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Le Cuvier Winery

Le Cuvier Winery Le Cuvier (variously translates from the French as the “little barrel room” or less appropriately, the “little laundry”) lies a few miles inland from the Pacific Ocean on California’s Central Coast. The winery was founded in 1981 by co-owner/winemaker John Munch, but the Le Cuvier brand itself was not established until some years later. Originally, the winery bottled its wines under the brand name “Adelaida Cellars.” Under the guise of Adelaida Cellars, the winery remained a proprietorship owned & operated by Munch until 1990, when he joined into a partnership with the current owners of Adelaida Cellars. At that time, a certain amount of the existing wines were held back by Munch & bottled using his parallel Le Cuvier label. The first Le Cuvier wines were a Cabernet Sauvignon & a Syrah (the latter from the famed Hard Nose Vineyard owned by Munch), both from the 1988 vintage. Subsequent to 1988, very small amounts (under 2,000 combined cases yearly) of Le Cuvier wines have been made. Claiming that a profound epiphany provoked his move, Munch ended his Adelaida Cellars partnership in early 1999 to (as cliché goes) focus his attention on Le Cuvier. A new Le Cuvier winery was almost built in time for the 1999 harvest in the high hills west of Paso Robles. Enter Mary Fox, Doctor of Organizational Psychology – while researching the possibility of investing in vineyard property on California’s Central Coast, Dr. Fox serendipitously engaged Munch as consultant for her project in early 2000. She soon became entrapped by the glamour & deeply refined complexity of the Le Cuvier operation, & shortly thereafter joined with Munch as an equal partner in the winery. In addition to her considerable professional skills, Dr. Fox also brought much needed cash to the partnership. She appears to have found a life project in her new association where she now applies all of her energies in an attempt at creating organizational order.


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9750 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA, US, 93446 Email:
Phone: 805-238-5706 Web:
Fax: 805-237-0577
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  1998 Cabernet Sauvignon
As sophisticated & voluptuous as a Cardinal’s robe by candlelight, yet with a slightly disreputable air which nicely offsets the wine’s profound cassis & black cherry core. A nicely structured Cabernet, exhibiting finesse in a Continental vein, & if you’ve managed to swallow the foregoing fat hyperbolic pile, then you get 3 points & a free cracker. Beyond that, give some thought to enjoying this wine on an evening with friends, candle light, crisp duck with a cherry glaze, or rack of lamb with fried yucca & herbs. Grapes: Lone Madrone Vineyard in the York Mountain appellation. Ageability: how about fourteen years? Cases produced: three hundred & five plus 2 bottles.
  1999 Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is something altogether special & as profoundly rich a wine as ever I’ve been associated with. This wine calls for an elegant dinner based on red flesh, rich & saucy, something you can really sink your talons into. It has the intense staining quality of ripely dark wild mulberry, a multiplexed layering of darkest chocolate with cherry coulis, cinnamon & a number of exotic spices I don’t recognize, pungent earthy notes, hints of cedar & leather, fully mouth watering, a complete experience sliding down the throat. I do believe that I even detected the wafting perfume of flowering barrel cactus when I set my tongue & nose to a glass this morning . . . purely to arrive at this description, you understand. Grapes: Lone Madrone Vineyard in the York Mountain area. Ageability: a long, long time.
  1999 Late Harvest Zinfandel
A grand comfiture of balanced sweet brightness, blueberry leading towards blackberry, all commingled with a fine touch of the briary-earthy note classic to West-Side Zinfandel vines. Spice is here too, a grind of white pepper corns to bite your nose & tongue. Dunk a chocolate biscotti in this wine & its all cherries, black cherries to the very last drop. Decadence is a virtue when discretely balanced. Grapes: Beckwith Vineyard & McGourty Vineyard.
