Thursday, May 24, 2012

Final Stop of the California Coast Tour: Pomar Junction Vineyards – Templeton, California

My final winery in my four-day California Coast Winery tour after visiting August Ridge was Pomar Junction Vineyards and Winery. I visited the previous winery because it had a unique Italian wine portfolio but I chose this one because it has a reputation of making really BIG and delicious Bordeaux varietal wines.

Pomar Junction is owned by Dana and Marsha Merrill and it is a family operated winery. The family’s agricultural heritage goes back at least eight generations and after nearly 30 years of growing grapes for many of the finest wineries in California, ranging from ultra premium small producers to the largest international brands, the Merrill’s decided to produce their own wines. Dana and Marsha along with their son Matthew grow Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier in their agriculturally sustainable vineyard. In addition to the family estate vineyards, they also source premium grapes from Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties that are selected from vineyards managed by a sister firm, Mesa Vineyard Management, Inc. All of the estate wines are produced from grapes farmed by the Merrills who oversee the entire process from vine to wine; including planting, pruning, harvesting, fermenting, bottling and cellaring. This “hands on” approach ensures a uniform dedication to sustainability, which led their recent Certification to the Sustainability In Practice (SIP) program within the Central Coast Vineyard Team.

Pomar Junction’s historical roots in Templeton go back to at the turn of the century, when the El Pomar District was known for almond and fruit orchards, along with a few wine grapes. The Southern Pacific Railroad reached Templeton with its coastal lines and built the town. Marsha Merrill’s grandfather, George Gregg, was a longtime Southern Pacific Engineer. To honor that heritage, the Pomar Junction Vineyards and Winery has a train junction theme, and visitors can explore the caboose, boxcar and antique farm equipment on the property as well as enjoy the picnic areas and panoramic views. 

To add to that heritage, Dana Merrill was the first San Luis Obispo County Chair of the California Association of Wine Grape Growers, a charter member of the pioneering vineyard Sustainability group, the Central Coast Vineyard Team and is a past two term Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

The Pomar Junction vineyard and tasting room are located at the “junction” of El Pomar and South El Pomar Drives, in the El Pomar District of the Paso Robles viticultural appellation. The tasting room is located in a restored 1920’s vintage farmhouse with the original and restored knotty pine and red oak hardwood floors. While visiting I tasted the following wines:

My first sample was the 2010 Viognier. This wine displays on the nose a classic Viognier profile of white flowers followed by tropical notes of pineapple, coconut, bananas… and on the palate it is crisp and has a medium length finish. This is a really nice wine for $25, but I had already picked up a few Viogniers and white Rhone blends.

My next wine was the 2011 Syrah Rosé. This wine is light pink in color, with fruity aromas of watermelon, strawberries, cranberries and a hint of spice. On the palate it seems off-dry (semi-sweet) and yet it has refreshing acidity. I have a large stock of Pinot Rosés and Cab/Merlot Rosés that I am saving for this summer, otherwise this one would be a good one to pickup to enjoy on hot days for only $18 a bottle.

The third pour and first red was the 2010 Brooster Red Blend, a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel. This wine is medium intensity ruby red in color, on the nose it displays canned cranberry sauce (like the kind you eat at Thanksgiving), blueberries, and a hint of suede. On the palate it has ample weight and body, noticeable but refined tannins and crisp acidity followed by a medium length finish. A nice wine and a good alternative every-day drinking wine to go with dinner. This wine sells for $18 a bottle.

The following red wine was the 2009 Pinot Noir. This wine is DARK and on the nose it has subtle notes of strawberry preserves, plums, earth, licorice, pepper and a hint of spice. On the palate it is full-bodied and somewhat lacking in acidity and yet has a medium length finish of pepper and spice. This wine seems like it has 15-20% Syrah blended in it but I cannot confirm this from the web page. This wine sells for $34 a bottle and I’d say, “pass.”

My fifth wine was the 2008 PJ Estate Merlot. This is a HUGE dark Merlot, with intensely expressive aromas of cherry pie, blackberry pie, cassis and spice. On the palate it is full-bodied, seemingly semi-sweet (though it is dry) and has great complexity. For some people this wine might seem over the top, but I really enjoyed it and brought a bottle home for $28.

My final wine was the 2008 PJ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is really big made from very ripe hand-picked, estate-grown grapes that were not picked until late October, nearly a month later than a typical Eastside Paso Robles vineyard. Yet on the nose it does NOT have dried fruit characteristics (prune, raisins, dates) that one might expect nor is the alcohol (15.2%) out of balance. This wine is very dark and on the nose it exudes cassis, blackberries, black cherries, dark chocolate, brown sugar and vanilla. On the palate it is big, round, seemingly semi-sweet and very delicious. It is like drinking chocolate cake with cherry filling. This isn’t a wine for wine-snobs but for just enjoying with barbequed meat with a brown sugar spice rub or just as a stand-alone wine. It is sort of a guilty pleasure wine, the kind that wine-snobs enjoy but won’t admit it to their friends. I brought a bottle of this home for $34.

This was my final stop in my 2012 spring tour of California Coast wineries. I wanted to visit a third winery but it was already 2 p.m. and I wanted to be back home in the San Francisco Bay Area by 5 p.m. But I’ve got plans to make a trek out to Lodi so stay tuned for my next California Wine Tasting Adventure!

To visit or for more information:

Pomar Junction Vineyards and Winery
5036 South El Pomar
Templeton, CA 93465
Phone: 1-805-238-9944