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California Wine, Napa Valley
About Paradigm Vineyard and Winery
Ren & Marilyn Harris have been growing grapes in Napa Valley since 1964. They purchased Paradigm Winery in 1976 and totally replanted the vineyard twice! The first time was to change the grape varieties and the second time was to protect the vineyard from phyloxera, which struck Napa Valley in the late 1980’s.
About thirty percent of the grape production at Paradigm is used by the winery and the balance is sold to other premium Napa Valley wineries. It is the intention of the Harris’ to remain at the current five thousand case annual production in order to maintain the close personal contact they enjoy with both the Paradigm Winery crew and the Paradigm wine drinkers they have befriended over the years.
Marilyn is a third generation Napa Valley grape grower whose grandparents came to Napa Valley from the hills of Northern Italy to grow grapes in 1890. Marilyn is assisted by Ren & Marilyn’s daughter Jennifer Harris and together they run the day-to-day business at Paradigm.
Ren Harris is a sixth generation Californian whose predecessors settled San Diego in 1769 and whose great great grand uncle was General Mariano Vallejo; the last Mexican governor of California. Paradigm is located on land General Vallejo gave to George Yount in 1835. Yount in turn planted the first grapes in Napa Valley. Ren is in charge of wine and grape production.
Paradigm Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
If not the king, as many argue, Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly the most successful and popular of the top-quality red wine grapes. It is the primary grape of most of the top vineyards in bordeaux's médoc and graves districts. It's also the basis for most of California's superb red wines. This reputation for excellence has launched a Cabernet Sauvignon popularity boom around the world. There's been heavy planting (which continues) in Chile, Australia, and eastern Europe, especially Bulgaria. In addition, Cabernet Sauvignon has begun making inroads into areas of Spain and Italy where local grapes have dominated for centuries. The flavor, structure, complexity, and longevity of wines made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape are what makes it so popular. Its fruity flavors have been described as cherry, black cherry, black currant (cassis), and raspberry. In addition, other flavor descriptors include minty, cedar, and bell pepper; the word tobacco is often used to describe older vintages. The acids and tannins found in a Cabernet Sauvignon wine help form the basis for its structure and longevity. In Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon is most often blended with one or more of the following: merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, or malbec. In California, wines are more often made with 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, although the trend recently has been toward some blending, as in Bordeaux. In Australia, there is a predilection to blend Cabernet Sauvignon with shiraz, which is widely grown there. Although the Cabernet Sauvignon grape has been grown in Italy for over 150 years, it has only recently become more popular. Italian winemakers are now blending small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon with the local top red wine grape, sangiovese. They also make a few top-quality wines with a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon. In Spain, there are blends of the local favorite, tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are a multitude of well-made Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines made throughout the world.
Paradigm Winery Merlot
Though commonly referred to as simply Merlot, this red-wine grape is really Merlot Noir (there's also a merlot blanc variety). Merlot is the primary grape in saint-émilion and pomerol, and one of two primaries (the other being cabernet sauvignon) of Bordeaux. Merlot acreage in the département of gironde, which encompasses most of Bordeaux, is almost twice that of Cabernet Sauvignon. However, Merlot has never been as highly regarded as Cabernet Sauvignon, which dominates in the médoc and graves-growing areas that produce wines traditionally viewed as Bordeaux's most important. Much of the wine world views Merlot as simply a grape to be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or cabernet franc. Still, Merlot can produce great wines like those of Pomerol's château pétrus, which makes one of the world's most expensive red wines, most of which are 100 percent Merlot. Merlot is also widely planted in other areas of France. Growers in the languedoc-roussillon region, for instance, are being encouraged to plant this grape in order to improve the vast quantities of wine produced there. Merlot is extensively grown throughout the world but has developed a tarnished reputation from overproduction in areas like northeastern Italy. It's an extremely important grape in Italy's friuli-venezia giulia and veneto regions, which produce some great Merlots. This grape is widely grown in eastern Europe with sizable plantings in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Rumania. Australians have been slow to adopt Merlot, since their dominate grape shiraz is often used for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon. In California and Washington, Merlot was initially planted as a blending grape, but in the late 1970s it began to stand on its own as a variety and has been continually gaining popularity. California Merlot acreage has continued to increase, as have the number of wineries producing Merlot wines. In French the word Merlot means "young blackbird," probably alluding to the grape's beautiful dark-blue color. Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot grapes ripen fairly early and have lower tannins and higher sugar levels. They produce wines that are generally softer and with slightly higher alcohol content. High-quality Merlot wines are medium to dark red in color, rich, and fruity, with characteristics of black currant, cherry, and mint. Merlot wines are rounder and more supple than Cabernet Sauvignons and usually can be enjoyed much earlier. Generally, Merlot wines do not age as long as Cabernet Sauvignons. A small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc is often blended with Merlot grapes to give the wine a bit more structure. Merlot is also called Bigney, Crabutet, Médoc Noir, and Merlau.
Paradigm Winery Zinfandel
Grape that is considered California's red-wine grape because it's not widely grown in other parts of the world. Zinfandel vines were brought to California by Agoston Haraszthy (known as "the father of California wine") in the 1850s. By the 1880s this variety was rapidly gaining acceptance by California growers, and it is now that state's most extensively planted red grape. For years Zinfandel's origins were very mysterious. Now, however, a relationship between Zinfandel and Primitivo (a variety grown in Italy's puglia region) has been established. Outside of the Zinfandel grown in California (and Italy's Primitivo), there are only isolated plantings of this grape-mainly in South Africa and Australia. Zinfandel is vinified in many styles, which vary greatly in quality. One popular style is White Zinfandel, a fruity-flavored white wine that's usually slightly sweet and ranges in color from light to dark pink. The Zinfandel grape is also used as a base for sparkling wines. When made into red wine, Zinfandel can produce wines ranging from light, nouveau styles to hearty, robust reds with berrylike, spicy (sometimes peppery) flavors, plenty of tannins and alcohol, and enough depth, complexity, and longevity to be compared to cabernet sauvignons. Another style is late-harvest Zinfandel, which exhibits higher alcohol levels and some residual sugar. Occasionally, Zinfandel is fortified and marketed as a California port-style wine. Large Zinfandel plantings exist in California's central valley where the hot weather tends to produce lower-quality grapes, which often make their way into jug wine. The Italian doc, primitivo di manduria, produces dry red Primitivo grape-based wines that are similar to some California Zins. As Zinfandel's popularity increases, more and more enterprising Italian Primitivo growers are labeling their wines "Zinfandel" and exporting them to the United States.
Paradigm Winery Cabernet Franc
Although similar in structure and flavor to cabernet sauvignon, this red wine grape is not quite as full-bodied (see body), and has fewer tannins and less acid. It is, however, more aromatic and herbaceous. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc grows in cooler climates and ripens early. Therefore, it can be particularly important if weather conditions create a less-than-perfect Cabernet Sauvignon crop. Under such circumstances, the French have found that the addition of Cabernet Franc might salvage the vintage. In Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc is most often blended with merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon; it's usually not the dominant grape in these blends. The most noteworthy examples of French wines made primarily from Cabernet Franc grapes are those from Château cheval blanc, whose vineyards are planted with about 66 percent Cabernet Franc and 33 percent Merlot. In the United States, Cabernet Franc has not been widely planted, mainly because the weather in California yields consistently higher-quality Cabernet Sauvignon grapes than in France. Only recently has its popularity grown as a flavor enhancer for wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc is also called Bordo, Bouchet, Brenton, Carmenet, and Trouchet Noir.