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The wines of Mat Garretson, Paso Robles, California

Mat Garretson, who started out as a wine retailer in Atlanta, traces his epiphany as a winemaker to a bottle of Condrieu he was given as a birthday present back in 1982. Determined to follow his dream, he relocated to Paso Robles in California’s Central Coast region in 1993, and now makes 14–20 different wines a year, all from Rhône varieties, in small volumes of 100–800 cases each. Altogether production is typically 12 000 cases.

As well as making wines, Garretson is actively involved in proselytizing for the cause of Rhône varieties. In 1991 he formed the Viognier Guild, and this has since mushroomed into an organization called the Hospices de Rhône, which hosts an annual event in Paso Robles that brings together Rhône nuts from around the world. The three-day bash sees lots of eating, tasting and drinking, and is the biggest of its kind.

So, to the wines. It would be fair to say that Mat Garretson’s wines aren’t shy. Indeed, these are big wines, made from very mature grapes which were presumably picked quite late. The result is abundant flavour, and in some cases rather high alcohol levels—but in the context of these wines it seems to work. I like them a lot. The whites are particularly striking.

UK agent is Playford Ros, and typical retail prices range from about £13 for the ‘G’ wines, to £20 for the Grenache and Syrahs.

Garretson G-White 2004 Paso Robles, California
A blend of Viognier and Rousanne, this is pretty far out, but I really like it. Deep coloured, it has a rich peach and apricot nose with some spice. The palate is soft, fat and full with lovely weight and texture. Delicious. 91/100

Garretson G-White 2005 Paso Robles, California
Very intense nose is rich, nutty and shows perfumed apricot and pear fruit. Viscous, characterful palate showing smooth ripe fruit with a bit of spice on the finish. Lovely in this very rich style (the alcohol level is sensible at 13%). 92/100

Garretson ‘The Limoid Cior’ Rousanne 2004 Paso Robles, California
Deep gold colour. Unusual sweet perfumed nose. The palate is rich and viscous with nutty, herby, spicy notes and apricot and mandarin notes, along with hints of tea. This is a really striking, rather extreme wine that I like a lot. 15/1% alcohol. 93/100

Garretson ‘The Saothar’ 2005 Paso Robles, California
A varietal Viognier, this has an open, aromatic nose of sweet herbs, nuts and peach. It’s quite savoury. The palate is thick textured, showing sweet, rich fruit. Distinctive stuff. 90/100

Garretson ‘The Celeidh’ Rosé 2005 Paso Robles, California
Red colour, which is kind of dark for a rosé. There’s a nice spicy edge to the sweet strawberry fruit here. Soft, lush, low acid style that’s quite forward. Unusual but nice. 89/100

Garretson G-Red 2003 Paso Robles, California
Rich, smooth, sweet nose of dark, spicy fruits. The palate is smooth and a bit earthy with concentrated red and black fruits. There’s a bit of minerality on the finish. 91/100

Garretson ‘The Spainnéach’ Grenache 2004 Paso Robles, California
Smooth, sweet, liqueur-like nose of red fruits. The palate is soft textured and dense with lovely smooth, sweet red fruits and nice tannic structure. Remarkable stuff that’s almost over-the-top, but incredibly friendly and likeable. 16.2% alcohol. 93/100

Garretson ‘The Aisling’ Syrah 2003 Paso Robles, California
Ripe, sweet, dark nose, with a bit of tar. Dense, soft, spicy and concentrated on the palate. This is a delicious forward style of red wine. 92/100

Garretson ‘The Craic’ Syrah 2004 Paso Robles, California
Sweet, pure liqueur-like dark fruits on the nose, leading to a palate of smooth, soft, dense fruit. Soft textured with an appealing spiciness. Finishes almost salty. 15.4% alcohol. 92/100

Wines tasted February and November 2007 

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