Sip Tripper

Fabulous Fall Cabs

If you're in a frenzy figuring out what to stock in your wine rack, but know you want bottles of deep, complex Cabernet Sauvignon, read on…

This is not a story on tasting the fruit of Napa Valley wines or even Bordeaux, for that matter. Crushed? Don’t be. There’s a wine region that bests in growing and producing some of the best Bordeaux varietals, and it’s called Paso Robles.

Long ago, El Paso de Robles, or “The Pass of the Oaks,” was better known for its natural mineral baths, almonds and agriculture. But that changed in 1776, when Franciscan priests produced Paso’s first wines. It would take almost 200 years before Cabernet Sauvignon emerged in the vineyards.

Today, this oak-studded countryside, located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is considered a premier region for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. Until now, I personally connected the wines of this region to Rhone varietals, with Tablas Creek Winery at the top of my list (I’m a huge fan of Chateauneuf du Pape, and there is a connection HERE.

Want to know what I found out during my last visit? Cabernet Sauvignon is king, due to the terroir’s likeness to Bordeaux, France. And there’s a CAB Collective, an organization formed in 2012, whose mission is to champion top Cabernet and red Bordeaux varietals to the world. Labels it showcases include: Adelaida, Ancient Peaks, Hearst Ranch Winery, Hope Family, and Glunz, among others.

According to the CAB Collective website, Cabernet Sauvignon “makes up almost half of all grapes grown across the 614,000-acre Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area), of which 40,000 acres are in wine grape vines.”

Once I tasted several wines within the region’s CAB Collective, I would have to agree that Paso’s bucolic scene and all its vineyards produce outstanding grapes. Once I tasted several labels from bottles that offered a consistent deep complexity and velvety finish on my palate, my thoughts were reminiscent of Bordeaux.

Wines in the CAB Collective

Robert Hall’s 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon is proof of its worthiness in the Cab Collective. A stop at Robert Hall Winery is sure to wow you… especially if you sign up for a spectacular (private) food and wine pairing experience. The menu, prepared by winery Chef Mike Learned, will keep you coming back for more.

Half a mile from Robert Hall Winery is Brecon Estate, where you can taste a beautiful 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon inducted into The CAB Collective.

Justin Winery is a 15-minute drive down the road from Brecon Estate. Its entry into The CAB Collective is a silky and berry-drenched 2018 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Epicures note: A complimentary shuttle from downtown Paso brings you to The Restaurant at Justin, the acclaimed dining room with a $170 four-course dinner that begins with trout tartare and ends with hazelnut-cherry torte.

Also 15 minutes from Brecon Estates is Booker Wines, owned by Eric Jensen, a former music industry professional who purchased 100 acres here back in 2001. Though not a member of the CAB Collective, his wines are as playful as his personality, which he shares on his weekly Apple podcast, “Popping Corks.” The must-try wine here is My Favorite Neighbor Cabernet Sauvignon.

Since no two Paso Robles vineyards are the same… due to the region’s geological diversity, a.k.a. multitude of soil types (40!) within the AVA, it’s best to taste several labels. So I did. And a few bottles were Merlot, just to add a bit more range within the CAB Collective. J. Lohr excels with its Creston Vineyard 2018 Merlot grown in the Paso Robles El Pomar District.

In addition to the Cabernet’s mentioned earlier, I have to say the 2018 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon from the Eberle Estate Vineyard proved its premium status as an elegant and velvety wine. Like a squirrel collects nuts, I recommend you gather these bottles for the winter months ahead. Ancient Peaks also has a label worthy of stockpiling, with grapes grown on the southernmost region of Paso Robles, beneath the peaks of the Santa Lucia Mountains on Santa Margarita Ranch.

One of the most striking features blessed by Mother Nature is Paso Robles. Its magnificent wine grape growing conditions and CAB Collective labels will, no doubt, impress.

Charlene Peters is a travel, wine and wellness writer and author of "Travel Makes Me Hungry: Tales of tastes & indigenous recipes to share," available on Amazon.