Mark Aselstine
June 10, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

A First Trip to Paso Robles

Paso Robles is certainly a wine region gaining acceptance among casual wine drinkers, it’s also a region that many within the wine industry have looked at as an up and coming star and perhaps a future Worldwide Wine Capital for some time.  It’s been called everything from “The Next Napa” to being equated with visiting Napa in the 70’s. That’s high praise that is well deserved.

One of the issues with visiting Paso when compared with Napa, Sonoma or even Santa Barbara is that there is a significantly smaller pool of information about the wineries available both in print and online, although that’s slowly changing.

Over the next few days, we’ll be featuring everything Paso Robles.  First the wine, then food, places to stay and where to get more information online.

Since we know the wine is the star here, let’s start with the obvious first question that most people ask: Where should I go Wine Tasting in Paso Robles? A quick primer, Paso is home to Rhone varietals in large part, while you will see the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon made in Paso, the focus is largely on Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre and other Rhone varietals.

Alta Colina: We’ve talked about Alta Colina in this space before, but we truly do love their wines.  Their small tasting room is located at Villicana Winery (it sits about 4) which is the experience that most people are really looking for when visiting wine country.  The wines are dense and rich even by Rhone and Paso standards, but we enjoy a tasting trip here for two main reasons.  First, the tasting room is often staffed by Maggie whose family owns the winery and she is willing to take consumers up to their vineyard for a quick look around.  You’ll quickly see how passionate she is about her families winery and their vineyard, which is only a short drive from the tasting room.  Secondly, Alta Colina offers an interesting mix of wines largely centered on Syrah.  We find that being able to taste Syrah’s from the same vineyard, often just a few yards away from each other shows the grape off better than trying Syrah’s from different regions or wineries within the same region.  You get to experience the affects of soil construction, wind and sunlight on wines grown in close proximity to each other.   Many people are surprised at the differences in flavor profiles achieved by their 0900 Syrah (our favorite wine here) and the newly minted Block 2 Syrah.

Denner: So we’d admit that we love the Denner wines on their own, but part of the reason we include them here is because their winemaker Anthony Yount also has a small personal label called Kinero that you won’t be able to taste elsewhere.  Yes, try for an appointment with the winemaker himself.  In any case, a visit to Denner offers an interesting paradox in the wine industry.  Robert Parker once called the James Berry Vineyard among the 5 Grand Cru vineyards in the state.  That’s great for Paso and well deserved to be sure, but most people don’t realize that Denner’s estate vineyard is located literally on the other side of a gold cart path from the famed James Berry Vineyard.  It’s a great way to be able to literally taste some of the best fruit in Paso, without paying the whole price for the experience.  Yount’s personal label is also a joy for many consumers.  A white label specifically, these are complex Rhone white’s crafted for people who don’t usually drink white wine.  For most men that we know, that hits the spot fairly well and it’s also interesting to meet an up and coming winemaker who is still among the youngest in Paso.

Barrel 27: In Sonoma, warehouse wineries are all the rage.  In Paso, we haven’t seen the same type of acceptance of that model, Barrel 27 being an exception.  A dual project by winemakers Russell From and McPrice Myers, Barrel 27 offers some of the best value wines in Paso. The Rock and a Hard Place Grenache and the Head Honcho Syrah are among the best values at their respective price points ($18 and $28) found anywhere not only in Paso, but California wine. One of the joys of visiting Barrel 27 is seeing a tasting room which is far from the uptight stale experiences that we have so often in the wine industry.  The last time we were there, we were greeted by a staff actually having a good time and Eric Clapton playing blaring on the stereo. Given that they have a dual winemakers working on site, who both produce a range of wines under their own labels (both at higher, but reasonable price points) there is an opportunity to taste close to 50 wines in a given trip, which does remind us that palate fatigue can kick in.

Pithy Wine Company: We originally visited Pithy at their previous location in downtown San Luis Obispo, their new downtown Paso spot is a better fit on a number of levels. We make a stop at Pithy for not only the wine, but their assortment of other high end food products as well.  From olive oil and balsamic vinegar to their own root beer that is made a couple of times per year, there is truly something to keep you interested here for quite some time. 

Terry Hoague Vineyards: If the Hoague name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the ex University of Georgia and NFL star who now headlines a winery of his own name.  We always send clients to Terry Hoague Vineyards during a Paso trip because the wines are lighter and perhaps even more European in construction than many others in the area. Hoague’s football background comes through as well, from the names of the wine (the 46 is a favorite of ours, based on the defensive alignment all the rage during the 80’s) to some of the decorations around the tasting room.  If you have a NFL fan in your party, this is a perfect stop on a number of levels.

There are, of course plenty of other great places to taste among Paso's 150+ wineries but these are some of our personal favorites.


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