Irene’s Intro: Epoch Estate Wines is quickly becoming one of the favorite wineries in Paso Robles. I was surprised to find out a couple of friends of mine (other than Dick& Jarlene!), unbeknownst to me, had stopped there and were bowled over by the quality. This was Dick and Jarlene’s first visit to Epoch, and their son-in-law, a professional photographer, took the jaw-dropping photos. Enjoy!
Epoch’s Authenticity, Possibility, Creativity, Sensibility, Ingenuity & Veracity
What’s in a Name?
Based upon my recent visit to Epoch, it is clearly the winemaker’s vision and is fully supported by our tasting of the wines and their profiles. The winemaker, Jordan Fiorentini, is a forward-thinking winemaker and a force who will drive a new process in winemaking. We are talking about concrete. And before you poopoo the thought or have the “been there, done that” attitude, read on.
“I’ve found that, where concrete highlights minerality in the wines, amphora aging imparts a grounding, earthy effect.”
Owned by Liz and Bill Armstrong, Epoch officially began in 2004 with the purchase of the Paderewski Vineyard. In 2008 the Catapult Vineyard was purchased and added to the operation. In 2010, the tasting room and production operation opened in the historic York Mountain Winery location. This is the oldest wine tasting room in the county. The room is really beautiful, and they have retained two of the original walls of the old tasting room.
In July of 2010, Jordan Fiorentini joined Epoch. Previously, Jordan was the Director of Winemaking at Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma County where she made critically acclaimed Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Bordeaux-based blends, and red Rhone varietal wines.
A native of Georgia, Jordan grew up as part of a wine-loving family where she developed a keen interest in wines at a young age. After graduating with an undergraduate liberal arts degree from Dartmouth College, she immersed herself in the world of wine. Jordan holds a Masters degree in Enology and Viticulture from the University of California at Davis where she also worked as a research and teaching assistant for legendary professor Dr. Anne Noble. Prior to Chalk Hill, Jordan worked at famed Antinori winery in Italy and revered Araujo Estate winery in the Napa Valley.
At Epoch Estate Wines in Paso Robles, winemaker Jordan uses clay, concrete, and oak to ferment and age her wines, seeking specific characteristics from each. (She’s married to Manu Fiorentini and actually purchased the first amphora he imported, convincing him that terracotta was a business worth pursuing.)
“I started looking into using concrete first and then amphora, not only for fermentation but also aging of red and white wines,” she says. “I wanted to have a different trick up my sleeve, something other than new and used French oak barrels. Oak is wonderful, but I was looking for another component to express more freshness and minerality in the wines. Concrete definitely allows for that. I’m still experimenting with amphorae. I’ve found that, where concrete highlights minerality in the wines, amphora aging imparts a grounding, earthy effect.”
For Epoch, Fiorentini has dialed in specific uses of each material for different varietals. “Each definitely has its own benefits,” she says. “I like putting our Grenache Blanc in concrete because it has great acidity, and I love bringing out the mineral side of this citrus-flavor-driven variety. We’ve also done Viognier in concrete, which gives some great texture and freshness to a wine that can sometimes be a little heavy. In amphora, I’ve liked our muscly Syrah the best, because it was fun to have a blending component that was soft, round and earthy, not all fruity.
“For me,” she continues, “it’s all about creating serious elements that we can use in blending and giving the wines many different levels of complexity.”
Now you see “What’s in a name.”
The 1000 gal tanks are gorgeous and almost have the look of barrels.
Enough background, let’s get on to the tasting!
We started with the 2017 Rosé, 48% Mourvèdre, 28% Grenache, 24% Syrah
Fermented in stainless steel barrels.
Sweet hay, honey, strawberry, kiwi and pink grapefruit graze the nose and palate with a hint of refreshing sea air and lots of good vibes. This is like a Côtes du Provence with heavier body and structure. We referred to it as a “Porch Pounder” for big kids. The Mourvèdre clearly shines on the palate.
We then moved on to Epoch White, 48% Grenache Blanc, 40% Viognier, 12% Roussanne.
A vibrant blend of Grenache Blanc and Viognier is enhanced with a hint of Roussanne that dances across the palate. There are stunning aromatics of fresh pineapple, green melon, honeysuckle and lemon curd, which are echoed and enhanced on the luxurious, yet crisp and mineral-driven palate.
I am a big fan of Mourvèdre so the 2014 Creativity which was 100% was a real treat.
Fermented in concrete tank Aged ~18 months: 70% new French oak and 30% neutral oak
This is a big wine with rich earthy bass notes are meaty, rooty and foresty at first taste. Notes of lavender perfume, bing cherry, and red plum fruit finish. Clearly, the concrete has had an impact on this wine.
Wine Advocate 94, Jeb Dunnuck 97
2015 Estate Blend
53% Syrah, 26% Mourvèdre, 13% Grenache, 5% Tempranillo, 3% Zinfandel
Fermented in concrete, stainless steel and oak tanks and 1/2-ton French oak puncheons and barrels and puncheons (48% new).
The savory, the floral and the fruity all unite in our five-varietal Estate Blend that speaks to all of Epoch’s wine practices. This focused and seamless expression of the terroir shoots across the palate with notes of raw and smoked meats, black olives, roasted herbs, cherry, cassis, anise, lavender and vanilla dust. A powerful blend that has a long finish. Another example of the impact of the concrete on the profile.
2014 Ingenuity 50% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, 7% Petite Sirah
Fermented in stainless steel and concrete tanks, ½- ton French oak puncheons and 1-ton bins. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels and puncheons (36% new)
A very fruit forward wine with delicious fruit, sweet black licorice, and warm summer brush with a great acid backbone and focused fruit, more grounding attributes of earth, sweet tar, dried sage and briny olives present themselves once your senses grow accustomed to her outward fruity beauty. A typical Rhône blend with body and a long, soft finish.
Wine Advocate 94, Jeb Dunnuck 95
2015 Veracity 47% Grenache, 34% Mourvèdre, 19% Syrah
If you are a fan of Châteauneuf du Pape, this Grenache-based blend embraces its status as a GSM with elegance, panache, and a consistent sunniness. This was another favorite of my tasting experience and highly recommend this at is price considering what a French CDP of equal quality will cost.
Fermented in concrete, stainless steel, and oak tanks and 1⁄2-ton French oak puncheons. Aged 18 months: 28% in concrete tulip and the balance in new French oak (24% new).
Veracity has all of the components of a typical CdP with a clear taste of the balance between concrete and barrel aging in the wine’s rock-licking minerality, gorgeous fresh berry and citrus fruits and fine tannin.
Wine Advocate 97+, Jeb Dunnuck 94-96
A varietal Grenache (and usually 100%), Sensibility explores the more feminine side of the grape. Fermented in concrete and stainless steel tanks and aged in a combination of concrete and neutral French oak barrels, this wine’s pure fruit, freshness, and site-driven minerality cannot be denied. Sensitive indeed!
Aged 18 months: 14% in concrete egg and the balance in neutral French oak puncheons
It is a wonderful, soft on the palate, stand-alone Grenache. Jordan calls it the “Pinot of the Rhône.” Notes of crushed wild strawberries, ginger, jasmine tea, wet rocks, rose petals, orange oil, and fresh Herbes de Provence.
Wine Advocate 96, Jeb Dunnuck 94-96
As one can see the names are indicative of the wine and her use of concrete permeates all of them. Jordan is a winemaker with passion and skills to make Epoch a force with which to be reckoned with a selection of wines that are a “Must Have” for every for every cellar. If you are going to Paso Robles, this is a MUST on your tasting tours.
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