Architecture, landscape, and wines impress at cavers’ boutique Paso Robles winery.
Prepare to be quietly dazzled at Brecon Estate, a boutique winery in the Paso Robles appellation’s Adelaida District. The architects for a mid-2010s remodel won a significant design award for the brilliant visual conversation they initiated between the wine facility and the hilly landscape of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes planted in the 1970s. The Bordeaux, Rhône, and other wines poured here also impress.
The texture of the tasting room’s brown rough-stucco interior walls mimics the limestone-laden soil beneath the winery. The subterranean undercurrents provide daily delight to Brecon’s Welsh founder and winemaker, Damian Grindley, an avid caver. Also enamored of the sport is his Australian wife, Amanda, whose duties include hospitality. The Grindleys named their winery for Wales’s Brecon Beacons National Park, which contains a challenging system of limestone caves.
Strong but Soft
Damian Grindley’s résumé includes stints making wines in Australia and Europe and for U.S. producers such as Kendall-Jackson and Gallo. The winemaker was also responsible for a few acclaimed vintages at nearby Calcareous Vineyards. With Calcareous and his own label Grindley’s goal has been to create wines with “strength but soft tannins,” traits applicable to the estate Petit Verdot, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (from the old vines), and Meritage blend of four Bordeaux varietals sourced and from his own vineyard. Several critics of note gushed over the Meritage’s lush and luscious 2017 vintage (38% Petit Verdot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% each Cabernet Franc and Malbec), the adulation well deserved.
Also in the reds mix are Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, Tannat, and two Zinfandels. Because Grindley makes wines in small quantities – total case production is only a few thousand – the tasting-room lineup evolves throughout the year. One wine to seek out is Forty Two, its name a nod to the novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In recent vintages of this distinctive Rhône blend, a small quantity of Petite Sirah has, to pleasing effect, replaced Grenache in the traditional Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre ensemble.
Tastings sometimes begin with Albariño, another strong suit. Grindley makes three different wines from the Spanish white grape. One spends time in barrels with acacia heads, a tactic the winemaker says adds structure and accentuates stone-fruit characteristics. Among the other light wines are Viognier and a Viognier-Albariño blend. Several rows of old-vine Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that don’t ripen sufficiently to make red wine form the core of Brecon’s dry, elegant Provençal-style rosé, which sells out quickly each year.
Clearing Head and Palate
For all Brecon Estate’s architectural flair, the atmosphere is laid-back and cheery. The tasting bar opens out to an expansive concrete patio furnished with oversize chairs and sofas and shaded by umbrellas and nearby oaks. Beyond that is a lawn with picnic tables. The outgoing Amanda Grindley sets a welcoming tone that, along with her husband’s complex yet delectable wines, invites lingering. If it’s past harvest and the winemaker isn’t around, he may well be out caving. The activity’s adrenaline rush, says Amanda, “clears his head and also his palate.” Judging by the wines, this strategy is a resounding success.
Why go: complex wines with strength but soft tannins; sophisticated architecture; welcoming, laid-back setting.
Brecon Estate is featured in 12 Foolproof Paso Robles Wine Tasting Experiences.
This story first appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and revised in 2021.