When thinking of weekend wine destinations, Paso Robles is often overlooked. Once a sleepy agricultural enclave, Paso Robles now touts 11 separate AVA’s (American Viticulture Areas) and more than 200 wineries. Roughly three times larger than Napa Valley AVA, the soils are as diverse and the grape varietals produced here range from Burgundian Pinot Noir to Old Vine Zinfandel. Vineyard elevations are between 700 feet to over 2,400 feet and are greatly influenced by the Templeton Wind Gap, which brings cooling ocean breezes to some of the most prized wine estates.
A great place to start your wine trek is at Calcareous Vineyards off Peachy Canyon in the west hills of Paso Robles. Perched high atop a limestone ridge, the panoramic views from the tasting room are absolutely stunning, as are the wines.
Burgundy, Rhone and Bordeaux grape varietals are sourced from three estate vineyards resulting in distinctive small lot handcrafted wines. Still family-owned, this gem of a winery is a must visit. Play a game of bocce ball or bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the never-ending vistas from Calcareous Vineyards.
At the very end of the winding Chimney Rock Road, you’ll find the well-known winery, simply called Justin. More corporate now that Fiji Water has taken the helm, but there’s still a lot to love – especially the private Wine Society Lounge, where the library wines are freely poured.
Justin‘s sommelier staff is extremely well-versed and will guide you through the tastings, winery history and even wine caves upon request. For more than 25 years, Justin‘s flagship wine, Isosceles, a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, has captivated the palates of the most discerning wine aficionados.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Pinot Noir exclusive Windward Vineyard, off Highway 46, is definitely worthy of a visit. Pinot Noir lovers will delight in the artfully handcrafted small lot Burgundian style Pinot Noir tasting flights.
Winemaker Marc Goldberg’s philosophy mirrors the Burgundian French term, “Monopole”, a vision of total control over both the vineyard and the winemaking. Windward’s 15-acre estate vineyard is planted to four notable French clones and benefits from the cooling Templeton Wind Gap breezes. If you’re lucky, you may even meet the Beaune Ranger himself and share a glass of Burgundian Pinot Noir perfection.
For old world charm with a modern hand hewn timber twist, the tasting room at Niner Wine Estates is a “Ten-er”. Right on Highway 46 and Vineyard Drive, Niner is truly in a class of its own. Grapes are sourced from the 223 acres of estate vineyards in Paso Robles and nearby Edna Valley. Notably, Heart Hill Vineyard is magnificent and unmistakable any time of year.
Niner is best known for their estate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but also produces Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, Malbec, Sangiovese and Syrah.
All roads on Paso’s westside lead to the “Big O”, Opolo Vineyards. The party doesn’t start until you show up! There’s always a BBQ on the patio, a pizza in the wood-fired oven and wine flowing in the tasting room.
Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are king here, however the wide selection of wines include Pinot Gris, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussane, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Tempranillo, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese and even a Sparkling Wine.
With more than 200 wineries in Paso Robles AVA now, it’s impossible to narrow the list to just a handful. Officially named El Paso de Robles, the city’s name translates to The Pass of the Oaks. As the name implies, you’ll find old gnarly oaks at every turn on every country road in the pastoral, pristine Paso Robles wine country. Cheers!