French Chateaux that Influenced Justin - Part 2
As we celebrate the twenty fifth anniversary of ISOSCELES, I have taken some time to reflect back on experiences that lead me to Paso Robles and to the creation of our propriety blends. In this second blog post, I’ll share three Chateaux that shaped the creation of JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery.
CHATEAU PRIEURE – LICHINE
In 1951, a well-known and respected American wine writer named Alexis Lichine bought this famous property for $16,000. I was curious to see what you got for that little money for a winery and vineyard in the middle of Margaux back in the 1950s. I was even more curious to meet the man himself. He was everything I had heard about him (witty, knowledgeable with a bigger than life personality). We had a wonderful talk in which to my surprise he related to me his knowledge of Paso Robles extolling its virtues and potential to produce Bordeaux style wines. His encouragement of my pursuit of my Paso Robles dream was pivotal in my commitment to leave banking and follow my passion for making wine. His decision to buy a lesser known property located in what was then a secondary area sealed my allegiance to Paso Robles – but by then you couldn't touch anything even in Paso Robles for $16,000!
CHATEAU CHEVAL BLANC
This king of St. Emilion fascinated me for its use of combining cabernet franc with merlot and its total absence of the use of cabernet sauvignon. I had the good fortune of trying this wine numerous times when I worked in a London merchant bank thanks to our Managing Director's fondness of its charms and being invited to almost daily "business" lunches as the only American on staff. I knew I would produce a cabernet sauvignon dominate based Bordeaux blend which ultimately would be named ISOSCELES. I also planned to release cabernet franc and merlot as single varieties. Cheval Blanc's style influenced me to consider making a second blended Bordeaux combining cabernet franc and merlot. After a few years of bottling and selling cabernet franc and merlot as single varieties, my visit to Chateau Chevel Blanc ultimately influenced the creation of JUSTIFICATION.
In the mid 70's the scion of the controlling family of this esteemed estate, Jean Michel Cazes, took control of his family's second growth property and ushered in reforms not adopted by his friends until many years later. Fermenting in stainless steel tanks was almost heresy to his Bordeaux neighbors, but common place in the nascent California wine world. Jean Michel was one of the first to employ this game changing technique. I wanted to see first-hand the impact of his use of stainless steel in controling fermentation temperatures in lieu of cement or wood tanks. I toyed with returning to fermenting in wood or cement tanks, but my visit with him quickly dissuaded me. Now we use a more refined version of cement tank fermentation, but then the cement tank technology of today did not exist.
His pioneering also led him to initiate production of what is, for my money, the finest white Bordeaux produced – Blanc de Lynch-Bages. JUSTIN’s Sauvignon Blanc evokes qualities of his white Bordeaux even though Blanc de Lynch-Bages is a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes. When we started production of JUSTIN’s Sauvignon Blanc you can bet my desire was to emulate as close as possible Jean Michel Cazes white wine! Fortunately, our limestone soils produced a wine that mimicked a combination of both grape varietals even though we only grow sauvignon blanc. My life went full circle when in 2001 I was inducted into the prestigious Bon Temps of Medoc Society by none other than the then President that ancient order - Jean Michel Cazes!
Photos credit - Wikipedia. License, and Decanter.com