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The DIRT on AP - a winery blog

Ancient Peaks
 
February 23, 2017 | Ancient Peaks

Breaking French Law

If our winery was in France, we’d be breaking the law with several of our wines.

Indeed, in the traditional Old World wine regions, the types of grape varieties you can grow and blend are highly regulated (ie: certain varieties are allowed in Bordeaux, others in the Rhone Valley). By comparison, we live in the proverbial Wild West, and we take full advantage of our winemaking freedoms.

Case in point: the imminent new release of our 2015 Renegade. This red blend combines a signature Rhone variety (Syrah), a signature Bordeaux variety (Petit Verdot) and a classic California variety (Zinfandel), along with another variety that has made its name here in the Golden State (Petite Sirah).

Meantime, our limited-production Blanco white blend combines Chardonnay with Muscat, while the latest vintage of our crown jewel—Oyster Ridge—is a classic Bordeaux-style blend that comes with a signature twist of Petite Sirah.

However, the point isn’t to break from old winemaking traditions just for the fun of it. In fact, these traditions were established precisely because there is a proven synergy between certain grape varieties. As such, these traditions are worthy of respect.

At the same time, we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t push the envelope, in recognition of the fact that our growing conditions here at Margarita Vineyard are not only quite different from Europe, but even unique within our home region of Paso Robles.

This is how you end up with a blend like Renegade, which flies in the face of tradition; and Oyster Ridge, which is largely traditional, but still with its own twist.

In other words, sometimes we are faithful to tradition, sometimes we bend the rules, and when it’s best for the wine, we break them. 

Time Posted: Feb 23, 2017 at 8:24 AM
Ancient Peaks
 
January 23, 2017 | Ancient Peaks

AP Grabs Gold in SF

We are pleased to share that four of our wines earned gold medals at the recent 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. 

Netting the golds were the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Merlot, 2014 Zinfandel and 2014 Renegade--essentially all of the reds in our core broad-market portfolio. 

We have long said that 2014 was a banner vintage at our estate Margarita Vineyard, and these results are further confirmation.

You can try all of these 2014 wines at our tasting room (which is also one of the best places to eat in the Paso Robles wine country at the Ancient Peaks Cafe!). 

Time Posted: Jan 23, 2017 at 9:55 AM
Ancient Peaks
 
June 8, 2016 | Ancient Peaks

Blanco: Unconventionally Refreshing


Just in time for summer, we have released our 2015 Blanco, a refreshing blend that pairs perfectly with warm afternoons and good times, not to mention several dishes offered at our Ancient Peaks Cafe. 

Now available in our tasting room, this limited release (330 cases produced) wine is an unconventional union of Chardonnay and Muscat from our estate Margarita Vineyard, and specifically from vines planted to soils of granite and rocky alluvium. These stony soils, combined with cold fermentation and aging in stainless steel, yield a lusciously textured wine with a bright, fruit-forward character. 

In the final blend, the Muscat provides a foundation of high-toned fruit, while the Chardonnay adds a measure of richness and complexity. 

The 2015 Blanco's clean, quenching texture delivers flavors of peach, nectarine and lime with a suggestion of tropical fruit. The finish starts tangy and brisk, but ends with a lingering touch of viscous roundness. This is a wine to be enjoyed in its youth. Suggested pairings include classic summer picnic fare, cilantro lime grilled chicken, filet of sole, and mixed citrus green salad.

Come by our tasting room to try the 2015 Blanco, or better yet, hang out and have a glass with a sandwich or salad from our cafe.

Time Posted: Jun 8, 2016 at 12:40 PM
Ancient Peaks
 
May 11, 2016 | Ancient Peaks

Renegade on A Roll


Our 2013 Renegade red blend is on a roll right now…

In The Tasting Panel magazine, Anthony Dias Blue gave it 91 points, while California Grapevine followed with a 90 point rating and a “very highly recommended” designation. Laurie Daniel of McClatchy Newspapers named it her “Wine of The Week,” and we just got word of another high score around the corner. 

We call Renegade our “outlaw” blend, as it is an unconventional union of Syrah, Malbec and Petit Verdot from our estate Margarita Vineyard. We asked winemakers Mike Sinor and Stewart Cameron to share their thoughts on the latest vintage:

What is Renegade, and what sets it apart?

Mike: It revolves around Syrah for its lusciousness and up-front fruit. But it also relies on Malbec for mid-palate juiciness and Petit Verdot for structure. So it has a lot of power and up-front fruit, but it finishes with a sense of focus and balance. 

Stewart: I think it’s the structure that sets the wine apart. It rings all of the bells of a yummy Rhone-style blend, but it’s that Bordeaux-like firmness on the back end that brings it all together in a unique way. 

What stands out about the 2013 vintage?

Mike: The weather was just perfect in 2013, particularly for Syrah. We got all of these big, rich flavors, but it still had quite a bit of backbone. 

