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Wine Tourism

Fall Back on Spring Mountain

It was the kind of pre-Thanksgiving day that makes us feel very fortunate to live in this area. Somewhere in Wisconsin, moon boots were stepping gingerly out onto snow-covered lakes to see if the ice was thick enough for fishing. On the east coast, cars did graceful pirouettes through frozen intersections. Meanwhile, we sat in short sleeve shirts atop Spring Mountain drinking wine. We had just one weather-related concern. If we leave our wine in the car, will it cook?

It is sometimes said that we don’t get “real seasons” out here. It’s certainly true that we don’t get a lot of snow in the coastal wine country. We have to head to the Sierra Foothills if we want to go wine tasting and skiing on the same day. That isn’t a very long drive though. And if it’s Fall colors that people fear we miss, those colors are vivid on the grape vines. The grape leaves change from green to shades of gold and red just like a Pennsylvanian tree.

Wine Tasting in Paso Robles - My Top 4 Picks in Southwest Paso

Today’s post offers my best recommendations for wineries in Southwest Paso Robles, near the intersection of 46 West and Vineyard Drive. I’ll also tell you where to grab a good lunch.

Tasting Wine in Paso Robles: Southwest

Cypher

If Cypher means zero to you, perhaps Four Vines will ring a bell. Less than a year ago, the Four Vines brand and it’s deservedly popular sub-$20 Zinfandel labels were sold to Purple Wine Company. The sale means Four Vines will be better funded for expansion of its marketing and distribution at consumer-friendly prices points and high-volume stores. It also formalized a division that had already existed, that between the relatively high-production Zinfandel blends and the lower volume wines that include vineyard-designate Zinfandel and Syrah plus the assortment of wild blends collectively known as “The Freak Show.”

Christian Tietje, who had been the winemaker and one of the owners of Four Vines, is continuing to make the Zinfandel for that company’s new owners. However, he kept the high-end wines for himself, along with the old Four Vines winery and tasting room. He has named that venture Cypher, which was the name of one of the Freak Show wines.

The vibe at Cypher is hip and irreverent. Their blends have names like The Heretic, Anarchy and Loco. The labels, mostly line art silk screened directly onto the bottles, show the same attitude. You can even get yourself a ZinBitch rub-on tattoo at the tasting room. Some of the wines are serious rule breakers too. Take (Louis) Cypher itself. Nine varieties go into that blend: Teroldego, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Coa, Sousou, Tinta Ruiz, Zinfandel, Carignane, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah. Huh? It’s crazy but delicious.

There are a lot of wineries with labels that try to be cool or appeal to your wild side but fail when it comes to the actual wine. Tietje takes the vineyards and winemaking very seriously. Cypher wines deliver. One of his vineyard designate Syrahs even won the Syrah Shootout at Hospice du Rhone in 2009.

The tasting room is freshly remodeled and a cool place to hang out. You might plan to stop there either right before or after lunch, since it's co-located with the Farmstand 46 restaurant (see below).

Address: 3750 Highway 46 West, Templeton CA 93465
Phone: (805) 237-0055
Open Hours: 10am - 6pm daily
Tasting Fee: $10 and keep the glass
Tours Available: $15 Barrel Tasting Experience, best to make reservations
Food Available: Co-located with Farmstand 46 restaurant
Picnic Area: Yes

Turley Wine Cellars

Turley is one of the most famous names in Zinfandel. There is a good reason for that. They were among the first to make Zinfandel in a big, super-ripe style that focused on maximizing concentration of aromas and flavors without dwelling on how much alcohol would result. They did it well and continue to be among the very best in that genre.

Turley offers Zinfandel blends but are probably best known for vineyard designates. The dark fruit flavors can have jammy richness, but not the cooked aspect that indicates over-ripe fruit. And, despite the power and sweetness of the fruit, the wines are well-balanced in flavor and structure. Signatures of the different vineyards shine on the nose and palate. Oak barrels provide tannins necessary to carry the fruit and even provide the ability to improve with age. Turley wines are among the most expensive Zinfandels you’ll find, but not unfairly so.

To me, Turley is like Led Zeppelin. They created something great, unique and intoxicating, but also inspired a huge number of copycats. The pretenders have varying degrees of success but, almost without exception, fail to capture the magic. Go for the original.

Address: 2900 Vineyard Drive, Templeton CA 93465
Phone: (805) 434-1030
Open Hours: 9am -5pm
Tasting Fee: $10 for standard tasting, keep the Riedel glass. Reserve tasting of two wines available separately for $5.
Tours Available: No
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: Yes

Denner

I typically recommend only tasting rooms or experiences that are open to anyone, if sometimes by appointment only. I’m making an exception for Denner. Their tastings are also appointment only, but are open only to club members and their guests. There are several reasons for the exception. Denner's sustainably-farmed vineyard is one of the best in West Paso Robles and provides fruit for several top wineries, including Linne Calodo, Justin Winery and Villa Creek. Denner’s own wine, to which just under half of its 100+ acre estate vineyard is dedicated, are often exceptional in their own right. And the physical winery is architecturally unique and among the few to be wholly gravity-flow in Paso Robles.

