WINE NOTES with Monty Paulsen, Winemaker
Read below to find out the background stories on many of our featured wines, and click on the individual wines to see them in our store.
My family established our first vineyards in Alexander Valley, at the Northern edge of Sonoma County, and we soon expanded our search for distinctive vineyards and trusted growers throughout other sub-regions of Sonoma (such as Russian River Valley and Knight's Valley), as well as Napa Valley. These unique wines and special locations formed the core of my winemaking heritage, and it is back to these appellations I have returned to produce wines for the Pat Paulsen Heritage Collection. Some of these wines come from vineyards that my family has drawn from for over 30 years, and others are the result of special relationships and long established friendships.
Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley
I grew up drinking great Alexander Valley Cabernets that exceeded many of those from Napa or Bordeaux, and I was thrilled to get hold of this batch of grapes for Pat Paulsen Vineyards. The complexity of the soil and the cool nights/warm days of the growing season are ideal for producing wines of outstanding depth and structure. Grown on the west-facing slopes at the northern side of the valley, fans of this region will instantly recognize the classic Alexander Valley signature. A combination of dark fruit flavors, like blackberry and cassis and a dozen other obscure sounding berries, it reminds you of fresh preserves on the kitchen stove. then toss in a little black pepper, a hint of green pepper and a few other green leafy spices, and top it off with a hint of ... what?... pipe tobacco? leather? cloves? cardamom?... Something's there, but you can't quite pin it down. That's the essence of Alexander Valley Cabernets. You can't quite explain it exactly, but you know when you see it. Or taste it. Or share it with your friends. It finishes with a good dose of tannin...
Merlot Alexander Valley
This wine is a favorite among certain wine reviewers who liken it to great French Bordeaux, including Jessica with the San Jose Mercury News, who says, "this wine can stand up to the great Pomerols of France." Upon the first sniff, you pick out rich intense blackberry and French oak giving it a broad array of classic aromas. On the palate it proves to very balanced, full bodied, and velvety in texture, finishing with spice and nutmeg and a host of berry flavors. It's complex and bold, yet soft and mouth filling, and is reaching its peak age, starting to show the bouquet and depth that Alexander Valley Merlot reaches after a few years of age. It will get richer and deeper and more velvety with a few more years of aging, but don't let that stop you from drinking it now - it's close enough to its peak that you'll agree, the view from here is pretty darn good already.
Chardonnay Alexander Valley
Produced in a European style that emphasizes the underlying chardonnay flavors and the expressive minerality of gravel and limestone soils in the Northeastern part of Alexander Valley, This wine is a representation of the land as much as it is of the winemaker's art. Soft fruity flavors were preserved by fermentation in stainless steel tanks, and aging in older French oak barrels gives structure and body without making it fat or flabby. You can taste the oak-vanilla influences, but only on the finish, where it doesn't interfere with palate; it reaches you more like a pleasant afterthought, in a whisper, not as an upfront announcement or shout. This is why traditionalists will enjoy this wine with food, where the crisp flavors and mineral highlights will complement the dish, not overpower it. Still not convinced it's a complex wine? There's a fun little trick you can do with this wine that will demonstrate just how many layers are in this Chardonnay. Poor a glass of this wine and sip it a few times. Then find another glass and try a different wine. Try something else on your plate. Have a brief conversation with your dinner partner. Then return to this wine and gently lift the glass to your nose an inhale and behold - tropical fruit flavors, melons, pineapple, citrus... a rush of aroma! It was there all along, waiting for for you like a patient friend. That's why we recommend this wine be poured at meals, when you have time to appreciate it, and your guests, fully.
If the world were my Oyster, these wines would be my pearls. Get out you shucking knife and let's see what we find next! For over 20 years I have met and worked with winemakers from around the world, and it is my great privilege and honor to work with these winemakers and present their wines in the Pat Paulsen Vineyards Import Series. Our first joint project, with Pablo Varas and Jaime Munoz of Antawara Wines in Chile, has produced not only an Iconic version of EBGB Cabernet but also a reserve Cabernet that Wine and Spirit's Magazine selected as one of their "Best Chilean Cabernets of the Year."
Cabernet Sauvignon - Chile, Maipo Valley
I wanted to produce an elegant old-world style Cabernet when I started this project with my friends at Antawara Wines in Chile, and we found a way to do it with a new-world price. Softer tannins than our California Cabernet, and we kept the barrels fairly neutral in flavor, which allows a more concentrated grape and vineyard quality to shine through after aging. Our first vintage turned out so well that Food and Wine Magazine showcased it as one of their favorite Chilean Cabernets of the year.
Pat Paulsen Vineyards has produced outstanding wines for over 30 years. Our Guest Vintner Series showcases wines and winemakers that we have come to know and admire over the years. Whether it’s a grower with a penchant for producing great grapes, or a talented winemaker that impresses us, we are proud to feature them as part of our extended wine making family. Look for unique blends and special vineyard selections in this series. Most wines are small lots and many are one time deals and limited quantities, but each and every one of them is a great wine and a fun and unique story.
Cabernet Sauvignon Wirth Ranch
Green Valley sits just to the east of Napa's Carneros region, which means that it develops full floral aromas influenced by its proximity to San Francisco Bay and the cool night air that emanates from there. But unlike Carneros, Green Valley is protected from chilling breezes during the day, which allows warmer growing season, similar to Napa's Rutherford region or the Alexander Valley where I grew up. The result is a wine that bursts with aromas and impresses with depth, and which was aged a full 4 years in barrels, giving it a suppleness equal to its intensity. A beautiful release, compliments of guest Vintner Stefanie Jackson.
