Anthony Yount makes wine in Paso Robles. His day job is with Denner Vineyards, but since 2008 he has also made wines under his own label, Kinero Cellars, as well as a single red from his own property, Royal Nonesuch Farm.
Paso Robles is a Californian wine region, roughly equidistant between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s tucked behind the Santa Lucia coastal mountain range which runs down from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, and this hot region would be even hotter if it weren’t for a gap in this range – the Templeton Gap – which allows cooling Pacific air in to offset some of the summer highs.
Notably, Paso Robles is the only major wine region in California with limestone soils. It also has the largest diurnal temperature swings of any wine region worldwide, apparently. ‘Highs of 105 F are not rare,’ says Yount, ‘and night temperature might be 55 F. We are able to get any grape variety ripe. I work with 22 grape varieties, most of them with Denner.’ Yount says that because of the limestone soils, acidity is maintained because the limestone soils bind up some potassium. (Potassium raises pH in the wine.) And also the cool night temperatures have a role as they slow down the respiration of acid by the vine in the last stages of ripening.
Kinero Cellars Alice Grenache Blanc 2018 Paso Robles, California
Grenache Blanc is a high acid and low sugar ripener in Paso Robles. Yount works with two different vineyards. One is in Willow Creek, which starts in the Templeton Gap and close to the Pacific, and its also one of the two that has the highest limestone content. The second vineyard is in the Templeton Gap AVA, which is the coolest of the sub regions, and this has heavy clay/alluvial soils with just a bit of limestone. Both blocks were picked in October at 12.5% alcohol, fermented and aged in concrete, then bottles. Both vineyards are farmed organically. This is taut and quite focused, with good acidity, but there’s flavour, too. Lemony with a touch of spice, and a nice acid line. Has some richer pear skin and white peach notes. Nice focused, linear style that could age well. 92/100
Kinero Cellars Talley Chardonnay 2017 Arroyo Grande, California
This is from Rosemary’s Vineyard at Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande. ‘Paso is too hot for Chardonnay,’ says Yount. It’s on the west end of the mountain range, on a small pocket of limestone. Planted in the 1980s. Looking for pH 3.15-3.2, 21-22 Brix. Direct pressed to barrel, 20% new. Allier wood from Cadus (Louis Jadot’s cooperage). Wild ferment which takes forever, often finishing the following July. This is ripe but balanced: there’s some real concentration and some spicy oak, with nuts, a touch of honey, and rich pear and peach fruit. Almond and fennel notes here, with a lovely texture. There’s nice depth to this Chardonnay, which is in a ripe style but has balance and a lot of personality. 91/100
Kinero Cellars Rustler Roussanne 2017 Paso Robles, California
This was a very hot vintage with the three hottest days every recorded in September, reaching 117 C (47.2 C). ‘It was brutally hot and the grapes weren’t quite ready,’ says Yount. Then there was an inch of rain (rare at this time) which freshnened things up. There was some botrytis. This wine is from the James Berry vineyard planted in 1982 by ‘Pebble’ Smith, a veterinarian who got bitten by the wine bug. His son owns Saxum winery. Whole cluster pressed with a bit of skin contact (1 day, in the press, tumbled a couple of times). Yount uses exclusively Hungarian oak from Kadar in Tokaji (they have Taransaud as a partner), which gives dense oak with less oxygen exposure, and also gives a savoury character. Picked at pH 3.4/3.5. Yount says he’s looking for savoury, brothy components, covered by a bit of tropical fruit. This is powerful and quite rich with nuts and spice on the nose, as well as some honey and peach. There’s a savoury edge to the palate which is broad and textural with some cedar spice notes and a touch of porcini mushroom, finishing with some apricot. Distinctive and quite delicious. 93/100
Royal Nonesuch Farm 2017 York Mountain, California
The Yount’s purchased 25 acres in the York Mountain AVA in 2011, a steep property at 1400-1800 ft elevation with three different exposures. This is not part of Paso Robles, and it’s a small AVA with just 70 acres of vines. We wanted to make a singular wine from this site – one wine. There are 7 acres in production. Mainly Grenache with Syrah and Graciano, and a bit of Clairette Blanche. ‘We do a lot of coferments,’ says Yount. Fermented in concrete and foudre, with 35% whole cluster ferments (he does either whole cluster or destemmed, then presses off the whole clusters and blends with the destemmed wine still on its skins). This is powerful and yet nicely focused with ripe blackberry and cherry fruit, but also some raspberry freshness. There’s concentration here, with sweet berry fruits, and I like the way it straddles the red and black fruit spectrum here, with a spicy, slightly tarry finish. Serious stuff with good ageing potential. 94/100
UK agent: Tiger Vines