WHAT: One of the exciting developments in the world of wine in the last 20 years has been the New World twists on Old World wines. In many cases, these experiments have been so successful they bounced back to Europe and led to changes there.
Justin Justification 2010 is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, modeled after a classic Bordeaux right bank blend. It is an elegant, lush wine, full of bright fruit, ready to drink upon release. Bordeaux wines traditionally are more restrained and need aging before you can drink them.
But now, because of success with those blends in the United States, South America and Australia, you can find all kinds of Bordeaux wines ready to drink as soon as you buy them. And new, non-traditional blends are emerging. It is a case of New World tastes changing Old World traditions.
Justification is a great introduction to the classic Cabernet Franc grape, which typically is lighter and with more immediate fruit than Cabernet Sauvignon. It is traditionally a blending grape, playing second fiddle to Merlot in the right bank blends.
But increasingly it has appeared as the main grape, or even the sole grape in New World wines. That is a good development because Cabernet Franc can be a wonderful wine.
Justification is a beautiful deep ruby in the glass, with some purple on the rim. Cherry and strawberry dominate the complex aromas. Cherry and black currant are the prime flavors, with touches of vanilla and anise. The finish is long, with lingering fruit.
This is another beautifully complex blend from Paso Robles, where a lot of interesting winemaking happens these days.
After picking and hand sorting, the grapes were fermented for 15 days in open and closed-top vessels with twice daily pump overs. The wine then spent 18 months in French oak barrels (41 percent new).
I decanted the wine and let it sit for an hour before drinking it. The aromas and flavors became much more complex as the wine mixed with oxygen and opened up. This is a wine to drink now, but you can cellar it for at least another 5-10 years.
WINERY: Former investment and international banker Justin Baldwin founded Justin Vineyards & Winery in 1981. He planted 160 acres west of Paso Robles with major Bordeaux varietals. Those are still the estate vineyards, though they also purchase fruit from other vineyards.
Baldwin’s mission statement was “to belong in the company of the finest wines in the world.” He was one of the pioneers in producing Bordeaux blends in Paso Robles and the Central Coast region.
He certainly has succeeded, as the winery regularly produces wines with 90+ ratings and wins medals at major competitions.
I came across the winery while on vacation a few years ago and was captivated by the beauty of the tasting room and vineyards. It is a stunning property that now features a world-class restaurant as well as four suites where you can spend the night. The company also recently added an outdoor tasting bar where visitors can have lunch.
Since Baldwin started his winery, the Paso Robles region has grown quickly. It is now home to the third highest concentration of wineries in the United States. Baldwin sold out to Fiji Water in 2010, but he stays involved with the winery.
The winery also produces a left bank Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Melot and Cabernet Franc called Isosceles, another Bordeaux blend called Right Angle 750, a Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend called Savant, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, a Port-styled dessert wine named Obtuse and an Orange Muscat wine named Sunny’s Block.
The winery champions sustainable farming practices, including reducing or eliminating fertilizers and pesticides, recycling and use of solar power.
GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this with homemade vegetable beef soup, a comfort food for me for more than 50 years. The soup has all kinds of lush flavor from the beef and the vegetables, so you need a good wine that can stand up to it.
The Justin fit the bill perfectly. Its complex aromas and flavors pulled all kinds of interesting tastes from the soup. And while the soup would not be considered an elegant meal, it felt like a banquet because of the finesse of the Justification.
We topped off the evening with a half bottle of Deborah’s Delight 2007 ($20), a lovely dessert wine made from Orange Muscat (79 percent) and Viognier (21 percent). This delicate wine had beautiful aromas and flavors of peach, orange and citrus. It is a pale straw color and finishes crisp and clean despite the sweetness.
It looks like this wine has been replaced at Justin by a 100 percent Orange Muscat wine called Sunny’s Block, which sells at the winery for $30 for a 375 ml bottle. Like the Deborah’s Delight, it has 12 percent alcohol.