Monday, April 21, 2014

J. Lohr 2011 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles

Lohr Hilltop CabLast week I participated in a twitter discussion about Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon along with members of the Paso Robles Cab Collective. It’s a group of 28 wineries banded together to promote the full potential of the Paso Robles AVA in producing superior-quality, classic and age-worthy Cabernet and Bordeaux varieties.

For events like this, I’ve learned that it’s better to sip the wine in advance in an unhurried setting. I (try to) save at least a glassful to taste while the twitter discussion whirlwind is taking place.

I purchased this bottle of 2011 J. Lohr Hilltop Cab at Churchill’s and Green Dragon outdid herself by preparing a meal of Beef Bourgogne, a hearty French stew with sauce that is about 50% red wine.

Long before becoming synonymous with world class wine, El Paso de Robles, or “The Pass of the Oaks,” was known for its natural mineral baths, almonds and agriculture. In 1776, Franciscan priests produced the area’s first wines. About 200 years later, under the guidance of U.C. Davis enologist André Tchelistcheff, Dr. Stanley Hoffman planted some of the region’s first Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

The western boundary of the Paso Robles AVA is just six miles from the Pacific and the ideal climate, location and growing conditions mean Cabernet Sauvignon grapes can linger on the vine until their fullest potential for lush ripeness is achieved. Some, like journalist Randy Caparosa, believe that the cutting edge for Cabernet Sauvignon is now in Paso Robles. The Paso Robles Cabs are known for velvety and round textures plus acidity that makes them outstanding food wines.

Cool climate prevailed in 2011, resulting in considerably lower vineyard yields. According to David Galzignato of Jada Winery, the 2011 vintage let Paso Robles winemakers craft Bordeaux style Cabernets with higher acidity, lower alcohol and a focus on the fruit.

Opolo plus 004_thumbJ. Lohr Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on a handful of select vineyard sites that feature long summer days of intense sunshine followed with chilly, ocean-cooled nights. These Cabernet vines are naturally stressed in the dry, often very gravelly, and sometimes lime shale-laden soils. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are blended with 5% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, and 1% Syrah.

The Hilltop Cab is part of J. Lohr’s Vineyard Series. It is a beautiful wine that melded nicely with the savory stew – and later with a chocolate lava cake that capped the meal. It is expressive with swirls of ripe berries, stewed fruit a bit of earth. The wine is rich, but with a complexity that raises it above simpler fruit-driven Cabernet. It is a long, gliding finish from the Hilltop to the last drop.

J. Lohr Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon retails for $35. It is an ideal accompaniment for a special meal or a welcome guest to a party.

Rating: 4 of 5  Value: 4 of 5

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