As you can tell by the look of the label, this wine has been a long-time member of my personal stash — a souvenir, if you will, from a somewhat impromptu pass through Paso Robles. When I ran into Maggie Tillman, the awesome chica who co-owns the winery with her father Bob, at a recent conference, she was so sweet to still remember me. I told her I still had the wine, that it was so special to me. She advised drinking it soon — her and Bob had recently opened one and it was just at the peak of its awesomeness. “Ah, well, I kind of want to save it for a special occasion,” I said. “Yeah, or a Tuesday,” replied Maggie. “When you’ve just had a day and need a goooood glass of wine.”
Yeah, life has been a roller-coaster lately. And Maggie was right. It wasn’t the day, the time, or the place that was of import. It was that I was able to chill-ax with my partner in wine (and life) crime and enjoy a solid Mourvedre, a delicious meal and, at least for a moment, forget about the twist and turns to come.
This review is a long time coming—for many reasons. I met Lori Budd, co-owner of Dracaena Wines about three years ago. She’s a fellow blogger, a major social media presence, and, as it turns out when I finally met her in real life during the 2017 Bloggers Conference, one of the nicest people.
The Merrill family have been in the Californian agricultural realm for 8 generations. It was seventh generation Dana Merrill who began raising wine grapes in 1981 and founded the family’s vineyard management group, Mesa Vineyard Management, in 1989. From then until now, the Merrills have worked with some prestigious vineyards and big-name winemakers. It wasn’t until 2002 that Dana purchased Pomar Junction Vineyard on Templeton’s South El Pomar Road in Paso Robles. The family spent six years transitioning the 40-acre vineyard to SIP Certified standards and renovating the property’s lone building into the current tasting room. While the family continues to source grapes from other regions, their estate line — which celebrated a premier vintage in 2011 — is solely focused on what their piece of Paso does best: Rhone and Bordeaux varietals.
I met Jason DiFrancesco almost three years ago at the SF Rhone Rangers event. I met him, quite frankly, how I meet many winemakers at these kinds of grand tastings — his table was, at the time, the lease crowded. At an event filled with Rhone varietals and Rhone blends, it can be really hard to stand out — especially among big name brands from Paso Robles, where Jason sources his grapes. But alas, his wines did stand out and because of his wines and our lively conversation, he and I became friends. So, I am pleased to present to you the latest Leverage Wines release…
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.