Whenever I’m in wine country I always make it a point to visit at least one winery that I know absolutely nothing about, and I recommend you do the same. This is a great way to keep things fresh, and continually grow your wine knowledge. Sometimes these “blind” visits can be disappointing, but most of the time it’s a good experience and if nothing else it’s just fun.
I recently took such a visit to Le Cuvier Winery. This is clearly a popular spot with every seat occupied and a bit of a wait, even with reservations. The facility is located in the Western hills of Paso Robles. Fortunately, there is an outstanding view of the valley below and some great spots to take in the scenery to quickly pass the time.
We were seated at a table with a small yet beautiful food pairing and five glasses of wine. The food was clearly well thought out to pair with the wines, and expertly prepared by the Le Cuvier staff. The wines included Petite Syrah, Grenache, Zinfandel, and some Bordeaux blends. One of their wines which they have named “Pentimento” is actually a blend of prior vintages dating back to 1998 with newer vintages, which classifies the wine as non-vintage. This is done by using a technique know as the Solera method, which is famous in the blending of Sherry but rarely seen in wine making. The Solera method can be complex to explain, but in the simplest terms, new wine is added to an already existing supply of older wine, and every year the oldest portion of the wine is bottled. I hope that helps.
The staff at Le Cuvier was very accommodating and was passionate about the wine they were serving. This is where I was introduced to the almost pain staking efforts that this winery goes through to keep the wine making process as natural as possible. First, fermentation takes place through the use of wild yeast. Most wineries use laboratory produced yeast, which provides a more predictable result, but introduces man made ingredients to the wine. Second, the grapes in the vineyard are dry farmed, which means water is not added to the grapes to help them grow. The roots of the vines must dig deeper to reach the water they need in order to survive. Unlike table grapes, wine grapes that have had to struggle to grow produce the best wine. It may be that the same can be said about people ? Third, each wine spends a minimum of 33 months in neutral oak barrels. Using neutral oak gives the wine the purest expression of the grape without the flavors that are imparted by new or gently used barrels. While I believe that the use of new oak can often be a positive attribute, that’s not what the winemaker is looking for in this case. It’s all about the grapes.
The end product is great wine for about $80 to $90 per bottle. Overall the visit to Le Cuvier is a pleasant experience that should be on your list for your next visit to PSO Robles.