Welcome to the Broken Earth blog page.
An important focus here at Broken Earth Winery is education; educating the general public as well as furthering our own education within the wine industry, there is always more to learn! Every month we like to dive deep into a technical tasting with our staff to broaden our horizons and continue to expand the wine knowledge we have to share with our customers. This month we decided to focus on the wine varietal, Vermentino. For this particular tasting, we went through four vintages of Broken Earth Vermentino, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, as well as analyzed some guest Vermentinos from other Paso Robles Wineries (Tablas Creek, Robert Hall, Vina Robles), and an imported Vermentino from Sardinia, Italy, one of the main growing regions of Vermentino.
While some might argue that Vermentino comes from a Spanish origin, the best-known examples come from specific areas of Italy, and those areas have more or less adopted Vermentino and made it a more well-known varietal than it would have been otherwise. It is grown mainly on the island of Corsica, but can also be found in Liguria of Northern Italy and the island of Sardinia, while in Cotes de Provence and Languedoc the grape varietal is growing in popularity and goes by the name Rolle. This particular white varietal thrives in the dry, hot climate, ripens later in the season, and is drought tolerant making this thin-skinned white grape perfect for growing on the east side of Paso Robles!
Our resident research guru, Richard Provensen, gave a presentation to our staff covering the history of Vermentino and the growing regions it is known for as well as guided us through the tasting. He also prepared a special food pairing for our tasting; a perfect pairing and an unpairing. The perfect pairing for Vermentino was homemade tuna salad, made with homemade mayonnaise, a dash of lemon, topped with parsley, served on a French baguette. It brought out the bright and crisp citrus notes without overpowering the wine; it worked well and improved almost every Vermentino in our tasting! The unpairing was peppered pastrami; it was intended to showcase what flavor profile does NOT work with Vermentino. It was difficult to taste through all the wines paired with the pastrami, the pepper was too strong and the meatiness of the pastrami flattened out the Vermentino making them feel lackluster. It was an eye-opening experience to compare how food can help enhance wine and how it can hinder your taste buds when it comes to experiencing wine. Richard is an important part of our team that loves to discuss the intricacies of wine for anyone who is interested, stop by our tasting room during the weekdays and you might be able to catch him and have a nice long chat about your favorite wine and learn about the history behind it!
The resounding favorite of the team had to be the 2018 Broken Earth Vermentino, which is always comforting when everyone enjoys the brand they work for the best! With a super floral and bright nose reminiscent of the Asian Lychee fruit, it immediately stood out from the bunch as the most aromatic. The mouthfeel was tingly and tart, leaving a refreshing crisp flavor of lemon, green apple, and minerality. The finish left the palate wanting more! Our wine club members will be the first to try the 2018 Vermentino most likely towards the end of 2019.
The best part about this tasting was that every single Vermentino was drastically different from the rest, not just vintage to vintage but one Vermentino from Broken Earth and another from Vina Robles, both in the same vintage and grown fairly close together on the east side, were completely different in terms of style. The only true way to do a comparison like this is to taste side by side to really appreciate what an artform winemaking can be. Probably the most interesting comparison was the imported Vermentino from Sardinia, Italy compared with all the Vermentino from Paso Robles. The mouthfeel of the import had more creaminess, appeared more golden in color, had more fruit and sweetness to it, but finished bone dry. It is also interesting to mention all of the wines had a screw top finish except for Robert Hall and the Italian Import, and that Tablas Creek is the only Paso Robles winery growing their Vermentino on the west side, whereas all the rest of the Vermentino’s come specifically from the east side. The team had a blast exploring this vertical flight and are eager to get as much educational experience as possible to share their knowledge with our customers. Stop in today and ask our staff about our Vermentino vertical tasting and peruse the rest of our wine flight!
Welcome to our brand-new tasting room.
If you’ve visited us, you’ve probably met me. I’m Maury, the Tasting Room Manager and I would like tell you a little bit about it.
At the heart of our new tasting room, we wanted to focus on three things: the aesthetics, the customer experience and wine education.
First the aesthetics. As soon as you walk in you’ll probably notice, aside from the vast size, the mix of industrial materials and the oak wood throughout the space. Some have dubbed it “industrial chic”, but whatever you call it, our intent was to utilize the space’s environment to highlight the history of the vineyard, winemaking, and the originality of the Paso Robles area.
