Cardinal

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 2013 winemaker's notes

238 cases produced.   Cabernet Sauvignon.
People have been arguing about terroir since forever.  And my guess is that they will keep at it for a long time.  So here are our two cents: A wine that is expressive of its place is a wine that you can’t imagine could have been grown anywhere else.  Cardinal is that kind of wine.  Every year, it has unique flavors that are its own, and nobody else’s.

Strangely enough, Cardinal’s expression is more a fruit one than a mineral one.  Because when you think of terroir you normally think of a mineral framework.  In the case of Cardinal, the 50-year old Old Bailey Vineyard gives us a purity of fruit that is almost laser-like in the tightness its focus.  Red and dark fruits with notes of blueberries that, if they were light, could travel to the stars.  I don’t distinguish nose and palate because they’re the same thing.  Same continuity without a hiatus.  In the mouth, velvet is the texture that amplifies the fruit flavors into a huge mid-palate.  Tannin is just a secondary accent that allows our Cardinal fruit to ride slowly into the sunset.

Vintage 2013 reviews

Paso strikes again; generous ripe plum and cassis fruit; supple, elegant and showing subtle toasted oak; stylish and very long.
93 points; Tasting Panel Magazine January-February 2017

The 100% Cabernet Sauvignon opaque ruby Cardinal offers rich dense flavors of blackberry, cassis, and plum. It has a lush mouth feel with terrific density of black and red fruit flavors and tremendous persistence on the palate. A beautifully balanced wine with perfect integration of oak, soft round tannins and a long finish. A gorgeous wine reflecting the unique Cabernet flavors of Paso Robles.  Drink it over the next decade.
93 points; International Wine Review  December 2016

The nose has a rich soy and earthy black plum, licorice, blackberry overlaid with notes of spruce.  The palate entry is lean and tightly focused cocoa and warm notes of fresh blackberry and focused, crisp red berry.  Drink 2017 - 2025.
92 points; Purely Domestic Wine Report   March 2017

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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

Dark purple. Explosive aromas of dark berry preserves, vanilla, incense and pipe tobacco, accompanied by a smoky overtone and intense minerality. Pliant and seamless on the palate, offering intense, palate-staining cassis and bitter cherry flavors that are energized by juicy acidity. Becomes weightier and sweeter with air, with no loss of vibrancy. Shows excellent power and focus on the relentless, spice-tinged finish, which features harmonious tannins and a touch of candied rose.  Drink 2018 - 2025.
94 points; Vinous  September 2016

Winemaker Santiago Achaval has made a fabulous 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Cardinal, which is 100% varietal and spent two and a half years in new French oak.  This medium to full-bodied, impeccably balanced beauty offers classic notes of crème de cassis, toasted bread, spice and dried flowers to go with ultra-fine tannin, beautiful purity and a great finish. It's not a heavyweight and stays light and elegant on the palate. It's a beauty to drink over the coming decade or more.  Argentinean Santiago Achaval (of Achaval-Ferrer) is the driving force behind the wines of The Farm Winery, which was created in 2009. These are impressive wines that have classic, elegant characteristics that back it up with plenty of structure and concentration. I came away impressed and these are serious wines.  Drink 2016 - 2031.
93 points; Wine Advocate August 2016

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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; Vinous  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; Wine Advocate 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 201