Stewart: The 2013 vintage marks the highest percentage of Syrah we’ve included in Renegade so far. Each year, it’s about making the best blend possible from these three varieties by deferring to the personality of the vintage. From that perspective, Syrah really merited playing the lead role this time.   

We invite you to come by our tasting room to for a taste of the acclaimed 2013 Renegade!

Time Posted: May 11, 2016 at 11:16 AM
Ancient Peaks
 
March 23, 2016 | Ancient Peaks

AP CABERNET: 10 YEARS STRONG

Time flies when you are having fun, which is why it seemed almost surprising when we were able to stage a recent 10-year vertical tasting of Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Indeed, while it seems like just yesterday that we launched our winery, our first Cabernet Sauvignon dates back to the 2005 vintage, and this was the first time we have lined this many up in a row to compare and contrast. And although we are naturally biased, we have to say that we were pleased with the results. 

“I was pretty impressed with how they were showing overall,” says Winemaker Stewart Cameron. “The 2007 was a standout for me, as was the 2010.”

Stewart noted that our Cabernet Sauvignons tend to gain finesse after several years. “As nice as they are in their youth, they really do improve with some years on them. You might not be inclined to think of an $18 Cabernet as ageworthy, but I would say that ours is one of the exceptions.”

Vintage variation was evident in the wines from year to year, with cooler and warmer vintages showing different attributes. Nevertheless, Stewart said that there is a common thread throughout, owing to the strong sense of place exerted by our estate Margarita Vineyard.

“Putting it into words is difficult, but there is definitely a thread,” he says. “There’s a certain element of structure and elegance that is rooted Margarita Vineyard’s distinct growing conditions—the cooler climate and diverse soils. That’s what makes these Cabernets show so well as the age. Without that inherent structure, they would not age nearly as well.”

Another fun thing to note during the vertical was the evolution of our Ancient Peaks wine label, from the original 2005 vintage label through the latest one adopted last year. You could say that the original labels didn’t age as well as the wines, but we are confident that the new one will stand the test of time!

Time Posted: Mar 23, 2016 at 10:04 AM
Ancient Peaks
 
February 26, 2016 | Ancient Peaks

The Outlaw Blend

We are pleased to be rolling into the 2013 vintage of Renegade, a  blend  of  Syrah,  Malbec and  Petit Verdot  from our estate  Margarita Vineyard.

As Director of Winemaking Mike Sinor puts it, "Renegade is our outlaw blend. It revolves around Syrah for its lusciousness and up‐front fruit. But it also relies on Malbec for mid‐palate juiciness and Petit Verdot for structure. So it has a lot of power and up‐front fruit, but it finishes with a sense of focus and balance."

Now, in certain winemaking regions in France, there are laws against blending Rhone grapes like Syrah with Bordeaux varieties such as Petit Verdot and Malbec. So, in other words, Renegade breaks French law for the greater good of creating a seamless blend that speaks to both Paso Robles and Margarita Vineyard.

A majority of the Syrah for the 2013 Renegade comes from Block 47 along slopes of ancient sea bed soils, where the fruit achieves dark fruit flavors with meaty richness. The remainder comes from nearby Block 43, which offers a more restrained fruit profile with notes of spice and mineral. The Malbec hails from Block 45, a southwest-facing hillside with shallow shale soils that produce sparse, intensely flavored clusters. The Petit Verdot comes from Block 44, where a sloping ribbon of sandstone and rocky shale yields firm texture with vivid varietal character.

"I think it’s the structure that sets the wine apart," says Winemaker Stewart Cameron. "It rings all of the bells of a yummy Rhone‐style blend, but it’s that Bordeaux-like firmness on the back end that brings it all together in a unique way."

Time Posted: Feb 26, 2016 at 2:16 PM
Ancient Peaks
 
December 15, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

Greatest Hits of 2015

The next vintages are starting to roll into our tasting room and into the market, and the new year is near. So before 2016 arrives, we thought we would take a look back at some of our greatest hits from 2015:

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

"92 POINTS...EDITOR'S CHOICE...Fresh, lively black cherries and blueberries...All held together by smooth tannins."

-Wine Enthusiast

2012 Renegade

“93 POINTS…Minerals, lilacs, black pepper, and plump blueberry in an edgy, modern unfolding.”

-Meridith May, Tasting Panel Magazine

“90 POINTS…Quite Rhone-like in character…Very good spicy persistence.”

-Josh Raynolds, Vinous

"90 POINTS...From a unique vineyard atop the Cuesta Grade...Black licorice, dark blackberries, rustic elderberries and a cedary, asphalt-laden grip power the palate."

-Wine Enthusiast

2011 Petite Sirah

“93 POINTS…Bacon fat, blackberry extract, dark chocolate and freshly ground espresso, with a peppery roast-beef crust on the finish…Wondrous flavors.”

