Think Paso Robles reds are all alcohol, toasted oak and extracted fruit? Sure, plenty wines from this Central Coast California region offer burn and new oak glitz, but there are some producers making more restrained examples. Case in point: Broadside.
Broadside is the wife/husband project of Stephanie and Brian Terrizzi, who take an approach characterized by relatively lower alcohol levels and very little to no new oak. I recently tasted through four Broadside wines while chatting with Brian and Stephanie via live-streaming video and Twitter. With Broadside, Brian said he’s aiming for, “balanced, value-driven, food-friendly wines.” And that's exactly how I'd describe the wines I tasted.
In his treatise on lower-alcohol, traditional style California wines, John Bonné called Broadside one of the “new classicists,” a term I think fits well for the Terrizzis.
Stephanie, Broadside’s viticulturist and soil nerd , says picking grapes is like picking vegetables from a garden — you have to get the timing right. Stephanie said she aims to preserve the natural freshness and acidity in the grapes by picking before the ripeness reaches extreme levels.
Stephanie recalled how she was initially “blown away by Paso” when the couple was looking for grapes. “The soil is incredible,” she said. And with, “so many soils, hills, you could almost grow anything in Paso Robles if it’s in the right spot.”
The right spot for Broadside’s Cabernet and Merlot is the Margarita Vineyard. This site’s limestone soils are drizzled with fossilized oyster shells that crumble into a chalky dust, Stephanie explained. The vineyard was originally planted by the Robert Mondavi family in the late 1990s, who had hopes that the site would add another stellar Cabernet to their portfolio. But the vineyard was sold off when Mondavi was bought by Constellation Brands. That left a bunch of Cabernet and Merlot without a home, and the Terrizzis were happy to care for the orphaned Paso fruit.
One of the most attractive things about Broadside’s juice is the price tag. “There’s something really exciting about producing wines that people can drink on a regular basis,” Brian said. He doesn’t want his friends to say, “Oh, my friend makes wine but I can’t afford to buy it.”
The stylistic choice of using less new oak also helps keep costs down. “Too many new barrels, ” Brian said, “it’s almost like a flaw in the wine.” Using old barrels saves money, considering new French oak barrels can run upwards of $1,000 a pop. Brian said he sources good fruit at reasonable prices. And Stephanie and Brian don’t pay consultants — instead they take care of the work themselves. The result is a lineup of wines that over-deliver for their sub-$25 cost.
Here are my notes on the Broadside wines I tasted...
2014 Broadside Chardonnay Wild Ferment - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
Light gold color. Rich aromas of yellow flowers, juicy melons, pears and baked apples , hints of honeyed white tea. Creamy texture, yet some bright acid as well. Lots of honey, an interesting fruit spectrum (mango, papaya, lychee), with notes of honey and hints of seashells. Ripe, juicy, but maintains freshness and levity at 13.5% alcohol. Mostly stainless steel fermentation but a bit of old oak, too. (86 points)
2013 Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Nose of dark blackberries and cherries, some caramel corn, red licorice and sweet coffee notes. Medium-bodied, an easy-drinking approach with soft tannins and moderate acid. Blackberry jam, candied red berries, laced with sweet cola and eucalyptus. Rich and ripe but shows moderate body and some freshness. Stylistically jammier than the wines from the Margarita Vineyard. 13.9% alcohol. (83 points)
2013 Broadside Merlot Margarita Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Vibrant purple color. Nose of raspberry jam, juicy black cherries, loamy earth and some potting soil with violet petals. On the palate, the purity of the fruit is quite high, with plums, black cherries and blackberries. Moderate acid provides freshness while dusty-earthy tannins provide a velvety feel. I also get complex earth, dust, mushroom and charcoal notes. Full but smooth and not baked or overdone in any way. All Merlot aged in old oak, 14.4% alcohol. Brian argued that Merlot is a great fit for the Margarita Vineyard because it ripens a month earlier than Cabernet and maintains great acidity, tart fruit and intensity. Based on this wine, I totally agree. (88 points)
2013 Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon Margarita Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Vibrant ruby color. I the nose, I get some tart red and black currant, plum skins, some earthy, charcoal notes, sweet pipe tobacco, cocoa powder and roasted coffee. Full-bodied but fresh on the palate with dusty tannins. Black currant, blackberry, some tart plum skins, the fruit is rich but also crunchy and tart. Complex loam, sweet clove, pipe tobacco, hints of mint and roasted coffee. Lovely tartness on the finish. Approachable young but I’d like to retaste this in two to four years. Includes 12% Merlot, 14.2% alcohol. (89 points)