Taking it SLO with Albariño

After the fantastic tasting at Sinor LaVallee’s Bassi Vineyard, we packed back into the van to ramble off to our next destination (actually, the van, provided by Uncorked Wine Tours, was both spacious and comfortable, but I always make it seem much more rugged and spartan—if not, I get many comments comprised of the same two words: “Rough” and “Life”). The drive from Bassi Vineyard to Iron Horse Winery was brief, a mere 4 miles to the Silver Horse tasting room that is just a stone’s throw from US-101.

Our fearless leader, Sean Weir, outside the tasting room.

Walking into the tasting room, I simultaneously felt both a sense of ease and nostalgia as it is a converted two room schoolhouse that was originally built in 1868. The building was then moved to its current location in 1907 and served students until it was closed in 1960. Then, after over 40 years of neglect, it was renovated as a tasting room for the now defunct Salisbury Vineyards. After at least one more change of hands, Silver Horse Vineyards bought the schoolhouse in 2016 to serve as its new tasting room.

As we entered, the room was already set up for a tasting of Albariño, a variety that is relatively unknown in this country and rarely associated with the state of California. In fact, there are only 200 total acres planted in the country, but 70 of those are located in Edna Valley, the coolest wine growing AVA in the golden state. Most of the vines can be traced back to original cuttings brought over from Rías Baixas, in the Gallicia region of north-eastern Spain, the accepted home of the variety that produces dry tart white wines.

The first two wines came from the Spanish Springs Vineyard, a newer vineyard in Price Canyon at the southern end of the Edna Valley Appellation, near Pismo Beach, and less than two miles from the Pacific Ocean.

2016 Cromo Vera Albariño Spanish Spings Vineyard SLO County: Retail $26. Cromo Vera is a relatively new addition to SLO Wine Country, founded in 2014 by Mindy Oliver and her husband Chris Steins. Bright and mineral with a briny characteristic. Tart and luscious with a honeyed lemon aspect. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.

2016 Stephen Ross Albariño Spanish Spings Vineyard: Retail $24. I plan on writing quite a bit more about Stephen Ross Dooley in the coming weeks, his impact on winemaking in SLO, my first encounter with him and his vivacious wife Paula several years ago, and his stellar wines. This wine? Impressive fruity nose with a slight meaty or smoky aspect. Really luscious fruit on the palate and a lengthy finish. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.

Still plenty of schoolhouse charm in the tasting room.

The next wine came from Jespersen Ranch, in the northwest corner of the Edna Valley appellation, just four miles from the Pacific Ocean. The original 46 acres were planted in 2006-7 and another 31 acres were added by Niner Wine Estates in 2012 after they purchased the vineyard a year earlier. Niner is located in Paso Robles, but they were looking to buy a vineyard where they could grow cooler climate varieties.

2016 Niner Jespersen Ranch Edna Valley: Retail $20. This was the first year that Niner decided to put some of the Albariño through a malolactic fermentation to bring a bit of creaminess to the typically tart, acidic variety. Fairly dark, and shy. Light on fruit but still high on acid. Certainly a food wine due to its salinity and mineral aspects. Very Good. 87-89 Points.

The fourth wine was sourced from the region’s famed Paragon Vineyard. The mammoth 550 acre vineyard was planted by Jack Niven in the early 1970’s. Niven is largely considered as the original champion of SLO wine as he did much to promote wines from the region, including being the driving force behind establishing the Edna Valley AVA.

2015 Tangent Stone Egg Albariño Paragon Vineyard Edna Valley: Retail $32. Tangent is an offshoot of the Niven Family—a couple of Jack Niven’s grandchildren started the brand to focus solely on alternative white wines, sourcing all their fruit from the Paragon Vineyard. Salinity. Mineral. Even petrol.  Low in fruit again, but much more complex. Finish lasts forever. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.

Silver Horse, another Paso Winery coming down to SLO in search of cooler climate grapes, was founded in 1989, and purchased by the Kroener family (the current owners) in 1996.

2015 Silver Horse Jack Ranch Edna Valley: Retail $27. Under sugar cane cork. A bit darker than others. Luscious citrus nose Rich and acidic with a bit of smokiness. Most depth. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.

As we sauntered out of the tasting room, I was tempted to stay behind and revisit the ambrosial Albariños, but we were headed to Peloton Cellars and my new-found riding buddy, Bill Kesselring.

 

 

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About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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