Justin wine

Likely for most of us, it is a rare opportunity to taste expensive bottles of wine on any given night. But if one is a regular attendee at Tyson Fine Wines and Things’ Thursday evening wine tastings in Anniston, such an opportunity might occur more frequently than expected.

This was the case a couple of weeks back when Don Richwagen, regional sales manager for Justin wines, came to town to pour an array of fine wines by Justin.

Justin Vineyards and Winery was established by Justin Baldwin in 1981 when Baldwin, a former investment and international banker, purchased 160 acres west of Paso Robles, Calif. Growing up in San Francisco, Baldwin was familiar with Napa and Sonoma, but, ever the maverick, he turned to Paso Robles to locate his new winery, where there were only eight wineries at the time.

Paso Robles is located about midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Grapes have grown in this region since 1797, but only in this century has the wine industry flourished. There are now some 40,000 acres under vine in this grape-growing region.

As an international banker, Baldwin’s travels exposed him to the great wines of the world. He was particularly enchanted by the red blended wines from Bordeaux, and felt that the terroir of Paso Robles held potential for making wine that would rival those great wines.

I was introduced to Justin wines more than 25 years ago by a friend who recognized the potential of these wines long before they became the darlings of American wine critics and wine publications. In 2000, Wine Spectator magazine named 1997 Justin Isosceles the sixth best wine in the world. Justin wines have been named to that magazine’s prestigious Top 100 list on three different occasions.

In 2010, Stewart and Linda Resnick came calling on the Baldwins, offering to purchase their winery for an unrefusable amount. The Resnicks own, among other things, Fiji Water, Pom Wonderful, Teleflora and Landmark Vineyards. They also grow walnuts, almonds and pistachios in California.

The property sold for an undisclosed amount. Neither party has commented on the sale price. It was a handshake deal between two extremely wealthy families.

The infusion of cash from the sale made it possible for the winery to increase its current production to an estimated 240,000 cases annually. It has also allowed Justin to concentrate more on their upper-end brands. Justin wines under its new ownership continue to accumulate accolades.

All of the critically acclaimed Justin wines are available at Tyson’s store or by special order. If you want to keep abreast of future tastings at Tyson, follow them on Facebook.

The following wines from a lineup of multiple bottles poured at the tasting were among my favorites:

Landmark Overlook Chardonnay 2016. $17.75. This wine was No. 78 in Wine Spectator’s 2017 top 100 wines of the world. Landmark, a critically acclaimed Sonoma chardonnay producer, was acquired by the Resnick family in 2011.

A lovely harmonious blend of gently handled chardonnay selected from 16 premium vineyard sites in Sonoma. Fruit is hand-picked at night and immediately crushed. The unfiltered juice ferments on naturally occurring native yeasts. The settled wine is then aged 10 months in new and neutral French oak barrels, where it goes through lees stirring and malolactic fermentation.

Gentle handling results in a rich, balanced and layered food-friendly chardonnay.

Justin Cabernet 2016. $21.50. This is the fourth most poured wine by the glass in American fine dining establishments. Though this wine will age well, it is ready to drink upon release. Pleasant first sip leads to harmoniously blended rich, dark fruit flavors. Smooth lingering finish.

Justification 2015. $57.50. A dry, full-bodied, excellent red wine from 52 percent cabernet franc and 48 percent merlot. This wine is an homage to Baldwin’s beloved Right Bank Bordeaux wines, where merlot and cabernet franc dominate.

Isosceles Reserve “Unfiltered” 2012. $143. Undoubtedly the star of the evening. An homage to Left Bank Bordeaux wines where cabernet sauvignon reigns supreme. Perfectly balanced, luscious blended wine from 77 percent cabernet, 12 percent merlot and 11 percent cabernet franc.

Pat Kettles writes about wine and spirits every other Wednesday. Contact her at pkettles@annistonstar.com.

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