By Lora Chow
Do you enjoy wine? Are you interested in supporting family owned and operated wineries? Would you like to try boutique wineries, focusing on small batch production? Do you want to visit a region that has many wineries offering FREE tastings? If so, read on about the fantastic Paso Robles Wine Country!
Drive along the stunning Pacific Coast Highway and turn east approximately halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There, you will find Paso Robles. With nearly 300 wineries, most of which are boutique and family-owned operations, it is the fastest growing wine region in the US. Although some of the wineries are big productions, the majority have quaint to rustic tasting rooms that focus personalized tasting experiences. It’s a refreshing change from the ubiquitous monster wineries filled with party bus patrons where you have to literally elbow your way to the bar to get a tasting.
Paso Robles has a quaint, small-town feel that is charming. Spend the day roaming the surrounding rolling hills dotted with vineyards, stockyards, and homesteads. Enjoy the evening strolling around the downtown square area, flush with fantastic shops, restaurants, and tasting rooms. And, of course, visit the wineries!
Although there are SO MANY fantastic wineries, we do have our favorites. All of the following wineries are on the west side of Paso Robles. This location ranges from 6 to 15 miles away from the Pacific Ocean, allowing for an ideal grape growing climate. In addition, the rich limestone soils, similar to those found in France, help grapes mature and make intensely elegant wines. The following are our TOP 5 WINERIES in Paso Robles:
Of our top 5 picks, this winery has the coolest and most quirky property and tasting room. Lots of funky fun lawn art dot the grounds. With stunning vineyards in the background, we rolled up to the barn serving as both tasting and barrel room. Owner and winemaker Donald Thiessen introduced us to four wines that were all produced in a painstakingly environmentally friendly manner. The vines are hand pruned and dry farmed (using no irrigation). The grape yield is lower, but the outcome is much more intense. Our favorite was their Zin Stone 2012. Big, bold, yet not overbearing, this wine is IT!
Kaleidos shares a small tasting room with Changala Winery located on a side street a quarter mile off of Vineyard Drive. During our tasting, the friendly and knowledgeable service was a highlight. I felt like we became lifelong friends when I was offered delicious mini-cupcakes to complement the tasting! Owner and winemaker Steve Martell is slowly and methodically growing a fantastic label focusing on Rhone varietal wines, with a specific interest in Syrah. Syrah?! Yes! In a region that highlights Zinfandel (the area’s first varietal) and Rhone blends, it was nice to see 100% Syrah. If you are like Tom and not a fan of Syrah, this is the place to revisit it. Smooth and tasty without being to jammy, the Syrah made Tom a convert!
Located at the end of a dirt road off of Highway 46W, Caliza (Spanish for “limestone”) is a gem. Although the label has many highly rated “Wine Spectator” wines, the winery is still small, friendly, and accessible. Owner and winemaker Carl Bowler focuses on Rhone varietals, but throws a few curveballs. We enjoyed tasting fantastic surprises such as the 2014 Viognier and the 2014 Pink (a Rhone variety driven rose). Upon our return home, we actually shared a bottle of the 2014 Pink with a local winery owner and friends in Oceanside, CA. They enjoyed the subtle complexity of the rose. Sure, the Rhone varietals are amazing, but the unexpected win for us was the rose!
Less than 2 years ago, owners Jackie and Steve Gleason relocated with their four daughters (four lanterns) from Laguna Niguel to their Paso Robles property. Although they are new winemakers, the vineyard’s 25 year old plants produce delicious Rhone varietal fruit. Located directly off Highway 46W, the tasting room is a beautiful barn decorated with lovely artwork. Chatting with Jackie, we tasted a lovely rose and a Grenache/Syrah blend. The winner, however, was the 2013 Fire Light Syrah. It scored 95 points from Wine Spectator.
In 1994, owner and winemaker Joe Barton Sr. created Grey Wolf Cellars, focusing on small batches of bold reds. Since then, son Joe has taken over the reins. Although Joe is continuing the family tradition of classic reds, he established two new labels in 2011 that feature whites, reserve reds, and new “experiments”. Situated off of Highway 46W, this well established is still a family owned and operated winery focusing on small, hand crafted lots. It still feels personal, a testament to the vision and execution of Joe Barton Jr. being the sole winemaker. If you want to try a delicious Rhone style blend, definitely stop by for a taste of a Grey Wolf label wine.
Paso Robles is quickly becoming a top destination for wine tasting. The region features delicious wine to suit everyone’s taste. After a day of wine tasting, dine in one of the many family establishments downtown. Or drive 30 minutes west and explore the beautiful Central California coast. With so many wineries and options for sightseeing, you will be planning your next trip back to Paso Robles before you even leave the area!
Discovering hidden gems and sharing amazing places such as Paso Robles are what we love to do! Contact Us if you have any questions or to find out how we can help with your journey to Paso Robles.