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March 19, 2024

High Camp Wines: Worth the Trek!

There are so many wineries out there in the world that keeping track of their arrivals and departures could easily become a full-time job.  Buyouts of well-known brands by large wine companies always make a splash, but the quiet transfer and subsequent rebranding of lesser-known estates can fly under the radar for some time.  It’s a pleasure to be able to shine a little light on one such transaction – one worthy of keeping an eye on in the coming vintages.

High Camp Estate & Vineyard is located in the Estrella District of the Paso Robles AVA, the largest by acreage of the 11 districts.  High Camp is the winery furthest north in the district, just east of the town of San Miguel, and just barely south of Vino Vargas in the neighboring San Miguel district to the west.  Megan Mouren and Spencer Rawles left their Los Angeles careers – Megan had a dress shop in Hollywood, and Spencer worked as a set designer – in late 2020 (as the COVID pandemic was in full swing) to pursue a different sort of lifestyle.  Megan comes from generations of California farmers, and the family purchased the former Ranchita Canyon Winery from Bill Hinrichs and set to work.

In addition to farming and producing wine from the estate’s old vines, there’s some serious replanting underway and some sourcing of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Albariño from vineyards south of San Luis Obispo to fill out the portfolio.  Megan and Spencer wisely sought out the counsel of Central Coast rockstar winemaker Christian Roguenant, but as Christian would tell you, the pair isn’t at all afraid to get their hands dirty while learning everything that they can about what they’ve got and how to shepherd it from ground to glass.  Next time you’re out Paso way, make sure to put them on your itinerary.  Bonus – the views are spectacular!

I had the pleasure of tasting several barrel samples from the 2023 vintage, and you’ll want to make a mental note to be ready to get a piece of the action when they are released.  Pinot Noir from Spanish Springs Vineyard (a favorite site of mine) and Jack Ranch in the San Luis Obispo Coast area south of San Luis Obispo are crackling with life and richness, as are a Chardonnay and an Albariño.  Spencer said they use some estate Sangiovese in most of their blends, but after a taste of the ’23 barrel, I wouldn’t be surprised if a varietally-labeled bottling shows up.  A ’22 barrel sample of Cabernet Franc from the highest, chalkiest estate site shows great intensity without going over the top, with supple tannin structure and huge finish push.  I’d bet on scores for the finished versions of all of these landing in the 92+ range.

Of course, there’s wine in the bottle available as well – here’s a teaser for you:

High Camp, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Estate Reserve Red Wine 2021 ($45):  Aromas of mixed dark berry fruit are joined by notes of dill, earth and toasty oak, all of which show together as palate flavors.  A little grip holds the wood spice in suspension with the fruit, and they finish with the dill coming slightly forward.  Fire up the grill and serve this with a mixed meat platter.  Contains 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petite Sirah, 15% Petit Verdot and 5% Sangiovese.  90

Here's to intrepid spirits forging a new life in a remote place and sharing the spoils with the rest of us.  Cheers!
Posted by Rich Cook at 9:31 PM