A visit to Sixmilebridge Vineyards is a must when visiting Paso Robles. Located in the Peachy Canyon corridor, the winey features small-batch estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux style blends. The blends make Sixmilebridge stand out because they speak to the place, which once you arrive, you will know why the terroir is so special.
Jim and Barbara Moroney
Jim and Barbara Moroney contemplated what to do with the next chapter of their lives. Jim’s background was news, and he played a vital role in making the news digital. It was coming time to retire as chairman, president, and Chief Executive Officer of the Dallas Morning News. Jim had traveled the world visiting wineries. He and Barbara always had a hankering for Bordeaux style blends. During this time, they visited wineries in California and were especially impressed with the authentic and low-key atmosphere of Paso Robles. They decided to take the leap and purchased 94 acres in the Peachy Canyon corridor of the Adelaida District AVA.
Now retired from the news business, Jim spends over half his time in Texas, and the rest in California perfecting his new career and endearing those who will listen with his passion for wine and love of his estate winery.
Sixmilebridge refers to a town located in County Clare, Ireland, once the home of Jim’s great grandfather, who bore the same name. For Jim, it represents what we go through to get where we are today. The story goes that in 1852 a group of upper-class landlords and armed soldiers coercing a group of tenants to vote against their interests. Another group of tenants led by two priests gathered and rioted. The soldiers opened fire, and six people were slain. Supposedly everyone who stood up for their rights went to jail for a year, including one priest, Fr. Clune. Fr. Clune’s red ceremonial hat fashioned a bullet hole and became the symbol of the day. This hat became the emblem on the Sixmilebridge label, signifying Jim’s family heritage.
Winemaking and Vineyard Team
As we all know, Paso Robles is known for growing Rhone varieties, but Jim loved Bordeaux style wines and dreamed of growing Bordeaux varieties. Considering the extremely steep slopes of their property, most thought the idea very unattainable, but Jim’s determination prevailed. The next step on the path to making great wines was picking a winemaker and vineyard manager, who saw Jim’s vision of growing and making Bordeaux style blends. Jim and Barbara chose Anthony Yount. Anthony is also the winemaker at Denner and has his own label Kinero Cellars and Royal Nonesuch Farm. They hired Anthony’s wife, Hilary as the vineyard manager, making Sixmilebridge both a husband and wife owner team and a winemaking and vineyard team of spouses. Sixmilebridge is a family affair in more ways than one.
In 2013 the team began planting the first of the three vineyards’ steep, rugged limestone slopes that make up Sixmilebridge. The limestone in this area is tinted pink or what you might call a peachy color, caused by the iron deposits in the soils. Peachy Canyon got its name from this pinky limestone. The elevation of these vineyards ranges between 1775 and 1885. All three vineyards experience diurnal swings of 50 degrees between night and day.
Maidie Vineyard is named after Jim’s paternal grandmother. The vineyards consist of 13.66 acres planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Zinfandel. The soil composition comprises limestone riddled with natural fissures that create excellent drainage. Jim often refers to the Maidie Vineyard as his left bank vineyard.
Grace Vineyard is named after Jim’s maternal grandmother. The vineyard consists of almost 10 acres planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This vineyard’s clay and limestone soil require minimal irrigation. Jim likens this vineyard to the right bank.
Florabel Vineyard, named for Barbara’s maternal grandmother, was planted this year with Malbec. In 2022, Jim plans on planting some of the newly sanctioned varietals for Bordeaux, including Marselan and Touriga National.
Sixmilebridge Bordeaux Style Blends
I was fortunate to sample the Sixmilebridge wines on two different occasions. At both tastings, I sampled the 2017 and the 2018 Estate Cuvee. Although the vintages are similar to Bordeaux style blends, the flavor profiles are very different.
2017 Estate Cuvée consists of a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 12% Malbec, 12% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Franc. In 2017 the wine aged 26 months in French Oak, 82% new and 18% neutral oak. This wine comes across as very juicy with its blackberry and cocoa flavors. One could smell the depth of this wine.
2018 Estate Cuvée blends 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdon, 4% Malbec and 4 % Cabernet Franc. The younger vintage needs more time to develop, but the wine exhibited more savory qualities and acidity. This wine features flavors of dark cherry and plum.
In 2022, starting with the 2019 vintage, Jim is making a change to both these Cuvées. Instead of making a Cuvée, he will make two wines, one being more left bank focused; Cabernet Sauvignon driven and called Shannon for the town located to the left of Sixmilebridge. The other represents the town of Limerick, located to the right of Sixmilebridge. This wine symbolizes the right bank and is Merlot and Cabernet Franc driven.
2018 Paladin is Sixmilebridge’s homage to Zinfandel in Paso Robles. Think Bordeaux style blends with Zinfandel making Paladin the flagship wine of the winery. This wine ages 22 months. The wine consists of 75% Zinfandel, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8 % Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1 % Malbec. One of my favorites at the tasting, this approachable wine displays wonderful florals on the nose and the palate, dark fruit, and pepper on the finish.
Other Bordeaux Style Blends
Incantation represents Sixmilebridge’s take on a Malbec Bordeaux style blends. In addition, Sixmilebridge creates a Cabernet Sauvignon that combines Cabernet Sauvignon primarily with Petit Verdot.
2018 Sauvignon Blanc, although a French varietal, takes us to the Loire Valley. I found not your typical grassy and grapefruit-like Sauvignon Blanc but one with lots of viscosity. The wine ferments in barrel and aged 15 months in 50% new oak. In 2018 produced only one barrel of Sauvignon Blanc. Flavors of golden apple permeate the wine.
2019 Rosé of Cabernet Franc utilizes the Saignée method and reveals a bright, fresh display of the sweetness of tangerine mixed with strawberries.
The setting of the Sixmilebridge tasting room is worth the drive to sample their Bordeaux Style blends. The contemporary designed building takes advantage of the outdoor spaces and vineyard view. On a hot day, a screen comes down to protect the overhang. The tasting room is open by reservation only.
Common to the wine industry, this writer received hosted wine samples. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.