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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Paradigm - Not your Average Cult Wine

Friday, August 31, 2012
Cult Wine: Wine for which dedicated groups of committed enthusiasts will pay large sums of money. Cult wines are often seen as trophy wines to be collected or as investment wine to be held rather than consumed. Because price is often seen as an indicator of quality, high prices often increase the desirability of such wines. This is true even for less expensive wines.

If you google “cult wineries, Napa”, you may not instantly find Paradigm Winery, but you will no doubt find Screaming Eagle - a textbook California Cult winery that produces wines so desirable to collectors that their website features a “wait list” and little else.  If you are a cult wine lover or aspire to be a cult wine collector, I’ll let you in on a little secret - Paradigm wine is made by the same renowned winemaker, Heidi Peterson Barrett, who makes Screaming Eagle and it’s really good stuff.

Tasting Paradigm’s wine reveals it’s beautifully balanced and multi-layered with silky tannins and rich extract.  Even better, unlike Screaming Eagle, you can actually visit Paradigm Winery and if you’re lucky, get a tour of the nicely appointed property and vineyards with owner, Ren Harris, whose personality is as down to earth as the 29 year old grape vine roots.  Not a lot of fanfare or flash here, just really quality wine and great people running the operation.  Call in advance to arrange a private tasting - this winery is a special place that takes just a handful of select visitors each day.   

Located in the Oakville District of Napa Valley just west of Highway 29 and south of the Oakville Grade, the property was purchased by Ren & Marilyn Harris in 1976, planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc and White Riesling.  The Harrises, who live less than a mile away from the winery in Yountville, decided that the vineyard's soil and microclimate were better suited for growing the red Bordeaux varietals so they re-planted the vineyards with 37 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 acres of Merlot, 1 acre of Cabernet Franc, 1 acre of Zinfandel and 1 acre of Petite Verdot.

Paradigm produces 6000 cases of their well-established wine (mostly their famous Cab-heavy Bordeaux blends) and distributes the rest of their fruit to friends and neighbors in the valley. The Paradigm wines are consistent and ageworthy, yet wonderfully approachable in their youth.  Despite its rich ripe black and red fruit flavors, it is known for its balance and its ability to complement a meal which we experienced a couple weeks later when we returned for Paradigm’s annual summer party at Ren and Marilyn Harris’s home.  

Paradigm truly cares about the quality of their wines, but they care just as much as their followers who are approaching “cult” status.  At the annual summer party, the experience begins with a personal welcome by Marilyn and a photo opp before we’re handed a glass of wine and invited into the backyard for Oysters and rose.  A live band plays and Ren (pictured left) is alternately dancing or graciously pouring 2003 vintage Cabernet from a decanter for anyone who wants a taste (which is everyone).  Chefs are grilling oysters and savory woodfired pizza, pork, and sweet pea and smoked salmon blinis are being scarfed down as people swill Paradigm cabernet like it’s not $100 a bottle.  During the festivities, I mingled with people from all over the country who told me they came back to Napa strictly for this event spawning from their adoration of Paradigm.  

We danced until the wine was gone and looking around, it was clear that Ren and Marilyn host these parties to share their passion for their wine with people who love to drink it.  Cult following or not, Paradigm  is truly “One that serves as a pattern or model”.

2008 Cabernet: $62.00
Gorgeous ruby red color with very open aromas of ripe berry, cherry, and cassis-like fruit. Layered aromas lead to matching rich ripe fruit in the mouth. Tannins are well integrated in this pleasing presentation of Cabernet Sauvignon. Flavors persist with a very long, well tiered finish.

2008 Cabernet Franc: $58.00
The 2008 Cabernet Franc is a pretty ruby red color with classic aromas of sweet toast from our french oak barrels, blueberry and plum. There is a light herbaceous leafy note with some ripe blueberry and spice and a touch of green tea. It is quite lush and rich across the palate with moderate refined tannins.

2008 Merlot: $44.00
The ripe fruit character is reminiscent of red cherry and plum with some spicy dried herbal and cedar notes. The palate is very soft and silky with bright, clean, pure flavor and acidity. This is a lighter red wine, medium bodied and very food friendly. Integrated tannins make this a wine easily accessible and ready to enjoy.

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