2003 Cass Winery Paso Robles Syrah

Mission Codename: Pass the Cass

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Revisit Cass Winery in Paso Robles to taste their Syrah.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Cass Winery

Wine Subject: 2003 Paso Robles Syrah

Winemaker: Dan Kleck & Lood Kotze


While Pinot Noir is considered the most influenced by the specific clone, Syrah is not far behind. ENTAV, or L’Etablissement National Technique pour l’Amélioration de la Viticulture, founded in 1962 is the French agency responsible for identifying, preserving and cataloging the various grape varieties with the purpose of commercializing only the best of those varietals. By using Syrah clones identified by ENTAV this wine truly crosses the divide between old-world and new-world style.

Paso Robles, located in California’s southern central coast region in San Luis Obisbo county is well known as one of the earliest regions where vines were grown in California with records indicating grapes have been harvested since the 1790s.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep and dark purple with an almost black inky core. Along the edges the deep color only lightens slightly to become garnet along the very edge of the glass. When swirled, garnet reflections fade to blackness and two distinct layers of legs ring the side of the glass. The lower cluster with narrowly spaced fat legs and the upper with widely spaced fat legs.

Smell – Bold and redolent with ripe and earthy red and black berries including cherry and blackberry. Well developed and distinctive earthy notes of mushroom, soft floral and herbal sage components and white pepper are revealed.

Feel – Rich, plush and full-bodied, this wine starts with a spicy kick of white pepper that softens as it opens. Firm, but fine tannins and balanced acidity carry this smooth textured wine’s rich and concentrated flavors through to the finish.

Taste – Concentrated and bold flavors of fresh, ripe and earthy dark fruit backed by a spicy white pepper kick. Complex notes of toasted oak, leather, tobacco and briary underbrush are revealed as you explore this wine’s lovely flavors.

Finish – The wine finishes long and persistent marked with focused flavors of ripe dark fruit, earth and lingering white pepper spice.

Conclusion – While many of the wine’s from Paso Robles tend to be overly extracted, we are never disappointed with the quality of what we have tasted from Cass Winery. The 2003 Paso Robles Syrah is rich, bold and powerful, but also shows elegance in its complexity that is interlaced with ripe flavorful and juicy fruit.

Mission Report:

Agent Red was able to sit down with Cass Winery’s winemaker, Lood Kotze, for a short interview when we last featured a great Cass wine. Here is a transcript of that conversation:


LOOD KOTZE: Agent Red. Thanks for coming by.

RED: Is it always this hot here in Paso Robles?

LOOD: Not quite always, but, yes, it gets hot here.

RED: What effect does that have on the grapes – and the wines that are made from them?

LOOD: It’s hard to generalize about Paso Robles, but I would say that the wines from here are deeper and more concentrated. They are very rich, intense and strongly flavored. People love Paso wines for their accessibility. I think that wines from here are more universally appealing.

RED: Tell me, Lood, who do you make wines for?

LOOD: I tend to make wines that I personally like to drink. Luckily, that happens to match up with what fans of our wines also like!

RED: Good thing. I think that left to their own devices, some winemakers would end up making wines that only they like! Tell me, what would you say is your winemaking style?

LOOD: Well, I really believe that the terroir give the quality of a wine and the winemaker just maintains the quality. Great wine really begins in great vineyards. Starting with the best fruit, I tend to allow the wine to do its own thing with minimal input.

RED: Do you ever have to tweak a wine at all?

LOOD: Of course, but always in the most subtle ways possible. Really, the vineyard does most of the work, I just take care of the wine throughout the process.

RED: Before I let you go, please tell me what’s going on in the winery right now.

LOOD: Well, the vineyards are looking great, with shoots that are more than a foot long! In the winery, we just finished up with one round of bottling – and so now my focus is on our 2008’s.

RED: And, before you know it, harvest will be here!

LOOD: Don’t say that! We still have the summer and into the fall… but, yeah, before you know it, harvest will be here.

RED: Listen, I love Cass wines. The Rockin’ One is honestly the best Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre blend I have ever tasted.

LOOD: It is a great wine. Most blends of this style are usually reductive and austere. The Rockin’ One is way expressive and very delicious.

RED: It rocks!

LOOD: Indeed!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The approximate location of the Cass Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

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