Halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco lies Paso Robles wine country, a land of rich heritage, rural beauty and world-class wines. While Napa and Sonoma remain the most popular destinations, with more than 200 wineries, the quaint but lively town of Paso Robles should be on your radar for your next wine country visit.
And while most consumers think of Napa and Sonoma when they think of California cabernet sauvignon, they also should think of Paso Robles. Wineries including Adelaida, Booker, Daou, L’Aventure and Linne Calodo consistently produce world-class, cabernet-based wines. There also are fine values, notably from J. Lohr and Robert Hall, along with the 2016 True Myth ($24), with rich blackberry, herb and smoky notes.
Paso Robles also has emerged as a leader in producing wines from Rhône varieties, especially with acclaimed wineries including Tablas Creek, Saxum, Austin Hope and Vina Robles. In my tasting, the 2019 Absolution Grenache Colburn Vineyard ($41) showed concentrated red fruits complemented with herbal notes and minerality. The 2020 Paix Sur Terre “Days Between,” Glenrose Vineyard ($45), 100% counoise, reflected the grape’s typically elegant and vibrant red berry and spices.
From creative Rhône blends to frizzante to sparkling wines, my tasting revealed a Paso Robles that cultivates an adventurous spirit. A 2017 Anarchy Superfly ($55) blends zinfandel (origin Croatia), cabernet sauvignon (origin southwestern France) and petite sirah (origin Rhône) for a bold, rich, juicy wine. A delightful 2020 Groundwork Picpoul Carbonique ($18) is made using carbonic maceration (a common practice with Beaujolais) and extended skin contact (uncommon with white grapes resulting in a wine that looks and drinks more like a rose, often referred to as “orange wine”). The 2020 Peachy Canyon Pét-Nat ($18), short for Pétillant Naturel, or naturally sparkling, is a style of bubbly (fermented in the bottle to retain its fizz) that has been practiced for centuries but for some reason has recently become trendy. Made with grenache, it presents the bright red berries and fruity nature of the grape.
Paso Robles is a favorite destination for more than just the wines. In addition to world-class restaurants, there is an abundance of artisan producers worth sampling. For example, Bristols Cider House in nearby Atascadero. Their Black Bart sparkling cider in my tasting is 100% local apples, dry hopped with second fermentation in bottle. The Firestone Walker Brewery is one of the nation’s most awarded breweries. I found the Flyjack IPA, a hazy India Pale Ale, crisp, with only 96 calories, impressive. And you can explore craft olive oil producers, like the Kiler Ridge and Pasolivo, to sample extra virgin olive oils and olive oil products.