We've been selling a lot of Paso wines here in recent months prompting me to do some homework on the subject. Opolo, Austin Hope and Broadside are just a few of what's been hot here lately. All carry the Paso Robles appellation on the label, meaning at least 85% of the juice was sourced from Paso Robles. Two other labels from Austin Hope, Quest and Troublemaker, are also here and they too carry the Paso appellation.
Paso Robles was legally defined as a wine appellation in 1983. In 2014 it was subdivided. There are now eleven appellations within the Paso Robles district. How does this happen? Back in '83 there were five wineries with five hundred acres in vines in Paso Robles. Now there are two hundred with 32,000 vineyard acres. I'd say the newbies want to distinguish themselves from the crowd.
Paso is huge, by the way, so they can't all have the same terroir. Elevations range from 700 feet to 2,400 feet. Rainfall ranges from ten inches annually to thirty inches. Soils range from sandy and silty to rich and calcareous, so yes, there was a reason for further legal definition.
The new Paso appellations are San Miguel, Estrella, San Juan Creek, Highlands, Creston, Santa Margarita Ranch, Templeton Gap, Willow Creek, Adelaide, Genesis, and El Pomar. Are they all fine wine regions? Probably not, at least not at this time. Experimental plantings of different grape types may yield a game changing discovery that could alter the equation. As it stands right now the western (higher elevation) appellations look to be the best.
So what is our point with this discussion? Going back to the Paso wines in the store, none of them carry a specific appellation other than Paso Robles meaning they are blending grapes across the region. You might also conclude that Austin Hope and the others must be sizable players in Paso in order to get distribution out here. Wineries of scale deserve credit for their success. By sourcing component grapes across the region, they turn out a good product.
Wine appellations, it should be noted, are not created for the purpose of making value judgments. They are intended to be educational. They should define a region by showing what types of wine are made there and the character of each. And if a particular grape characteristic in the Willow Creek appellation works well with something different from Templeton Gap then you blend them and go with the larger Paso Robles appellation labeling.
Please join us this Thursday after 5pm for a tasting of domestic red wines. The Opolo Montagna Mare red blend should be on the table for that one.