Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tasting Justin Wines

Justin Winery held a tasting at East Beach Wine a couple weeks ago, and since they make a well-received Cab Franc blend called Justification, it was a tasting that was of particular interest. When Jeff at Viva la Wino raves over a premium California wine, well, you know it has something special. Beyond that aspect, though, I was curious to see what Justin had to offer over its full spectrum of wines. From their glossy website, it's evident these folks are bringing a Napa-style tasting resort and Napa-level capital to their Paso Robles winery. Usually Napa-level prices follow, and the question is then whether the wines deliver what the price demands.

Here are my notes:

2009 Sauvignon Blanc - $16. Crisp, very acidic, lemon, tangerine, creamy (sur lees aged), angular, a little bitter, weak finish, food wine

2009 Chardonnay - $18. Toasty, flowers, acidic, crisp (no ML), buttery with barrel flavors, toasty finish, angular, oak barrel flavors/aromas

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon - $27. Currant & cherry, a bit medicinal, vanilla & toast, mild tannin and acidity

2007 Justification - $43. Cherry & currant, spice, cinnamon, a little savory, layered, long finish, great balance, great acidity, mouth-watering, 65% Cab Franc, 35% Merlot

2007 Isosceles - $65. Dark fruit, very ripe but not pruney, good acid, structured, red fruit freshness, sweet oak, chocolate, 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cab Franc, 4% Merlot

2008 Obtuse - $25. Fortified port-style wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon, very sweet, raisin and bell pepper aromas

Although this sounds a bit paradoxical, the better values in the lineup are the more expensive wines. The first three wines were not especially interesting to be blunt. While they weren't flawed, they didn't offer anything special to differentiate themselves from the rank and file at their price points. The whites in particular had sharp acidity--both are listed around 8 g/L TA on their tech sheets--which is not something I usually rag on. It's possible 2009 whites are still bottled shocked, though, so perhaps these will come around. The Cab, meanwhile, tasted simple and generic. At $25-$30, there should be excitement, and there are Cabs at half that price that offer what one gets here. This is the wine for people who want to say "I'm druhinking the Juh-stin Cah-bur-ney" in their stuffiest New England accent while wearing one of those sport coats with patches on the elbows and khakis.

The tasting turned around with the Justification, however. It's a rather elegant, layered wine with plenty of fresh, ripe fruit. I'm with Jeff on this. It's really good and justifies (ha!) its price quite well. The Isosceles is not necessary better, though it's different. It's a manly, dark wine. And I can understand the $65 price, though it's not going to win any awards for value and I personally wouldn't spend that much. The port-style Cabernet was not especially interesting--it tasted like an overripe Cab had alcohol dumped into it. That's what it is, of course, but it's not greater than the sum of its parts as one might hope.

So, that's about what I expected. High prices, but with commensurate quality about half the time. Knock about $5 or $10 off the price of each bottle and the value would be much more attractive. I think to some extent you are paying for the name here. However, one could do worse when it comes to boutique California producers, though Justin's production really is above true boutique levels at about 45,000 cases per year. This is definitely a producer where you need to cherry pick exactly what you like given what you'd be paying.


Jeff said...

So random that you posted this today; I pulled a bottle of Justification out last night so that I could have it with dinner/my brother tonight.

Glad you liked the Justification. In a sense, it's a "Justification" for California wine I think. Comparable stuff out of much more expensive.

Cabfrancophile said...

The funny part was my girlfriend liked the Isosceles more while I preferred the Justification. Usually I like the dark, tannic ones more than she does!