The design also calls out to the streamlined, sleek feel we’ve been cultivating in our clean wines and our vision toward the future of winemaking. In a space so grand, we knew we had to do something special overhead, which is where our chandelier comes in. Spanning 30 feet with over 130 lights, it was made by Wine Country Craftsman, as were all our other light fixtures, tables, and bar modules.
Next, and most important, is the customer experience. When planning out how to use the space, customer comfort was forefront in our minds. From my years of building homes, and the entire team’s penchant for going wine tasting, we had a good vision of how to make this space inviting and comfortable for wine tasters.
Our bar is designed as an ‘infinity bar’. Also made from the same mix of steel and oak used in the furniture throughout our tasting room, each piece is mobile and can be rearranged and reconnected to create any shape and size that we want to accommodate the needs of our facility.
Our lounge areas, both inside and the front patio, feature large couches and chairs to give customers a place to feel comfortable to spend time sipping wine and enjoying the company of their friends.
Lastly is our focus on wine education. We have always believed that wine should be approachable, regardless of where your level of knowledge is. All of our staff have different levels of knowledge and we continue to learn more every day. We are happy to simply pour and let you enjoy the wine, or to dive a little deeper and talk about the varietals and processes each vintage and varietal has gone through. And we encourage questions.
Around our tasting room, we have samples of our Paso Robles soil in place to see the differences we have at our vineyard and how that affects the wine, or our southern wall, which displays visually the stratification of the soil in our vineyard. We also have our conference room, which is wallpapered with a panoramic view of our Estrella district vineyard and used for wine education seminars, meetings, and parties.
So whether your aim is to learn more about wine, or simply just enjoy a nice glass of it, we would love to meet you. We’re open seven days a week, and we stay open late - because we know that people enjoy wine after five o’clock. When you come in, be sure to find me and say hi! Cheers!
Tasting Room Hours
Sunday – Thursday | 11am – 7pm
Friday – Saturday | 10am – 9pm
We’re pleased to welcome two new wines to our collection – La Belle, a lightly sweet Muscatel and La Bête, a beast of a Tannat.
The La Bête is a surprisingly rich and fruity 2015 Tannat and the La Belle is an award-winning 2017 Muscatel, perfect for summer. They’re a classic fairytale, now with a Californian twist!
La Belle emphasizes all things lovely about the Muscatel varietal that we have adored, and have unfortunately forgotten about over the years. This Muscatel, known by the more common name of Muscat, offers insight of what can be achieved when this grape is produced in a new style. More simply put – this is not your grandma’s Muscat. With that said, we invite you on this journey of rediscovery.
When La Belle is popped and poured, the Lily of the Valley florals and deeply aromatic esters erupt out of the glass with the most delicate of force. A graceful summer porch sipper, it acts as a foil to those beastly reds so commonly found in Paso Robles and throughout California.
This is a wine that can fly solo, but with its acidity and off-dry approachability can stand up to many a cuisine. This wine stands up to spice and sour dishes, such as Korean barbecue or various curries. Any variation of a farmer’s market fresh summer dish will work as a hassle-free pairing as well.
La Belle has already won the hearts of Californians and took home the Gold award in the Central Coast Wine Competition. La Belle’s label received Gold for the Packaging-Design portion of the Los Angeles International Wine Competition.
As our winemaker puts it, La Bête is a beast of a wine. This one-hundred- percent Tannat does not hold back, and neither should you. A bold, rich varietal that is making a name for itself in California is native to Uruguay; it is the dominant grape grown in the Basque region bordering Spain and France.
The history alone peeks great interest, but it is the Tannat’s expansive depth that will keep you on the hunt for more. A deep mulberry color comes from the thick skins of the grape, which also creates a gripping tannin structure on the palate. Mulberry and other dark berry flavors are mirrored in the flavor profile, with each sip becoming more intense. This is an unapologetically delicious wine, containing a perceived sweetness and ever giving fruit.
