If you ever get to Paso Robles, you must visit the tasting room of Brian Benson. Again, being in Paso, the star here is Rhone Varietals. The wines are deep, rich and intense. Brian is the owner and winemaker at Brian Benson. He started making wine with his father at a very young age. He worked part time on the weekends learning the craft; and, at the age of 12, made his first wine. Back then, his first wine was a Cabernet. He became the full time assistant winemaker for his father at Dark Star Cellars in 2000. At the age of 19, he started making his own wines with an initial investment of less than $2000. His success has only grown from there.
The tasting room is on Anderson Lane and is filled with pictures of hot rods. He loves cars and has a passion for hot rods – their paintings adorn the walls. This really reminds me of my brother, who built rods from the frame up. So I am sure the guy has good taste – and it is reflected in his wine.
One of the most unique aspects of these wines is the amount of time spent in barrel. We tasted three wines that day, and the average time aged in oak was 35 months. What is remarkable is that the wines do not taste overly oaked. They are intense with bright fruit, floral aromatics and very smooth.
This wonderful Syrah is a perfect example of Brian Benson’s work. He offers a 100% Syrah from the Summit Block at Glenrose, which is aged 35 months in 100% new French Oak. Wine Spectator scored this wine at 94 points.
We tried another interesting wine that was served to us blind. It is called Mr. Mister, and we were asked to “not judge a book by its cover” – so we did not. To our surprise, it was 100% Merlot, aged 46 months in 500L Francois Ferrer Puncheons. It was remarkable and quite rich. Wine Spectator gave it 93 points.
One of the most attractive aspects with Brian Benson wines, at the moment, is the price point. I say “at the moment,” because his star is rising and the prices may go up. And rightfully so, because it does cost to leave wine in barrel for three years before releasing. The Syrah and the Merlot were $40. The Kandy Red II was $30. All in all, there are many good reasons to come to Paso Robles and visit at Brian Benson.