Small Batch Bordeaux Blend From Paso Robles

Today’s Story: Aleksander Wine

Aleksander is a small, family-owned boutique winery established by NBA player Sasha Vujacic and his family when his parents Goran and Ksenija discovered their property in 2009. On what became S&G Estate, a 30 acre property in Paso Robles complete with estate vineyards and its own winery, Aleksander produces Merlot-dominant Bordeaux blends in a “White Label” bottling and a “Reserve” bottling. Aleksander ages their wines in a mix of French, Serbian, and Eastern European oak barrels with the White Label wines calling them home for a minimum of 18 months and the Reserve wines a minimum of 24 months. All wines are aged in the bottles a minimum of 10 months before release.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Aleksander Red Blend

55% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot; 13.8% ABV

The 2012 Aleksander is opaque deep ruby in color with deep purple hues in the bowl. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blueberry, plum, black cherry, redcurrant, violet, loamy soil, wet slate, cigar box, chocolate, and oaky spice. On the palate, I get notes of cassis, anise, blackberry, baked cherry, worn leather, wet gravel, charred earth, ground coffee, dark chocolate, baking spice, and oak. This wine is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $70. This is a very solid wine, though it is certainly toward the higher end of price-point I’ve paid for Paso Robles Bordeaux blends. That being said, I think this does stand up to a lot of the Napa wines in this price range and this, while being restrained in ABV and not a jammy fruit bomb, should have broad appeal. Pair this with roasted duck breast, filet mignon, or herb-grilled pork.

Textbook Small-Lot Syrah

Today’s Story: Nicora Wines

Nicora Wines was established by Nick Elliott and its name is a combination of his own name and his great-grandfather’s name, Ora. Nick’s great-grandfather utilized his entrepreneurial spirit to turn a passion into his own business, which inspired Nick to follow his own dream of creating a winery. No stranger to hard work and dedication to one’s craft, Nick very deliberately selects the vineyards sourcing his fruit and his winemaking philosophy is rooted in the idea that great care and tireless effort is required to make quality small-lot wines. All of Nick’s wines are produced using Rhone varieties, both in single bottlings and blends, and he is highly involved in the vineyards thanks to close contact and relationships with each vineyard owner. Working in incredible Central Coast vineyards from Paso Robles to Santa Maria, Nick sources fruit from Bien Nacido Vineyard, Denner Vineyard, La Vista Vineyard, Russell Family Vineyard, Shadow Canyon Vineyard, and Slide Hill Vineyard. For more detailed descriptions of each, check out the Nicora website here.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Shadow Canyon Vineyard Syrah

100% Syrah; 15.2% ABV

The 2012 Shadow Canyon Syrah is opaque deep purple/ruby in color and there is some moderate sediment buildup in the bottle. This takes at least an hour to open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, violet, smoke, licorice, black pepper, vanilla bean, and toasted oak. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of black plum, blackberry, cherry cola, graphite, tobacco, loamy earth, lavender, coffee grounds, chocolate, and baking spice. This Syrah is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a long finish with notes of inky black fruit and wet rock. 144 cases produced.

Price: $50. This is a delicious Central Coast Syrah that portrays the variety with charm. Though I was worried this might show some heat with its 15.2% ABV, the wine actually drank quite enjoyably. This will be tough to find unless you’re on the mailing list, but if you happen across a bottle it’s worth checking out. Pair this with braised beef, barbecue spare ribs, or roasted leg of lamb.

Relatively New GSM from Paso

Today’s Story: Booker Vineyard

Booker Vineyard as it exists today stems from the purchase of 100 acres by Eric and Lisa Jensen in 2001. The history of this land, however, traces back to the late 1920s when Claude and Dick Booker, two orphaned brothers, purchased land on Paso’s Westside that amassed to more than 1,200 acres by the turn of the century. The Bookers were some of Paso’s best-known residents for their farming knowledge and philanthropy, with their largest gift being 100% of their estate left to charity when Dick died in 1990 and Claude died in 2000.

Now back to 2001 with Eric and Lisa, the couple intended to use their new land to grow grapes for some of the best wineries in the Paso Robles area. Though they achieved this goal selling grapes to Saxum for five years and L’Aventure for two years, Eric and Lisa wanted more out of their land and decided to bottle their own wine beginning with the 2005 vintage. A unique and more personalized expression of their land, Booker wines are made by Eric Jensen himself.

Though Booker is not certified organic or biodynamic, their farming practices pull inspiration from both methods. The Jensens have come to realize that biodynamic farming practices help maintain the interconnected lifestyle and cycles of all entities in the vineyards, providing a boost to soil and vine health that becomes apparent in their wines. Furthermore, the vines are planted in rather high density so each plant can focus its energy on few clusters that create concentrated wines rather than an abundance of fruit. This is also important because Booker’s vineyards do not get much water.

Much like the mentality in the vineyards, Booker makes their wines in minimalist fashion. Eric strives to interfere as little as possible, with his red wine fermentations started using pump-overs and moving to punch-downs in most cases once fermentation starts. The wines are not racked until bottling and these wines are typically aged for 18 months. For more, check out the Booker website here where much of the above information finds its source.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Vertigo GSM Red Blend

52% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre; 14.9% ABV

The 2016 Vertigo is medium to deep ruby in color and moderately transparent. Once the wine opens up (you will need to decant this) the nose offers enticing aromas of blackberry, blueberry, red berry jam, baked cherry, licorice, lavender, a touch of smoke, leather, game, chocolate, and a hint of vanilla. On the palate this wine displays delicious notes of blackberry compote, blueberry, black plum, candied cherry, scorched earth, graphite, blood, bitter chocolate, green herbs, and stony minerality. The wine is medium-bodied with high acidity, high tannins, and a long grippy finish dominated by dark berries and plum. Overall this is a complex yet sweet GSM that, while beautiful now with some air, needs time to fully come together in the cellar.

Price: $80. This is not cheap but fairly priced, though I would steer you toward better value wines (such as Ridge GSM) if you intend to drink it now. You need to be patient for a few more years with this one but will be handsomely rewarded. Pair this with red meats and game accompanied by mushroom or pepper sauce.