Back in July I was invited to take part in a live virtual wine tasting, hosted by Justin Baldwin of Justin Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles, California. As a special treat, pro football legend Jerry Rice was on hand to offer his take on the wines. The combination of great wine and celebrity made it nearly impossible for me to contain my enthusiasm.
During the one-hour session, those in attendance were treated to a tasting of three newly released Justin wines, the 2019 Rosé, 2017 Reserve Tempranillo and the outstanding 2017 Isosceles red blend. Baldwin and Rice made solid recommendations as to what foods they felt paired best with each wine. In addition, participants were given the opportunity to pose questions and comments to both men, who graciously addressed each one.
Virtual tastings have become a rather novel idea, thus allowing wine lovers from around the country and the world to participate in wine tastings from their favorite wineries. The concept has proved to be very effective as a marketing tool, especially since the onset of COVID-19. I must admit it’s pretty cool listening to noted winemakers talking about their wines while you sit back enjoying a glass from the comfort of your own home.
Founded in 1981, Justin Vineyards is known for crafting world-class wines using Bordeaux grape varieties. The iconic Isosceles red blend is a highly regarded wine that has garnered praise from one vintage to another. Much of the fruit for this wine is sourced from vineyard sites within Paso Robles, a region where ripe, plush grapes with intense flavor are commonplace.
It was great listening to the affable Rice, who spent most of his career with the San Francisco 49ers and is considered one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history. Focusing on wine rather than 250-pound defensemen who wanted nothing more than to take him down must be quite a relief.
Rice seemed quite impressed with the Justin Rosé, a bottle of which he had chilling in a bucket of ice. His easygoing manner and laid-back approach to wine appreciation made it easy for viewers following along. By the way, Rice claims that his interest in wine blossomed while dining out at various restaurants from coast to coast.
The tasting began with the 2019 Justin Rosé, which has vibrant aromas of cherries, strawberries and melon. On the palate this wine is bright and crisp, with apple, cherry, and hints of strawberry. The finish is clean and refreshing. SRP $22
A nice alternative to more traditional reds is the 2017 Justin Reserve Tepranillo. This traditional Spanish varietal is medium- to full-bodied with dried red fruit along with hints of cinnamon and vanilla spice. The smooth tannins are complemented by a long, crisp finish. SRP $35
Lastly the 2017 Justin Isosceles is a must-try, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. Ripe, rich and full-bodied, with black fruit flavors and spice. This opulent wine has staying power and a long-lasting aftertaste. SRP $40
The evening drew to a close with Baldwin vowing to continue making great wine. That of course was music to everyone’s ears, including Rice’s. As for myself, drinking terrific wines such as these from the comfort of my own home has me hopeful that more virtual tasting are in the offing. Cheers.
Wine of the Week: Seghesio, 2018 Sonoma County Chardonnay.Bright gold in color with notes of lemon and curd that wrap around the palate. Medium-bodied with a true sense of purity that is enhanced by hints of toasty oak. SRP $22