The albariño experience was a excellent on our recent trip to Paso Robles. This grape varietal was new (at least to us). The albariño grape produces a wine that has some characteristics in common with viognier: it is very sensitive to terroir and the final product depends dramatically on how it is handled by the winemaker.
We brought home one bottle each from Villa San-Juliette and Vina Robles. Both wineries are fairly new. Vina Robles has just opened a new amphitheater and is bringing major singing and other acts to Paso Robles. So far, according to local sources, it’s a hit.
Villa San-Juliette is the handiwork of two Hollywood producers, Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick. They have produced a miniseries of seven episodes about their experience starting the winery (“Corkscrewed: The Wrath of the Grapes“). First vintage was in 2008, making them true newcomers.
Their albariño tends toward the austere, with subtle aromas and some minerality on the palate. The 2011 Reserve ($25) delivers aromas of apricots and pears followed by grapefruit and minerality.
Vina Robles planted their first estate vineyard in the 1990s. The winery has a Swiss heritage. Owner Hans Nef and managing partner Hans–R. Michel bring their Swiss heritage to California’s Central Coast, where they aim to unite the best of both experiences. Here’s what Mr. Nef has to say:
I want Vina Robles to express a unique balance of European heritage and American opportunity. As individuals, we are rooted in the Old World. As winemakers, we are empowered by the New World. But both worlds bring value to what we do, and we endeavor to capture this distinction in our wines.
Their albariño could not be more different from Villa San-Juliette’s. It is a lush, aromatic creature. Aromas of ripe pear and honeydew melon. Pineapple flavors on the palate with a hint of butterscotch on the finish. Available only online and at the winery, it’s a serious bargain at $18.
If you haven’t tried an albariño yet, don’t give up if you don’t like the first one you taste. This grape can be many different things. Keep looking!