Sunday, October 1, 2017

Clos Solène’s French-Inspired Paso Robles Wines

Clos Solene's new estate vineyard in Paso Roble's Willow Creek District.
Sipping brisk rosé, surrounded by brush and herbs and sun-scorched hills, it did remind me of my wine travels in the Languedoc. Clos Solène’s winemaker, Guillame Fabre, was raised in the winemaking business in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon, and the inspiration is evident in his earthy, spicy wines. But Clos Solène is also pure Paso, with plenty of vibrant, juicy fruit.

Kicked off in 2007, and named for his wife Solène, Guillame founded this winery after working as assistant winemaker at nearby Paso Robles’ producer L’Aventure. On a recent trip to Paso Robles, I stopped by this boutique winery’s tasting room, located in the Willow Creek District, and was thoroughly impressed with the wines.

They produce about 1,700 cases a year, and, like many small Paso Robles producers, most of their wine is sold direct to consumer. But if you ever are traveling in Paso or come across a bottle, don’t hold back – these are really great examples of what’s coming out of Paso Robles these days.

Guillame crafts the wines in the Tin City facility, which is something like a super hip version of the Lompoc Wine Ghetto – lots of warehouse space and winery equipment that has nurtured Paso’s cooperative and experimental wine culture.

He sources his grapes from various sites within the Willow Creek District, as well as others, working with some growers to farm the vineyards. When I visited Clos Solène’s estate and tasting room, the new vineyards had just been grafted, but in a few years the winery will have some high quality estate fruit to add to the mix.

Bottles of Clos Solène of aren’t cheap, but boy to they deliver. I’ll have much more on my Paso Robles trip in future posts, but here are my tasting notes on Clos Solène’s lineup. These wines were tasted sighted at the winery.

2016 Clos Solène La Rosé - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Peachy, juicy strawberry aromas along with floral perfume. Chalky and bright with crisp strawberries, tart white cherries, mixed with saline and crushed seashells. Fun and delicious but shows serious complexity. A blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. (89 points)

2016 Clos Solène Hommage Blanc - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles

Interesting aromas, I get bright and zesty elements of limes mixed with rich tropical fruits and flowers. Plump, rich, waxy texture, but moderate acidity. Juicy pineapple and mango, honey, white flowers and chalk notes. Yum! Aged six months in 40% new French oak, no maloactic. 75% Roussanne, 25% Viognier, from James Berry and Glenrose Vineyards. (89 points)

2015 Clos Solène Pinot Noir L'Imprevu - California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley$90
Aromas of candied cherries, strawberries, roses and rhubarb. Bright acid (I love it) with medium tannins, and a frame of tart red fruits (cherry, raspberry). Laced with mineral, rhubarb, raspberry leaf and some cola/coffee woven in so well. Really good Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir, here. Aged 16 months in 25% new French oak. (92 points)

2015 Clos Solène Harmonie - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Spicy red fruit aromas (raspberries, cherries) along with roses, red licorice and black pepper. Grippy tannins on this one, but it’s still suave. Bold but bright, tangy but sweet cherries, blended with pepper and rhubarb. Delicious stuff that will get more complex with a few years. 60% Grenache, 26% Mourvedre, 14% Syrah, this is aged 16 months in 20% new French oak. (90 points)

2015 Clos Solène Fleur de Solène - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Beautiful aromatics of black cherries, plums, fig paste, charcoal and black pepper. Bold but velvety, great tannic strength but medium acidity, and I love the tangy black currant and dark plums. Lots of pepper, tar and cocoa powder, and the cedar, coffee and vanilla notes woven in very well. This is very pretty but will get much more so over the next five years. 50% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Grenache, aged 16 months in 40% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 Clos Solène Hommage À Nos Pairs Reserve - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Super juicy aromatics of blueberries and dark plums, lots of graphite, violets, cola. Built so well with strong tannins but crisp acidity. Blueberries and plum cake line up so nicely with sage, charcoal, violets, vanilla and cocoa. This is very young and needs at least five years until maybe it will start to show its best, but this wine really wowed me. 95% Syrah, 3% Grenache, 2% Viognier, aged 23 months in 70% new French oak. (93 points)

2015 Clos Solène L'Insolent - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Deep purple color and bold on the fruit aromatics (cassis, blackberry, plum cake), along with some cedar, earth, vanilla. Serious structure on this one with grippy tannins, medium acidity, and tangy but big fruit (plum, cassis, blackberry). I get lots of cocoa, roasted chestnut, eucalyptus and charcoal complexities. Built and aligned well but this is years away from its prime drinking window. Should be gorgeous in five to eight years. 70% Cabernet and 30% Petit Verdot from westside Paso Robles vineyards, aged 23 months in 70% new French oak. (93 points)

2015 Clos Solène Sweet Clementine - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
This Brandy-fortified dessert wine smells like raspberry jam and candied raspberry along with chocolate. Rich but not too sweet on the palate with low acidity, juicy raspberry and plum cake. Notes of vanilla, coconut and coffee. Fun stuff. Grenache but 3% Syrah, aged 14 months in neutral French oak. (88 points)

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