J.Lohr Vineyards & Wines
Suggested Retail: $26.99
“What’s a proprietary wine?” you might ask. That’s a fair question. Really, it’s whatever the winery wants it to be.
“At one time wineries in America labeled their products with European place names that might have sounded familiar to the consumer. California wines incorporated names like Chianti, Burgundy and Rhine. They may have been serviceable beverages, but they didn’t bear much resemblance to the wines these famed growing regions actually produced. The harvest of any grape variety could be used to fill such bottles. As the market evolved, consumers became more sophisticated and realized that, while the product of any crushed fruit could ferment and provide the basis for wine, some options would produce a better taste. A Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc grape, for instance, would yield better flavor than a Thompson Seedless grape.
“Wineries in this country began to use higher quality grapes and let the consumer know about that by putting the names of those grape varieties on their labels. To justify using the name of a particular grape variety, by law a bottle of wine must now contain at least 75% of that grape. This seems a reasonable policy, but what if a winemaker wants to produce a wine that contains less than that 75% standard? He might even figure that he could deliver a superior taste in such a blend. What would you call it? Enter the proprietary name.
“This week’s Wine Pick, the 2007 Pure Paso, is such a proprietary wine. It’s from J.Lohr, a name that may be the most significant in the history of wine on California’s Central Coast. The first wine Jerry Lohr bottled was a 1974 Petite Sirah. In more recent years, the J.Lohr operation has expanded its presence in the Paso Robles area of San Luis Obispo County. The area has a long history of growing wine grapes and has become ever more known for the quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet in this blend (70.5%) comes from part of the 2100 acres J.Lohr grows in Paso Robles and the Petite Sirah (26.5%) is sourced from their 115-acres of that variety in the same growing region. Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec, albeit in minor amounts, are also included in the blend. It’s been our experience with Cabernet blends that included Syrah or Petite Sirah, that the latter varieties tended to overwhelm the character of the former. We didn’t find this the case with Pure Paso, however. No doubt the wine would have tasted different if it were just a mélange of Cabernet Sauvignon and the three other red grapes native to Bordeaux, but the primary components of Cabernet and Petite Sirah are harmonious in this combination. The wine is big and rich, but not overpowering. We found dark red fruit qualities reminiscent of blackberries and Santa Rosa plums and liked the textural aspects (plush and velvety). “
Food Affinity: “We believe you can’t go too far wrong pairing any red wine with any red meat. However, we can probably dial things in a bit finer than that. As we write this the temperature is on its way up to 81 degrees—fine barbecuing weather. We can see pouring Pure Paso with a thick patty of good quality ground sirloin, encircled by a strip of bacon and grilled over mesquite charcoal to medium-rare. On the other hand, we are on the cusp of fall and this wine would go nicely with braised dishes such as osso buco.