A Journey through the Wines of Paso Robles
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.