Ancient Peaks, a label out of the Paso Robles AVA near the Santa Lucia Mountains, is the buzz in wine ‘zines and it’s cropping up around Metro Detroit. Wine Spectator blessed three of its wines — the 2009 Zinfandel, 2009 Merlot and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon — in the April 30 feature story on “Best of the West for $25 or less.” The wines win out for their quality and reasonable price — which is not cheap but not out in the stratosphere either.
Background: The winery was founded in 2005 by local Paso Robles winegrowers Doug Filipponi, Rob Rossi and Karl Wittstrom and their families. They own the historic Santa Margarita Ranch and its Margarita Vineyard where they grow the wines. The area was first planted to vines by Franciscan missionaries in 1780. The winemaker is Mike Sinor, who has cred at Central Coast wineries. The name Ancient Peaks references the geography. The diverse soils are a mix of ancient sea bed, granite, shale, volcanic rock and sediment. Giant petrified oyster shells occasionally pop out of the soil at the block of vines known as Oyster Ridge.
Availability: Cost Plus at Eastern Market, Detroit; Everyday Wines, Ann Arbor; Simply Wine, Northville. They are poured at Coach Insignia in Detroit and Local Kitchen and Bar, Ferndale.
Ancient Peaks “Renegade” Margarita Vineyard Paso Robles, Calif. 2010, $23: The name Renegade suits this untraditional blend of Syrah, Malbec and Petite Sirah. The owners created this blend in the spirit of the missionaries, gunslingers and outlaws that traversed this rugged terrain since the 18th century. This baby is black as midnight. The nose is a siren of spice, blackberries, smoked bacon and toasted oak. It blasts the palate with cherry, blackberry, dark plum, cocoa and brown cooking spices. Tannins are smooth, and the whole package is permeated with spicy, smoky oak. The Petite Sirah powers this wine. It’s a bold blend that begs for charred meats and strong cheeses. It’s got real muscle — and finesse.
Ancient Peaks Zinfandel Paso Robles, California 2010, $17: This earthy, flinty, minerally Zinfandel reflects its diverse soils in the shadow of the Santa Lucia Mountain range, 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Hot days, cool nights and all that shale, fossils and sediment from the sea bed that once resided there create a Zin with bright, sweet fruit — raspberry, boysenberry, black cherry, cola and spice. Alcohol is a deceptive 15 percent. You sip and savor this expressive wine — pair it with juicy ribs with some fat, or burgers from Creekstone Farms ground chuck. Delicious.
Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles, California 2010, $17: This seventeen-dollar Cab has complexity, a ton of flavor, nice earthiness and overall balance. The nose is black cherries and ripe plums with hints of anise and cocoa. The flavors offer up blackberries, more cocoa, vanilla, tobacco and spice. Tannins are supple. It doesn’t have a jammy, overripe personality — but is more restrained. It’s braced with additions of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Love that subtle sweet bell pepper note from the Cab Franc.
Ancient Peaks Sauvignon Blanc Paso Robles, Calif. 2011, $14: This bold, well-constructed Sauvignon Blanc, which sees no wood, is not for wimpy palates. It’s a complex wine that trumpets grapefruit, lemon zest, tart rose water and mango on the nose; in the mouth, it coats the palate with flavors of melon, pear and pink grapefruit. Bracing acidity and minerality encase the fruit. It’s dry and tart, the perfect wine opposite grilled seafood, roasted chicken or entree salads.