  1999 Zinfandel
Have you ever strolled through a bazaar in North Africa, exotic notes of camel & goat, incense & leather, pounded copper bowls filled with herbs, dates & unknown dried fruit, dusty carpets & pepper, curiously dangerous citizens with gold teeth & wicked smiles smoking questionable herbs. This wine is a passport of sorts, & is especially enjoyable for its total lack of subtlety & for itsexuberance of excess. Grapes: All West Side Paso Robles limestone vineyards - Martinelli, Kiler Creek, Tonesi, McGourty, Pesenti. Ageability: at least a very long time. Cases Produced: 275 cases.
  2000 Cabernet Sauvignon
A distinctly masculine wine, though with some elements of interesting ambiguity, like Johnny Deppin Pirates of the Caribbean. Sweet fruit-wood smoke with licorice-tar & other grand aromatics of tobacco & leather, a medley of ripe, black berries & cassis in a finely carved cedar cask. Perhaps a trace of mint & something of lavender? This Cabernet is so extracted & dark that youcannot see though it unless you hold your glass above your head at a sharp horizontal angle, looking up through a thin layer of wine in your tilted glass towards a bright light, thus revealing its limpid clarity. Occasionally, some of the fine liquid will spill upon your pate, in which case consider yourself properly anointed. Grapes: the Carver Vineyard in the York Mountain appellation west of Paso Robles. Aged: barrelfermented & aged 43 months in oak. Ageability: longer than most of us.
  2000 Pentimento
Mouth watering raspberries & black cherries, layered with the scent of dried aromatic herbs, & the shimmering ghost of smoky Lapsang Souchong tea. Sure, there is also a concentration of slow roasted coffee sprinkled with shavings of chocolate, deep & long, with a pleasingly piquant bite of black pepper. So, what’s in the blend? Not gonna tell, except to say that pentimentoin art refers to the mysterious reappearance on canvas, sometimes years later, of images which have been painted over. In the blending of diverse wines, pentimento refers to the curious attempt by each of the various blended wines to make itself individually known, to try to sneak out of your glass & dance its own peculiar dance upon your tongue. When the various wine elements in a blend are in balance, they must of needs dance together harmoniously, when not in balance there is screaming chaos & slam dancing. One hopes for occasional islands of harmonyin a world aswirl with chaos. Grapes: All West Side Paso Robles vineyards. Ageability: more or less a long, long time.
  2000 Zinfandel
“Elegant” is a relative term when applied to Zinfandel, but elegant is indeed an appropriate descriptor for this wine. Brambles & black pepper with rich black fruit, complex with wild rosemary & wafting notes of citrus flowers decadently crushed under linen sheets. A fine opera, & as subtle as Wagner’s The Valkyrie, conducted by Bacchus & performed by Frank Zappa & Tom Waits on a soft mid-summer’s night on the isle of Corfu. The Le Cuvier 2000 Zinfandel is a blend of Zins made from five west side Paso Robles vineyards [35.33% Kiler Creek vineyard, 20.59% Martinelli Vineyard, 20.39% McGourty Vineyard, 16.17% Beckwith Vineyard, & 7.52% Tonesi Vineyard]. Ageability: someday we will know, won’t we? An initial bottling of 200 cases was done in September 2003, which means that approximately 200 additional cases of the 2000 blend is still in barrel & will be permitted to slumber in sweet peace for an undetermined period of further aging (surely a year or two longer) before bottling.
