Paso Robles 3: Deovlet Wines

So we may be back in Paso Robles, the hot home of big reds, but the Central Coast followed us (read Laetitia post). Tucked behind Cypher Winery, at the crossroads of the 46 and vineyard drive, hides Deovlet’s tasting room.

Ryan Deovlet (the o is silent) makes wine in a warehouse in San Louis Obispo. Inspired by farm to table coffee, he sources single vineyards throughout the Central Coast for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and some Cab and Merlot. The Deovlet tasting room sheens white with a marble countertop, surgical stainless, and buttoned servers.

We start with Chardonnay: Zotovich Family Vineyards in Sta. Rita Hills:

Deovlet sta rita hills Chardonnay 2013 Zotovich

Zzzzziiiiiiinnggggg! Forget whatever Rombauer-tainted, butter bomb nightmares you have of Californian Chardonnay. Think Chablis in a warm year. The APPEARANCE looks a pale hay. AROMAS lead with lime, white pear, salinity, and a whiff of vanilla. The PALATE feels dry, with mouthwatering, medium plus acidity, and lean alcohol and body. FLAVORS taste briny like oyster shell braced by lime peal, white pear, pale oak, and apple that last a medium plus length. For $40, Zotovich Chard is very good quality (4 of 5) with years ahead of it, so we nab one.

Deovlet’s 2013 “Solomon Hills” Chardonnay comes a bit north in Santa Maria Valley.  Energy and vibrancy shine again center stage here. Flavors tend toward slightly riper, deeper, softer tangerine backed again by lime, pear, and salinty.  15 months on the lees and in 10% new French oak lend it a nutty complexity. Their Solomon is very good (4 of 5) but lacks the linear focus of Zotovich.

What a pleasant surprise.  However, Pinot Noir is Deovlet’s main medium. The Santa Maria Valley’s Bien Nacido 2013 arrives in our glasses all sexy and spiced with potpourri and ripe raspberry fruit. Medium acids and tannins stand it up, a slight mushroom and lead minerality flake it with interest, but this Bien Nacido is not serious stuff. It wants to snuggle (while whispering about architecture). It is very good (4 of 5), fruity and silky but might be more interesting in a few years ($55).

Back South to Sta. Rita Hills’ John Sebastiano Pinot Noir 2013, we find darker, denser fruits with more body. Think black cherry dusted with cinnamon, clove, and light tobacco. The quality seems good (3 of 5) but its youth hides future complexity ($48).

2013’s Santa Barbara County blends the above SMV and SRH AVAs into a smooth pleasure pot of Pinot. 15 months in 30% new French oak barely fazes the ripe, red fruit. We like the light toast and tannin that the oak adds, but pinot this ripe and clean, with such moderate acid, slips seamlessly past us. It is good (3 of 5) and we would drink tons of it without blinking ($40), if we could afford it.

Deovlet’s 2012 Sonny Boy mixes 60% Merlot with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon from Santa Barbara (Happy Canyon AVA). It ages for shy of two years all in French oak, 40% of which is new and toasty. Big, fruity, and smooth, warm blackberry and plum dominate aromas and flavors, supported by sliced black olive and a dusting of cocoa, tobacco, and tannin. It is good (3 of 5) ($40)

Deovlet avoids the oak trap with elan.  Fruit thankfully leads all his wines. The only quibble is that his Pinots seem too perfect, too clean.  I want to try them a decade from now. Maybe as they start fall apart they will show more complexity and the true nature of each vineyard.

His Chardonnay provided welcome relief though: tight, clean, and defiantly mineral, I wish more people went this direction. Great work.


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Thirsty Thursday: M. Chapoutier, Chante Alloutte, Hermitage, France 2012 marsanne

This Thirsty Thursday we open a white wine from Hermitage: a region in the Northern Rhone Valley of France famed for its rich Syrah (so rich, that Bordeaux once “hermitaged” its reds with wine from here).


Times have changed.  345 acres of vines cling to steep slopes, producing intense, tannic, Syrah that can age half a century. But rare whites from Hermitage can be equally fantastic (if pricy).

