Justin Vineyards has the perfect red and white wines for your Memorial Day party and summer barbecues.
Justin Baldwin, one of the pioneers opening a winery in California’s Paso Robles, entered the wine world in 1981 after exiting the banking universe. From Justin Vineyards inception, he made Bordeaux varietals the winery’s essential grapes, and his financial training and entrepreneurial drive had him creating new wines at a racer’s pace.
In 1987, he released Isosceles, a Bordeaux Left Bank blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. In 1991, Justification, a Bordeaux Right Bank blend of merlot and cabernet franc made its debut. And the following year, Obtuse presented itself as a Port-style wine made from cabernet sauvignon.
In the 1990s, I had multiple vintages of Isosceles on my wine list at Sonoma Grill, along with Justin Vineyards cabernet sauvignon, and occasionally its sauvignon blanc. A recent tasting at Manhattan’s jewel-box Tocqueville restaurant reacquainted me with the trio.
We began with the delicious 2011 Justin Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon blanc’s natural crispness and citrus aromas and flavors are its dowry to the marriage of food and wine. And the 2011 Justin Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc bestowed its perfectly balanced citrusy character to Tocqueville’s remarkable lemon risotto with chanterelle mushrooms. You could do the same, or serve it with crab cakes
Until this vintage, a portion of Justin’s sauvignon blanc was aged in barrels. I have always thought California winemakers do a disservice to this classic grape by exposing it to oak, no matter the percentage or time. Justin’s new style is a gift to our palates.
The 2009 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon is the full-bodied California version, but with Bordeaux’s balance of tannins and acidity. Blackberry and mild oak aromas and flavors partnered with Tocqueville’s lightly smoked duck breast scented with Asian spices. This wine will also be perfect with barbecued lamb chops or a grilled steak.
Justin’s 2009 Isosceles is a substantially bigger wine than the 2009 cabernet sauvignon. It’s 94 percent cabernet sauvignon with three percent each of merlot and cabernet franc, and has been aged for two years in French oak barrels- eight months longer than the barrel aging for the 2009 cabernet sauvignon, and with twice the amount of new oak.
From my experience, Isosceles needs a few years of cellar aging for it to integrate its fruit, oak infusion, tannins and acidity. I suggest putting this wine in your cellar until next winter, when it will be a great table mate to your favorite red meat dish.
Two years ago, Baldwin and his wife Deborah sold Justin Vineyards and the estate’s restaurant and inn to Stewart and Lynda Resnick, another entrepreneurial couple. The Baldwins remain the managers, which justifies my confidence in the future of Justin Vineyards.
The Justin Vineyards 2011 Sauvignon Blanc retails for about $15; the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is about $26, and the 2009 Isosceles is about $59.