Le Bête has a generous structure that pairs impeccably with multiple foods. Staying true to its Basque roots, paella is a rather traditional pairing, especially when the socarrat is perfectly browned. For a perfect wine and cheese pairing, try Roquefort or other richer blues. This is also an excellent game day wine to pair with any type of smoked or barbecued meats. And for an extra bit of luxury, use some of the wine in your favorite barbecue sauce recipe to bring the flavor to the next level. We hope you are ready to walk on the wild side. The beast has been released!
We are pleased to announce that the sparkling wine program at Broken Earth Winery has arrived! These wines have been whispered about for a very long time among those in the know and we are happy to finally introduce the sparkling wine program to our ever-growing portfolio. Both wines, (yes, there is more than one) a sparkling Grenache Rosé and sparkling Merlot were both produced in the traditional méthode Champenoise, or traditional method style.
The name itself, Sotto Voce, translated from Italian means literally means “under the voice” or “whisper”. The name Sotto Voce was inspired by the “proper” way to open a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine. According to traditionalists, and winemaker Chris Cameron, that subtle ‘fssssszzz’ sound when opening a bottle should be no louder than a whisper, or to be a little more pithy, never louder than a fair maiden’s sigh.
The love of champagne and sparkling wine runs deep in Chris’s blood. With time spent at Seppelt in Australia, they were one of the first producers to make a sparkling Shiraz. Chris even worked a stint in the region of Champagne itself. These experiences taught him that the most important part of sparkling wine production is the base wine: the still wine used during primary fermentation. The base wines used for these sparkling wines were Grenache produced in a Rosé style, and Merlot fermented on skins to achieve a deep red color and richer texture. What makes the sparkling Merlot even more interesting is that it spent minimal time on oak, so the pure essence of the fruit shines through.
Once the base wines were complete, we sent the wines over to our good friends at Rack and Riddle to complete the méthode Champenoise process. They are a great partner to work with and their services include everything from tirage to dosage. Making a base wine into sparkling wine is quite a process; for more detail on how this happens, click here. But for now, we will focus on one key process: secondary fermentation. This is when the still wine is bottled and more yeast is added, thus creating CO2 which is trapped inside the bottle carbonating the wine.
After a little more time and patience, the final step of the process is dosage: the addition of an Exposition liqueur to top off the bottles. The liqueur comes in various degrees of sweetness, therefore tasting trials are done to ensure the wines are properly balanced.
Understanding that this is not the quickest of processes, we are very happy to have taken on this task, knowing something very unique and special lay ahead. Both these wines come across as incredibly gracious in their own way. With the sparkling Grenache Rosé, it expresses a vivacious explosion of strawberries, bubbles, and texture that allows a person to understand the passion that goes into the making of a sparkling wine. The sparkling Merlot contains cherry, licorice, and red currant characteristics: it is a wine that lingers on the palate and stays in the mind even longer. These wines, Chris admits, are something he made for himself, but lucky for us he is willing to share…and break his own rules.
One necessity for a winemaker and the serious wine lover alike is a thirst for knowledge as well as wine. Study of the subject can become a lifelong obsession. The creation of our newest release comes from just that idea, Studium (ˈstjuːdɪəm), which, translated from Latin literally means “House of Learning”, is a proprietary red blend that was designed to teach and inspire.
Traditionally, the wines produced at Broken Earth Winery come across as light, fruit forward, and approachable upon release; Winemaker Chris Cameron wanted to contradict that style and produce a wine that is different from what people have come to expect. This style of winemaking also aligns with the more powerful style of wine typically found in Paso Robles, and hence Studium was born.
The Bordeaux dominant blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot is intensified with a Paso twist of Petite Sirah. After a cool vinification to extract color and maintain elegance, each component of this wine was aged separately and peacefully in new oak before the endless barrage of barrel tastings and blending trials began.
The oak selection is a vital part of the winemaking process, with much care and thought going into what kind of oak to use. Aromas from oak aging are an integral part of the wine. There is a myriad of oak selections out there, spanning from the origin, species, forest, and age. Then add in a choice of the barrel production process: drying, shaving, and toasting. For the Studium wine, aging was done in a mixture of French and American new barriques, sourced from Leroi Tonnellerie and Seguin Moreau. The French oak comes from the Tronçais forest in France. Some of these hybrid barriques were used with American oak staves and French oak heads, medium toasted and air dried for 36 months.
