The first thing that ever comes to mind when considering JUSTIN is why one always seems to see it written like that, in all-caps: J-U-S-T-I-N. That’s so loud and unnecessary. This place is JUSTI-fiably famous in Paso and elsewhere. The lettering is too in your face for my taste.
The next thing that I always think of is that my good friends, Whitney, and his father, Ken, are both members of the wine club here. That’s excellent both because these are generous friends who have let us try aged JUSTIN wines on more than one occasion, and since it let some of the weirdcombos go tasting in the exclusive members-only tasting room over the Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival weekend. What a double-treat!
JUSTIN (this is the last time for me in all-caps) specializes in Bordeaux blends of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. Their flagship wine, Isosceles, is a blend of the three (hence the stylish name). According to William Ausmus, Deborah and Justin Baldwin purchased the land in the early Eighties and by the Nineties, their Isosceles was winning awards worldwide. The Baldwin story seems like an elegant fairytale, though of course, this isn’t fiction.
Whit was telling us that the winery etc. had recently been sold to a larger corporation but the Baldwins retain the opulent mansion on the property and continue to have a prominent role in the function of the place, sort of like what happened with Stag’s Leap in Napa. I don’t know the details beyond this report. If you know more, please write in and educate us.
For the wine tourist, this is a must-see destination. The Cadillac of Paso Robles wineries, Justin has everything: gorgeous tasting rooms, wine cellars and caves, an inn, a high-end restaurant, stunning scenery, you name it. We had such a great time on our visit. This is at the fancy end of the winery spectrum, so watch your credit cards, drive safely and have fun!
Triangles feature prominently in the décor, which I thought was cool bordering on Disneyland-ish. The members tasting room was buzzing on our visit. It has a massive fireplace, super-high ceilings with intricately carved decorations, access to the caves, and lots of interesting wines to try. The mob of members made things a little bit slow, but in a good way, since we were on vacation and had plenty of time.
We tried everything on the tasting menu, some of them a couple times each. I splurged and bought a magnum of the 2008 SAVANT (yup, all caps again) on Whitney’s membership, so I saved. I have seen Isosceles, Justification and some of these others in wine shops and on restaurant wine lists in San Francisco. Ausmes writes “Justin wines quite possibly enjoy the widest distribution of all Paso Robles wines” so perhaps you can look for these yourselves in your own backyard, though a visit here is a grand idea.
2009 Reserve Chardonnay: This transparent pale yellow was loaded with Bosch pear, floral notes, mineral, green apple with a creamy, full texture.
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon: Opaque red stuffed with dried herbs, red berries, vanilla and toast, it opened beautifully to reveal more red and black fruit, earth and spice with supple tannins.
2008 Zinfandel: Opaque purple with red highlights, this had caramel and dried herbs, blueberries, currants and pepper. Rich and full, with supple tannins, two thumbs up.
2008 JUSTIFICATION: a merlot and cabernet franc blend. Translucent purplish red. We noted fire, cedar, eucalyptus, herbs, currants, caramel, toffee, and red berries. Lots of chewy tannins.
2008 SAVANT: a syrah, cabernet sauvignon blend. Opaque purple, with tobacco, tar, leather, chocolate, red fruit, raspberry, blackberry; this one had a velvety texture that went on and on.
2008 ISOSCELES: This is the classic blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cab franc and a could there really be petite verdot this vintage? Translucent red to purple, this had mossy, wet tree bark aromas. Full, smooth like cashmere, with a very long finish, it was rich in red fruit with some backbone.