  2001 Sangiovese
This is surely a pagan wine: "Sangiovese" translates as "Jove’s Blood," but I don’t believe that it refers to the blood coursing the god’s veins - metallic green, I’m told, rather, the color here is more appropriately that of a sacrificial offering poured upon the earth in the vernal chill of early Spring to ensure a good crop through proper fertility of the Goddess. Yet Jove & the Goddess are known for giving more than they take, & the proof lies in the aromatics of a grand harvest in your glass, pungent autumnal fields still warm from the sun, ripe juicy black cherries, & bright tartness to bring joy to the pleasures of roasted flesh. Can you smell the scent of a rumpled bed of crushed roses? Makes you want to cry out with a resounding "yes!" waiving a dinner bone over your head. Admit it. You are a pagan at heart, or you would not smile so knowingly while staring into a candle’s flame. Grapes: from the McGourty Vineyard just around the corner from Le Cuvier on Chimney Rock Road. Aged & Bottled: 137 cases of this wine were bottled after a brief 30 months or so in oak. The equivalent of an additional 295 cases remain aging in barrel, & will not be bottled until Spring of 2005, or perhaps beyond that. Ageability: Sangiovese is an Italian grape. Italians give a rude gesture when describing the extraordinary longevity of Sangiovese wines, a gesture one suspects inappropriate to American sensibilities.
  2001 Syrah
This wine encompasses all of the primitive joys of dark chocolate & purple violets, dense & imperially rich,you will want to have the entirety of a nicely fatted & roasted lamb at hand, or if you are dieting, then the smaller bulk of a suckling pig skewered & rotisseried to crisp perfection will serve. Do as the Aztec kings did before the Spanish came & messed things up: point at the choice morsel you desire, & surely someone will fetch you up a nice haunch or rib to gnaw upon, all the while keeping your cup filled with theSyrah’s intriguing scent of chocolate & violets. You may wish to wear a smoothly polished piece of obsidian in your navel to complete the effect. Grapes: from the Halter Vineyard just down the road at the junction of Vineyard Drive & Adelaida Road. Aged: as with all of our wines (red & white), the Syrah was barrel fermented & held on the gross lees for a couple of years before an initial racking & blending. Ageability:we will need to wait & see. Cases produced: 206 cases were bottled April 19, 2004, after 32 months of barrel aging.
  Cabernet Franc
Mongol hordes sweeping down on some innocent civilization or other would place goat flesh & dried berries in a leather sack which served as padding between rider & horse. Thus prepared, the contents tenderized by friction between the rider & the lathered heat of the horse would cook the noontime meals. Like Mongol stew, there’s a whole lot bouncing around in this Cab Franc: raspberry pastille, floral notes intertwined with camphor resin, musk & vanilla, pomegranate & a lingering juicy blueberry brightness. Not unexpectedly, this wine pairs quite nicely with roasted goat.
  Cabernet Sauvignon
Caught in a deep fit of lust-filled desire, some wines are macho sexists. It can’t be helped. Scented of tobacco leaf aged in cedar with dark Jamaican rum dribbling all down its chin, cassis & blackberries, but not just the berries; rather the entire tangled bush, the very core of the dusty bramble, like a passionate black beard shining with resinous perfumes; & then (ah, ladies!) the tranquil peace following a particularly illicit siesta during the day’s long heat, wrinkled linen cooled by languorous shadows through the jalousie. The core is pure umami, the taste sense that defines all that is delicious in deeply aged red wine, hard pungent cheese, rare salted & peppered flesh coursing with savory juices. Receptors for umami reside on the tongue, to be sure, but also in the most ancient memories of all carnivores. I do believe that the good vampire Armand, with liquid rubies on his lips, smiles gently in his dark, dusky keep, engulfed in savory dreams, umami, murmuring delicious umami, as he awaits the sweet promise of a dark velvet night.
Hues of sun-kissed daffodils and straw dipped in honeyed amber. Gleeful aromas of orange blossom, pineapple slice and other delicate citrus, a dash of ginger, and a note of something exotic that we can’t quite put our collective fingers on, perhaps cumquat, perhaps clementine.. Flavors are of green apple, candied orange and a modest hint of butterscotch swirl in the background, leading to a coyly voluptuous finish. Seize the moment! Grapes: barrel fermented from fruit of the Carmody McKnight vineyards in the hills west of Paso Robles. Aged: 30 months or so in barrel. Ageability: the 1992 vintage Chardonnay is still going strong, so who knows.
