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Sanctuary West Side Red Blend 2011
Blend: 90% Syrah, 6% Grenache, 4% Petite Sirah
He is a member of a storied group of winemakers that began changing the face of California wine in the 1970s. He graduated from California State University at Fresno with a master’s degree in oenology and food science, then went on to gain more experience as a winemaker. As his experience grew, some of his wines became favorites throughout America. The portfolio under his care continued to expand, and he began crafting special-reserve wines that were known only to a few.
Dennis appreciated the old-world focus of single-vineyard wines and true expressions of the terroir they represented. He also knew which vineyards were special, producing outstanding fruit, vintage after vintage. Given the chance to showcase what he had found over the previous three decades, the decision was easy, and Sanctuary wines came to life.
Working hand in hand with longtime colleague, friend and collaborator Christian LeSommer, who had tended the grapes at Chateau La Tour for more than a dozen years, for the initial offerings of Sanctuary, Martin identified grower partners who shared a special affinity for the land they farmed and the wines that were created from these unique vineyards.
On a mountaintop in Mendocino, Dennis found promise in a Zinfandel that was as distinctive as the Mariah Vineyard perched high above the clouds. From the famed Rutherford dust of Napa came a Cabernet Sauvignon from the historic Usibelli Vineyard, which has been for many years a source of great wines. And along the cool coastal range in Santa Barbara, a Pinot Noir that was born out of a 20-year partnership with the Miller family at Bien Nacido.
Paso Robles has made a name for itself as a source of supple, powerful, fruit-driven wines wines. But with eleven smaller sub-AVAs, there is actually quite a bit of diversity to be found in this inland portion of California’s Central Coast.
Just east over the Santa Lucia Mountains from the chilly Pacific Ocean, lie the coolest in the region: Adelaida, Templeton Gap and (Paso Robles) Willow Creek Districts, as well as York Mountain AVA and Santa Margarita Ranch. These all experience more ocean fog, wind and precipitation compared to the rest of the Paso sub-appellations. The San Miguel, (Paso Robles) Estrella, (Paso Robles) Geneso, (Paso Robles) Highlands, El Pomar and Creston Districts, along with San Juan Creek, are the hotter, more western appellations of the greater Paso Robles AVA.
This is mostly red wine country, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel standing out as the star performers. Other popular varieties include Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Grenache and Rhône blends, both red and white. There is a fairly uniform tendency here towards wines that are unapologetically bold and opulently fruit-driven, albeit with a surprising amount of acidity thanks to the region’s chilly nighttime temperatures.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.