The most impressive lots of the 2014 vintage were then chosen for the final blend and placed into new French and American oak for the remainder of élevage, for more aging and flavor development. This calculates out to two-hundred percent (we promise this is not a typo) new oak and two-and-a-half years in barrel before bottling in April of 2017.
We recommend decanting, (take advantage of this week’s Thirsty Thursday offer to secure a free crystal decanter with a 10% off 2-pack of Studuim). Once the cork is popped, take a moment to swirl this wine a few times and admire its ripe raspberry red color scheme. Each sip is an indulgence of the palate that provides a bolt of savory red fruits and fleshy tannins that cling to the roof of your mouth and won’t let go. There is nothing shy about this wine, as it shows the true depth and complexity our estate vineyard can give, exuding the confidence of a beauty queen and subtly of a linebacker.
The packaging of the bottle is also something to be admired, there is a luminescent gold silkscreen printing on the glassware. The bottle is called “Byblos” and is from Saverglass. The screen printing was done by local business, Peltier Glassworks. We have worked with Adam at Peltier Glassworks on a number of projects over the years and love supporting other local businesses. Every bottle is then hand dipped in wax for an elegant finish. This wine will continue to give over time, so be sure to hold a few back in your cellar.
We hope you will enjoy this wine for many years to come while journeying through the arts of wine learning, teaching, and inspiration.
Hear our Winemaker give a quick insight into his thoughts on the 2014 Studium, click below.
We were very fortunate to once again be able to host our Holiday Lighting Extravaganza and Charity Drive this year on Saturday, November 25th. The goal of this event was to raise money for the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation (PRYAF). Every member of the Broken Earth Winery team put in boundless effort and made this event a success, allowing the spirit of the season to shine. From the hospitality team baking multitudes of cookies, to the production team spending a week putting up the light displays totaling over 10,000 bulbs, to our Event Coordinator Michelle Kraker working incessantly to ensure the Extravaganza was executed to perfection; each department played a roll.
When the planning started back in September, harvest was on everyone's mind, but our Winemaker, Chris Cameron had a vision for the upcoming festivities: “very few wineries really take the opportunity to involve families, children in particular. During this special time of year, we should involve all the kids.” The first item on the list was finding a charity. There are so many amazing charities to support year round, but since the approaching holidays focus on the spirit and joy of children, the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation was a perfect fit.
The Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation was founded in 2001. According to Founder Donna Berg the charity “is a non-profit, youth services organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of area youth with free classes in the visual and performing arts, in a safe and nurturing environment. The organization strives to promote self-reliance, enhance self-esteem and instill a sense of wholeness in local youth.” With this in mind, we knew how important it was to make this event a triumph.
As always, the holidays snuck up on us faster than we could blink. With Santa scheduled to visit for the night, the lights aglow, and our Thanksgiving meals consumed, it was time for the big show! The night's festivities also included a hot chocolate bar, caroling by the The Central Coast Gilbert and Sullivan Chorus, and copious family visits with Santa. By the end of the night, wine was imbibed by adults and many forms of sugar consumed by children, leading to the full embrace of holiday spirit.
All was to be considered a success, especially the charity donation raised for the PRYAF. The total proceeds raised from the suggested entrance fee was $1,500, with the donation presented to Mindy Dierks, Executive Director and Emily Jagger, Director of Development of PRYAF on Monday, December 4th.
We intend to make this event a holiday tradition that will continually bring joy to all. Until then, we say Happy Holidays from all of us at Broken Earth Winery.
We invite everyone to come enjoy the lights this December. They will be twinkling away on Highway 46 East.
In the spirit of giving, if you would like to donate to the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation, please CLICK HERE.
We are almost at the one month mark since the first pick of harvest 2017, and it has been a compelling ride thus far! We have a great crew working in the cellar, which includes our two interns, Bailey and Michael, who came all the way from West Virginia and Michigan to make wine here in Paso Robles.
With a very rainy winter and spring (many thanks, mother nature) and a rather average growing-season temperature, harvest was delayed for about a week. The first fruit brought in was Verdelho, picked on August 29th. The first day of harvest is always filled with anticipation and excitement. An early morning sunrise, the first roar on the press, and the traditional first sip of juice off the press allows everyone to cheerfully reflect on what it means to make wine. Unfortunately, this moment is fleeting and the reality of the long road ahead sets in.
