Cass: New Estate-Bottled Rhone Releases

Cass VineyardsCass Vineyards and Winery is a small boutique winery located in the rolling hills of California’s Central Coast. It bottles estate wines made from Rhone varieties. Its 160 acres of vineyards are well situated on the west side of Paso Robles, which benefits from the evening breezes of the Templeton Gap. The vineyard itself is in a low valley surrounded by hills covered in oaks. Owner Steve Cass planted his vineyard in 2001. Vineyard operations are managed by John Crossland, one of the Paso Robles area’s most experienced viticulturalists. Winemaker Dan Kleck helped produce the first vintages of Cass wines, but recently Look Kotze, a young South African winemaker from Stellenbosch has taken over winemaking responsibilities.

Cass Vineyards produces a wide variety of wine, some of which are reviewed here. Steve Cass likes to experiment with different blends and is partial to grapes such as Grenache and Mourvedre which are important components of the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape. Cass wines are well made, fruit forward in character, and well structured for long lasting pleasure. The Viognier and Roussane are fine examples of Rhone whites, and the reds, especially the Syrah, reveal excellent Rhone varietal character with a California imprint. Kotze says this about the Roussane, “The pure varietal Roussanne is made in a new-world style that reflects varietal character. In the making of it I tried to preserve and express the unique Roussanne character, and bottle a wine that is varietal driven, fresh and crisp, best suited for early consumption.”1

As an extra bonus, the Cass Vineyards website features a number of short videos by Steve Cass on viticulture and winemaking.

Cass 2008 Viognier Paso Robles ($24) 89

The 2008 Viognier is aromatic and ripe in style. It displays a medium lemon hue and attractive aromas of white flowers, melon and pear. On the palate it offers a soft attack with a velvety mouth feel and flavors of ripe peach and apricot. On the finish it shows moderate acidity and good length.

Cass 2008 Roussane Paso Robles ($26) 90

The lovely 2008 Roussanne displays a yellow gold color with fresh, ripe melon and white pepper and spice. On the palate it boasts a rich and creamy blend of melon and tropical fruit flavors with good acidity and a long dry finish. Beautiful!

Cass Oasis Rosé CaliforniaCass 2008 Oasis Rosé California ($24) 88

The Oasis Rosé is an attractive bled of 50% Syrah and a 50% blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon and other red grapes. Dark rose in color, it offers aromas of strawberry and dried cherry with a ripe creamy mouth. It is nicely balanced and makes a good food wine for autumn and winter meals including Thanksgiving.

Cass 2006 Cabernet Franc Paso Robles ($42) 89

The 2006 Cabernet Franc is a ripe, fruit forward wine of good varietal character. Medium dark ruby in color, it shows ripe plum and blackberry fruit aromas. The fruit forward and soft attack shows ripe black fruit on the palate with good tannic grip and long finish with herbal undergrowth notes. Made of 100 percent Cabernet Franc.

Cass 2006 Petite Sirah Paso Robles ($36) 88

The Cass Petite Sirah displays an opaque ruby color and is ripe and velvety smooth on the palate. It offers highly extracted black berry fruit flavors on the palate, big tannic grip, and is firm on the finish. Spends 22 months in barrel.

Cass Syrah Paso RoblesCass 2006 Syrah Paso Robles ($36) 90+

The 2006 Cass Syrah is a delicious, fruit forward wine with herbal and underbrush notes that add complexity. Medium dark ruby in color, it shows effusive ripe plum and blackberry fruit aromas. It is fruit forward and soft and ripe on the attack with blackberry fruit and herbal underbrush on the palate. Shows good tannic grip and a long finish. Delicious!

Cass 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles ($42) 88

The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is blended with Merlot and Petite Sirah, is opaque ruby and offers ripe and spicy black fruit on the nose with a touch of toasty oak. It has a soft attack and is lush on the palate, displaying flavors of black currants and cassis. The tannins are ripe and the finish is long.

1 Forgottengrapes.com gives a recent interview with Kodze.

Written by Don Winkler and Mike Potashnik, October 2009