Justin Vineyards & Winery
Summary: Visitors to Justin Vineyards & Winery can experience a wine tasting or tour. The campus also has a restaurant and and inn. Look for the iconic wine ISOSCELES and learn why it was called that name.
Justin’s history began with a dream to bring Bordeaux quality wine to the Santa Lucia Mountains in Paso Robles. In 1981, Paso Robles was not on a wine region map. However, this did not deter Justin Baldwin from purchasing 160 acres in the Paso area and crafting wines that could stand up to the French chateaus. The winery’s first release was in 1986, a Cabernet Sauvignon. A year later, Justin released a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Later this blend was named ISOSCELES. The blend grew in popularity through the ensuing decades and was named one of the six best wines in the world by Wine Spectator in 2000.
After checking in to the main tasting room/restaurant building, we were given a gate password for another multi-building facility about a quarter mile away. We drove the short distance to the next complex entrance, and drove a short way past vineyards to the winery and the Isosceles Center. We were instructed to find our guide under a tent covering. There, we joined others on the tour including another couple and a group from Southern California. Jonathan, our guide, welcomed the group and poured a tasting of the first wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé.
Jonathan spoke about the history of Justin and the rosé wine. We then proceeded to the edge of the vineyards. On the short walk to the vineyards, we noticed a sign, “Caution Venomous Snakes in Area.” Later, we learned that there are rattlesnakes in the area and one of the dogs had been bitten several times. The sign helps keep people from wandering through the vineyards.
The vineyards are planted in soils that are composed of limestone. For centuries, water covered the area and marine deposits were built up. The limestone/calcareous soils stress the vines that produce grapes that are very expressive of the variety’s character. The temperatures are often warm to hot during the day and cool off during the late afternoon and evening. These swings in temperatures, often greater than 40º help the grapes retain their acids even as they increase their sugar content.
Justin manages four vineyards: the Founder’s Vineyard, the Vineyard off Adelaide Road, the Vineyard off Creston Road and Debra Vineyard. Surrounding the winery and Isosceles Center there is the 160 acre Founder’s Vineyard. The vineyard is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Over 1,000 acres are managed by Justin combining all their sites. Even with this large acreage, a small amount of fruit is sourced from other vineyards.
Grapes are hand harvested on the terraced vineyards. The vineyard workers follow sustainable practices. Between the vineyard rows there are plantings of barley, legumes and wild grasses. Throughout the vineyards there are owl boxes. The owls control the rodent population by eating an estimated 3,000 rodents.
While at the vineyard’s edge, our group tasted the second wine, a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The tour continued to the crush pad area of the winery. While on the crush pad, our group saw holding tanks and bladder presses. Jonathan spoke about the winemaking process. We tasted our third wine the 2013 JUSTIFICATION.
Our next stop was the Isosceles Center. This building includes a wine club lounge, conference rooms, offices, barrel rooms and caves with room for 3,000 wine barrels. In a barrel area we tasted our fourth wine the 2013 ISOSCELES. The tour moved through the caves. Jonathan stopped to talk about the information on a barrel head including the year the barrel was put into use and the amount of toast applied to the barrel.
In an alcove off a tunnel, Justin Winery has a wine library. This room is ideal for special events. A long table can seat twelve people. Some wine bottles are recessed in niches and highlighted with soft light. Throughout the room there are wood boxes holding wine and wine bottles stacked behind iron gates. In this room our group tasted our next wine the 2012 ISOSCELES Reserve.
Our tour exited the caves and settled in front of the wine club lounge. We tasted the 2013 Savant. After that tasting several people entered into the wine club lounge to purchase wines. This concluded the tour of the vineyards, winery and caves.
During the tour we tasted several wines and a wine after the tour in the lounge. The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé Paso Robles had a light orange color. The juice for the wine had about three hours of skin contact before pressing. The wine offered strawberries and minerals with a crisp refreshing finish. It is a perfect 3P wine (porch, patio and pool).
The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles Is a large production wine with 60,000 cases made. The ruby colored wine was aged in American oak. The wine had a blackberry and baking spices aroma and taste. The wine showcased bold tannins and a full body. This was met with a very fruity finish with just a hint of spices.
The 2013 JUSTIFICATION Paso Robles was a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The dark ruby colored wine offered spices, blackberries and black cherries. The wine had medium to full tannins and a full body. The fruity finish yielded to spices.
The 2013 ISOSCELES Paso Robles is the iconic wine for Justin. Named isosceles after the triangle. The triangle represents the three grapes in the blend: mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. This wine was a dark ruby color offering blackberries and black cherries. It had bold tannins and a full body. The finish was very fruity with a light touch of baking spices. The 2012 ISOSCELES Reserve Paso Robles was also a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, but included a splash of Malbec. The opaque ruby colored wine was reminiscent of blackberries, blueberries and black cherries with bold chewy tannins and a full body. The wine had a very fruity finish that yielded to some minerality on the aftertaste.
SAVANT 2013 Paso Robles was a ruby colored blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Petite Sirah. This wine had hints of plums, blueberries and black cherries. Bold tannins and a full body were accompanied by a fruity finish.
Searching for more tannins, we tasted a 2013 Reserve Tempranillo Paso Robles. This straight varietal wine was a dark ruby color. The initial aroma and taste offered some earthiness followed by plums and blackberries. The wine had very bold tannins and was full bodied. There was a combination of fruit and spice on the aftertaste.
When visiting Justin Vineyard & Winery, consider taking the tour. Tasting along the nicely paced tour added to the ambiance. Justin also has a restaurant and an inn. The vineyard and winery is a wine enthusiast’s destination.
Justin Vineyard and Winery
11680 Chimney Rock Road
Paso Robles, CA 93446
GPS: N35º 39.251 W120º 54.019’
Article written April 2016
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