Prepare to be quietly dazzled at Brecon Estate, a boutique winery in the Adelaida District. A recent modernization received recognition for the brilliant visual conversation the architects initiated between the wine-making facility and the surrounding rolling landscape of old-vine Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes. The Bordeaux, Rhône, and other wines poured here also impress.
One of the Brecon Estate complex’s many graces notes are its brown rough-stucco walls. Their texture mimics the limestone-laden soil beneath the winery. The subterranean undercurrents provide daily delight to Brecon Estate’s Welsh founder and winemaker, Damian Grindley, an avid caver. Also enamored of the sport is his Australian wife, Amanda, whose duties include running the tasting room. The Grindleys named their winery for Wales’s Brecon Beacons National Park, which contains a challenging system of limestone caves.
Damian’s résumé includes stints making wines in Australia and Europe, as well as at large U.S. producers such as Kendall-Jackson and Gallo. The winemaker was also responsible for a few acclaimed vintages 7 miles away at much smaller Calcareous Vineyards. Among the wines he crafted there was a much-lauded Petit Verdot that achieved his goal of exhibiting “strength but soft tannins.”
Damian, who applies the same sensibility to his own wines, describes the Brecon Estate approach as “Paso-centric.” Which is to say he emphasizes the varietals that do well here. Brecon Estate is perhaps best known for its estate Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s also an Albariño that ages in oak barrels with acacia, rather than oak, heads. The acacia, says Damian, enhances the grape’s floral qualities.
Also in the Brecon mix are an Adelaida District Syrah, a Cabernet Sauvignon–Petite Sirah blend and a magical Bordeaux-style Heritage wine. This one is heavier than usual on the Malbec and Petit Verdot and lighter on the Cabernet Sauvignon. Because Damian makes his wines in small quantities—total case production is about 2,300—the tasting room lineup changes. One to inquire about, though, is “42,” its name a nod to the novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In a recent vintage, Petite Sirah replaced Grenache in the traditional Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre to satisfying effect.
For all Brecon Estate’s architectural flair, the atmosphere is laid-back and cheery. The tasting bar opens out to an expansive concrete patio furnished with oversize chairs and sofas and shaded by umbrellas and nearby oaks. The outgoing Amanda sets a welcoming tone that, along with Damian’s complex yet delectable wines, invites lingering. If it’s past harvest and the winemaker isn’t around, he may well be out caving. The activity’s adrenaline rush, says Amanda, “clears his head and also his palate.” Judging by the wines, this strategy is a resounding success.
Why go: complex wines with strength but soft tannins; sophisticated architecture; welcoming, laid-back setting
Brecon Estate appears in these Paso Robles itineraries: