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Three new wines from Vina Robles

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I’ve long had a soft spot for Paso Robles. When you think of how far they’ve come over the last 10-15 years, it’s just amazing. One used to think of this inland Central Coast region as too hot for fine wine, but that was a huge mistake. I’m glad that I recognized its potential early, perhaps sooner than some other critics. In fact I was responsible for Paso Robles being recognized as Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Region of the Year, some years back, against heavy competition. The Cabernets and Bordeaux blends at their highest expression, including Vina Robles, are outstanding, but so are many of the whites and red blends; and prices are a fraction of what you find in Napa-Sonoma. Here are three reviews of current releases from Vina Robles.

Vina Robles 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc (Paso Robles): $16. The approach here—early release after the vintage, no oak, no malolactic fermentation, brief sur lie aging in stainless—is proving to be one of the best for California Sauvignon Blanc, preserving the fresh fruit and vital acidity, while the exposure to yeast gives the wine a creamy tartness. The grapes are from the winery’s Jardine Vineyard, on the eastern side of Paso Robles, a warmer area. The warmth accounts for the wine’s ripeness, with suggestions of tropical fruits (papaya especially) in addition to Sauvignon Blanc’s usual lemongrass, grapefruit, honeydew melon and green bell pepper flavors. It’s a super-tasty wine, with a properly dry, clean finish. This is really a very successful Sauvignon Blanc, and tremendously versatile at the table. And what a price point for what you get. Score: 93 points.

Vina Robles 2013 RED4 (Paso Robles): $17. Robust and rustic are good words to describe this darkly-colored red blend. A composite of 41% Petite Sirah and 40% Syrah, with a splash of Mourvedre and Grenache, it’s the kind of wine paisans drink every day at the trattoria. Bone dry and thick in tannins, the flavors are of blackberries, black cherries, pepper, leather and espresso. Unscrew it and drink with burgers, lasagna, pizza and other simple fare that wants a full-bodied red. Score: 86 points.

Vina Robles 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles): $26. Compared to a classic Napa Cabernet, this holds up very well. In fact, there’s better structure here than many of the super-soft, high-alcohol versions up north. It sure has a lot of forward flavors: fresh ripe blackberry and black cherry jam, cocoa puffs, licorice, cassis liqueur and sweet toasted oak. There are considerable tannins that give the wine a bite of astringency, but a good steak or chop will tame them. As for the finish, the flavors last well into a long, spicy aftertaste. It’s a delicious wine, and that price makes it a fantastic value. Why would anyone pay $50, $75 or more for a Cabernet when this is available for $26? Seriously good stuff, highly recommended, and should be easy to find, with more than 16,000 cases produced. Score: 94.

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