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Wine Tasting in Paso Robles - 5 Excellent Stops Near Hwy 101 and Downtown

I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately for advice on where to go wine tasting in Paso Robles. Paso Robles has been an up-and-coming wine region for a decade. Perhaps it has arrived.

Wine aficionados first saw Paso Robles as a source for excellent QPR (quality-price ratio). Bang for the buck. But, over the last several years, Paso Robles has emerged as a producer of world-class wines too. Wine Spectator magazine named a Paso Robles Rhone-blend, the 2007 Saxum James Berry Vineyard, their Wine of the Year for 2010. Rhone-varietal wines have gotten much of the attention, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Zinfandel routinely get high scores as well. Paso Robles wines have a reputation for being bold and fruit-driven, but there are many which show a gentler side, offering elegance and subtle complexity.

Paso Robles an excellent destination for wine tasting too. The town still has a genuine farming/ranching feel,but has added upscale shops and restaurants. Paso Robles attracts wine fans from both southern and northern California, but doesn’t get as crowded as Napa Valley during the high season. Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appetit magazine has said that Paso Robles “feels like Napa Valley 25 years ago.” Most of the wineries are still small, family-operated and unpretentious. Two-thirds of them make just 5,000 cases or less per year. Others, though, have elaborate facilities, luxurious on-site lodging and the ability to cater to high-rollers.

If you go to explore the wines and wineries of Paso Robles, it’s best to have a focus. The number of wineries in Paso Robles has grown from 35 to nearly 200 in the last 10 years. They aren’t lined up on one or two long, straight roads as so many are in Napa. Planning ahead will allow you to make the most of your time. I tend to focus on specific areas when visiting Paso Robles, but you might prefer to seek out top makers of a particular type of wine. Today, and for each of the next four Wednesdays, I’ll offer a different route with some of my top choices for tasting wine in Paso Robles.

Please note that the details below with regard to fees, tours, etc. apply to individuals and groups of up to 6 people. Larger groups should call the wineries in advance for availability and special opportunities. It's never a bad idea to call ahead to a winery you're planning to visit even if you're on your own. They can give you a heads up on special events , or perhaps a large tour group that is about to pull in, either of which might cause you to adjust your schedule slightly.

Tasting Wine in Paso Robles: Northeast and Downtown

You can taste great wines in Paso Robles just five minutes from Hwy 101. Maybe you’re looking for a quick stop to break up a San Francisco-to-SoCal road trip. Or you’ve rolled into Paso Robles for the weekend on a Friday afternoon and want to hit a couple of wineries before dinner. This is the route for you.

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Vina Robles
Vina Robles is located just a couple of miles east of Hwy 101, just off Hwy 46. They make a wide variety of very good wines that offer excellent value. Included are varietal and single-vineyard wines plus their innovative blends White4 (see review) and Red4. The latter two show how well non-traditional combinations can play together.

The Vina Robles hospitality center extremely spacious and includes more than just a tasting room. There is plenty of comfortable seating, an extensive gourmet foods shop and an art gallery. Deli food is available if you want to picnic or need a snack for the road. See my full profile of Vina Robles here.

NorCal Wine reviews of Vina Robles wines:
2009 Vina Robles Sauvignon Blanc Jardine Vineyard Paso Robles

2009 Vina Robles WHITE4 Heurhuero Paso Robles
2007 Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon HuerHuero Paso Robles

Address: 3700 Mill Road Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 227-4812
Open Hours: 10am - 6pm (5pm during winter, closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day)
Tasting Fee: $0 for three wines, $7 Estate tasting, $10 Reserve tasting
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: Yes
Picnic Area: Yes
See map and weather forecast

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Eberle Winery
Not every Paso Robles winery has sprung up in the last ten years. Gary Eberle has been in the wine business there for almost 40 years. He started out at Estrella River Winery which belonged to his family at the time. Eberle founded his eponymous winery in 1983. He is also a co-founder of the Paso Robles AVA which was established in 1980. [The Estrella River brand now belongs to Fred Franzia’s Bronco Wines Company. The winery itself was sold to Beringer in 1988 and renamed Meridian.] Eberle Winery is located on Hwy 46, almost directly across the highway from Vina Robles. (You'll need to drive, not walk, between the two though.)

The Eberle wines have been made by Ben Mayo since 2003. For the most part, the winery has specialized in Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The Reserve Estate Cabernet is especially well regarded. Don’t miss the Eberle Steinbeck Vineyard Syrah. If you like something on the sweet side every now and then, try the Estate Muscat Canelli which is another Eberle flagship. If you notice a lot of Penn State references on the tasting room walls, that’s because Gary Eberle studied — and played football — there in the late 1960’s.

