Tobin James

This is an interesting winery.  On the one hand, you could see them as having a real scattergun approach, making wine from whatever decent wines they can find, and you also get impression as you walk round the winery that they are almost ticking off an encyclopaedia of grape varieties as they make a wine from each.  On the other hand, they could be seen as innovative and experimental, looking above all for fun in their wines and looking to play with different varietals.

The barrel store is kept at a low humidity, and they lose a lot to the angels.

2003 Sundance Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey County, Tobin James
, 13.5%
Quite asparagus and green pea on the nose.  Very crisp palate: it seems to have quite a lot of acidity.  Fresh and full at the same time, with great length.  Very Good.  87/100

2005 Radiance Chardonnay, Monterey County, Tobin James, 13.5%
25% undergoes malolactic fermentation.  It has a very fresh nose with just a bit of lightly fragrant tropical fruit.  Fresh and remarkably crisp on the palate.  Very refreshing with a nice acidity.  Initially it has good balance, but the acidity makes itself very much felt on the finish.  Very Good Indeed.  90/100

2005 James Gang Reserve Chardonnay, Monterey County, Tobin James
Fermented and aged in French oak.  The nose is very full and oaky, but it’s not as full on the palate as you might think.  This is a nice, rich, creamy chardonnay, but it’s pretty much standard stuff.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.  88/100

2005 Paradise Syrah Rosé, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 13%
This is 94% syrah and 6% zinfandel.  Grapes are bought in to give a good Paso Robles feel.  They go to the best small plots and pay by the acre, not by the ton.
It’s a deep strawberry-salmon pink.  The nose combines perfumed strawberry and stewed strawberry notes.  Quite a full cooked strawberry palate.  Nicely balanced, but it feels sweet and jammy.
A second bottle is produced, as they suspected the first might have been open too long: this bottle is much paler and younger-looking.  There are light fresh strawberry notes on the nose.  Initially it’s crisp and fresh on the palate, but then it fills out nicely.  This is a nice, neat rosé with decent depth.  On the basis of this second bottle, Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2004 Primo Sangiovese, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 13.6%
This has a lovely, minerally red fruit and cherry nose.  Lovely soft palate, with some nice acidity keeping it fresh and elegant.  Very long.  It’s nothing like Chianti, but it’s a very enjoyable wine. Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2004 Made in the Shade Merlot, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 14.6%
This has a lovely gentle, plummy nose with a nice tobacco note.  It’s much richer and fuller on the palate than the nose would lead you to believe.  There’s a nice spice too.  A fairly impressive merlot.  Very Good Indeed.  89/100

2005 Ballistic Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 15.5%
A big, rich raspberry nose with some white chocolate notes.  Lovely palate: there’s some super fruit with lots of spicy power behind.  Then the fruit flavours come back on the finish and linger very long.  Very integrated.  Very Good Indeed.  92/100

2004 Rock-n-Roll Syrah, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 14.5%
A meaty, animalistic nose.  Good palate: it’s very concentrated with some berry fruit.  This is made in a big style and has a spicy feel on the finish.  Enormous length.  There’s just something a bit odd about it.  Very Good?  85/100

2004 James Gang Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 14.3%
Very cedary, pencil-shavings on the nose with some blackcurrants and vanilla oak.  It’s very precise on the palate with a nice focus.  It has good balance, but the fruit comes further forward as it goes on.  There’s a very ripe feel to it, but without it being jammy.  Big tannins make themselves felt on the finish.  Very Good Indeed -.  88/100

2004 James Gang Reserve Cabernet Franc, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 14.8%
Quite cabernet sauvignon-like on the nose, though with a nice elegant scent.  It’s quite big on the palate and has quite a north-east Italian feel to it.  Good balance, with lots of depth.  Very long after.  This is an interesting wine.  Very Good/Very Good Indeed.  87/100

