When you can say that a winery makes a lot of great wine at terrific prices, well, that’s a magical thing.
This week I discovered such a winery—Four Vines, founded in 1996. In the words of one of its owners, "This is one of the largest wineries in Paso Robles you’ve never heard of."
Though Four Vines isn't exactly new, this was the first time the winery had submitted wines for review, and tasting them was a real treat.
Four Vines' concept was to tap old-vine Zinfandel from Amador, Napa, Paso Robles and Sonoma—an idea that gave way to a much wider range of wines and styles. Wine drinkers benefit from these diverse and economical options.
Christian Tietge, who is the winemaker, founded Four Vines and partnered with his wife, Susan Mahler, an earth sciences major with a passion for vines, and Bill Grant. Grant, a childhood friend of Tietge's and a successful businessman, oversees the winery business.
The wines I tried in a blind tasting were big and ripe, expressive yet well-balanced. While Zinfandel remains a favorite, the winery has moved toward varietal blends, and has one wine, a $14 stainless steel fermented, non-oaked Chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley, called “Naked Chardonnay,” that is the cash cow, with 30,000 cases.
Another 28,000 cases of wine make up the rest of the lineup and the names they use for the wines—Anarchy, The Heretic and The Peasant—reflect a playful, cutting-edge irreverence. These are wines made by people with a commitment to excellence and value, and they seem to have fun doing it.
Here are a few of my favorites. Full reviews will be available soon.
The 2004 Four Vines Amador County Bailey Vineyard ($24, 421 cases) is the best Syrah I can recall from this Sierra Foothills appellation. It’s rich and flashy, packed with berry, pepper and spice flavors.
The 2004 Phoenix Paso Robles ($40, 98 cases) is a Rhône-inspired blend that combines power with finesse, offering a mix of cherry, rhubarb, tar, spice and earth flavors.
The 2004 Anarchy Paso Robles ($30, 900 cases) is another exuberant Rhône blend, exhibiting tiers of black cherry, blackberry, spice and a hint of cherry-rhubarb pie.
At $15, the 2004 Syrah Paso Robles (293 cases) is a great value. Firm, intense and complex, with earthy rhubarb, wild berry, sage, spice and cedar notes, turning elegant on the finish.
The Peasant Glenrose Vineyard Paso Robles 2004 ($30, 636 cases) is also fruit-driven, with layers of fleshy blackberry, cherry and boysenberry fruit. Intense and lively.
The Heretic Petite Sirah Paso Robles 2004 ($30, 885 cases) shows this grape at its best. Delightfully rich and deep, ripe and fleshy, with a complex mix of currant, wild berry and blackberry fruit that's sharply focused. For all its size, it's lively and vibrant.
These are truly exciting wines at excellent prices. Hard to beat that.