Justin Baldwin, owner of Justin Vineyards and Winery, was an investment banker in the finance industry with a love for French Bordeaux wines, including his favorite: Chateau Margaux.
In the 1970s, he had a vision to create world-class Bordeaux wines. He realized his dream when he purchased 160 acres of land in Paso Robles, where he created Justin Vineyards, believing “wine should be exceptional from every angle.”
Justin Vineyards seamlessly merges Old World traditions, such as hand-harvesting and French oak barrel aging, with cutting-edge New World innovations like their proprietary “Air Knife” processing, a creation of their winemakers enhancing grape quality and efficiency.
Founded in 1981, with its first vintage in 1986, Justin has continually expanded its viticultural expertise and acreage, benefiting from Paso Robles’ limestone-rich soil that imparts distinct character to their Bordeaux-style reds.
The region’s unique microclimate, characterized by significant day-night temperature variations, fosters flavor intensity and structural balance in their wines.
With 13 vintages of award-winning Napa Valley wines, winemaker Scott Shirley joined Justin in 2012, applying his scientific-artistic approach to Paso Robles, treating each harvest as an open canvas filled with infinite possibilities.
Guests at Victor Magalhaes’s Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria enjoyed a four-course Justin Vineyards wine dinner with expert narration from Southern Glazer’s David Sheline, sommelier and sales consultant and Eric Brehm, division manager, CSW, WSET3, IWP, FWS.
The dinner started with a delightful beetroot carpaccio and baked goat cheese paired with a 2022 Sauvignon Blanc. This sauvignon blanc, sourced from various Justin vineyards, offered a clean, textured palate filled with bright citrus and tropical fruit notes, complemented by a touch of fresh herbs and a refreshing mineral structure from steel tank fermentation. Its crisp granny smith apple and citrus finish paired well with the warm goat cheese on arugula, drizzled with honey vinaigrette and garnished with almonds.
The second course was a duck confit risotto with mushrooms, parmesan shavings, and truffle oil. The risotto was served with Justin’s 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 14 months in 25% new American oak. The nose had black cherry and hints of vanilla, caramel, and cocoa influenced by the American oak. The palate’s plum, black cherry, and blackberry flavors with baking spice matched up nicely with the richness of the truffle oil-infused risotto.
I was excited to see Justin’s flagship wine, Isosceles, paired with the main course of venison chops, asparagus, and potato soufflé. This Bordeaux blend, introduced in 1987 and named after its iconic Isosceles triangle logo, mainly features cabernet sauvignon, complemented by almost equal portions of cabernet franc and merlot.
The 2019 served was 79% cabernet sauvignon, 11% cabernet franc, and 10% merlot. The full-bodied blend with cherry and cassis on the nose and palate, along with boysenberry, blackberry, and hints of cinnamon, vanilla, and baking spice, further enhancing the palate with medium tannins, created a memorable combination. Dinner concluded with a lemon and raspberry sorbet.
When touring Paso Robles for wine, don’t miss Justin Vineyards, offering both exceptional accommodations at Just Inn and a Michelin-starred restaurant, which has also earned a Michelin Green Star and Forbes Travel Guide five-star rating. Remarkably, Justin’s is the sole U.S. winery boasting all three prestigious distinctions. Executive chef Rachel Haggstrom masterminds Justin’s culinary offerings. For additional details, visit justinwine.com.
Next up for Vittorio’s and Magalhaes is Pine Ridge Vineyards from Napa’s Stags Leap District. The four-course Pine Ridge Wine Dinner is at 6 p.m. on Sept. 28. The main course features braised beef cheeks, creamy polenta, and broccolini paired with 2021 Pine Ridge California Traveler’s Series Cabernet Sauvignon. Cost is $75 per person + tax/gratuity. RSVP at 858-538-5884.
— Story by Rico Cassoni
The La Jolla Art & Wine Festival (LJAWF) returns to downtown La Jolla on October 7-8, 2023, featuring 160 artists from the US and Mexico and a diverse selection of wines, craft beer, and spirits in the Wine and Beer Garden. Wine and Beer Garden tickets priced from $50 to $75 can be purchased at ljawf.simpletix.com. Enjoy a weekend of art, wine, and family-friendly entertainment.
— Del Mar’s Glass Box monthly dinner series is back! September’s dinner is Argyle Willamette Valley Wines at 6 p.m. on Sept. 18. Guests will savor a culinary journey, expertly paired with the finest Argyle wines, alongside special chef creations from San Diego’s award-winning chef, Ethan Yang. The six-course pairing includes Miso Glazed Sea Bass, Full Blood Wagyu Beef, and Caramel Macchiato for dessert. The Argyle wine pairings include bubbles, Pinot Noir Rose 2022, Chardonnay 2021, Reserve Pinot Noir 2021, and Blanc De Blancs 2019. Tickets are $95 per person + tax/gratuity. RSVP at bit.ly/3ZdVdOz.
Rico Cassoni is the executive producer for Taste of Wine and Food. Founder/advisor Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading reviewers on the web. View their columns at tasteofwineandfood.com. Reach them at [email protected].