The ever-animated Michel Chapoutier produced today’s biodynamic white, oddly, from 100% Marsanne grapes (forgoing Roussanne, because he dislikes it). They arrive, hand-harvested from his Chante-Alouette vineyard of clay and limestone soil. After all kinds of gentle fermentation, a third in large barrels, tasting, lees stirring and nearly a year of aging, the wine find its way into my fridge. Since it costs around $90, I tease it out with a Coravin.


The APPEARANCE: looks an easy, clear, golden color, with a wash of glue for legs. AROMAS: exude clover honey, gold pear, shaved almond, ginger, and saline solution. The PALATE: jumps at us, dry, with medium acidity, a warm but medium 13.5% abv, and a medium plus body.  What matters here is texture: it slips, viscous and smooth, yet the finish seems sprightly, assertive and dry.  FLAVORS: coat and last a lifetime, with deceptively soft gold pear, honey, ginger, and hay.

Chapoutier’s 2012 Hermitage Blanc is one of those rare, seemless sunsets over a hay field. At just the right moment, every inch glows an intense yet warm gold of varying hues. It is outstanding (5 of 5) and has decades in it to go. But, right now, grill a chicken or slice some ripe pear or toss golden raisins on a salad with goat cheese and be happy.

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Laetitia Winery Review

If reading is not your thing, here is my roughshod video review of Laetitia Vineyard and Winery (nb: it is a Coquard press, not Jacquard press….that’s for linen…oy)

For those born to a world of paper books:

We leave Paso Robles for another wedding (my brother’s) and then return. But on our way back to Paso, we stop in Arroyo Grande Valley for some bubbles. Both Paso Robles AVA and Arroyo Grande AVA sit in San Louis Obispo County (not an AVA), which the Central Coast AVA engulfs. Confused? Here’s a map:

Arroyo Grande ValleyUnlike Paso Robles, which suns itself inside the coastal mountain range, Arroyo Grande is just a hop away from the the 101 and into the Pacific. The valley also runs West, creating a funnel for fog, clouds, cold, rain, and general dreariness: perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Laetitia Vineyard and Winery began with Maison Deutz from Champagne planting vineyards in 1982. Jean-Claude Tardivat bought and renamed them after his daughter, Laetitia. A year later Selim Zilkha, became partner, then, in 2001, bought Laetitia with his daughter Nadia Wellisz. Luckily, Dave Hickey has made their fizz since 1990, with son Eric taking over still wines.

At Laetitia’s heart rests their Coquard presses:

Coquard Press Laetitia WineryBasically, they are big, French baskets. Dump in grapes and let the pneumatic lid press them gently until juice runs through the slats. This method avoids extracting the dreaded skin and seed tannins and pigments.

In honor of this fabulous antique, we try its same-named fiz: Brut Coquard 2010: an 80% Chard, 20% Pinot Noir affair:

Brut Coquard 2010 LaetitiaAPPEARANCE: Rapid bubbles break up its pale, hay color. AROMAS: exude a proud, full toast, lemon rind, and minerality. The PALATE: claims “Brut” but feels off dry, with saving medium plus acidity that gives the medium body an angular character. FLAVORS: taste of lime rind, white pear, and odd but pleasant petrol even rubber with medium plus length. Their Brut Coquard is very good (4 of 5). Enough that we buy one to try in five years.

Next, Cuvée M 2011: an even split of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. AROMAS smell of gold apple, bear claw, vanilla, pear, with strawberry pith. A good start, but the PALATE again feels overly angular, with extra acidity and a chalky texture. FLAVORS: taste similarly pith and mineral driven, with a simple, medium length finish. Later harvest fruit might help this, angry, acidic youth: good (3 of 5). Maybe try it in a decade.

Brut Rosé 2012:

Laetitia Brut rose 2012The APPEARANCE looks a pale, flesh tone. AROMAS: smell moderately at first of rubber, cream, sulfur…urk… which mellows into double cream brie, wild berry, and underripe plum. A PALATE of off dryness fades with medium plus acidity, a medium body, and a soft, round, easy texture.  The FLAVORS taste clean and of delicate homey, blossoms, field flowers, and a slight saline solution. 2012’s rosé is very good (4 of 5) but numbed a touch by the sweetness.

