Garretson Wine Company

Stop press (November 2008): unfortunately Mat Garretson has decided to close down his company and winery.  This is a great shame as I thought his wines were beautifully made and very expressive of their terroir and his beliefs.  If you see any Garretson Wine Company wines in a shop, buy them!  (And if you're a winery with a position to fill, please contact Mat!)

Mat Garretson, Mr Viognier

Most vine-growing and wine-making areas around the world are in somewhere between attractive and stunning scenery. Many wineries are in similarly desirable settings, particularly in the old world. The Garretson Wine Company is one of the exceptions. The winery and tasting room are in the sort of pre-fab unit that can be found on industrial estates the world over, tucked away on a small industrial estate on the east side of Paso Robles. The shop and tasting room immediately belie Mat Garretson's influences, with lots of empty bottles from the Rhone and Rhone-alikes on display. Mat is the self-proclaimed Mr Viognier (even down to the number plate on his car), though his passion for Rhone varieties doesn't stop at Viognier. All grapes are bought in. Mat Garretson is slowly pushing back release dates of his Gaelic-named wines as economic circumstances allow: they’re now pushed back about six months from the regular release dates.

I hope to come back and add more on the Garretson Wine Company, though the tasting notes below are now complete.


2005 G White, Central Coast, Garretson Wine Company, 13%
2500-3000 cases are produced of this blend of 50.4% viognier and 49.6% roussanne: together the two G wines account for about half of Garretson’s production.
A soft, gentle, nutty, almondy, but not overdone nose, also with a touch of butter.  Nice, lightly fragrant, pleasant palate.  This is an attractive wine; not really complex, but easy and graceful.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2005 Garretson Viognier Late Bottled, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company, 14.5%
This spends one year in barrel, typically all neutral oak, though they would use some new oak (maybe around 20%) if acidity was high in the vintage.  It has a gorgeous fragrant nose with an attractive pungency.  It’s quite deep and full on the palate with nice depth and decent character.  Super length: it lingers forever in the mouth.  There’s good balance: it’s not too full or too powerful and there’s a nice bit of acidity.  Very Good Indeed+.   92/100

2005 Roussanne, The Limoid Cior, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company, 14.7%
This is 100% roussanne from two different vineyards on the west side of Paso Robles.  The name means lemon honeycomb, reflecting the character of roussanne.  It has a gentle, lightly zesty nose with good minerality: very attractive.  Very even on the palate, and quite direct.  There’s a quality feel to the fruit.  Possibly it lacks elegance and is fuller than the late bottled viognier.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.  87/100

2005 Marsanne, The Capall Allas, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company, 15.6%
Mat Garretson finds marsanne an intriguing variety, but finds that it usually needs ten years, which he can’t really get away with.  Only around 100 cases are made of this wine.
It has a sweetish nutty nose, but with an overall savoury feel: there’s almost a hint of an unsherrified manzanilla to the nose.  Very interesting in the mouth: there’s quite a concentrated feel with some complexity and richness.  This is very interesting and beautiful after: indeed it really shows its best after.  Very Good Indeed+.  93/100
The name Capall Allas means horse sweat apparently.  Lovely ...

2005 Grenache Blanc, The Berwyn, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company, 15.5%
120 cases were made of this wine from a vineyard that Mat Garretson says got a bit warmer in 2005 than he would really have preferred.  The name is connected to the Old English Harvest Son, named after his son Thomas Berwyn who was born at harvest time.  On the nose, it’s got quite a concentrated sunny feel: like being on a sunny gravel path.  The palate is full and a touch heavy.  Unfortunately, this wine lacks a bit of interest as a wine to drink, but it is interesting to see it alongside the others.  Good/Very Good.  85/100

2003 The Reliquary white, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company, 15.3%
The Reliquary spends two years in barrel and two years in bottle for both the red and white versions.  A maximum of 1200 bottles are produced each year.  The composition varies from year to year: the 2003 white is 60% marsanne and 40% roussanne; 840 bottles were produced.  It is bottled with a synthetic cork.
The nose is something else: like a vanilla-almond paste, but with a savoury edge.  Very concentrated palate, almost with some phenolic whisky flavours.  Not as rich and sweet as the nose would lead you to believe.  Excellent.  94/100

