I met Guillaume when Clos Solène's tasting room was still in the hipster and artistic Tin City area. Fresh, full of energy and with piercing blue eyes, Guillaume Fabre has become one of my favourite winemakers.
I've been in hundreds of wineries around the world, but I've never seen such a meticulous winemaker. From the way he harvests, selects the berries, rotates and covers the barrels, to the way he talks about his vineyard - the first time I met him I thought he was talking about his wife Solène while he was referring to his vineyard.
A visit to Clos Solène awakens all of your senses. If you close your eyes, you sip Clos Solène "Á Nos Pairs", and you pay attention to how the wine strongly, but at the same delicately, waltzes in your mouth, caressing your palate and leaving super balanced black note taste, you'll get an idea on how this passionate winemaker and his wife Solène work, sort grapes, cover the barrels during fermentation, crush, press and age their wines .
There's something really special about the aromas perceived every time they uncork the barrics to pull samples: they transport you to the old world and bring you back yo the new one. If you are lucky, you might catch the smell of fresh baked bread made by Solène early in the morning.
If you want to feel at home, in a relaxed tasting room enjoying premium wines with views of the gorgeous vineyards, this is your spot.
Note of the Photographer: Even though I have my favourite wines at Clos Solène, I never leave without doing a tasting. It's a fabulous journey though textures and vintages.
Here's Guillaume Fabre's profile, excerpted from "The Winemakers of Paso Robles" book, written by Paul Hodgins.
2040 Niderer Rd
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Tastings by appointment
3050 Limestone Way
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Guillàume Fabre’s life was laid out clearly and meticulously, like a map of an ancient wine region in his native France.
“My family has been making wine for a long time – many generations,” said the hand-some young winemaker from Narbonne.
But things changed. “My dad wanted to have a shift. He and my mom were tired of it after 30 years.” His father put the family property in the Languedoc-Roussillon region up for sale and headed to Bordeaux. Isn’t that like heading to Napa’s Oakville Cross or Howell Mountain?
“If you go Right Bank, it’s less expensive – a little,” Fabre said, sounding unconvincing.Fabre had worked with his father in the vineyards and cellar from the time he was a child. It was assumed he would continue the family business. At first, that seemed to be his path. “My father couldn’t sell the property in Languedoc right away, so I was helping him manage the estate. I was still going to school, so it was a pretty tough few years.” That’s a characteristic of the Fabre family – they’re not afraid of hard work.
Fabre pursued a major in winemaking, enology and vineyard management at the Lycée Charlemagne in Carcassonne, graduating in 2001. “Then I found a job on a beau-tiful estate. But it was not a great job.
Fabre hadn’t intended to stay long, but tragedy struck when the owner of the winery died unexpectedly. “It was a shock. It was pretty bad. They said, ‘Do you want to take over?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ I was 21.”
Fabre had managed crews when he was a teenager working for his dad, so the job didn’t intimidate him. “But I worked my ass off. I like challenges.”After two years, Fabre had the property running smoothly, and the family re-assumed control. “I left to help my dad. But then I thought, ‘I’m 23. I want to go some-where else before I really take over here.’”
Through connections in Bordeaux, Fabre found out about Stephan Asseo, the brilliant winemaker who had gotten Robert Parker’s attention with his French-style wines com-ing from L’Aventure, the Paso winery he founded in 1997.
“I didn’t know who Stephan was, but I looked online and I was pretty impressed. He took me on as an intern, and I was off to America.”
Usually, internships last for three months or so. Fabre stayed for 10 years and became assistant winemaker. The bond remains closer than ever. Fabre’s younger brother, who works at Law Estate Wines, married Asseo’s daughter.
Of course, Fabre began making his own wine right away. “I started with a site just behind L’Aventure called Russell Family Vineyard. They were leasing acreage, and I was able to buy the fruit for a good price because I was doing all the meticulous field work from pruning to harvest.”
It meant long days. “Every time I went to L’Aventure I left extra early to work on my vines and then went back to them after work. It was a crazy amount of work, but it was the only way I could afford good fruit.”
Paso wasn’t a home until Fabre could bring the love of his life here, a young woman whom he had met in church just before leav-ing for America. It took a bit of convincing, but Solène came. Fortunately, she loved it as much as he did. Clos Solène was launched in 2007 with just 40 cases.
Solène asked her husband to start by making something she could enjoy with food. Their first wine was a roussanne, a Rhône white that he remembers fondly from his childhood.
“We both knew right away that there’s a lot of potential here,” Fabre said. “The wines have good acid, excellent structure. And Stephan and others were already making great wine that truly reflected who they are. I wanted to do that.”
Focusing on Rhone varietals, Guillaume leases nearly two dozen different vineyards, all with different microclimates, soils, varietals and clones. After 10 years, Guillaume and Solène are realizing their dream: owning their intimate “clos,” tucked away on the west side of Paso Robles between his longtime friends at Saxum and L’Aventure.
© All photos on this website are copyrighted material and all rights are reserved.