We walked into this vineyard.  Bud break had barely started.  There were only a few tiny green leaves on each Cabernet plant.  You could tell that the vineyard was on the cusp of death or life.  Some vines were no longer pushing buds.  Still there, but only as a monument of past glories.  The whole vineyard gives off an impression, a vibration, an energy level that only great vineyards do.  Santiago turned around and told Jim, “This place is our reason to make wine in Paso.”

After that, we were never surprised by the greatness of the fruit and the wines.  Continually amazed, but never surprised.  There are vineyards which take their time to reveal who they are, but this vineyard’s greatness was immediately apparent.  Of all the Paso wines we’ve tasted, this is the place where we find more purity, more soil, more place, more bright Westside Paso.

Cardinal is very old-vine Cabernet Sauvignon of classic proportions.  This is a wine beyond outstanding.  This is a wine that goes beyond excellence, into character, interest and emotion.


Vintage 2012 winemaker's notes

270 cases produced.   Cabernet Sauvignon.
I’ve written these tasting notes in one sitting.  We’ve moved from one wine to the other, and we’ve been doing it as you would taste the wine at home: drinking, not spitting!  And these wines are so expressive that they challenge the limits of my writing ability.  But up to now, I’ve been able to keep up with the wines.  Until I tasted 2012 Cardinal.  And then I had to stop.  There is so much going on in this wine that I don’t know where to start.  So I’ll start where this wine does: in the vineyard. Cardinal speaks about its origin.  Cardinal has the character of Old Bailey Vineyard, on Peachy Canyon Road, in the south-east corner of Paso’s Adelaida District.  A few acres planted 52 years ago and today, we believe, the oldest surviving Cabernet in Paso Robles.  A vineyard that’s one of the rare places that have the ability to impart character to both a wine and a winery!

When a wine expresses terroir like Cardinal does, the tasting notes have somehow to transmit that.  It’s not so important that the nose is deep and dense and redolent of ripe fruit, with overtones of vibrant freshness.  It’s important only that the nose is typical of Cardinal.  It’s not so important that the mouth reflects the ripeness of the fruit with interwoven backbone of minerality.  It’s important that the combination of flavors is the descriptor of Cardinal every year.  And 2012 comes with the additional component of ample space.  Space within the flavors is like silences between the notes of great music: silence allows the understanding of the notes. Space allows the understanding of the flavors.  Of the personality.  Of the character, of Old Bailey Vineyard.  Of Cardinal.  Forever.

Vintage 2012 reviews

Made by Santiago Achaval of Argentina’s Achaval-Ferrer.  Lush flavors of sweet plum, cherry and vanilla oak; elegant, refined and delicious with a long, lovely finish.
96 points; Tasting Panel Magazine December 2015

The nose is concentrated, dense and exotic – soy, rich black plum and carbon.  The palate is rich and supple on entry, turning firm in the core, showing nicely textured dry black fruits, finishing with sweet blackberry cobbler.  Well made.  Drink 2015 - 2024.
92 points; purely domestic wine report  December 2015

The purity of fruit to this is exciting, showing that Paso can deliver Cabernet intensity and focus that rivals Napa Valley.  Full body with bright tannins that give form and flavor.  Drink or hold.
92 points; James Suckling October 2015

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Vintage 2010 reviews

Highest rated Cabernet from Paso, by both Stephen Tanzer and Wine Advocate.

Inky ruby.  Blackberry liqueur, licorice, pipe tobacco and mocha on the highly perfumed nose.  Plush, broad and deep but lively as well, offering sappy dark fruit flavors and notes of candied flowers and vanilla.  Bright acidity adds focus and lift to an impressively long, smooth and subtly tannic finish that repeats the floral note.   
93 points; Tanzer's International Wine Cellar November/December 2013

Even more Bordeaux-like and structured, with plenty of cedar, tobacco leaf, spice box, lead pencil shavings and red and black currant aromas and flavors, the 2010 Cardinal is comprised of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Malbec that spent 27 months in new French oak. Rich and full-bodied on the palate, it fills the mouth nicely, yet dries out ever so slightly on the finish. Nevertheless, there’s loads to like here and this concentrated effort should be given another 2-3 years of bottle age, at which point its evolution will be easier to figure out. Even in a worst case scenario, it should have a decade of longevity. Drink now-2020.  
92+ points; WA August 2013

Displays an opaque ruby color and aromas of black currant, cassis, dark chocolate and minerals. It is soft on the attack and focused with ripe red and black fruit flavors, polished tannins, and a velvet texture. It is a beautifully balanced wine, persistent on the finish and thoroughly enjoyable to drink. Sourced from the Old Bailey Vineyard with extremely low yields of 1.4 tons/acre and 13.8° alc.  
93 points; Intermational Wine Review September 2013

Classic black fruit nose with currant and blackberry, herbs, carbon and purple florals. The palate is well-structured black fruit with a moderate acidity on the mid-palate, polished through the finish. Decant for 60 minutes for maximum near term enjoyment. Drink 2014 - 2020 .  
93 points; purely domestic wine report  September 2013

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