co-fermented with Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, the possibilities are endless!!
What are you drinking? What would you like to see as a future offering of Record Family Wines?