From Bryan Cass himself, “Can’t spell class without Cass”. One of many one-liners and fun references that was shared at a recent dinner at Vin Room West featuring Cass wines.
Cass Vineyards and Winery hasn’t been around long. The project started as a retirement dream of Bryan’s father, Steve Cass and partner Ted Plemmons. After a fishing, golf and wine trip in Paarl, S. Africa, Steve and Ted came home with the idea to start a winery with a winemaker they met on their travels in S. Africa. The duo were in love with the style of wines from the region and wanted to replicate the same passion and focus in California.
The Cass crew turned 160 acres of cattle ranch in Paso Robles (pah-SO ROE-bles) into a vineyard and began producing Rhone styled wines. Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre, Viognier and Roussanne make up the majority of the estate production.
Watch the video below for some more insight of their focus and goals. I will warn you that it should make anyone want to join their party and drink their wines.
This was Bryan’s first trip to Calgary. He was a great host in explaining some of the quirky stories and background behind the winery’s goals and methods as well as their unique qualities.The wines poured at the event were a mixture of new wines to Alberta and some that we should all be familiar with by now.
The evenings’ indulgences started with the 2010 Sparkling Grenache, paired with a Crab and Squash Agnolotti. The vigourous bubbles and fresh acidity make this a fun and easy pairing. The sweet corn emulsion balanced out the tart apples and acidity, while the herbs heightened the fruits and rounded out the zippy character. It is really unique to find a Sparkling Grenache, a fun departure from the typical bubbles.
A Foie Gras Torchon was paired with the 2011 Mouvedre. You will have more luck finding American Mourvedre in Washington than California. Cass is one of only a handful of producers that grow estate Mourvedre and you would be hard-pressed to find it bottled by anyone else as a single varietal. Others in Paso Robles, such as Saxum will blend the grape more commonly with other Rhone varietals. The nose was full and brooding with dark fruit, sage and pink peppercorns, with a briar bush and plum palate. Surprisingly, there was enough acidity to cut through the fois gras, but I wouldn’t suggest the pickled fruit next time (a tad too much brine). Stewed or reduced berries would be better.
Decadence continued with a course of Pork Belly and polenta paired with the 2010 Syrah. One of the better pairings of the evening, this Syrah calls for rich protein, but is elegant enough to be hightened by delicate flavours of herbs in the polenta.
A refreshing and welcomed cleanser of green apple sorbet was served before the main course. An intricately plated lamb loin, with sweet breads and baby vegetables that were served with the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.
A cheese course of aged goat cheese and beet foam was matched with the Rockin’ One Blanc. The Rockin One got its name from a horse, named after a road that intersects near the vines and an old cattlebrand. This was by far the shining star of the night. Richness and structure that carried the acidity and mouth-coating viscosity, coupled with pronounced florals and tropical fruit. This is a wine to be on the look-out for.
Dessert was a buffet of candied fruit, chocolate, praline panna cotta and cashew nougat. Cass’ Syrah Dessert Wine, a fortified Syrah (think Port). From the producer,
“Produced from ultra-ripe Syrah from our estate vineyard, our 2010 Dessert Wine is massive and rich, with flavors and aromatics that remind us all of wintertime in Paso Robles. Warm notes of crushed rose petal, dried raspberry, orange-almond liqueur, potpourri, juniper berry, and cinnamon sticks fill the nose. The sticky palate is full of rich fruit, with caramel-coated raisin, candied orange, warm brown spice, and grated chili chocolate flavors on a backbone of well structured tannins that carry through on an endless (and we mean endless) finish.”