Carl Kanowsky | Fulldraw: A Paso up-and-comer

Carl Kanowsky on Wine

Raw caption info: All photos courtesy of Terry Kanowsky: The first is Marcel, Fulldraw’s cellar master. The second is the painting discussed in the story plus bottles of the wines tasted for the column. The last is a photo of the bottles of the wines tasted. 

Following a grand day at Epoch, the Hansens, Terry, and I went to Fulldraw Vineyard, likely not a winery you know since it only makes 1,500 cases annually, a minuscule production — in comparison, Booker, its next-door neighbor, does an estimated 45,000 cases each year. But the next time you are in Paso Robles, make an appointment to taste there, as the owners clearly know what they are doing. 

Marcel, the cellarmaster, conducted our tasting. First, he told us about the owners, Connor and Rebecca McMahon.  

Connor, who hails from Iowa, developed a love for vino (especially those from Rhone) while working at a wine shop in Colorado. There he was introduced to some Paso wineries, including Booker. 

He knew that he had to explore wine production more fully, so he scored an internship at Booker. He found his calling. In just seven years he became the winery’s assistant winemaker and the vineyard manager. 

Rebecca followed the more traditional route by getting a degree from UC Davis and starting her career at Villa Creek Winery. 

They purchased the present site for Fulldraw in 2012. They took out the pinot vines and planted Rhone varietals. Four years later they had their first bottles. The physical facility opened Valentine’s Day 2020, and then promptly closed to the tasting public one month later due to COVID-19. They’ve subsequently reopened. 

Now to the wines. 

The first was the 2020 Drift, a blend of 80% Clairette blanc and 29% grenache blanc. I think this was the first time I had Clairette blanc, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as did everyone else. Pat gave it a 98, detailing the “nice bouquet, great taste and great legs.” Jim agreed that it was quite tasty and creamy. I felt that it maintained its balanced acidity rather well. It’s one of a few wines in which I could discern a texture, which I believe came from the 100% new French oak. Marcel advised that this wine would benefit from being served cool, not chilled, and that allowing the wine to breathe will open up its different dimensions.  

We then had the reverse of Drift, the 2020 Bamboo, with the percentages of the two varietals in Drift flipped. This had no secondary fermentation, and it saw more concrete than oak. I found it bracing and delicious, with grassy notes and rather refreshing. Terry got aromas of grass and slate, with stone fruit and lemon tastes. “Long finish with great balance,” she said. Pat and Jim also endorsed this wine. 

We had three red wines, but I’ll focus on just one, the 2019 Honey Bunny, a blend of 86% syrah and 14% mourvèdre. According to Marcel, the boldest wines from the barrels go into this bottling. But beware – this is not a pop-and-pour wine. Even at four years of age, it benefits from a good hour and a half of decanting.  

I found this delicious, with a long finish. Aromas of leather, with baking spices and cinnamon taste notes. Terry got blackberry and cherry smells, along with nutmeg and chocolate. On taste, she got white pepper and berry. Pat also enjoyed it, praising its great bouquet and strong fruit-forward flavors. Jim similarly appreciated it. 

One quick note: Fulldraw bottles feature unique artwork. For instance, Honey Bunny presents a World War II fighter, flying into action, adorned with a scantily clad lass (perhaps modeled after Connor’s grandmother), giving the pilot encouragement to succeed in battle. 

Be sure to try it if you have the chance. 

Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.  

One of the paintings that are used for the bottle labels at Fulldraw. Photo courtesy of Terry Kanowsky.
One of the paintings that are used for the bottle labels at Fulldraw. Photo courtesy of Terry Kanowsky.
Marcel, the cellar master at Fulldraw. Photo courtesy of Terry Kanowsky.
Marcel, the cellar master at Fulldraw. Photo courtesy of Terry Kanowsky.

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