Spring Cleaning: 1985 La Chapelle in JEROBOAM & 2 Hot Winemakers

Summer was almost here…then it jumped off the hook just like a River Monster. tBoW and team tasters have been doing our best to get ready for endless heat and long evenings on the patio with corks getting pulled and the BBQ working. Spring cleaning usually turns up a couple surprises but this year we hit the jackpot. Been waiting on this double-and-a-half magnum for some time. We did not know what to expect although we could vouch for the past 20 years of provenance. There’s more.

tBoW took a drive up to Carmel hitting Paso Robles on the way up and back again. We met three wonderful winemakers whose wines we really liked and we also discovered the Santa Lucia Highlands. Like Soul Brother #1-48M-JB-006 might have put it – “Let’s get into it fellas. Now I’m gonna do my thing.” Bomp bomp bomp bomp bomp bomp bomp!

1985 Jaboulet Aîné La Chapelle Hermitage $775: This cork was so long it felt like I was in a tug-o-war with mountain trolls. In the end the cork crumbled falling to the vinous depths of the jeroboam, 3 liters of the Northern Rhone’s finest vineyard. Apparently, Jaboulet dropped a few notches in the 90s and thereafter. When this wine was put in the bottle the package was considered top of the line. Here is what we encountered. Color of iodine. First the fruit comes out then it fades. We are transferring the wine form the over-sized and unwieldy bottle to 750s with a food-friendly tube. Everyone starts to wrinkle his nose. Dotoré wisely suggests “this might work like a Barolo.” He means that it will recede only to rise again like a tsunami full of flavor and life. And it DOES! IT’S ALIVE. The fruit returns, the meaty spiced flavors blossom. And before you know it the 12 men in attendance have drained the bottle dry. There is a cellar full of wine a few steps away so off we go to slake the thirst of younger men learning what it means to drink great bottles together. Our work is done.
The Jaboulet went out in a blaze of glory taking its place in tBoW’s personal graveyard of former champions. Amazingly once can still find bottles like this one.

2005 Marques de Riscal Reserva $16: purchased at World Whatever, the former Cost Plus. Middle to light weight. Simple and simply nice. Black cherries. Dry. U20. Whatta contrast. 13.5%

Amy Jean Butler moved to Paso Robles in 2002.
Shannon Gustafson arrived about the same time. Both winemakers never wanted to be anything else which is remarkable all by itself. Amy Jean has sunk all her savings in her Ranchero Cellars label. Now THAT is commitment! She makes 500 cases of wine: two whites and one red. Shannon is the winemaker for Rangeland Wines which is a 1500 acre ranch right behind Tablas Creek. The 100 acre vineyard is at 1700 feet and production is also limited to 500 cases. Amy and Shannon are making some of the most exciting wine we have tasted from Paso Robles. They are the “third generation” of Paso winemakers. Their wines are worth seeking out.

2010 Ranchero Cellars Chrome $28: 50 cases made. Amy has blended Viognier an Grenache Blanc from the La Vista Vineyard which is a notable new planting on the Westside. She describes the wine as very polished. We get soda crackers on the nose followed by a pleasant mouthful of steely bracing fruit. 14.1%

2010 Ranchero Cellars Viognier $28: Amy says the aroma reminds her of “old lady bathroom talc.” We get orange blossoms. She says she ferments this three ways: whole berries, crush, and cement tank. We like ti and we are NOT the kind that catches on to Viognier too easily. 150 cases. 14.2%

2009 Ranchero Cellars Carignan Redwood Valley Colimbini Vineyard $28: 85 year old vines she “found” inland, north of Ukiah where it is hot and the local Italian farmers been growing vines forever. Purple red, gingerbread nose. Best Carignan we ever tasted. Ripe and a bit untamed. Like Amy? 14.8%

2009 Rangeland Wine Cabernet Sauvignon
$30: Shannon makes a handful of wines for Rangeland. Several have gotten notice such as the Petite Syrah and the Bordeaux blend named The Watershed. We are writing about this wine because it shocked us. We do not drink Cabernet Sauvignon wines unless we are force fed. It happens. And we NEVER BUY Cabernet Sauvignon wines. We bought this one and we will buy more. Shannon is a delicate woman; Audrey Hepburn in a hoodie, Astrud Gilberto punching down the cap. This 2009 Cab is some kind of gossamer drink. It is the lightest, most diaphenous Cabernet we can recall tasting. Ad the fact it is from Paso lets you know what both of these winemakers know – great potential here. Cabernet does not have this quality of silkiness like the Zohan aspires to in his hair preparations. OK that was silly and Shannon G is very serious. She wants to make “pretty wines” and this is a stunner.

These two terrific winemakers are both making impressive wines that are defining Paso Robles. tBoW thinks it is a good idea to get on their mail lists ASAP because with this small production you would be fortunate to spot one of their wines in your neighborhood, and even less at a big retailer.

One more thing…it’s time to get your Rosés in the queue.

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