Paso Robles

Paso Robles has emerged over the past few years as one of the great under-appreciated wine-producing regions in California. There are multiple expressions of Zinfandel coming from Paso, each blessed with some of the moderating ocean breezes that help this central valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) counter the heat. The soils here are rocky and lean, with great limestone outcroppings, producing wines that are frequently richly fruited with peppery notes and lovely herbal top notes.

2008 Sextant Paso Robles Zinfandel Holystone, 15.4%
At first, this is showing a slightly over-ripe pruney, gamy note on the nose with plummy undertones and plenty of peppery spice and toasty oak. With time, this takes on a decidedly Syrah-like element with a violet underlay. This gains a creamy, cafe au lait top note with air. Nicely balanced with lots of fruit on the palate that shows good complexity. This is rich and fruity and decidedly ripe, though with plenty of acidity keeping it fresh in the mouth. The fruit has dried plum elements accenting the black cherry fruit, all underpinned by toasty, chocolaty oak. Lots of boysenberry character emerges on the backend and adds complexity to the moderately long finish. Big, bold and well balanced, this has more oak than I might like, but is certainly well put together. 90pts

2008 Ancient Peaks Paso Robles Zinfandel, 15%
This smells a bit unusual, with candied Rainier cherry notes combined with subtle floral tones, honeycomb, citrus notes and a lashing of oak. There is a slightly scorched quality to the nose but in a good way. With air this falls into a more typical cherry/berry/vanilla groove but it remains notably fresh and complex. In the mouth this is a bit more straightforward, packed with lightly creamy, vanilla-stained cherry pie filling fruit. It's actually got lovely tannins and great acidity, giving this a brightness and freshness in the mouth. It's big but well balanced and a touch rustic but not rough. An archetype party wine and really solid Zin. 89pts

2008 Sextant Paso Robles Zinfandel Wheelhouse, 14.9%
Sweet cherry and blackberry fruit on the nose is framed with lightly buttery vanilla oak. This shows a little heat and has a slight but distinct candied edge to the nose. Big and rich in the mouth with a toasty leading edge and lightly chewy, slightly sticky, very fruit-driven flavors. This is almost grapey with its youthful black fruit character. It's got a touch of barrel sample to it and finishes with a short, if pleasant, fruit and oak finish. A biggish, simple wine with appealing fruit and a touch of oak adding complexity. 87pts