Sextant Estate Winery
Summary: Off of Highway 46 on the west side of Paso Robles several wineries dot the landscape amidst an ocean of green. The Sextant winery is off the highway at the top of a hill. Visitors will pass many vineyards to the modern winemaking facility with a unique nautical themed tasting room.
The sign post marks the entrance for both Sextant Estate Winery and their neighbor Grey Wolf Cellars. Drive the short distance to a T and turn left to travel to Sextant. The winery facility is located at the top of a hill. The entrance to the modern looking structure is framed by earth toned colored rocks. Through the stones a circular cutout frames the honey colored wood doors leading to the tasting room.
Upon entering, the ceiling over the tasting counter grabs your attention. The ceiling has a cut out wood design with blue back lighting. The blue lighting resembles waves and the lighting creates an illusion of a wave motion. We were greeted immediately and offered a white wine and rosé to taste while waiting for the winemaker and tour.
We learned about the owners, Craig and Nancy Stoller who have deep roots in the wine industry. The Stoller family owns Sunridge Nurseries, founded by Glen Stoller in 1977. Craig is a third generation grape vine grower. Sunridge Nurseries provides grapevine nursery stock for vineyards. Craig is now CEO of Sunridge Nurseries and Nancy works on public relations and marketing for the winery.
In 2001 Craig and Nancy planted vines and opened the Paso Robles tasting room in 2007. Two years later another tasting room was opened to the south in the Edna Valley AVA. In 2011, they acquired the property on Highway 46 and built the estate winery and hospitality center.
Over 450 acres of vineyards are planted in three areas including San Luis Obispo County and Monterey County. The Sextant Vineyards are in the Paso Robles AVA El Pomar District. There are many grape varieties planted in the vineyard including both Bordeaux and Rhone varieties. The MacGregor Vineyards are to the south in the Edna Valley AVA. This vineyard is mostly planted with Chardonnay and a small block of Pinot Noir. To the north is Chalk Knoll Vineyards in the San Lucas AVA. This vineyard has plantings of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Muscat Caneli, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel.
We met Steven Martell, winemaker, who took us on a tour of the winery. Steve received a degree from UC Santa Cruz in Biology and Environmental Studies where he focused on organic viticulture. For awhile, he worked on an organic vineyard in Santa Barbera where he became the cellar rat. While working on the winery side of the business, he discovered that he fell in love with the winemaking part of wine. He returned to the Paso Robles area where he was offered a cellar position and became the winemaker at Sextant in 2010.
Our tour began in the crushed area where we saw some of the newer pieces of equipment including an adjustable mechanical sorter/destemmer used to sort and destem grapes arriving from the vineyards. We then entered a tank room where some of the stainless steel tanks reach three stories tall (29 feet). These slender tall tanks can hold 6,000 gallons. We tasted a Chardonnay from the Central Coast AVA that was in a tank. Fermented and aged in stainless steel the Chardonnay offered apple, tropical fruit and a hint of mineral. In the barrel area we tasted two 2015 Syrahs from a French oak puncheon and an Hungarian oak puncheon. Both Syrahs were dark ruby to dark purple in color. The one in the French oak had plum and pepper notes while the wine in the Hungarian oak had plum and a subtle pepper influence along with baking spices.
Back in the tasting room we enjoyed tasting several Sextant wines. Check out the unique dump bucket that looks like a sea shell. Large glass windows over look the winery areas. Adjacent to the tasting room is the room for wine club members. This room has comfortable seating, a table with chairs and a fireplace. Observe the different coral fossils on display.
The 2014 Albarino San Luis Obispo County AVA was a light yellow color. The wine was both floral and citrusy. The taste reminded me of grapefruit and mineral. The 2015 Rosé Paso Robles AVA was a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Marsanne and Roussanne. The orange with pink hue colored wine had red berry fruits with a crisp fruity finish.
The 2013 Marcelan was an opaque ruby with black hue color. Black fruits and spices were on the aroma. The wine had a soft mouthfeel with notes of juicy berries including raspberries, cassis and blackberries. The wine had medium to bold tannins and was full bodied. The fruity finish yielded to baking spices.
The 2013 Night Watch was a Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Syrah blend. The wine had a dark ruby color. The juicy berries on the aroma and taste were reminiscent of a fruit salad. The wine had bold tannins and a full body. The finish was fruity with baking spices. The 2012 Passage was a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre. The ruby colored wine had blackberry and black raspberry notes and a silky mouthfeel. The wine had bold tannins and a full body with a fruity finish.
Wine enthusiasts will want to add Sextant Estate Winery to their itineraries. This is a friendly pleasant winery to visit. Stand in front of the tasting counter with the ceiling of blue above you for a favorite photo opportunity.
Sextant Estate Winery
2324 West Highway 46
Paso Robles, California 93446
GPS: N35º 34.351’ W120º 44.296’
Article written May 2016
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