Bottled up: Paso Robles region has much to offer

Bottled up: Paso Robles region has much to offer


As wine enthusiasts, we have the opportunity to “visit” regions all across the globe, many with profound and thousand-year histories dating back to the ancients. What I find equally as interesting are the new-world regions who rise to prominence in a span of a couple hundred years and whose rapid ascension is marked by individuals reigning in the untamed, and grappling with a landscape that for much of the Earth’s existence had never seen the growth of grape vines. 

Paso Robles seems to epitomize this spirit and its rugged climb to current standing wine culture almost celebrates this bucking of tradition and makes it ever so more attractive all the while. Much of California’s wine history including Paso Robles is tied to Spanish Missions in the late 1700’s where grapes were grown for sacrament wines but the West was also home to visionaries, those that wanted to make a new name for themselves and discover what was undiscovered in the Wild West. 

Located on top of two major mineral hot springs, the Iron Spring and Sand Spring, the Paso Robles area became a major spot of attraction for visitors and in 1868 earned the title of the “California’s oldest watering place.” In 1882, the first commercial winery was established and over the next 100 years the region continued to flourish and develop into the 1960’s as California’s wine makers began to take the industry by storm. In 1983, the region of Paso Robles was officially recognized as an American Viticultural Area; a huge step forward for a region of grape growers. The region is now broken into 11 sub-AVA’s further establishing the area as a region of note. 

Bridling this adventurous spirit, I decided to try something new, finding a new label and offering it an unbiased review — difficult due to my love of wines from this region. A newer production, Iron & Sand Wines based out of Paso Robles takes two of these sub-AVA’s to create its first bottling, 2017 Iron + Sand Cabernet Sauvignon (retail $29). Taking Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from San Miguel in the north and El Pomar Sub AVA in the center of the region, the winemakers age the wine in neutral French oak which imparts subtle oak flavors, and allows the grapes to shine with fruit-forward qualities and offer a refreshing brightness that one doesn’t often see with Southern California reds. 

As you smell the wine, aromas of Blackberry, cherry, and just ripe plum, mixes with faint spices and leather. Tasting the wine, many of the aromas come through to the palate but also combined with an element stewed berries mix and a very prominent bell pepper and olive flavors. This wine is highly acidic, and high in alcohol and yet it hasn’t quite developed the complexity of flavor that comes with cellaring. I press on to say it’s on the verge of being unbalanced. If purchased now, I would recommend cellaring for another 3-5 years for maximum enjoyment. As this wine ages you’ll find that the bright tart fruit flavors will begin to subside and additional nuances will begin to be featured. 

With Cabernet, it’s always important to match intensity of flavor and alcohol levels to avoid food seeming washed out. Look for foods with higher fat contents to bind with the tannin structures in the wine, bold fruit qualities warrant bold flavor profiles and the spice and tannin are perfect pairings with grilled meats. Pairing the 2017 Iron + Sand, I recommend finding something with bright acidity to match the intensity of fruit flavors in the wine, grilled ribeye with herbaceous Chimichurri sauce, wild mushroom risotto with Italian Taleggio cheese, or even a medium rare burger with caramelized onions and arugula. 

The region of Paso Robles has so much to offer and delivers wines that channel the spirit of the untamed West. I applaud the winemakers on this first bottling of Iron + Sand Cabernet Sauvignon yet challenge them to continue to derive additional complexity and balance with each future bottle and the wine will definitely see a bright future. 

Have you tried this wine? What do you think? Email me at with your review.

Carson Bodnarek, a self-proclaimed “cork dork”, is a certificate recipient from the Court of Master Sommeliers, WSET Level II and is currently studying for his certified sommelier exam. Always on the hunt for his next great bottle of wine for his collection, he is an avid jetsetter and devout foodie. After moving to Quad-Cities from Iowa City in 2013, Carson now resides in Bettendorf.

Contact Carson Bodnarek at 563-383-2299 or


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Carson Bodnarek, a self-proclaimed “cork dork”, is a certificate recipient from the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently studying for h…

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