An Afternoon With WineMaker Michael Mooney At Chateau Margene in Paso Robles.

We joined Michael on a beautiful afternoon sitting on the patio overlooking the Vineyard with some beautiful bottles of wine and lots of glasses! This is going to be fun.


As Michael began to pour the first wine, we wanted to learn more about how he got started in the business of providing great pleasure to thousands. After all, a major ingredient in wine-making is the story behind it and Chateau Margene is no exception.
Michael explained he caught the wine making bug and wanted to establish a vineyard, build a Winery and establish a home. He came from a high-tech background and admitted he didn’t know anything about winemaking but Nevertheless, he took up residence in the summer of 1998. Not wasting any time, he planted his 5.5 acre estate in the fall of the same year.

Michael got the ball rolling pretty fast. Château Margene’s first wine was a Cabernet produced in 1997 sourced from both the east and west side of Paso Robles. 2011 was a monumental year for this high-tech executive turned winemaker. They bottled the first estate wines a 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2001 reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Of course the first question people ask is why Paso Robles? Michael explained that he drew from his high-tech background “it’s all about the heat index and consistency” he said. “Of course we first looked for land in Napa and Sonoma but we weren’t really happy with the consistency on the heat index we found.” He added. He headed south and then he found his promised land of what would become Chateau Margene. Paso Robles was a place to be with the heat index that was consistent is per perfect for Cabernet and that’s how the story began.

Being the Corporate guy he is, Michael and his wife Margene put together a 10 year plan. Step one, hire the best venticulturalist we can find. Step 2, hire the best winemaker we can find and step 3 “We listen and we learn” he stated. And that they did, in 2000 Michael and Margene started making their own wine after listening and learning for three years.
The work certainly paid off in 2003. 312 Wines were entered in the international Cabernet shootout. 12 were selected as being “standouts “ One of those standouts was the 2000 Chateau Margene Cabernet Sauvignon which finished seventh and went on to tie for first place! Not bad for a high-tech Executive turned winemaker.

Enjoying an afternoon overlooking the rolling hills, we continued our enlightening conversation as Michael poured our first treat. A tasty Chateau Margene 2010 somewhat young, this lovely blend 79% Cabernet 16% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot is exquisite. Blackcurrant and blueberries make you feel like you’re walking through a blueberry patch in the forest. Speaking about forest, it also features Cedar notes as well. The Cabernet was sourced from five different vineyards. That’s what Chateau Margene is all about. The 2010 has a nice long finish with moderate tannins.

We got and education Michael Mooney style on oak barrels. He personally likes 30% new oak. He knows of course, many wine makers like 100% brand new oak but he is always “looking for the fruit to be a star” he said.
Recently, Michael and some of the other winemakers, 16 them to be exact formed the Cabernet collective because they feel that Paso Robles can make some of the best cabernets in the world. They have a scientific term called diurnal shift. This is term for a huge gap in daily temperatures. In Paso Robles for example, in some areas in August at 5 PM it could be 100F, at 6 AM it could be 50F. This is great for balanced acidity and for lovely Cabernets.

As we said earlier Paso Robles is very well known for making very good Zinfandels. We were schooled on the Paso Robles AVA from one who knows. There are 613,000 acres planted in the Paso Robles AVA. Michael went on to say of those 613,000 acres only 9% is Zinfandel. The next most popular for consumers are the Rhone varietals and they only account 14 to 17% of the total. The hugely overlooked and very good Bordeaux varietals account for a majority at 55% percent of the 613,000 acres planted. That fact alone just goes to show how much fun exploring a new area can be and those little interesting facts, you may find along those curvy dirt roads, are the true gems of an wine adventure.

Chateau Margene 2009 Meritage was next in our glass of pure enjoyment. Meritage is always a personal favorite. This Bordeaux style blend is very typical of what should we would expect from the west side of Paso Robles. A sexy, elegant blend of 40% Cabernet 40% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc makes this wine perfect any time of year, with food or by itself, you can’t go wrong. Michael himself enjoys the Meritage because “This is what Paso Robles is all about” he said swirling his glass with a smile.

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