Friday night we had the extreme pleasure of tasting four from Donati Family Vineyards of the Paicines region of San Benito County in Central Coast, California. Donati is a legitimate family-owned venture with Ron Donati purchasing 1,000 acres of once-Almaden vineyards in 1998 for the purpose of putting his son, Matt, in charge of growing grapes. As a second thought, they decided to just go ahead and make the wine themselves. Ron's background was in cattle ranching but as an Italian-American, winemaking only makes sense, right?
Paicines was apparently a treasure trove of fine wine-capable vineyards hiding in plain sight and just waiting for a Ron Donati to step in and take advantage of what was there for him to exploit. He hired the right winemaker in 30 year-experienced Dan Kleck to make his flagship Cabernet blends and for commercial reasons, located his winery in Templeton, an hour and a half south in Paso Robles. Donati offers a dozen reds and whites of superior quality at great prices out of that location.
So why are the wines so good? A familiar recipe:
1. The soils in Paicines are limestone, decomposed granite, and clay loam.
2. Ocean breezes from Monterey Bay give the vineyards a "Region II" cool climate.
3. The diurnal effect of warm days and cool nights result in wines with superior acidity.
But there is more:
1. The ecologically sustainable vineyards use natural predators, limited pesticides, and extreme diligence.
2. Vine canopys are trained, including the thinning of green shoots in the growing season and light management in the fruiting zone.
3. Green fruit is removed both before and after grape veraison.
"Rich in character and nuance" -from their website and my sentiments exactly. I am not prone to hyperbole in any discussion of California wines but these guys just plain get it right. The Chardonnay is unoaked with tropical and citrus aromas, creamy mid-palate, and crisp finish. The Claret had strawberry and cherry up front and vanilla and clove laying back. The tightly-wound Cabernet was right-on but for just a little bit more investment, the Ezio Reserve Cabernet proved to be the value of the evening.
David Rimmer of Lynda Allison Selections rejoins us on Friday, November 22nd from 5 to 7pm, with another assortment of fine French and Italian reds and whites. This Friday, November 15th, we're tasting some combination of red Bordeaux, Argentine Malbec, La Cacciatora Italians, and some decent whites. Attend the tasting and be the first to tell us what or who Ezio is and win a T-shirt. Please join us and become a follower of this blog or, I swear, I'm gonna jump out of this skyscraper office window right now! Help me, please!