Wine Time: Justin Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Paso Robles

COST: $24-26

 

WHAT: During the most special week of the year in Augusta, it seems appropriate to drink special wine. Even when I was working and came home late during Masters Week, I would always open a nice bottle of wine before going to bed.

With the Justin Cabernet Sauvignon you can enjoy a very nice wine at a reasonable price. I know a lot of people will spend $50 to $100 or more for a special bottle of wine, especially when they are on an expense account, but there is no need to do that.

Unless you have an extremely sophisticated palate, this wine is every bit as good as a top Bordeaux or a cult American Cabernet. It is a perfect wine for entertaining a large group, or for a special meal where you want to impress a certain someone.

The wine is a beautiful ruby in the glass, with alluring aromas of black cherry, black currant and vanilla. The first sip tells you this is a special wine, and the layers of flavor continue to unfold as you drink. I opened this bottle about 30 minutes before drinking, and I should have let it breathe for at least an hour.

Black cherry, tea and spices all come through on the palate along with some herbal notes and vanilla. The finish is long and lush, with some licorice, spice and cherry notes.

The best thing about this Cab is its balance. Everything is in perfect harmony. There is just enough fruit, just enough acidity, just enough tannins and plenty of Cab flavor.

Justin takes a lot of care in making this wine. Harvest took six weeks, as the workers kept going back to vines as grapes ripened. Then the berries were hand-picked and hand-sorted for consistent quality and flavor.

The grapes were fermented for 17 days in open and closed-top stainless steel tanks with twice daily pump-overs. The wine then spent 14 months in American Oak barrels (30 percent new).

If you can’t find the 2012 vintage, the 2013 should be released soon.

Whether you are a golfer, worker, spectator or just someone who needs a good bottle of wine, pop the cork on the Justin Cab. Sit on the porch with your feet propped up and have a few sips while waiting for dinner. You’ll feel like you deserve a green jacket.

WINERY: When former investment and international banker Justin Baldwin planted his first vineyards in 1981, he was a pioneer in producing Bordeaux blends in Paso Robles. His goal was to make world-class blends, and he certainly succeeded.

His first 160 acres west of Paso Robles are still the estate vineyards, but the winery has added vineyards and also purchases grapes from other growers.

The first Cab was released in 1986, along with a Chardonnay. The quality and reputation of the wine has grown; Justin Isosceles (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot similar to a classic wine from Bordeaux’s Left Bank) landed at the No. 6 spot on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines in the world in 2000.

I came across the winery while wandering through Paso Robles on vacation a few years ago and was captivated by the beauty of the tasting room and vineyards. The wine was so good I bought a couple of cases on the spot.

It is a stunning property that features a world-class restaurant and four suites where you can spend the night. The company also recently added an outdoor tasting bar where visitors can have lunch.

Baldwin no longer owns the winery, having sold it to Fiji Water in 2010, but he stays involved.

Paso Robles also has grown in size and reputation. It is widely recognized as one of the great wine-producing regions in the world and is now home to the third-highest concentration of wineries in the United States. Paso and the larger Central Coast region has many fascinating wineries and smaller crowds than the more famous Napa Valley.

Paso Robles’ distinctive microclimate has the widest day-night temperature swings of any grape-growing region in California. The hot days allow the grapes to develop intense flavor, while the cool nights create great structure and balance.

The winery also produces another Bordeaux blend called Right Angle 750, a Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend called Savant, and also 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.

GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this wine with grilled Italian sausage sandwiches and homemade potato chips. I added fresh sweet corn. The spicy sausages piled with grilled vegetables needed a strong wine to stand up to the mix of flavors, and the Justin filled the bill.

The smooth, mellow flavors in the wine calmed down the spices in the sausage. A meal is so much better when the wine and food complement each other. This was a perfect match.

To make the vegetable mix for the sandwiches I sliced a green bell pepper, a red bell pepper, a sweet onion and a fresh tomato. Then I sauteed them slowly in a half stick of butter, mixing them until the vegetables became soft but not browned.

Then I spoon the mixture over the sausage in a hoagy roll or a piece of sliced baguette. The sandwich is pure heaven.

We wanted to use a lot of fresh vegetables because we were celebrating the return of our favorite vegetable stand. There is nothing like fresh fruit and vegetables we get during summer months.

The peppers, onions, tomatoes and corn are coming from Florida and South Carolina now, and they have great flavor compared to winter veggies. But in a few weeks the full summer flavors will be even more spectacular.

This Cab also would go well with steaks on the grill, duck, hearty stews or burgers.

 WINE EVENTS

THURSDAY, APRIL 9

Wine and tapas tasting, 5 p.m. until closing, La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $25; (706) 722-4805

APRIL 10-11

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, 2-6 p.m Saturday, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

FRIDAY, APRIL 10

Wine tasting, 5-7 p.m., Whole Foods, 2907 Washington Road; five glasses of wine with snacks; $5; (762) 333-0260

SATURDAY, APRIL 18

Easter Seals charity wine dinner, 7 p.m. reception, 8 p.m. dinner, Westlake Country Club, 3656 West Lake Dr.; elegant food paired with five wines; $100, (706) 667-9695

 

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