The Paso Robles Wine Region, known for its Bordeaux and Rhône style wines, lies halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
From downtown tasting rooms to small family-run operations to multi-million-dollar wineries with elegant tasting rooms and stunning views, there’s so much to choose from. And although it’s a world-class wine destination that draws thousands of wine lovers annually, Paso still retains a genuine feel of hospitality where meeting the winemaker is not unusual.
A Brief History of the Paso Robles Wine Region
The Paso Robles wine region started in the late 1960s and early 1970s with a handful of pioneers who recognized the rich potential of this agricultural community. In 1983, the wine region became its own AVA. However, according to Gary Eberle, one of those early pioneers, it wasn’t until the late 90s that the region started getting recognition for its quality wines. Then, Eberle says, “The real explosion occurred between 2003 – 2007.”
In 2013, Paso Robles Wine Country was named Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Region of the Year. Today, with 11 sub-AVAs and more than 200 wineries, the region is well-known but still growing in recognition.
One of the region’s most popular wineries, DAOU Vineyards provides stunning views from the top of DAOU Mountain. Seated tastings, culinary pairings, and knowledgeable wine servers make this a comprehensive and comfortable wine tasting experience.
The 2019 Chemin de Fleurs, a delightful white blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and Roussanne, provided a great kickstart to my wine tasting experience. A Pinot Noir and two red blends were equally delicious. And the 2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 20 months in French Oak, really reflects the region and the winemaker’s talent.
Cass Winery, a boutique winery located along beautiful Paso Robles backroads on the east side of Paso, boasts French DNA and a Paso personality. Named 2020 Winery of the Year by the Central Coast Wine Competition, the winery makes a wide variety of Bordeaux and Rhône-style wines. One of their most popular white wines is the 2019 Viognier. Their flagship wine is the 2018 Rockin One, a blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah, and Petite Syrah. Winemaker Sterling Kragten calls this “the little black dress.” He says, “It’s elegant yet works for any occasion.”
A full lunch menu from their onsite café pairs well with their estate-grown wines. But it’s the genuine Paso Robles hospitality you experience at Cass that will make you want to come back again.
Allegretto Vineyard Resort
Allegretto just feels magical the moment you walk into the stunning property. A resort, a winery, a spa, and an impressive art collection, Allegretto is a destination in itself. Its wine tasting room, open to the public, offers spacious patio seating overlooking a Tuscan-inspired piazza. Knowledgeable staff explain each wine as they pour it, tell the story of the property, and make guests feel welcome.
The 2019 Trio, a blend of Viognier, Vermentino, and Roussanne, provided a delightful introduction to Allegretto’s Rhone-style wines. The Rosé of Tannat proved to be a favorite of mine because I like a dry Rosé and Tannat (the national grape of Uruguay) is one of my favorite varietals. The 2019 Pinot Noir, sourced from grapes out of the Santa Lucia Highlands, pairs well with food.
Be sure to visit LXV Wine for one of the more unique wine tasting experiences in downtown Paso Robles. Owners Neeta and Kunal Mittal pair old-world wines with neutral cheeses coated in exotic spice blends. The owners use this pairing to teach guests how to deconstruct the subtle flavors and aromas in wine. You’ll get to try ingredients like black truffle salt, cumin, ginger, garlic, and onion powder during the tasting experience, which shifts from wine to spice to wine. The tasting allows for honing senses and training palates.
The Secret, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Petite Verdot, is an exuberant wine with aromas of violets and lilacs. A pairing with hibiscus, peppercorn, cumin, coriander, Persian lime, black pepper, and black garlic revealed the wine’s complex flavors of baking spices, rose hips, and black truffle salt.
Summerwood Wine, at the westside gateway to Paso Robles, produces small-lot Rhône and Bordeaux-style wines. The tasting room is housed in what looks like a former house. Wisteria grows around and above the tasting room and drapes wistfully from the vines running along the eves. From the moment you step onto the large porch and walk out to the patio overlooking vineyards, you’ll feel like you’re visiting someone’s comfortable summer home.
