That is generally the response I get when I tell folks we planted Riesling on the west side of Paso. Not only that, the plants are head-trained and dry farmed (as are all our grape varieties on the ranch). As far as I know, that is unique. And possibly a bit loco. When most people think of Riesling, they think German, or Alsatian wines. Often a bit off-dry (semi-sweet), and cool climate. And I love those wines. But I was inspired to plant Riesling here because of several trips to South Australia in my previous life. When I had some time off, I would venture from Adelaide to local the wine regions, Barossa, McClaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, and Clare Valley. It was in the latter location that I discovered some amazing Rieslings. They were totally dry, but crisp with good acidity and that complex combination of flavors Riesling can provide; a bit of floral, minerality, interlaced with notes of petrol. And the soils and climate in Clare were very different from Germany or even Alsace. Much more like our terroir in Adelaida, Paso Robles. So I decided, what the heck, let’s give it a go, and planted two acres of Riesling near the top of our highest hill, four years ago. Tough love for sure as the location is difficult, little water, little soil (just limestone rock), and a good bit of wind. Amazingly, the plants are thriving. This is the first year we have a crop. Its not large, maybe a ton or so, enough for just a couple of barrels of wine. But it is exciting. We are expecting to harvest them in a week or two, along with our other white varieties, Grenache Blanc and Vermentino (also known as Roll in France).
Dry-farmed, head-trained Riesling at Loma Seca
The grapes are tasting fantastic, tons of flavor, acid, and plenty of sugar. I am still debating exactly how we will make the wines. Its our first white wines ever, so we have little experience on which to base our wine-making decisions. I am thinking that we will want a bit of skin contact after destemming, to extract that complex flavor profile and a bit of color from the skins. The acidity is there in spades, a unique quality of our terroir, so we expect to make a dry, crisp Riesling, in the style of Clare. Stay tuned!
Riesling is not the only first this year. We also planted Grenache Blanc and Vermentino. Both grapes will get their debut this year, albeit in a small quantity. We hope to produce about a half ton or barrel each.
Vermentino close to harvest
Both varieties are grown elsewhere in Paso so we are not breaking new ground (pun intended) like with the Riesling. While the Grenache Blanc I expected to adapt easiest to our soil and farming techniques, has proven to be the most difficult so far. It may be due to exactly where its planted, or perhaps its just not as happy in our conditions. Time will tell. In any case we are very excited to be harvesting and making our first white wines this year. They should be available in about a year or so. Please look for them then.