The second week of harvest brought with it one of the most extreme heat spikes the Paso Robles area has ever seen this time of year. This brought up the sugar levels of the grapes rather dramatically and created a picking frenzy for the whites. As of September 10th, all the white grapes had been picked and pressed. As the second week of harvest came to an end, Vermentino, Albariño, Grenache Blanc, and various other white varietals had been brought in, along with Merlot and Tempranillo.
Grenache Blanc was one of the last whites picked and our winemaker Chris had something special in mind for the Tempranillo. For the first time at Broken Earth Winery, Chris planned to ferment the Tempranillo in macro bins instead of in a tank. Macro bins are square plastic bins that can hold up to one ton of weight; they are also used and known as picking bins. Although more labor intensive, this form of fermentation allows for a more concentrated and complex wine. Punch downs of the grapes are then done three times a day to stimulate fermentation and extract color from the skins. Keep an eye out for this special release wine in the coming years!
Our cellar is now filled with the luscious scent of fermentation; think fresh rain on a spring day. And since the heat spike, the weather pendulum has swung the other way, with daily temperatures cooler than normal. This is quite a relief for our grapes, winemaker, and cellar crew. Although the later ripening fruit is currently hanging on the vine, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in the cellar, including pump overs, pressing juice off the skins of the red fruit, and measuring the progress of fermentation.
Harvest has hit a lull, but it will not last for long. We are expecting more fruit this last week of September. See you on the crush pad!
We have been focusing on the practice of sustainability at both our winery and estate vineyard quite intently the past couple years and want to share one of the projects that has been implemented, SWEEP (State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program). On a recent trip to our estate vineyard, our Designer and Brand Coordinator Kate Hauber and I met up with Vineyard Manager Oliver Matthews, to discuss the updates Broken Earth Winery has made by implementing SWEEP, which is a grant distributed by the California state government.
First off, the SWEEP grant program was created by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to provide financial incentive for California agriculture operations to administer more sustainable agriculture practices. The grant requires investing in updated irrigation systems, which reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) and conserves water, tackling two environmental issues as once. The application process is very competitive and needs to include a detailed plan on how the grant will be spent to better the overall environment. We were fortunate enough to be awarded the grant for both 2015 and 2017, allowing for modern updates to the vineyard, which was originally developed in 1973.
While touring the vineyard, Oliver explained how the 2015 grant was used and what was planned for 2017. Our first stop focused on the newly installed weather stations and soil probes to track soil moisture, mildew percentage, and temperature. These two separate mechanisms work hand-in-hand via satellite.
There were three soil probes installed throughout the vineyard. The probes, which act as an irrigation monitoring system, go five feet into the ground, containing sensors at every six-inch point along the way. Data collected from the probe can then be used to better understand the optimal time to water. According to Oliver, “the sensors allow us to track irrigation in a more efficient manner and get our thumb down on what the vines really need”, thus reducing excessive use of water and reduced labor costs.
With help from the weather stations, water is also conserved during the first phases of bud break, one of the most suspenseful times during the growing season. The biggest threat during this time is frost, therefore much of the vineyard is equipped with sprinklers that need to be turned on when temperatures dip below freezing. There are two weather stations throughout our 2,500 acre property, with more coming online soon. Before these were installed, we were dependent on other stations located close to the property, which meant the temperature data was not as accurate. This led to potential overuse of water, but with precise temperature data from the vineyard, we can better know when to best use the frost protection system, which again ultimately conserves water and energy. Oliver also appreciates the more accurate temperature readings because it may save him a few early 3a.m. trips out to the vineyard.
A lesser-known threat to vines during the growing season is powdery mildew. To better understand how to manage this fungus, the weather stations also have a mildew calculator that measures moisture in the air as well as high and low pressure systems. With higher air moisture and lower pressure, the chance of powdery mildew growing on the vine’s leaves is much higher, therefore a fungicide may need to be sprayed. Precise data readings allows us to better understand when spraying is needed and reduces the number of sprays overall. Spraying against powdery mildew accurately and less often reduces tractor passes, which reduces fuel usage and allows for less soil compaction. Soil compaction reduces pore spacing in the soil, leading to less water absorption, a slow down of aeration, and can stunt the growth of roots. These are just a few reasons as to how using weather stations and soil probes can reduce water usage and GHG.
