Paras Vineyards


zz1James Paras has been a passionate collector of fine wines for 40+ years so it is no wonder that he would parlay his love of Bordeaux and Rhone wines into creating something of his own closer to home. No Johnny-come-lately, Paras’ successful foray into wine production came in the late 80’s with Jade Mountain Winery. Dedicated to Rhone varietals, Jade Mountain was at the forefront of Syrah production in California. A decade or so later, in a fortuitous move, Paras sold Jade Mountain Winery, the brand and the inventory, but wisely kept his prized vineyard property high atop Mount Veeder for himself. Thus began Paras Vineyard. Together with his longtime winemaker Douglas Danielak, they determined that the soil content of his Mount Veeder vineyard was particularly well suited for Rhone varietals and not just Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
zz2Paras Vineyard takes the promise of mountain fruit to its logical conclusion by producing wines of great scale with concentrated flavors that can, without a doubt, be long lived. This hillside vineyard ranges between 1200 and 1400 feet above sea level and is comprised mostly of sedimentary shale. The majority of fruit for Paras Vineyard’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Mount Veeder, save for a tiny bit of Petite Verdot which is not Estate grown. It is a majestic red that displays intense berry fruit, as well as spice, bittersweet chocolate and plum flavors, contained along a firm spine. With mouth-coating tannins, this is a big Cab, yet it remains balanced and focused. Rated the top California Cabernet of the vintage by Decanter Magazine, it is no surprise here that the Brits find this wine so alluring and in step with fine Bordeaux. The 2005 Merlot continues the interplay of rich fruit coupled with serious structure. As the pendulum swings back to appreciating fine Merlot, it is precisely wines such as Paras’ that will win back the public’s adoration. One taste of this bold, layered, highly aromatic red and you immediately understand that given the right place, the right environment, great Merlot from California is indeed possible and must not be overlooked. A common thread to Paras’ Merlot is a note of cocoa – the 2005 is especially endowed with it. Superb!

zz3As alluded to earlier, Paras was an early pioneer of Rhone varietals on Mount Veeder, planting Syrah, Grenache and Viognier. The 2005 Syrah is, dare we say, Hermitage-like, with black fruit and sanguine, meaty notes. Chewy and dense, you will find a few grindings of black pepper and Asian spice helping to create of full medley of flavors and scent sensations. Requiring 24 months in barrel before bottling, the tannins are full and present in this Syrah, yet the finish is silky smooth. San Francisco wine writer Steve Pitcher, writing in Wine News, noted it as the ‘Syrah of the Year’ from among all the wines they tasted in 2008. Cult wine, anyone? Moving on, the 2007 Grenache is bold, juicy and wonderfully plush. Wild strawberries, white pepper, dusty tannins all wrapped up in fully ripened fleshy fruit. This one is easy to love; it is pure, heart-stirringly yummy. We conclude this tour de force of Paras Vineyard wines with their sole white, the 2007 Viognier. Paras’ ardent commitment to this rare varietal is reflected in the quality of the finished wine. Super low yields make way for a highly concentrated flavor profile. Fermented in neutral barrels, it exudes the classic Viognier notes of lychee nut and ripe peach. The texture is seamless and its unctuous mid-palate makes one heck of a showstopper with rich seafood dishes. Although Viognier can be a shy producer in the vineyard, in the glass Paras’ 2007 Viognier is anything but…!

With the full range of varieties Paras Vineyard masters, the wine lover has the opportunity to experience the delicate partnership of site with grape. Whether this is an introduction to Paras Vineyard or whether you’ve been following them for years, you will be truly dazzled once you get your hands on these wines from one of Napa’s top producers from the truly unique viticultural appellation of Mount Veeder. As they say, this is a no-brainer!

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, California, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley

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