-Wine Enthusiast

“90 POINTS…Fleshy on the palate, with nicely focused blackberry, mulberry and plum flavors.”

-Josh Raynolds, Vinous

2011 Oyster Ridge

“94 POINTS...Named to YEAR'S BEST U.S CABERNET'S & BLENDS LIST...It’s a wine that channels Paso’s abundant sunlight toward precision and purity rather than richness and concentration…Its bright, compact structure is poised to gain complexity with another eight to ten years in the bottle."

-Wine & Spirits

“92 POINTS…German chocolate cake, blackberry jam, violet extract and night jasmine on the detailed nose.”

-Wine Enthusiast

Time Posted: Dec 15, 2015 at 12:57 PM
Ancient Peaks
 
October 26, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

Ice Wine, Baby

As a region known for its warm summer temperatures and mild fall weather, Paso Robles isn’t exactly a hotbed for ice wines.

But here at Ancient Peaks, we employed a bit of winemaking improvisation to produce an ice wine-style Roussanne from the 2013 vintage, which is now available in our tasting room.

Wikipedia sums up ice wines quite well: “An ice wine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine.”

Germany is the European epicenter of ice wines, while Canada has paved the way in the New World.

And then there’s our estate Margarita Vineyard here in Paso Robles, where waiting for grapes to freeze on the vine would be a fool’s errand.

So how did winemakers Mike Sinor and Stewart Cameron pull it off? The trick was placing the freshly harvested Roussanne fruit into a cold box at freezing temperatures for three days to mimic the German model.

The frozen grapes were then lightly pressed, yielding only the most sugary juice. Fermentation was halted when just the right balance of sweetness and acidity was achieved, with the residual sugar maintained at 22 grams per liter.

The beautiful thing about this wine is that while it is definitely rich and sweet, it is not cloying. The finish is surprisingly light and lifted, and the balance is impeccable.

Even if you’re typically not a fan of dessert wines, we encourage you to give this one a try. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 

Time Posted: Oct 26, 2015 at 8:06 AM
Ancient Peaks
 
July 20, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

New Summer Sippers

Just in time for summertime, we have released two new limited-production wines that are a perfect fit for the flavors and spirit of the season—specifically, the 2014 Rosé and 2014 Blanco.

Both of these wines hail from our estate Margarita Vineyard, and are emblematic of the vineyard’s pronounced marine influence, which enables us to grow cooler climate grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Both wines were also cold fermented in stainless steel to retain the natural fruit freshness coming from the vineyard. 

The 2014 Rosé is a blend of Pinot Noir (75%) and Syrah (25%). Modeled after the refreshingly dry rosés of Europe—as opposed to the simple sweet blush wines that once dominated here in California—the 2014 Rosé offers summery aromas of strawberry and watermelon, followed by fresh flavors of tangerine, pink grapefruit and lime zest. This is the kind of wine that you will want to enjoy on a warm festive evening with grilled seafood, barbecued chicken or carnitas tacos.

The 2014 Blanco is a blend of Muscat (62%) and Chardonnay (38%). This unique blend greets the nose with suggestions of jasmine, honeycomb, papaya and lemon zest, followed by lush, ripe flavors of pear and tropical fruit. This is a perfect wine for classic picnic fare.

We invite you to come out to our tasting room this summer to try these seasonal wines, as they won’t be around for long.

Time Posted: Jul 20, 2015 at 10:08 AM
Ancient Peaks
 
June 23, 2015 | Ancient Peaks

Going with The Grain

On certain wines, such as our Petit Verdot, we make note of aging the wine in “tightly grained” oak barrels, which may raise the question: why does oak grain matter? Let us explain…

The notion of tightly grained wood is fairly self evident. Most woods, including oak, come in different grains, depending on the species and where they are grown. Some are more widely grained, others are more tightly packed.

Now, in the wine aging process, wide-grained oak tends to produce a wine that has a more pronounced oak and wood tannin character. In other words, if you want your wine to taste more oaky, or if you have a powerful wine that needs a more assertive oak balance, you might veer toward wide-grained oak.

On the flipside, tight-grained wood is more restrained in its influence. So if you want the oak character of the wine to be more subtle, then you will choose tight-grained oak for aging.

One example is our aforementioned Petit Verdot. In the words of Winemaker Stewart Cameron, “Petit Verdot has some unique varietal flavor profiles that no other Bordeaux varieties have, and we want to keep those at the forefront of the wine. We don’t want it to taste like French oak, so we choose wood with a tight grain and lighter toasting to produce a wine that is varietally true.”

On a more powerful wine, however, such as our Petite Sirah, Stewart might loosen the reins on the grain to ensure that the oak influence is sufficiently present.

And therein lies the significance of oak grain. Ultimately, it’s just one of many arrows in the winemaker’s quiver for guiding the style of a given wine. 

Time Posted: Jun 23, 2015 at 2:44 PM