Happy and curious, we try their still wines by son Eric.

Laetitia Estate Chardonnay 2013: A mash of Dijon, Wente, and other numbered clones. The APPEARANCE looks a bright, clear, lemon color. AROMAS and FLAVORS: smell and taste pretty pronounced of browned butter (thanks, 100% barrel ferment (25% new)), with wax, lemonade, and a nice sage. PALATE: Dry, high acid, a plump body. Their chard is good (3 of 5), but a bit standard.

Their estate Pinot Noir 2013 folds 10 clones into 30% new French barrels for 11 months. APPEARANCE: looks a medium ruby, with cherry highlights. AROMAS smell of medium plus intense cherry compote, light tobacco, young raspberries. The PALATE is dry, with medium acids, tannins, body, and a silky, numb, young texture. FLAVORS: taste of ripe, plump plum, cherry, and tobacco. A solid, ripe, very Californian Pinot (3 of 5) good ($25).

Maybe blending 10 clones blurred the end result. Let us dive into Laetitia’s Pommard Clone 5 2013: A clear, ruby APPEARANCE, jumps into extra strong aromas of rhubarb, musk, floral perfume, and cherry liquor. The dry PALATE shows a similar, safe medium-ness of acid, tannins, and body. But beyond the supple texture is a jangly drying. FLAVORS tend to be riper, spicier, muskier, and earthier than their regular Pinot Noir. However, Pommard 5 taste a bit too young, closed and dumb to be better than good (3 of 5).

Hmmm…let’s try clone 777. The APPEARANCE looks medium purple, with bright ruby highlights. AROMAS: rocks it with spiced orange peel, nutmeg, and black cherry. Its PALATE flaunts extra acid and tannin (yay!) a medium body. There’s more structure but edges seem a touch dulled. FLAVORS: make up with tart, angry cherry, black fruit and toast that finally last a medium plus length. 777 tastes interesting, a bit safe, but complex and very good (4 of 5).

Maybe all this gentle pressing and destemming presents the problem. What if Californians left the sticks in like the French…

Enter: Whole Cluster 2013

Laetitia Whole Cluster Pinot Noir 2013Again, the APPEARANCE looks medium ruby with a purple core. But AROMAS pounce with orange peel, nutmeg, and inky cherry. It grips the PALATE with medium plus acid and tannin feeling serious, twangy, with a furrowed brow. FLAVORS taste mineral, with green olive, switching to black yet tart cherry, and a medium plus length tobacco finish. I like a challenging wine, very good (4 of 5).

Overall, Laetitia makes that rare thing: truly cool, coastal pinot noir and chardonnay of good quality.  Their bubbly lacks the cut of Champagne but still shows style and class at a reasonable price. Their still wines range widely from too easy and bland to quite complex and fascinating. Worth a visit.



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Too soon!

So, I took some clippings of Wadenswil Pinot Noir from Hyland Estates. This was back around Thanksgiving. I forgot them for three months. Then I found them in a bag, popped them in water, and was immediately told it’s Spring Aaron, plant me!image

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Paso Robels 2: Tablas Creek Vineyard Review

Last Monday, Wayward Wine began its tour of Paso Robles with the wild and small Fratelli Perata Winery (read here). Today we review the opposite end of the spectrum, with international implant, Tablas Creek Vineyard.

They are located in the cooler (for Paso), Western hills of the Santa Lucia coastal range (Adelaida District):

paso robles wine ava

By 1990 a second generation of Rhône Rangers had emerged in Paso Robles, this time with deeper pockets.  From France, Jean-Pierre and François Perrin (proprietors of Château de Beaucastel in the Rhône valley) with Robert Haas (importer and founder of Vineyard Brands) hunted down an alfalfa farm on top of a Late Cretaceous seabed. Four years of research found 120 acres of soil pH and limestone similar enough to Beaucastel to start their organic vineyard. They then spent huge sums importing French grape clones (Counoise and Grenache blanc) and developing a nursery.

After winding, oak-tunneled roads, the sky opens and Tablas’s perfectly manicured vineyards rise before us.  We arrive through a gate and park. Our pickup looks a bit out of place among the Mercedes and taxis.

