Friday, October 6, 2017

Pure Paso: The Wines of Zenaida Cellars

Zenaida Cellars - Templeton Gap District, Paso Robles, California
Last month I spent a few days immersing myself in the wine culture of Paso Robles, California. I fell in love with the place, the people, and, of course, the wines.

During my trip I spent some time chatting and tasting with Eric and Jill Ogorsolka, the husband/wife duo who own
Zenaida Cellars and make its wines. Zenaida is pure Paso — they produce a range of Zins, Rhone blends and Cabs packed with lush fruit and lots of complex spice elements. Like many of the producers I visited on my trip, they don’t make a ton of wine, and most of it is sold directly to the consumer (through the wine club or the tasting room).

Zenaida is located in the Templeton Gap District, one of 12 appellations within the larger Paso Robles American Viticultural Area. Nestled at the base of the Santa Lucia Range of coastal mountains, the Templeton Gap (a perforation in the coastal ridge) pulls in cool air from the Pacific Ocean, cooling down the vines and allowing for a long, steady growing season. Paso Robles was an ancient seabed, and today the 35-acre property (with 22 acres planted to vines) sits on calcareous and clay soils that impart a real sense of vibrancy to the finished wines. Eric showed me a fossilized whale vertebrae he found one day while plowing his vineyards. 
A fossilized whale vertebrae found in Zenaida's vineyards.

Eric studied at California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo and the UC Davis Extension, and worked with Paso pioneer Ken Volk at Wild Horse before starting his own estate project in 1998.

If you’re every traveling to Paso (which I highly recommend), this place would make a great stop.

2016 Zenaida Cellars Force de Fleur - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Super zesty and peachy on the nose with limes, daisies and honey. Zesty and spritzy on the palate with saline and chalk dust combining nicely with perfume, orange peel and peach nectar. 55% Grenache Blanc, 45% Viognier. (88 points)

2014 Zenaida Cellars Grenache - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Aromas of tangy cherries, rhubarb, roses and pepper – lovely to sniff. Juicy but good tannic weight on the palate and some acidity to help it balance out. Raspberry and red apple fruit is pretty and ripe and mixed well with roasted chestnut, pepper, clay, smoke and olives. Complex and delicious stuff that will get more so with a few years. (90 points)

2015 Zenaida Cellars Zinfandel Estate - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Smells like raspberry jam, plum cake, sweet cola, spicy pepper and earth. Juicy and fleshy texture on the palate. The wine is full of lots of red and black cherries, but the savory notes really pop (broth, oregano, soy, tilled soil, spice rub), a really fascinating and delicious flavor profile. Very impressive stuff that should age nicely in the coming few years. (91 points)

2015 Zenaida Cellars Wanderlust - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Juicy raspberries and black cherries with some briary, herbal, peppery notes. Full-bodied and bold but impressive balance. Tart plums and black cherry, packed with smoky charcoal, savory spices, oregano, tar, violets, graphite and sweet cola. Delicious, complex, lovely stuff. A blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre. (91 points)

2015 Zenaida Cellars Syrah Estate - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Holy smoky aromatics! Lovely campfire and hot tar notes on top of blackberries and plums. Dark but not heavy with juicy blackberries, along with savory broth, black pepper, barbecue sauce, sage and charcoal. Lovely, complex Syrah with a few years before it hits its stride. (90 points)

2015 Zenaida Cellars Petite Sirah Knucklehead - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Deep and bold on the nose with boysenberry, violets, pepper and grilled Portobello mushrooms. Surprisingly juicy and fresh on the palate, this is big but also smooth, even vibrant. Blackberry and boysenberry fruit play well with pepper, clove, violets and anise. All Petite Sirah from three different vineyards. (90 points) 

2015 Zenaida Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Aromas of bright red and black currants and cherries, bell pepper and eucalyptus. Solid tannins on the palate with bright acidity. Plummy, tart currants, mixed with bell pepper (not too much), with clove, tobacco pipe and eucalyptus. I would love to taste this again in three to five years. (91 points)

2015 Zenaida Cellars Estate Fire Sign - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
A richer aromatic display with baked figs and cinnamon. Rich and bold, darker than the plain Cab and their other wines, showing more black fruit but still balanced with vibrant acidity and moderate tannins. Oaky, but it has a lot of other things going on for it, so the oak doesn’t dominate. A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah, 25% Zinfandel. (90 points)

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