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Unique Terroir Fuels Paso Robles Zinfandel Excellence
Clockwise from top left: Winemaker McPrice Myers talks Zin,
Brochelle Vineyards XV Anniversary Cuvee, Dusi Ranch is an
iconic vineyard, foggy marine layer clings to the Dusi Ranch vines
Prior to last month’s Wine Bloggers Conference, we participated in an excursion to Paso Robles.
A high point was the visit to Dusi Ranch Vineyard.
Dusi Ranch is an iconic Zinfandel vineyard. Owned by the Dusi family the vineyard is used for
the family for it’s own wine production and to sell to other winemakers in the area.
We visited with five producers of Zinfandel (and other varieties) in the vineyard to experience
the terroir firsthand and taste some of Paso’s best with our wine hosts. We had a chance to visit
with J. Dusi Wines, Turley Wine Cellars, Brochelle Vineyards, Tobin James Cellars and
McPrice Myers/Barrel 27.
Zinfandel is Paso Robles’ heritage wine grape variety first planted in the late 1880s. The
proximity of the Pacific Ocean, orientation of numerous canyons and valleys, and varying
elevations produce many different microclimates in the Paso Robles AVA. This was certainly
evident with Dusi Ranch. We had heard about the Templeton Gap and now was a chance to
experience it.
The area benefits from the largest swing between high daytime and low nighttime temperatures
of any region in California. This is partly due to the cool marine air that flows east through the
Templeton Gap and north along the Salinas River Valley from the Monterey Bay. During our
visit, despite sunny skies, the weather was cool and breezy and a dense fog clung to the vines.
Temperatures can drop 40 to 50 degrees overnight.
This temperature fluctuation is considered a key by winemakers and wine grape growers to attain
the intense varietal character displayed in wine grapes from the area. During the tasting we
discovered an array of well-balanced Zinfandels, wild west scenery and laid-back hospitality.
Here are some of my favorites:
Tobin James Cellars 2011 “Fat Boy” Zinfandel – Tobin
James is related to Jesse James and is a true Paso Robles
original. Starting in the tasting room years ago, he now is
producing some of the best wines in the region, including this
burly but tasteful Zin.
Barrel 27 2013 Pound for Pound (barrel sample) –
Winemaker McPrice Myers has an awesome touch with Zin
and this 2013 was powerful, smooth and satisfying. It can
only get better by release date.
Brochelle Vineyards XV Anniversary Cuvee – A special
blend of 41% Syrah, 28% Zin plus Petite Sirah, Grenache,
Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon made from “rock star”
barrels, this silky smooth wine was among the best of my entire WBC visit.
Turley 2013 White Zinfandel – You are not reading a typo. Yes, this is a refreshingly light
wine closer in style to dry rose than the plonk popular in the 1980s.