Vine starts for sale before the door stop me. I imagine if Counoise could ever ripen in Oregon, as my wife drags me into the tasting room. When I say tasting room, I mean barrel cathedral. Massive barrels climb behind glass walls like Gothic buttresses in a zoo.

Tablas Creek Vineyard Barrels

Varnished woods and stainless steel glow in the cool low lit room. Everything looks and smells spotless, clean, modern. If the Starship Enterprise had a winery…

Tablas Creek tasting room

Tablas Creek’s 2013 Viognier ($30) looks a mild lemon yellow color in their fine, branded glassware. Aromas and flavors recall ripe pineapple, melon, wax, and a light dash of baking spices. It is very fruity but probably dry, with low acidity, lush body, and viscous texture. Their Viognier is full, fine, and tidy, good (3 of 5).

But that unblemished nature carries with all their wines.

Their Esprit de Tablas Blanc 2012 ($45): a flagship match for their French Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, blends 75% Roussanne, 20% Grenache Blanc, and 5% Picpoul into a fine balance of ripe, smooth, white pear, honey, and melon with a squeeze of lemon juice. The length is medium plus. The quality must be very good (4 of 5). But I feel something is lacking here. Like a model, it looks amazing but has little to say.

Finally, we find a rosé!  Dianthus Rosé 2014 ($27)

Tablas Creek Dianthus 2014 rose Paso Robles

This rosé comes from their oldest block of Mourvèdre and Grenache Noir form nearly equal halves with a 13% dash of Counoise, all co-fermented. A day of skin-contact creates a glistening salmon, nearly ruby color with copper highlights. Thankfully, it is dry, with medium acidity, a twitch of dusty tannin, but a round medium body and slippery silken texture. Flavors include raspberry  juice, strawberry pith, melon, and light honey that last a medium length.

The rarity of dry rosé in Paso gives it an over-enthused very good (4 of 5). My only quibble: it feels a bit numb. Our extra bottle in 2016 shows off butter.  Methinks malo-lactic fermentation has been allowed to slip in, still good (3 of 5).

On to Tablas Creek’s reds.

Côtes de Tablas 2012 ($35)

In Paso, a land of monster reds, Côtes de Tablas is a mild, mannered, mellow red. 60% Grenache provides a round, soft lump of raspberry. It is dry, with all things medium: acid, tannin, alcohol, and body each hold hands in passive agreement. Aromas and flavors play dark-ish with cherry, licorice, chicory, and a whiff of balsamic touching your attention. Côtes provides an all purpose red. It will never offend. It is a solid good (3 of 5).

Esprit de Tablas 2012 ($55)

OK. They claim this is Cali CdP. But with only three years under its belt, we find a compact mush of Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, and Counoise. Aromas smell clean and medium plus of blackberry jam, plum, leather, and anise. Dryness, low acids, moderate tannins, and a fleshy body and alcohol make Esprit a biggie. But again, flavors are so clean and scientifically balanced that we move on to their 2011. It is good (3 of 5) but might become interesting in 2022.

Esprit de Tablas 2011

Tablas Creek 2011 Esprit de TablasAnother $55 will get you 2011’s Esprit de Tablas. T. Creek dropped Syrah 10% for more Grenache in this cooler vintage. The color looks a leaner ruby than 2012. Aromas and flavors tend a bit wilder with currant, black tea, meat, blood orange, and pepper spice. Yet once again, the palate balance borders on big but nondescript perfection. We prefer it, thanks to its complexity and glimmers of oddity: very good (4 of 5).

Hmm… Somehow, the Rhône’s trip to Paso went through the wash. Tablas Creek’s wines tidy up France for stateside palates. The wines taste clean and brilliant and will disappoint few. But for all of Perrin’s planning, they have yet to find themselves.  It took Beaucastel centuries to grasp, lose and regain greatness. Espirit 2012 and 2011 both have years before they become truly interesting. Buy a few and find out.

Either way, we buy a two rosé and nearly all the vine starters they sell (kidding).

Check back next Monday for more of Wayward Wine’s touring of Paso Robles, California.


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