HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Tonjum Cellars 2009 “Different Drummer” Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles. $10.99, www.TheWineClub.com.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him keep step to the music which he hears, however, measured or far away.”
—Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

APPEARANCE: Garnet with pink-orange edges, LEGS.
First aroma: Dust, white pepper, typewriter ribbon, iron, a hint of orange.
First taste: Spice, a little oak, berries hiding.
SECOND AROMA: MUCH more fruity. Complex; like a good Bordeaux.
NEXT TASTES: Spice, white pepper, big black fruits, bright cherry, black cherry, pipe tobacco. Dry, delicious, a hint of burnt cinnamon toast, baking spices. Chewy, round, mouth-filling. It actually became mouth-watering as it opened further, with a hint of toffee.
FINISH: Long, with spice and a touch of cedar.
CONCLUSION: Definitely decant this wine for best results. Balanced and delicious. Possibly the best Cabernet we’ve tasted this year.

This beautiful wine’s name, “Different Drummer,” comes from a lifetime of independence on the part of winemaker Jim Tondrum. “When I first got into the wine business in the early seventies in San Francisco,” Jim says, ”with Heublein Wines—it was rather corporate. My bed was a 19-foot sailboat in Sausalito, my kitchen was Gatsby’s Pizza in Sausalito, my bath was a health club near the ferry building in San Francisco. I commuted by bicycle and ferry from Sausalito to the health club, where I put on either my brown suit or my blue suit depending on which was in the cleaners.”

The wine had so much complexity, so much smooth loveliness, and at first a dusty quality on the nose (and none of the big purple-Cab bubbles), it struck us as a Bordeaux-style blend. When I asked Jim whether it was a blend, or perhaps a field blend, he answered, ”No blending, although we have in the past. We strive for an underlying structure to balance the effusive layers of Paso Robles fruit. To that end, no cold soaking before fermentation, maximum extraction during fermentation, and almost no racking during aging.”

So how can a wine this good cost just $10.99? In an interview with wine blogger Bill Ward (www.Decant-This.com), Jim said, “It’s fairly simple. The first thing you do is you don’t own a winery. Because if I owned a $9 million winery, this wine would be $25.” He continued, “My idea was to spend the money in places that bring the most quality.” Bill Ward wrote, “That, of course, would be on the grapes. So Tonjum leases space for the winemaking, does his own racking and uses a custom bottling company.”

The grapes are sourced from “a select bench land block from each of two complementary vineyards located on the east side of the Paso Robles appellation.”

WINEMAKER’S NOTES: This 2009 is our fifth vintage of Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a highly extracted Cabernet Sauvignon with densely concentrated fruit flavors without being overblown. The typical effusion of up front flavors and aromas of blackberry and blueberry fruit are there but with an additional red berry top note. The aroma of this 2009 is particularly inviting with concentrated fruit and hints of vanilla. The full bodied middle fruit is followed by a rich concentrated finish with a counterpoint of fine tannins and a lively balancing acidity. Delicious, rich, full bodied, with especially concentrated fruit flavors without being sweet. The secret is in the balancing acidity and fine tannins.”

24.8 Brix at harvest.
15 months barrel aged.

WEB: www.JimTonjumCellars.com

Sample received for review.

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