Welcome to the Broken Earth Winery Blog
This year has thrown out more challenges than anyone expected, and harvest was no exception. The long, cooler spring persisted through flowering, and as a result, reduced the predicted crop levels. This was compensated by the resulting increase in fruit concentration. Summer eventually arrived and remained cooler until a fierce heat waved significantly affected crop levels again and finally, the disastrous wildfires to the north of Paso Robles. We are taking every measure to avoid any impact on wine quality for our own harvest and our thoughts are with everyone effected by these wildfires.
Now, on the bright side, here are my thoughts on the 2020 wines so far. The whites are again very impressive, although riper than usual and with potentially more development early. They are fruit packed with impressive weight and character. I would recommend they not be cellared for extended periods and are made in a ready to drink style. The Fiano, Verdelho and Albarino are sparking the most attention so far.
The crop yields across most of the reds are low and that has resulted in an increase in intensity, mainly with color and fruit concentration. The Tannat is outstanding with the Petite Sirah developing more color than I have previously seen in any wine and with the fruit to match. Tempranillo and Nero d’Avola are both amazing with the initial parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon that have been pressed looking very impressive as well.
Oops, almost forgot the Grenache Rose. Its popularity resulted in an increase in volume and we not only achieved that, but I feel we have elevated the quality even further. In summary, this is a harvest to be excited about as we continue to have more understanding of the new plantings and new varietals. I will keep you updated over the coming months on how they are progressing.
Winemaker, Chris Cameron
Nero d’Avola (pronounced “nair-oh davo-lah”) is a red grape variety originally from Sicily, although it is gaining popularity in other countries particularly because of its suitability to warm, arid climates. As we look to the future, varieties like this will become more significant due to the gradual increase in temperature generally.
I first experienced the variety in 2002 when I was living and working in Sicily as part of a major consortium based in the north of Italy, in the Trentino-Alto Adige region. The name means “the black grape of Avola”, a small coastal town in the south-east of Sicily. We had arranged to purchase some fruit from there and I took the opportunity while visiting the town to meet some of the local producers and discuss styles, growing, fruit handling etc. It became apparent that two clear styles were present. A forward, very robust style with great depth and concentration of fruit, and a more “frivolous” approach with little to no oak and bright, sweet cherry fruit. The latter style being the more significant in volume and slightly lower in price.
The challenge was then to decide how to handle the fruit that we planted on our estate vineyards in Paso Robles. It is certainly warm and dry with the ability to achieve ripeness in many varieties. This meant the more “frivolous” option may be harder to achieve. Our first crop was 2019 and the wine we are releasing has been in bottle for some months already. We chose to package it early to retain the amazing fruit that emerged with only a limited time in neutral oak. I kept looking at this wine and it became obvious we had a winner.
To the wine itself. Nero has the propensity to offer up loads and loads of fruit, ranging from black cherry to black plum with hints of tobacco and licorice. Being the first crop, we were unsure of the depth of concentration we would achieve and opted to allow the fruit to take command. Personally, I love the result and I believe this is a perfect variety for our climate.
You are immediately overwhelmed by the fruit aromas on the nose, with black cherry dominating. The palate is rich and “fleshy”, really mouth-filling and vibrant. While tannins are evident, they sit nicely in the background and support the masses of fruit. I was asked to recommend a food pairing and, to be honest, I am struggling to see what this wine would not compliment. I would add, though, that it will be the perfect partner for Thanksgiving meals. It has the versatility to accompany all that the celebration has to offer. Outside of that occasion, think of Osso Buco, Oxtail soup all the way through to lamb, BBQ and burgers.
The 2019 Broken Earth Limited Release Nero d’Avola has quickly become my “go-to” wine and I predict it will become a fan favorite for many. A “post-it” note on the 2020 version, it has completed fermentation, been pressed off and undergoing malolactic fermentation. The quality is a great follow up to the 2019...
Introducing El Pasado, the first in our new Heritage Series of wine.
El Pasado, meaning "the past" in Spanish has been crafted to honor and continue the legacy of our vineyard, Rancho Tierra Rejada. Originally planted in 1973, our vineyard is one of the oldest commercial vineyards in Paso Robles. The meticulous planning and development it took decades ago is a testament to the foresight of its founders.
El Pasado, in name and form, is represented by the oldest vines on the vineyard, a true expression of terroir. A Cote du Rhone Style Blend of Grenache (44%), Syrah (38%), and Petite Sirah (18%).
"The breath of the breeze
that gives life to the vines
is the same breath
our journey back
after a long day's ride
coming in from the range
on whatever highway we travel
the road that lies in front
is a shadow of the day
and promise to the lay of the land ahead
and every step closer to home becomes a reminder
that the load we carry
on the Earth we toil
to sustain our lives
and provide a legacy for our future
is a welcome burden
shared by friends
where at the end of the day
we are in good hands"
As we draw near to Christmas, the pressure of holiday hosting starts to creep in… Between the Christmas gift list, shopping for meals, and getting your house ready for guests, it can be an overwhelming time of year.
To keep from overwhelming you any further, we’re going to give you three simple tips to help you fill in the gaps in your hosting so that even your grumpy great Aunt leaves saying what a wonderful job you did.
1. Make a comfortable environment.
Most people fret over a clean house, the right temperature, mood lighting, and ambient music. All good things, but too many people forget the simple fact of flow. Make it easy for your guests to know, as soon as they walk in the door, where their shoes and coats can go, where gifts should be set, and where they can find a beverage and snacks, and making sure these are out of the way of any prep still taking place, in case you’re last minute like me...
Creating a good flow in your home is going to put your guests at ease and allow them to enjoy the evening without feeling in the way or pressured to help prepare.
Decorations are, of course, still important too. If you need help with that, check out our Holiday Wreath crafting class on December 13th, in which we also cover some wine pairing tips.
2. Have plenty of food and beverages on hand.
This one is a little more obvious, but it bears reminding – never run the risk of running out, especially on a day when you can’t pop out to the store for anything you’re short on. Stock up with extras and different options in case you encounter a guest with an allergy or palate you weren’t planning on. We currently have some great wine packages in our Holiday Guide if you need any help.
3. Have a pairing plan.
Impress your guests by having a paired dinner. Not only does it highlight your hosting ability, but guiding your guests through different wines for each course will actually enhance the meal itself and leave them impressed with your knowledge and cooking skills.
If you’re not familiar with wine pairing, you can follow our suggested pairing below, or if you have some pairings you’ve loved please share them in the comments!
Starter: Start your guests off with a glass of Viognier around a small cheese plate. With floral notes and medium-plus acidity, Viognier goes along great with apricots, brie, and fondue cheeses.
Main Course: Tannat is a hearty red wine with strong tannins that make it pair beautifully with roasted lamb or duck confit. If you’re not looking at getting fancy for your main course, it also complements beef and sausage dishes seamlessly. Or consider an elegant blended wine like the 2014 Studium, which not only is the bottle gorgeous, but this wine pairs perfectly with beef brisket, vegetable kebobs and bar-b-que.
Dessert: For dessert, break out a Cabernet Sauvignon (our CV Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a great choice) to pair with a dark chocolate and raspberry layered cake. Or go the lesser-known, but still every bit as delicious, pairing route with a hazelnut cheesecake.
Bonus tip: If you aren’t including a gift exchange at your dinner, consider getting a small favor for guests to take home. Everyone loves getting gifts during the holidays and this small gesture will go a long way. What better reminder of how much fun they had at your dinner?
Hoping these tips make your holiday hosting a little smoother! Comment below and let us know how your Holiday Dinner goes!
Director of Hospitality
We are very excited about our new Stephano Ferrara wood-burning oven that is ready to start slinging out pizzas!
Stephano Ferrara is a third-generation pizza craftsman building authentic Neapolitan pizza ovens as passed down through his family. Signore Ferrara’s ovens are considered the benchmark in wood-fired pizza ovens.
Once we installed our pizza oven we began the ten-day process of “curing” the oven. Curing is an important part of getting your pizza oven ready to use. When the oven is first cast there is a high ratio of water to concrete which needs to be slowly baked out of the oven.
We started our fire slowly and increased the temperature each day until we reached 900 degrees; our normal cooking temperature. This ten-day process ensures that all the water is drawn out of the oven slowly so as to eliminate any cracking of the oven.
Now that we’ve gotten up to temperature we are ready to start serving pizzas starting September 2nd!
As our oven is an authentic Neapolitan pizza oven we will be sure to craft some traditional Neapolitan pizzas.
Neapolitan pizza has strict rules and criteria that define what can be a true pizza in the Neapolitan style.
- The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) lays down the rules for Neapolitan pizza. The system is very similar to the DOC Domination of Controlled Origin for the Italian wines. A Pizzaiolo or Pizza Chef are certified by the AVPN in three different levels.
-It must be made with Italian Doppio Zero (double zero) flour- which is the finest grind. It is made from soft wheat that has less elastic gluten that hard wheat flours. This creates a softer, more tender dough, which requires a gentle hand in kneading and shaping.
- Neapolitan pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired pizza oven with temperatures in the range of 900 to 1000 F. This cooks the pizza in approximately 60 to 90 seconds. This extreme heat creates a blistered crust and tender dough within.
- Only San Marzano tomatoes are used for the classic pizzas of Naples according to the AVPN.
While the rules around the pizza are quite strict, Tony Gemignani, a young American Pizzaiolo from San Francisco, shocked the AVPN by winning the coveted Pizza Competition 11 times.
Here are some of the Classic Neapolitan Pizzas
Neapolitan tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, fior di latte mozzarella, and fresh basil.
Similar to the Margherita with the difference of mozzarella di bufula, additional garlic, and possible fire-roasted cherry tomatoes.
Simply with the Neapolitan sauce, roasted garlic and oregano.
Every Pizzaiolo has their specialties, however, these classics are considered the Holy Grail of pizzas of which the world Pizza competition is based.
Our intention is to offer fine true Neapolitan pizzas as well as our own custom creations. These artisan pizzas will make a fine addition to our new tasting room and become an exciting addition to our food and wine pairing!
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.