Sauvignon Blanc "Mio Vigneto"
Guest Vintner and grower Dwight Busalacchi has been making wine ever since he was a child, working with his Italian Grandfather in San Francisco's North Beach. As an adult, Dwight planted land in Lodi with multiple clones of Sauvignon Blanc grapes in an area that many people said was only good for red grapes. Dwight has proved them wrong, winning gold with his first vintage at Pat Paulsen Vineyards, beating out all Napa wines in the category. We are looking forward to many more gold medals over the years. This 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is light and crisp, with good structure and acid balance resulting from warm days and cool nights that prevail in his "Mio Vigneto" or "My Little Vineyard" in Italian.
Zinfandel Jesse's Vineyard
If this Zinfandel reminds you of the ripe juicy blockbusters that Kent Rosenblum has made over the years, it should be no surprise. Stefanie Jackson busted her winemaking chops working in the cellar under Kent's tutelage, before she moved into other roles in Marketing. Convincing Kent to part with a ton of grapes from the fabled vineyard in Contra Costa County (the birthplace of many fabled California Zins), Stefanie has put together a delicious wine that emanates plum, raspberry and almost (but not quite) seems sweet on the tongue, though it truly is dry and boasts a nice toasted oak-barrel finish. It's a bold wine with a lot of flair, not unlike Stefanie herself, so try this wine with spicy flavorful dishes that might, maybe, keep up with this wine.
Throughout the world of winemaking, from France to Italy to Spain and California, nothing stands higher than the winemaker's Reserve Red Blend. These wines represent the height of winemaking technique applied to impecable grapes grown in just the right climate and soil, and only during the best vintages. So far I have released a very elegant Rhone-style wine and a rich powerful Bordeaux blend, as well as some very limited lots that unfortunately have sold out very fast. But look forward to my new upcoming offerings and if everything goes well, I may even have a Reserve White Blend ready to taste soon. Stay in touch....
Odyssey Reserve Rhone-style Blend
Based on Rhone varietals, Odyssey is an ancient story of modern California winemaking at it's best. The historical quest for grape varietals that match the location, growing techniques that fir the climate, and blending methods that bring out the best, has given wonderful and unique variations from region to region around the world. From the bold dark wines of Bordeaux to the soft supple elegant wines of Chianti, we appreciate the differences and the styles. In this case, we start our journey in the Rhone Valley of France, where Syrah forms the base of a classic style. From there, we transport this grape to the Alexander Valley, where it thrives and produces a deep and velvety component. Let's journey to Mendocino to discover an older Grenache vineyard that thrives in warmer inland valleys. Then touch this off with some Dry Creek Zinfandel to add intesity and a ripe fruit finish. The result is a Velvet Goldmine of flavor and fun. The ripe Syrah base makes this wine soft on the finish, and the medium body gives it enough weight to stand up to heavier foods, but it won't overwhelm, and it even does well as a sipping wine, for those who like to sip something with a little more gusto and power.
A Riddle, Surrounded with Mystery, Wrapped in an Enigma, and now sitting in your glass. I'll let the back label speak for itself, but you may have to buy a bottle to read it. This is a very limited selection, from the very best lots, for those few people who enjoy something special.
There are over 50 recognized appellations within California that have been identified as displaying unique characteristics that are particular that that specific location. Attributes of grapes grown in these climates range from spicy hints of the Sierra Foothills, to tropical fruit flavors of coastal meadows, to the depth of minerality in ancient gravelly inland river valleys. This collection allows me to craft wines to fit my favorite tasting profiles, while letting me show off a little skill in blending. The grapes come from fun regions and offbeat varietals that produce tasty and distinctive wines that are such a good value that I use them as my every day dinner wines. What the heck - sometime with lunch too. Retail - $14-16
Moscato can be sweet or dry, spritzy or not, and occasionally pink. This version is semi sweet and definitely not pink (although I'm thinking about a pink version down the road... perhaps a little bit of Petite Sirah blended in...?). It's a simple wine for simple times, and on those rare occasions when I'm feeling like I don't need yet another complicated wine to have to think about (I know, it's a tough life when that's what you get paid for), this wine is the simple solution. Serve it very chilled, with very good company, and I promise not to be very offended if you decide drop an ice cube into it. Enjoy!
EBGB Cabernet Sauvignon
It's a delightfully fruity and fresh Cabernet that bursts with flavor and color. This wine is a favorite as a cocktail wine or when offered by the glass at restaurants and wine bars. We wanted a wine that people would spend less time pondering all the winemaking details about, and more time just enjoying a glass or two and spending time coming up with their own ideas about what the letters mean (many theories abound...!).
Sometimes you are in the mood for a soft fruity delicious Chardonnay at a reasonable price, and this is that wine. Nice acid, great floral qualities, easy on the palate not too dry, not too sweet, a hint of vanilla oak, and a smooth finish.
A winemaker's playground. A collection of fun and unique wines that are sure to bring a smile to your face and joy to your taste buds. Affordable wines and lighthearted labels that bring joy and happiness to any table they grace. Our first featured wines in this series are the American Gothic Red and American Gothic White, a blast from the past, featuring Jane and Pat Paulsen on the label. Affordable, even for dirt-poor farmers, yet elegant enough to serve to the fat-cat Bankers that foreclosed on the Paulsen's Pork Belly farm out in the dust bowl.
American Gothic White
American Gothic Red