2005 The Ceilidh Rosé, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company,14.9%
560 cases were made of this syrah (75%), grenache (12%), mourvèdre (13%) rosé blend, which is obviously unfiltered.  A deepish garnet rosé colour.  Big nose, with the mourvèdre making itself evident.  On the nose, it feels quite Bandol-like: very meaty with a bit of fresh raspberry fruit.  Really lovely on the attack.  Big, fruity, dry and elegant in the mouth.  It’s really quite intense and dry.  Very attractive and hugely interesting.  Great length with a touch of crème de framboise lingering long after.  Gorgeous stuff.  Excellent.  95/100

2004 Mourvèdre, The Graosta, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company, 14.7%
360 cases were produced.  The name, graosta, means saddle, reflecting the usual aroma profile.  The vines were cropped at two tons per acre and the wine was aged in old wood in 500 litre puncheons.  It’s evidently unfiltered looking at it in the glass, and really quite dark.  The nose is leathery, horsey and sweaty, but also with some concentrated black fruit.  Very expressive on the palate.  It has good balance and is really rather interesting.  It has a good mouthfeel and is generally very pleasing with a lot of interest.  Very Good+.  87/100

2005 Grenache The Spainneach, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company, 15%
A dark, youthful appearance.  Rather closed nose with some black fruit.  Fairly tight on the palate with lots of tannins.  But it promises well.  Quite chewy.  It was bottled October 2006 and will probably be released April 2007.  Potentially 86-88/100

2004 Syrah The Craic, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company, 15.4%
Syrah, with just 7% viognier.  This was partly barrel fermented, in this vintage in 47% new oak.  There’s sweet black fruit on the nose, but with a nice elegance.  Initially, there’s sweet black fruit on the palate, but it has a nice elegance.  For me, it seems to be in quite a French style with a vague Cote Rotie feel to it.  Nice length and elegant after.  There is a certain simplicity, but it’s very attractive.  Very Good Ineed.  89/100

2004 Syrah The Aisling, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company, 15.2%
This is made in a deliberately different style to The Craic.  It’s 100% syrah, and saw 50%-70% new American oak.  It has a deep and inky appearance.  There’s sweet black fruit and a creamy roundness rather than an obvious American oak feel.  Direct and obvious on the palate.  It feels pretty young and tight, and also a bit simplistic.  Very Good.  87/100

2003 Syrah The Luascain, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company, 14.5%
This comes from a very limestone vineyard and has 3% viognier blended in.  It saw 20% new French oak, and 200 cases were produced.  The wine had just been released for sale when I tasted it.  2004 will be the last vintage of this wine, as the vineyard owner has sold up.
Really meaty and gamey on the nose.  Lovely palate: this is a very pure syrah.  Initially it feels quite direct and a bit simple, but there’s also an attractive layer of complexity.  Overall it has quite a French feel.  Very Good Indeed.  90/100


When Robert Parker tasted Mat Garretson’s syrahs, he complained that they were all different and he couldn’t tell who made them.  Mat thanked him for the praise, as it’s the expression of terroir for which he aims.


2004 Syrah Mon Amie, San Luis Obispo County, Garretson Wine Company, 14.5%
This comes from a vineyard planted in 1996, just two and a half miles from the coast.  It was cropped at 1 – 1¼ tons per acres, with picking continuing well into November.  Mildew can be an issue in some years, so the Mon Amie Syrah is not made every year.  When it is made, around 200-250 cases are produced.  It sees around 25% new French oak.
A dark and inky appearance.  A very attractive, seductive, feminine black fruit nose, and pretty similar on the palate to the nose.  Very seductive and feminine.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.  88/100

2004 Syrah The Bulladoir, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company, 16.7%
The name bulladoir means bulldog.  The grapes, cropped at two tons per acre, come from a warm vineyard, and there is a touch (less than 0.3) of residual sugar in it.  Mat calls it a port-like syrah, but it’s not fortified.
There’s sweet black fruit and chocolate on the nose.  It’s very rich in the mouth and actually carries its alcohol very well: it’s not hot at all and not at all jammy.  There’s some decent structure too.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.  87/100

2003 The Reliquary Red, Paso Robles, Garretson Wine Company
620 bottles were made of this blend of 78% syrah, 14% mourvèdre, 6% grenache and 3% viognier.
The nose has violet perfumed black fruit with a touch of chocolate and tobacco.  Rounded and ripe on the palate with layers and layers of flavours.  It has a rich, velvety, yet masculine feel, with real layers of complexity.  Very Good Indeed.  92/100


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Last updated: 1 January 2008