Paso Robles Is California's New Cabernet Country

Michael Cervin

The Central Coast area's Cabernet Sauvignon producers will celebrate with a festival of wine tastings this weekend. Get ready to drink up.

Paso Robles is flexing its cabernet muscle with the Paso Robles Cabernet Collective, a coalition of Cabernet Sauvignon producers, in spite of skepticism from some industry insiders. If Napa is king, Paso Robles is the cab heir-apparent.

The region on the state's Central Coast, dead center between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is fast redefining itself as cabernet country with the likes of iconic wines Isosceles from Justin Winery and upstart Villa San-Juliette winery from owners Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe (former producers of American Idol). To show off its cabernet potentia, the Collective hosts a two-day intensive held April 25-26, which includes barrel tastings, barbecues and winemaker dinners. On April 26, The CABs of Distinction Gala (the ubiquitous grand-tasting event) will pull out the stops to include cabernet and Bordeaux blends from 32 area wineries, with tickets available between $90 to $225.

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These five cabs, all worth considering, will be poured over the weekend:

Daou: 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($56)
With its velvety texture, there are black cherry and oak notes, balanced with vanilla and near cocoa and cinnamon hints.

Eberle: 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)
With beautiful mature blackberry and wood notes supported by fine tannins, this perfectly shows the aging potential of Paso Robles cabernet.

Halter Ranch: 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon ($32)
Sweet oak and black currant are the focus of additional bright fruits like plumb and blackberry. Ready to drink and enjoy now. A terrific value.

L'Aventure: 2010 ($85)
A heady and opulent aroma of cherry and plum with a silken texture, there's cedar and dusty black cherry on the smooth finish. Made by a Frenchman, you might mistake it for Bordeaux.

Villa San Juliette: 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($45)
Owners Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe produce an earthy, rich black cherry nose, which gives way to blackberry, tight tannins and a mild acidity.