Paso Wine Man. Justin was named Wine Enthusiast's American Winery of the Year for 2016. In Santa Barbara winemakers almost joke that if you ask a Paso winery "Which side of the 101 are you on?" you're not asking about the highway, but proof.
Well, like any broad brush, you can't tar everyone that way, at least fairly. And that's no more true than for Jack Creek Cellars, a Paso winery that makes, of all things, Pinot Noir. It helps the estate Kruse Vineyard is only seven miles from the Pacific. "We’re in the Paso Robles Willow Creek District and at that one of the most temperate climates in the region," says Brette Ann Womack, who is in charge of sales and marketing for owners Doug and Sabrina Kruse. "During the growing season we have a much more marine-like climate than what you would typically see in Paso. Our Pinots are similar to what you’d taste in Santa Rita Hills or warmer areas of Monterey County."
Jack Creek is a cautionary tale, however, when it comes to the recent drought years. Focusing on small production (they also make lovely Chardonnay, Grenache, and Syrah), low yield years like 2015 can be worrisome. "We’ve had to close our tasting room and wine club (The Wine Family) because the 2015 harvest offered extremely limited fruit," Womack explains. "So this year, while we’re serving our 2013 and 2014 vintages (some of the best to date) we are wary of 2017 when we’ll have barely any 2015 to serve. It’s too early to tell how the 2016 vintage will turn out, but we have high hopes for a stellar vintage, like the 2013 and 14."
That of course means getting the opportunity to taste their wines Friday at World of Pinot Noir is a special treat. "We only make two Pinots – our Estate and Reserve," Womack says. "The estate is a more traditional Pinot showing beautiful red fruit and earthiness; while the reserve is more robust, pretty big for Pinot Noir, showing darker fruits, rich oak notes, and firm tannins. We’ll also be bringing a few bottles of our 2015 Rosé of Pinot – it’s super limited so this will be a fun thing to sample!"