From the tried-and-true, like cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel, to the more obscure, like gruner veltliner and counoise, San Luis Obispo County has a good wine for just about any taste. This diversity was on full view at the recent Central Coast Wine Competition. (OK, it wasn’t on full view until after the competition; the actual tasting was conducted blind.)
Last week I told you about some attractive albarinos, including several from Edna Valley. But there were a lot of other interesting reds, whites and pinks from all over the county. I went back over my tasting notes from the competition and found some highlights.
The wine honored as the best red of the competition was the 2010 San Simeon Cabernet Sauvignon ($25), a Paso Robles cab with robust black cherry fruit, nice richness and firm structure. The San Simeon wines are produced by the Riboli family, as is the 2012 Opaque Zinfandel ($30), a rich, dark wine with warm berry fruit, hints of smoke and tobacco and drying tannins.
Merlot was somewhat lackluster, but one standout was the 2012 Ancient Peaks Merlot ($17), which displayed lively black fruit and spice, some oak and a drying finish.
For something completely different, there was the 2013 Michael Gill Cellars Counoise ($40), made from a grape that’s often part of a Rhone blend. The wine shows pretty raspberry and Bing cherry fruit, an appealing spicy note and medium tannins. An interesting red blend was the 2011 Sculpterra Figurine ($38), which is mostly primitivo and cabernet sauvignon. It offers lively red fruit with a hint of cracked pepper and medium tannins.
Whites were similarly diverse. Claiborne & Churchill in Edna Valley is known for its Alsatian-style whites, and its entries didn’t disappoint. The 2013 Claiborne & Churchill Dry Gewurztraminer ($22) is very floral and lively, with notes of rose petals and lychee, while the 2013 Claiborne & Churchill Dry Riesling ($22) displays apple, lime, an herbal note and a trace of sweetness. Also excellent was the 2012 Zocker Gruner Veltliner ($20), with its racy white stone fruit and hint of white pepper.
Rhone-style whites from the area are often interesting. For example, the 2013 Ranchero Cellars Chrome ($28) is made from grenache blanc and has racy citrus and white stone fruit flavors and a trace of honey. The 2013 Pomar Junction Cotes de Pomar Blanc ($34), a blend of roussanne, grenache blanc and viognier, offers fleshy apple and white stone fruit flavors.
One of the top dessert wines was also made from a white Rhone variety. The 2013 J. Dusi Haute Blanc ($32), a fortified dessert wine made from grenache blanc, is rich, sweet and quite floral.
I love a good rosé, but the category, which had more than two dozen entrants, was disappointing. One exception was the 2013 Bushong “Pretty in Pink” Rosé ($23) from Graveyard Vineyards, a blend of tempranillo and grenache that offers juicy cherry and raspberry flavors and a hint of sweetness.