Flights begin with a taste of the refreshing Awa, a Japanese-inspired sparkling Grenache Blanc, followed by a sampling of their whites and reds. Don’t be surprised if the winemaker, Mauricio Marchante, drops by your table to talk about the delightful wines he produces.
JUSTIN Winery, a 25-minute drive west of Paso Robles, feels like a world away. There’s no cell phone service at the winery and guests seem to like it that way. The winery’s demonstration garden overflows with asparagus, rhubarb, sugar snap peas, edible flowers, and every kind of herb you can imagine. All these plants make their way to the onsite restaurant.
As you enter the expansive patio, you’ll notice the fog spilling over the coastal range in the distance. The vineyards surrounding the patio tasting room provide even more stunning views. The bottom block is planted with Merlot, the middle block is all Cabernet Sauvignon, and the upper block is Cabernet Franc.
The JUSTIN Rosé, a refreshing Syrah-based wine, tastes exactly right on a warm summer day. But JUSTIN, well-known for its red wines, makes wonderful Bordeaux blends. The winery offers two options for tasting – a flight of four classic wines or a flight of four premium wines.
Eberle Winery, on the east side of Paso Robles, is a must-visit stop on the wine trail. Founded by Gary Eberle, an American wine legend, the winery maintains a reputation as one of the region’s best producers of Rhone-style wines. Early in his career, Eberle became good friends with Robert Mondavi. He attributes the advice he received from his mentor Mondavi to his success in the wine industry.
The tasting room sits on a hill overlooking acres and acres of estate vineyards. On the day I visited, guests were enjoying the views, listening to music on the patio, and of course, enjoying Eberle’s outstanding wines. Charcuterie boards with a delightful variety of cheeses, meats, nuts, and fruit are available for order. But the wines are oh so delicious!
The Côtes-du-Rôbles Blanc, a crisp and refreshing blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier, provided a great introduction to the tasting experience. The 2019 Syrah Steinbeck Vineyard displays blueberry notes, which follow in the flavor. But Eberle says the Estate Cabernet is the wine that has won him the most rewards. It’s well balanced and elegant with flavors of cassis and black cherry, supported by subtle tannins.
If you time your visit right, you’ll likely find Gary Eberle sitting at a small table next to the tasting room entrance. He greets customers while he sips on his delightful wine. You might even want to introduce yourself. And if you’re lucky enough to sit down with this larger-than-life winemaker, you’ll love hearing his stories about Paso’s beginnings.
Hearst Ranch Winery
Hearst Ranch Winery overlooks the Salinas River and the winery’s luxury rental property below. Owner Jim Saunders calls Hearst Ranch “a little brand on a big name.” One of just two winemakers who were born and raised in Paso, Saunders, started growing grapes about 35 years ago. Twenty years ago, he started making wine. In partnership with Steve Hearst, Saunders launched the tasting room in 2010. The tasting room exudes an inviting and comfortable feel, but the outside seating on the patio is the place to taste and relax.
I started with the 2019 Glacier Ridge Chardonnay. The aromatics are flowery and bright, with underlying tones of vanilla and a rich palate. The 2016 Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon displays aromas of blackberry preserve with flavors of oak spice and tannin. Saunders says his Cab is the biggest seller, and it’s easy to see why.
Where to Stay:
While you’re enjoying wine tasting in Paso Robles, why not soak up the most of this sun-splashed wine region with a stay in the countryside overlooking the vineyards? Located on a country road but still close to town, you can rent a vintage 1964 Air Stream trailer at GlampingHub for overnight accommodations.
Perfect for one or two people, the trailer comes with a refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, a full bathroom, a small dining area, and a flat-screen TV. There’s plenty of comfortable seating outdoors to drink in the views while you sip on some local wine.
The Holiday Inn Express in Paso Robles provides convenient lodging close to downtown, Highway 46, and Highway 101. The facility is modern and well-maintained, with spacious rooms, plenty of working space, a refrigerator, coffeemaker, and microwave. A free hot breakfast is served daily. In addition, a limited happy hour is available in the hotel’s café area in the evening.