2004 Estate Private Stash, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 14.6%
This is harvested and fermented as a field blend, comprising 34% cabernet sauvignon, 33% cabernet franc and 33% merlot.
This has a gorgeous nose: it’s quite Pauillac-like, but with a new world edge.  The palate largely follows the nose: it’s quite focussed and nicely together.  It has a fairly young feel to it and could do with two or three years to mature.  There’s great length and a nice spicing.  Very Good Indeed.  91/100

2004 James Gang Reserve, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 15%
This is a 50:50 blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah.  There are waves of cassis, waves of black plums and blackberries on the nose.  Very direct and balance on the attack with a nice purity of fruit.  Not overly deep and maybe a bit uni-dimensional, but it’s still very enjoyable and reasonably satisfying.  There is some interesting sour cherry fruit on the finish.  Very Good Indeed-.  89/100

2003 James Gang Reserve Syrah, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 15.5%
Aged in American oak.  There is very concentrated, pure syrah fruit on the nose – and it is fruit rather than meat; very pure direct black fruit.  Very concentrated on the palate.  This is a very big wine, tending towards being a bit overdone.  Very Good.  86/100

2003 Blue Moon Reserve Syrah, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 16.7%
This is Tobin James’ premium syrah, with an eye watering price tag of $150 a bottle.  It comes from fruit grown on a small hillside vineyard on the west of Paso Robles.  The vines, which took nine years to bear fruit and were still just tiny thin sticks then, produce very tiny berries in small quantities: in 2001, the vines produced just two clusters each and the 10 acre vineyard produced just one ton of fruit (the vines are now producing up to four tons from the 10 acres).  The wine goes into 100% new French oak, twice: it’s racked into new, medium toast barrels after the first year.  Production is under 100 cases.
On the nose, it doesn’t feel overoaked: there is just lots of ultra-concentrated fruit.  In the mouth, it’s rich, massive and ultra blowsy, with huge fruit.  Very Good.  86/100

2005 Fat Boy Zinfandel, Tobin James (barrel sample)
Wow!  What a nose: it almost fills the winery when a glass is drawn off: “it’s like sticking your face into a boysenberry bush,” says Claire Silver.  I've no idea what a boysenberry bush is and haven't knowingly stuck my face into one, so don't know about that.  But, this  is a huge, almost mental wine.  Massive.  Yet also delicious.  Though I’m not sure I’d want much more than a sample.  Very Good.  86/100

2005 Pinot Noir barrel sample, Arroyo Grande Vineyard, Tobin James
Quite forward raspberry and strawberry fruit on the nose.  Very tight, but it has the makings of something good.  Potentially 87-88/100

2005 Tempranillo barrel reserve, Tobin James (barrel sample)
The nose has some cherry fruit and a nice feel.  Rich, velvety and chocolatey on the palate.  Potentially 86-88/100

2005 Barbera, Tobin James (barrel sample)
A gorgeous nose – really seductive, and this really follows through on the palate.  Fabulous stuff.  Potentially 90-92/100

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Tobin James (barrel sample)
The barrels used for this are composite barrels with French oak heads and American stakes.  From grapes grown on the west side of Paso.  A very pure nose.  This is already quite impressive: there’s already a nice balance and it’s quite voluptuous.  Potentially 90-93/100

2004 James Gang Reserve Refosco, Paso Robles, Tobin James, 14.8%
This has a lovely, rich perfumed nose.  There’s big ripe fruit on the palate.  This is very full and really powerful for a refosco, and it’s completely different to a north Italian version.  Good/Very Good.  85/100

1999 Blue Moon Reserve Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Tobin James
This has a nice mature appearance.  It’s a touch stinky on the nose initially, but with aeration it blows off, revealing quite an elegant, mature zinfandel with leathery black fruit.  Good palate.  Full and clean, though a touch hot, and there’s a slight hint of raisins on the palate.  Very Good.  87/100

NV Sparkling Dreamweaver, Tobin James
A blend of chardonnay, chenin and muscat, made by the charmat method.  It has a biscuity, perfumed nose with a nice zesty note.  Rich full palate.  Decent enough stuff.  Good.  84/100


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Last updated: 1 January 2008