  Martinelli Vineyard Zinfandel
Cherries jubilee, bourbon vanilla beans from Madagascar, attar of rose, orange peel & sage, all stored in a cedar cask deeply carved with well developed Rubenesque figures of dancing ladies. If the macho Tonesi Zin is Hemingway’s Blood in the Afternoon, then the Old Vine Martinelli is his visit to a Havana brothel in the early evening, an innocent outing purely to research female characters for a lost feminist novel he was known to have written. As with the Old Vine Tonesi, this Martinelli Zin also spent 47 months aging in neutral oak, but at a lower 17.12% alcohol it is somewhat more restrained.
  Mighty Murcielago (Non-vintage Red Bat Cuvee)
Wonderfully melodious Tom Waits crooning his charming song "Heart Attack & Vine" gives us a classic verse a propos Red Bat Cuvée: “this stuff will probably kill you; lets do another line . . .” Berries again, always dark berries, but here wrapped in rich Valpona chocolate, with a slice of dear Aunt Fanny’s pound cake, & good grief! bacon, too. What you have here is another fine example of excess, but you can feel good about over-indulging since a portion of the sale of each bottle is sent to Austin, Texas, in support of Bat Conservation International.
Attar of rose petals, cranberry & clove, dignity with cinnamon entwined in camphored gossamers. Oh, the mystery of well traveled leather! These are the provocative scents you discover while hiding in a very wealthy dowager’s closet on a rain slashed day of blustery winds, swirling wet leaves, fur & silk, rubies & sequins, and what has she been doing these long years to collect such an intriguing array of diverse impressions? And what, by the way, are you doing in her closet? Shame on you!
  Reserve Chardonnay
Why can’t this wine behave? Watch it dance about in your glass, a pure golden luminescence glowing from its core. Crème Brulée & Curaçao, & sweet-bitter orange peel only found in those singular marmalades from the South Caribbean. Caramel cream, pineapple & ripe mango with aromatic jasmine blossoms - an extraordinary lady. Now roll her on your tongue: voluptuous. The secret? Chardonnay grapes fully exposed to the sun from the time of birth at flowering have golden skins redolent of the scents & flavors of a pagan goddess. To capture the grape’s full essence & golden hue, this wine was totally fermented on its skin just like a classic red wine. All the books insist one cannot, must not, do this with white wine. The books also advise against more than a few short months of barrel aging for whites. Perversely, this wine spent three splendid years in the barrel, with 30 months of that time sur lie. . . perhaps the books were written by Philistines? And being born of the sun, this Chardonnay does not enjoy the cold, so please don’t over chill her! Put her on ice & she will shiver while pulling on frumpy covers, hiding her finest attributes. Like a perfect lady from Savannah, or from the port city Bahia, she is at her best on the veranda, at that delicious evening temperature just before you think that she might like a shawl.
  Tonesi Vineyard Zinfandel
After spending 47 months aging in neutral oak barrels, this wine is thoroughly pleased with itself. Dry raspberry, white pepper, cranberry & allspice, smoked bull’s blood & treacle, calling across the barroom for aged Cuban tobacco with all the subtlety of Hemingway singing an opera while describing Sunday’s bull fight. Quite reminiscent of the leather in a gents club in Havana, circa September 1944, a touch of blackberry pomade, & remarkably balanced on the legs despite its 17.29% blood alcohol level.
A carnival barker absolutely devoid of subtlety & finesse, there is nothing “Bordeaux-like” about this wine. With delicate levels of ethanol pushing 17% by volume, this Zin is an outrageous compote of classic raspberry layered with elderberry, long, deep & juicy, & certainly delightful in the company of a fine haunch of wild boar, studded with slivers of garlic, generously peppered & rubbed with aromatic herbs, spun to roast à la ficelle in front of glowing, smoking embers. No linen table cloth please, just an exceedingly capacious weekend filled with mischievous rascals, rapscallions, wild exaggeration & laughter.


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