Booker Winemaker Dinner at Villa

Renowned Paso Robles Producer Pours with Pairings at Anacapa Street Wine Bar

Sean Larkin
Paul Wellman

If there could ever be a wine bar run on charm alone, Villa is the place. This past Thursday was no different, as part of their monthly winemaker dinners, Villa was a packed house playing host to Eric Jensen owner/winemaker of Booker a Paso Robles winery.

Villa (and Vino Divino) owners Sean and Gabi Larkins were also on hand as pourers, servers, runners to the kitchen and all around hosts for the evening. It was a surprise they had any time to chat to the 30-odd guests whilst dashing from table to table, with the ever steady stream of wine flowing.

For the grub, caterer Alexandra Mascuzzio was on hand as a guest chef. Her four-course menu consisted of bacon wrapped farmers market dates with salted almonds for starters, paprika roasted chickpea salad with blackened red onion and a honey mustard vinaigrette as a second course, braised short rips atop fried herb polenta cake for the main, and an ancho chilli pepper dark chocolate truffle for the finale.

As usual for these sorts of winemaker events, the attention was all on the vino. With his gravelly voice and straight talkin’, honest opinions, Eric Jensen was very much the Ying to the charming Villa’s owners Yang. He was quick to mention these wines were only bottled a fortnight before. Normally he would not do a tasting so soon after bottling, and only trooped down the 101 for Sean Larkins, a testament to the Villa’s owner’s character. Despite being opened so soon after bottling the wines were in fact splendid.

Jensen bought the property in 2001, with the intent to sell grapes. They did a fairly good job of it as the vineyard made a name for itself with high scoring wines by both Saxum and L’Aventure wineries also up in Paso. In 2005, Jensen started making estate wines which then became popular in their own right.

We were able to try four of Booker’s latest releases: the 2012 RLF ($50) a grenache/syrah blend quite the easy drinker with only 13.7% alcohol very rare for Paso; the 2013 Full Draw ($75) a syrah/grenache/mourvedre blend a very full-on, gritty wine with blackberry, blueberry, and herbs, and a little smokiness on the finish too; the 2012 Remnant 24 ($75) a New World blend of tempranillo, petit verdot, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon, a rich, intense wine, with some cassis, leather, cigar box, and chocolate. We ended with the 2013 Ripper ($85), a 100% straight grenache. This is the sort of wine that gives Paso its name — super concentrated, pure raspberry flavors, not jammy more like a coulis with a sliver of minerality.

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