Chasing Windmills

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Tor’s Note

Grenache and Syrah have been our windmills for a few decades. We’ve traveled all over California in search of gold like argonauts of old. Or a better image, like Don Quixote, we’ve suited up, jumped on our steads, set our eyesights to the horizon and charged. Our search almost ended in 2017, until we met another adventurer who has chased windmills full tilt, no let up. This brave man is Connor McMahon, who planted his Rhone varieties garden, Fulldraw Vineyard, in the dinosaur dust rolling hills of West Paso.


Located on the west side of Paso Robles, the Fulldraw vineyard is a 100-acre site in the Templeton Gap. When Connor McMahon planted his vineyard, he understood that the site, with its unique soil and cooling maritime influences, would be a place where the Rhone varietals would thrive. The soil is very high in limestone (Lopez-Calodo) and deep. This is a rare soil type and Grenache and Syrah thrive here. The Grenache Clone is 136, and planted on a 420A rootstock. It is north facing, sloped 20 degrees, and drains like a sieve. The Syrah Clone is Alban on 1103P from blocks 10A and 9D. Block 10A is a north faced slope pitched at about 35 degrees, so very steep. This helps with almost no water retention so the vines struggle, giving off powerful fruit. Block 9D is an east faced slope that is gradual and stays out of a lot of direct sunlight. This allows for extended hang time and very complex flavors, which brings subtle, but impactful, changes to blends.


The final blend we found best is a classic composition: 76% Grenache and 24% Syrah. The Syrah was aged in 40% new French oak Francois Freres, Seguin and Ermitage barrels for 16 months. The Grenache was fermented whole cluster to coach the freshness of the grape and aged in mostly neutral french oak cooperages, again to bring out the freshness of this special grape variety, cherished by both Jeff and Tor.

“The nose on the 2021 Chasing Windmills is all macerated and crushed black fruits, with blackberries and elderberry. On the palate it is medium weight with great balance, smooth round tannins and completely integrated acids. Its long tailing finish of roasted, smoked meats and clove round out its complexity. A wine to enjoy over the next 5-10 years or so, with any kind of red meats or tomato based sauces.”

—Jeff Ames