By Rick Riozza

In this column, I always like to remind our own valley’s vino lovers that they are a really savvy wine group.  You guys and gals already know it because you live it—even in the time of the pandemic.  C’mon—smile, you like the positive reinforcement.

Anyway—along those same lines, a majority of you valley vino heads not only know of the JUSTIN wine brand, but, are in love with the stuff!  In my wine department, where sometimes the powers-that-be get a little scared that I’m ordering too much wine (in this pandemic!!), no one ever questions my case orders for JUSTIN Cabernet Sauvingnon.  It sells off the shelves and off the charts.

(By the way—do you folks know that the Ralph’s Market in Indio is the number one Ralphs in the country when it comes to the sales of alcohol beverages!  And during these tough times, sales continue to soar!  My friend and fellow associate, Wine Steward Michael at the Indio store probably set a U.S. record over this last 4th of July weekend; and I have to report, that at the Palm Springs Ralphs, we may as well have come in at a close second!—whew!)

But getting back to business at hand, we’re just in time for JUSTIN wines.  Last week, we again got in on a virtual winery tasting; this time it took place at the beautiful surrounds of the JUSTIN Estate Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles.  As these virtual tastings work their way into the wine ethos norm, the activities continue to expand.  Hosting this Zoom encounter, we enjoyed both the company of Allison Crawford, JUSTIN’s Certified Sommelier, and JUSTIN’s Executive Chef Rachel Haggstrom.

That’s right! Not only did we virtually and actually taste three delicious Justin wines but we virtually prepared and experienced some dishes that classically paired with the wines—well, as best as we could under the circumstances: using our eyes, ears, and gastronomic memory!

For those of us who remember attending the Miramonte Resort & Spa’s JUSTIN wine pairing dinner over seven years ago (hey—wine quaffers have very good memories), we recall the event as both elegant and fun. It was a fabulous Four-Course & Five-Wine Dinner with the winery founder, Justin Baldwin, who spoke between courses. And (at that time) Executive Chef Robert Nyerick’s Pan Seared Sea Bass on Wilted Arugula and Truffled Tiny Greens along with the Vegetable Linguini paired with the JUSTIN 2010 Estate Chardonnay was the media table’s match-up of the evening.

So as many foodie and wine enthusiasts already know, JUSTIN has pride itself on crafting their wines with food pairing recommendations in the culinary scene.  And this lofty goal was accentuated with the talents of Chef Rachel and Somm Allison.

To begin the program, the ladies virtually took us into the beautiful JUSTIN estate gardens to show off their game.  We media folk received three JUSTIN wines prior to the day’s tasting event and had the opportunity to chill down the 2019 JUSTIN Rosé, and, to open up and aerate the two red wines we were experiencing, the 2017 JUSTIN TRILATERAL and the 2017 JUSTIN JUSTIFICATION.

A surprise to a few wine lovers, JUSTIN wines has produced a rosé for the last eight years or so.  Winery notes include, “The 2019 JUSTIN Rosé, ($20) is a dry, aromatic, refreshing wine that reminds us that while rosé is great on a hot summer day, it is also a versatile wine worth reaching for all year long. A Rosé of mostly syrah that is whole cluster pressed and fermented like a white wine, it shows a beautiful salmon color in the glass with bright red fruit, crisp apple and subtle herbal notes.

Somm Allison expressed that the rosé is a perfect match for a wide variety of pairings or just on its own; a wine that is meant to be enjoyed at the table, poolside, beach-side, outside, but “especially with someone by your side!”  Chef Rachel paired the rosé with a summer salad of micro-greens, pistachios seasoned with sumac, Santa Rosa plum slices, radishes, local sheep milk cheese, mint, basil, and Myer lemon juice.

The 2017 TRILATERAL ($55) is what we wine folk refer to as a GSM: a Rhône-style wine blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre .  Remember—we are dealing with Paso Robles wine country which has a great history of Rhone varietals.  For those of you who consider a Côtes du Rhône a little too foreign for your taste, this Cal GSM with a JUSTIN twist, produces a bold Paso Robles Syrah which imparts a rich intensity.

When I poured this wine into a glass, I was amazed at its unique color of which I had not really perceived from any other wine; a soft purple, Heirloom tomato hues, with red gray notes—just lovely.  It’s very aromatic with attractive ripe black cherry, wild berries, vanilla and cinnamon, oak, cracked pepper, smoke, and leather. It’s a wine you could stare at and smell for a few minutes at least!

The aroma moved into the palate and Chef Rachel paired the TRILATERAL with some BBQ ribs lathered in a sauce utilizing the wine because of similar flavors.  Too bad Zoom doesn’t have Smell-a-Vision button.  

The final wine we experienced was the famous JUSTIFICATION ($60). This 2017 wine is a blend of 65% Cab Franc and 35% Merlot. It’s long been touted as a “Right Bank Bordeaux blend taking on the California Turf”.  It’s a good call because the Cab Franc does temper the fat juiciness of the Merlot.  And it has good acid for food pairing.

The wine has aromas and a palate of ripe black, red cherry and blackcurrant fruit, vanilla and cinnamon spice with cedar, autumn leaves, oak, graphite, red licorice, and some dusty tobacco notes.

Chef Rachel did the right thing and paired the wine with some savory lamb chops, which has always worked great in Bordeaux and apparently great here in California.

JUSTIN Estate Vineyards & Winery, 11680 Chimney Rock Road
Paso Robles, CA 93446  805.238.6932.