Since we were also fortunate enough to earn a grant for 2017, our next stop at the vineyard took us to a west facing hill that will be the future home of solar panels. The goal of this project is to make our irrigation system completely energy independent. With hundreds of acres planted over the past year, our irrigation system needs more clean power to run efficiently which is why this project integrates with our sustainability goals. This project will begin over the summer and we hope to have the panels functioning by early next year.
The inspiration behind the SWEEP grant was to get California through the drought and introduce new farming technologies to farmers across the state. For Broken Earth Winery, this grant has given us the opportunity to implement many new technologies for a greater purpose. In conjunction with the SWEEP grant, we hope to continue our mission of sustainability for the betterment of both our local and global environment, as well as our customers, so we can all enjoy sustainably grown wine.
Photo Credit: Kate Hauber
We have recently renewed the tradition of holding monthly staff wine tastings here at Broken Earth Winey. This gives us the opportunity to come together, learn about wine, and of course have a little fun.
This past week we started anew by blind tasting rosés from around the world. Rosés traditionally contain the freshest juice from the most current vintage. Therefore, this tasting gave us a hint of what the 2016 vintage was like from a global perspective.
The tasting was hosted by our Lab Manager Melanie, who chose twelve wines to pour, breaking them down into four themed flights that covered regions from the southern hemisphere, Spain, France, and Paso Robles. Each wine showed its own unique personality, differing by location and choice of production process.
The color range on the rosés covered every shade of pink to peach, a collection of brilliant hues that would make Barbie envious. The old world wines leaned more toward ballet slipper pink, where as the new world sections tended to have deeper peach and bubble gum tones. Every rosé was refreshing in its own way, many of them exhibiting common characteristics such as strawberries, watermelon, and minerality. Some uncommon notes picked up in a few were mustard seed and yellow bell pepper. All these observations compared together by everyone is what makes tasting so fun and educational.
Everyone in attendance had a wine they enjoyed most, but the Spanish flight came out as the crowd favorite.
We are happy to report that all the rosés delivered and definitely put us in a summertime mood. And, to complete the evening, nature gave us a rosé sunset to enjoy. #yeswayrosé
Please see below for a reference of the wines that were tasted in the order they were poured.
2016 Waterkloof Circumstance "Cape Coral" Mourvèdre Rosé Stellenbosch
2016 Susana Balbo “Signature” Malbec Rosé Mendoza
2016 Twr (Te Whare Ra) Pinot Noir Rosé Marlborough
2015 S.C. Pannell "Arido" Rosé Adelaide Hills
2016 Ostatu Rosado Rioja
2016 Borsao Rosé
2016 Domaines Ott "By.Ott" Côtes De Provence Rosé
2016 Chateau De Campuget '1753' Rosé Costeries De Nimes
2016 Cote Des Roses Rosé
2016 Conundrum Rosé
2016 Broken Earth Winery Grenache Rosé
2016 Halter Reanch Rosé
Photo Credit: Kate Hauber and Annie Bowsky
We have experienced a truly amazing winter here in Paso Robles. There has been enough rain to get most of the state out of the drought and we have received a total of 12.2 inches of rain at our estate vineyard.
This bounty of rain has led to shades of green wherever you look. The vineyard is fresh with a thick cover crop, wild grasses, and of course bud break – the time of year we get a hint of what the coming harvest will look like.
On a recent trek through the estate, we were able to see for ourselves where bud break had already occurred and which varietals were still holding out. The Chardonnay blocks are the furthest along, followed by the Syrah and Albariño. The Cabernet blocks have sprouted a few buds, but are a little further behind. We also have many new plantings that are still in grow-tubes. Although they will bud this year, we will not be using the fruit for at least two to three more years.
When asked about the upcoming growing season, winemaker Chris Camron said, “I am excited about the consistency of bud break throughout the vineyard and I look forward to seeing what this vintage has to give”. The idea that every vintage is different is what keeps the wine making process exciting.
We invite you to join us on the journey of this growing season by following our blog or connecting with us on social media.
Photo Credit: Kate Hauber and Annie Bowsky