I’m not going to lie — I’ve heard mixed reviews about Justin Winery. It seems my fellow wine enthusiasts either absolutely love or will have nothing to do with this big name winery. But when I decided to do this week-long series dedicated to Rhone, I couldn’t ignore this Paso Robles icon.
When Justin Baldwin first purchased his piece of Paso in 1981 he — like so many others back then — orginally intended to work exclusively with the classic Bordeaux varieties and craft Bordeaux-style blends. Of course, as we all know, Paso Robles is kind of California’s mini-slice of the Rhone Valley and vintners there can’t help but at least have one or two Rhone-inspired wines in their portfolio.
Interesting enough, when I was studying for my recent Rhone article (Read Where We Rhone), I found out that, as odd as it sounds, blending Syrah with Cabernet Sauvignon is not that uncommon — in the New World or the Old. And so it is that I decided to include Justin’s Savant red blend in this series.
About the Wine: The Justin Winery 2015 Savant Rhône Red Blend is made of 80% Syrah and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes harvested from vineyards within California’s Paso Robles AVA. The juice fermented in combination open and closed top steel tanks where they were inoculated with yeast strain UV43 and received twice daily pump overs. The wine then aged in 100% French oak barrels (50% new) for 19 months.
Flavor Profile: I opened the bottle and smelled immediate heavy, heady aromas, most reminiscent of a pecan pie. A beautiful dark purple pour accompanied aromas of fresh baked bread as the wine flowed from bottle to decanter. I let the wine stay in the decanter for about an hour.
Once in the glass, this Rhône red blend is an impenetrable, broody, almost black shade of purple — and immediately aromatic. Dominant scents are of dried black cherries, dried black plum, cedar wood, and a solid line of acidity. Swirl and release fresh herbs like eucalyptus leaves, purple flowers, and a fine coat of dust.
The palate is full, flush, yet refreshing. The tannins are so soft in the mouth — like hugging a cloud. Prominent flavors are of fresh black cherry, fresh plum, hints of milk chocolate during the mid-palate, and that trademark white pepper spice-kick at the very end. Indeed, there is a solid, even level of acidity that seems to make the darkness of the nose go away and enliven all the fruits. The tannins work in this wine, as in they’re working to counteract that acidity — the mouthfeel is neither juicy nor jammy. And the finish is utterly appetizing as all those flavors meld together linger on the after-breath forever.
Food Pairing: I actually paired the Justin Winery 2015 Savant Rhône Red Blend with a vegetarian pizza topped with bell pepper and mushrooms. And I honestly can’t think of a better pairing. I loved how the bitter-sweetness of the yellow and orange bell peppers played with the fruit flavors and that spice-filled finish. I loved how the meatiness of the mushroom complemented the supple mouthfeel. And I loved that this somewhat intimidating — for the eyes and nose — red blend turned out to be such a seamless, enjoyable drink, that I was able to appreciate my meal, my company, and my entertainment for the evening.
More Info: I received the Justin 2015 Savant Rhône Red Blend as a sample for review. (Cheers!) For more information about Justin, their wines, and to purchase wines directly. Please visit the Justin Winery website.
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