Earlier this year I visited California and made my way to Paso Robles to drink some wine. The goal was to learn and appreciate this acclaimed California wine destinations.
Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco as part of the central coast region of the state, Paso Robles offers an “old California” vibe with opportunity to visit plenty of top notch wineries. The soil and elevation (different from Napa), drastic day-night temperature changes, and pioneer spirit make Paso a place to expand and enhance your palette on not just California wine, but wine period.
In town for a few nights I spent many hours appreciating seven vineyards and nearly sixty tastes of wine when also adding up dinners and purchases taken back to the backyard evening fireplace too. And honestly, it wasn’t enough. There is so much to discover here, but I don’t plan to be sad because it’s over, but plan to remain thrilled because it happened.
And to recap, let’s check out the seven vineyards I visited on my journey to this wine region and understand more about why I already want to return.
If you check the reviews before traveling, you will discover people love Tobin James for its wine tastings. First off, it is a fun place that delivers a complete California cowboy vibe complete with an old western style bar from the 1800s with a bullet hole. All guests belly-up and choose tastes from a double sided list of wines for a tasting with hour inside and the opportunity to sample six wines for just $20. This tasting fee is waived just with a purchase of bottle of wine (for $20 or more). Tobin James is one of the best tasting values I discovered in Paso and served as a great place to begin the adventure.
When tasting, make sure you flip the wine menu and save room to sample the “Fat Boy” zinfandel. Besides that one must, let your tastes be steered by the “host “who will pour the selections based on your conversations and likes. We tasted with Ionee and she made it memorable indeed. Other notable for me was sampling the 100% Petit Verdot, a first for me. I enjoy discovering grapes by themselves to discover what it adds to blends.
Tobin James Winery set the stage for us to saddle up and enjoy the fantastic trip through the wines of Paso Robles.
Paris Valley Road
This newer establishment in Paso showcases complete elegance inspired by the grand cru chateaus of France. Visitors will find a modern twist on the classic French vibe with much attention to all details of the vineyard tasting experience including the art adoring the walls.
Here wine drinkers will find a few tasting flights options at $25, but also purchase options available to pair wines with the delicious lunch and brunch menus. Do pay attention though when making reservations, the full menu was only reserved for certain days of the week as with many places. Yet, even if your visit comes with limited menu, Paris Valley Road is ideal for a top-notch celebration since they make a delightful bubbly available by the bottle. Planning a 50th wedding anniversary, a birthday wine tasting weekend, Paris Velly Road is the place for an elegant stop.
Also, do taste the Sauvignon Blanc, it’s not an exact Sancerre but definitely showcases minerality from the limestone soils and offered delightful fruit on the nose. It is included in a tasting.
Another place, a must visit for many, is Tin City. Inside this destination visitors find great shops for artisanal food, sheep’s milk ice cream, a craft brewery and a few winery tasting “store fronts” too. On my visit we headed to ONX.
In Paso, Rhone Style GSMs are popular, but here I really learned and discussed how the local Rhone Rangers are altering the classic (Grenache, Syrah, Moulvedre (GSM) blend adding additional grapes (e.g. Petit Verdict) plus also changing ratios. Through my tasting with Paola, I thoroughly enjoyed those conversations and also appreciated the ONX Winery Rose since we did escape the late afternoon sun and heat (approx. 100 f) as you will need to do on a visit to Paso. Tasting here are $25 and are waived with a two bottle or club level purchase.
Tin City also served as the perfect spot to end the day as you leave not just with wine from a day of tastings, but also plans for dinner, especially if you decide to cook food from the artisanal market back at your accommodations and pair it with a purchased bottle from the day as we did.
When researching the route of wineries for the day, one must pay attention to the open hours, especially since all wineries seem to close at 5pm. Castoro Cellars opened at 10am (others can open at 11am or even 12pm) making the winery a great place to start the day early.
With a perfect setting for views of the vineyard and plentiful shaded tables outside Castoro, marketed as the only 100% certified sustainable winery in Paso offers an idyllic setting. For tastings, two different flights were offered at $20 each. I selected one with the Albariño, a new favorite grape for me.
This Spanish grape grown differently here really confirmed the versatility of this wine region. This is not just California Cab or Zin country, although both are worthy of tasting for sure, but a place for a multitude of grapes of expressions. Besides the Albariño, the Rose and a wine from neighboring vineyard Bethel Road which Castoro Cellars purchased less than ten years earlier were highlights of the early morning flight.
A place known for its gigantic Adirondack chair that every group must take a photo, provides plenty of smaller such chairs to provide a perfect space for a picnic type experience for its visitors. For the more serious taster, perhaps inside the old schoolhouse will provide the required personalized attention to details, but for many, the views, breeze, and shade outside seem perfectly paired with a row of wine to taste.
Peachy Canyone Winery did provide light snacks and also a corn hole setup. It was a pleasant experience, enjoyable, but I am not sure I can pick a specific wine but do suggest you try the zinfandel. .Tastings were $25 with the fee waived with a 2 bottle purchase or club membership.
J Dusi Winery
The boutique vibe and Italian feel comes across instantly at J Dusi Winery. With multiple generations of grape growing and Italian family roots, it was no surprise the refreshing, clean, and crisp Pinot Grigio became the perfect answer to beat the heat outside. Tasting inside, also an option, doesn;t allow one to truly appreciate the vineyard views form the tables under the brilliant blue umbrellas.
Wine tasters will find both J Dusi, and the Paper Street wines included in the $30 tasting that is waived with a $40 bottle purchase. We found our GSM names The Narrator, ((really MGS) as a winner through our tastings here at J Dusi Winery.
We selected Cass Winery because based on its recommended kitchen for lunch and since it was marketed as French DNA with a Paso Vibe. The Paso vibe came across immediately arriving to its outdoor western vibe. The French arrived with a peek into the library room and also with tasting the wines.
Here the wine tasting cost $25 with the fee waived on a two bottle purchase. The tasting flight included GSMs, Bordeaux style wines and also a rose all highlighting its French influences. The menu also offered plenty to satisfy a diverse range of palettes. Cass Winery became another great spot to appreciate the culture of Paso through its cuisine and wine.
The Magnificent 7 ?
I just visited seven of the more than 200 wineries located in Paso Robles. Some might say I just scratched the surface, but I can assure you after a visit and with only a chance to explore a few wineries wine drinkers quickly realizes this place is different. This wine destination is special. So for all the people who left their heart in San Francisco, they may want to venture in California’s central coast and the wine region of Paso Robles, I think they’ll find it there.
For more information on the wine region of Paso Robles, listen to Staying Adventurous Podcast episode 64 - Discovering the Wine Region of Paso Robles
Stay Luxurious, Craig
Ps - And for those wanting to appreciate more about wine, join me as your host on the next stay luxurious journey in wine as we travel through Italy on November 5th. We taste six personally curated wines with identified pairings. Sign up today.