Four talented winemakers under one roof

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Paso-Underground“For The Love of Wine”

As you enter the Paso Underground through the rear courtyard, you notice vines of various grape varietals hanging on the walls.  A wonderful, sensory education is about to begin.

Entering the building, there are four tasting bars:  Turtle Rock, Aaron Wine, Clos Solene and Ed August. (Turtle Rock and Aaron Wine were profiled in the Visitors Guide Fall edition).

Four distinctive winemakers offering their creations for tasting under one roof, just off the square in downtown Paso Robles – and these four winemakers show off Paso Robles very well. From the crisp and pleasing whites to the powerful and layered reds with fruit sourced from various elite vineyards from the Coast to the Paso Robles AVA, the Paso Underground is a perfect stop to sample some of the region’s best creations.

Clos Solene…a love story

As you enter on your left, a young smiling Frenchman or his lovely wife, Guillaume or Solene Fabre, will be there to greet you, tell you about their wines, and walk you through a memorable tasting.  But Paso Robles is not where their story began, it is where it continues.  And it is a love story….the love of two people, their love for each other, for wine and a dream.

It was a chance meeting in a vineyard in Bordeaux when they first saw each other.  No more than a glance…as he strolled through the vineyard, and she sat daydreaming of having her own vineyard one day…Clos Solene. The glance was like a bolt of lightening, but they were moving in two different directions. Solene was going to Spain to study, and Guillaume was going to Paso Robles to work in the vineyards, and explore his dream of continuing the family tradition of winemaking, but creating his wine in the New World.

As fate would have it, Guillaume and Solene met again, in the same vineyard several years later…fell in love, and together moved to Paso Robles to pursue their life together.

Guillaume’s family had been in the wine business for four generations, and Guillaume wanted to continue that tradition.   In 2004, at the age of 25, he came to Paso Robles as an intern for L’Aventure under the tutelage of Stephan Asseo.  Hard work, passion and creativity led him to become assistant winemaker.  Two years later (2006) Solene joined him.  Guillaume and Solene had a dream of one day having their own label….making their own wine…and…having their own special “clos” or vineyard.  Working full time at L’Aventure, Guillaume was able to start making his own wine, and in 2008 Guillaume and Solene announced their initial release, Essence de Roussanne.  The dream had begun:  Under the Clos Solene label.

From that initial release of 50 cases, Clos Solene’s current production has grown to approximately 450 cases, with 7 different wines being produced:  Two whites and 5 reds.  Grapes are sourced from some of the most respected vineyards in the area such as James Berry, Caliza, Russell Family, Booker, and L’Aventure (of course)!  However, the grapes that are sourced are worked by Guillaume. Each and every acre, each and every vine, to be certain the land gives him the grapes he wants to work with. Each grape is like a special child to be nurtured.

Guillaume’s long term goal and promise so many years ago to Solene, is to have their very own Clos.  And with their loyal cult followers (the wine club is almost full) one day they will own their own land, their own Clos Solene.

Guillaume’s personal philosophy reflects his dedication to perfection in the wines of his own labor as well as L’Aventure’s: “Before the reward there must be labor. You plant before you harvest, you sow in tears before you realize joy.”  (Ralph Ransom).

Edmond August Wines

The fourth winery you will find in the Paso Underground is Edmond August, the enterprise of Edmond August Sauret. Edmond is a Paso Robles native.  During his six decades living in Paso Robles he has experienced many adventures: as a schoolteacher, coach, winery partner, writer, owner of Paso Robles’ first wine shop and a principal in his family’s fuel distribution business.  However you could say that becoming a wine producer was always his dream, his passion and destiny, and an inherent part of his DNA.

August Sauret, Edmond’s paternal grandfather, was born in the foothills of the French Alps, and immigrated to the United States in the late 1800’s where he met his future wife Marie.  Moving with his new wife from Wyoming to Sebastopol, August and Marie found themselves settling down in the Paso Robles area in the early 1900s…and that is really where the story of Edmond August Wines begins.

Planting fruit trees and grapes on their ranch, the Saurets started making wine and brandy for “home” consumption – then came prohibition. Rather than shutting down their home operation, the Sauret’s hid their still in one of the canyons, and made their wine and brandy. Their customers were the leaders of the community: Law enforcement, politicians, clergy and, of course, the ranchers and residents of the area. They certainly didn’t have to worry about breaking the Prohibition law! Their business flourished. The saddest day of August Sauret’s life was when prohibition ended; however, wine and the vine would eventually become a part of the future of the family. The seed had been planted.

During the 60s and 70s there were few wineries or vineyards in the area. Edmond taught high school for four years and subsequently had a 20 year career running his family’s fuel distribution business. Now, the Paso Robles wine industry was slowly starting to evolve, and Edmond was making contacts through the fuel business with all the winery pioneers of the area, whom he delivered to.

As destiny would have it, Ed became a partner in a winery; he wrote a wine column for a local newspaper and, after the sale of the fuel business, opened Paso Robles’ first wine shop, The Wine Vault, in 1998. The economy and massive overhead took its toll and The Wine Vault closed in 2003; however, the contacts made were invaluable and Ed’s reputation flourished.  During his time owning the Wine Vault, Ed was fortunate to be in the forefront of the infant Paso wine industry selling such labels as Linne Calodo, Lone Madrone, Tablas Creek, Villa Creek and several others.

Jacob Toft worked for Ed almost the entire time at the Wine Vault and, although Jacob was young, he was talented and aspired to be a winemaker. Today, as one of Paso’s most gifted rising star winemakers, Jacob has his own label in addition to being the winemaker for Edmond August. The personal friendship and Ed’s respect for Jacob’s talent led to their professional association. In 2008 Edmond August Wines were born, with the initial 50 case release of a Grenache/Syrah blend.

Fast forward five years and today Edmond August Wines, superbly crafted by Jacob Toft, produce about 550 cases. Grapes are sourced from well regarded Paso Vineyards such as Torrin, Caliza, and Alta Colina, to name a few.

The love and importance of education influences Edmond’s choice of wine names – all of his wines reference school and education. In fact, on the back of each label are wonderful short vignettes about school, education and teaching. Ed says, “We know one thing for sure:  The state of American Education could be much improved if parents sent their kids’ teachers a nice bottle of wine now and then.  We’re here to help with that.”

Today, Edmond August teaches his customers (really friends) about good wine, good times and enjoying life.

Paso Underground is located at 1140 Pine St. in Paso Robles; tastes wines Friday through Saturday from 1-7 p.m. and on Sundays from 1-5 p.m. or by appointment. Call (805) 237-0799 for more information.

— Don Sonderling

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