Address: 3810 Highway 46 East Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 238-9607
Open Hours: 10am - 6pm April-September, 10am - 5pm October - March
Tasting Fee: Complimentary tasting available, $25 VIP tasting by appointment
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: Yes
Picnic Area: Yes
See map and weather forecast

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Ortman Family Wines

Like Gary Eberle, the Ortmans have been in the wine business for decades. Patriarch Chuck Ortman, who Wine Spectator once called “Mr. Chardonnay,” worked at Heitz Cellars all the way back in 1968. In the 1970’s, he made wine for Spring Mountain and St. Clement. His 1973 Spring Mountain Chardonnay was one of the wines chosen to compete in the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Chuck Ortman founded his own label, Meridian, in 1984. It specialized in Eden Valley Chardonnay. In 1988, he was hired by Beringer to make the wines for their recently acquired Estrella River Winery in Paso Robles. Ortman sold the Meridian name to Beringer and that brand was then used for the Estrella wines.

Twenty year later, the Ortman’s are back to running a smallish, family-operated business. Chuck’s son, Matt Ortman, makes the wine and manages the business with his wife Lisa. The wines are very well made: restrained and true to the vineyards. Of course, Ortman Family offers Chardonnay in Chuck’s traditional style which is fruit-forward but balanced and showing a delicate hand with the oak. The Ortman Family Pinot Noir is also quite good, though the grapes don’t hail from Paso Robles.

The tasting room is located in downtown Paso Robles. Street parking is usually readily available. The downtown area has seen renovation in recent years and is a very nice place to wander around. City Park is just one block away and is a good spot for a picnic, but Ortman is also the only tasting room in downtown Paso Robles with a private patio for picnics and other gatherings.

Address: 1317 Park Street Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 237-9009
Open Hours: noon to 7pm Friday and Saturday all year, noon to 6PM Sunday - Thursday during Summer, noon to 5PM Winter
Tasting Fee: $10 for six wines, waived with purchase
Tours Available: No
Food Available: Restaurants and shops are nearby
Picnic area: Yes
See map and weather forecast

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Anglim Winery
Steve Anglim is part of a newer breed of Paso Robles proprietor/winemakers. As is the case for several others, his entry into the wine business represents a mid-life career change. Having made some wine at home with good results, he began to study wine and winemaking intently. After considerable study, including classes at UC Davis, and several more successful vintages, he quit his day job in finance to focus fully on wine. Anglim and his wife Steffanie thought Paso Robles provided the right mix of opportunity, quality, affordability and livability. They opened their winery in 2002.

Anglim Winery concentrates on Rhone varietal wines: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne and blends thereof. Anglim has gradually added other wines to the portfolio too, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Quality is very high throughout and I have recommended several of their wines in my coverage of Rhone Rangers tastings (2010, 2011). Overall production is low, about 4,000 cases per year. The Anglim tasting room is roughly one-quarter mile south of Paso Robles City Park in a historic old building that used to be the train station.

Address: 740 Pine Street Paso Robles, California  USA 93446
Phone: (805) 227-6813
Open Hours: Thursday - Monday 11am - 6pm and by appointment
Tasting Fee: $5 for six wines, waived with purchase
Tours Available: Barrel tasting at the winery near the airport by appointment
Food Available: By appointment
Picnic area: Yes
See map and weather forecast

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Villa Creek Restaurant

Villa Creek Cellars is too far into the hills for a quick trip. But you can taste Villa Creek wines, and get some delicious food, at their downtown restaurant. The wines, made by owner Cris Cherry, are almost entirely based on Rhone varietals. There is one white Chateauneuf du Pape blend and a rose´of Grenache and Mourvedre. The rest of the wines are bold reds, deeply-tinted with rich fruit, spice and savory notes. The lone exception to the Rhone-varietal theme is Mas de Maha, 60% of which is Tempranillo. The wines are very well-made and bursting with personality.

Villa Creek Restaurant uses local ingredients to produce what they call “Ranch Mission cuisine.” It’s food made from fresh, local ingredients and prepared in style that is influenced by traditional dishes of Spain and Old Mexico. If you’re not looking for dinner, Villa Creek’s bar is also a very happening nightspot. Villa Creek is just a couple of blocks from the Ortman Family Wines tasting room.

Address: 1144 Pine Street Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 238-3000
Open Hours: Bar/Tapas open from 4PM, dinner service 5:30pm to 10pm, reservations are recommended
Tasting Fee: Yes, many options by the glass and bottle
Tours Available: No
Food Available: Yes

Wine Tasting in Other Parts of Paso Robles

This article is one in a five-part series on wine tasting in Paso Robles' different areas. Here are links to the other four articles:
5 Can't Miss Wineries in Northwest Paso Robles
My Top 4 Picks in Southwest Paso Robles
3 Top Stops on Anderson Road
3 Winning Wineries on Live Oak and Arbor Roads

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Banner from a map by Mike Bobbit & Associates for Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. All rights reserved.

Comments   

 
Sam Clarke
#1 Sam Clarke 2012-02-07 21:29
Another great aspect of Paso Wine Country worthy of mention is that there are a number of small wineries here that are strongly eco-minded, such as Hearthstone (pasorobleswinetasting.net/), who are in the process of receiving green certification. Shale Oak Winery (yelp.com/.../...) for example, is even going the extra length to print on seed paper goods, which also act as a fertilizer and are excellent for compost!

This is truly an up and coming area for wine for a variety of reasons!
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