The reason the tasting room is open only to club members is that the wine sells out very quickly. For that matter, wines by the bottle are essentially available only to club members. This isn’t a unique situation. Many boutique wineries sell out quickly and a lot of them aren’t open at all. At the lowest level, club members receive 8 bottles per year for about $300 plus tax. That’s an awfully expensive tasting fee, so you might want to visit with a friend who is already a member.

The vineyard includes 19 different grape varieties. The vast majority are either Rhone or red Bordeaux. There is a smattering of Zinfandel and a trace of Vermentino. The most-planted variety is Cabernet Sauvignon (33%) followed by Syrah (20%). The Denner wines include a 100% Viognier, a Roussanne blend, a Grenache-based rosé blend, Syrah, Grenache and Zinfandel varietal wines. There are also two red blends, one of Chateauneuf du Pape varieties and one of Bordeaux grapes.

Address: 5414 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 239-4287
Open Hours: By appointment, 11am - 4pm. Open only for club members at this time.
Tasting Fee: Yes, applicable to purchase. The amount of the fee changes depending on what wines are being poured.
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: Yes

Linne Calodo

Linne Calodo was founded in 1998 as a joint venture between Matt Trevisan and Justin Smith, wine-obsessed friends who roomed together while attending Cal Poly in nearby San Luis Obispo. Smith eventually left Linne Calodo to found Saxum and pose for the cover of Wine Spectator magazine after making its Wine of the Year. Matt remains at Linne Calodo making very highly sought-after juice himself.

The wines are so popular, in fact, that what used to be an appointment only tasting room is now even more exclusive. They don’t do tastings of current releases anymore. Not even by appointment. In part, that’s because the wines sell out too quickly for it to be practical. The other reason is that Matt simply doesn’t like the commercial, bar-like vibe that goes with regular tasting rooms. He preferred the days when tastings were rare, but done with him personally at his house.

The good news is that you can have that kind of experience if you plan ahead. The only tasting offered by Linne Calodo now is a library tasting with winemaker Matt Treviso. It is for small groups only (minimum of four people, maximum of eight). The experience includes four back-vintage wines, a cheese plate, and a great discussion with Matt about the wines, vineyards and winemaking in general. In order to ensure his availability, appointments must be made at least two weeks in advance.

The Linne Calodo wines themselves are based mostly on Rhone varieties and entirely from grapes grown in west Paso. An 18-acre estate vineyard provides most of the fruit they need. Seven of the blends are solely Rhone-based, three include Zinfandel with some Syrah and Mourvedre. Just one of the wines is white, Contrarian. The last vintage was 62% Viognier, 18% Roussanne, 12% Grenache Blanc and 8% Picpoul Blanc.

The character of the reds leans (heavily) toward the bold and rich, geared toward enjoyment on its own in the American style rather than needing food or extended bottle age. Trevisan described his 2009 Problem Child Zinfandel blend thus, “...uncontainable fruit explosion of sweet cranberries, currants, and plum lunges to center stage. Managed gracefully by the soft and lush Syrah and animal instincts of Mourvedre.” That sounds awfully good, doesn't it?

Address: 3030 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 227-0797
Open Hours: By appointment, 2 week advance reservation required
Tasting Fee: $50 for library tasting of four wines with winemaker Matt Treviso
Tours Available: A brief tour is included with the tasting above
Food Available: Cheese plate included with tasting
Picnic Area: No

Where to Get Lunch

Farmstand 46

Christian Tietje of Cypher hasn’t always been a winemaker. He used to be a chef. His interest in healthy food made from locally-grown organic ingredients and the dearth of nearby eateries led him and his partner, Susan Mahler, to open Farmstand 46. It’s THE place for lunch in this area. Much of the produce is grown on the property.

Most of the Farmstand 46 menu is freshly made sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas, the latter available just Friday through Sunday. But they also have deli salads and picnic lunches of charcuterie or rotisserie chicken that you can take away. The daily specials can be enticing too. On a recent trip, I was impressed by a savory Spanish-style stew. Prices are reasonable, around $10 for a sandwich. There is seating inside and out.

Address: 3750 Highway 46W, Templeton CA 93465
Phone: (805) 239-3661
Open Hours: 10am - 6pm daily
Tours Available: You can wander through the garden

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 Excellent Stops near 101 and Downtown
5 Can't Miss Wineries in Northwest 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. All rights reserved.

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

eberle-logo

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.

Wine Tasting in Paso Robles - 5 Can’t Miss Wineries in Northwest Paso

NorCalWine’s tasting guide to Paso Robles continues. This week we’re off to what I’m calling northwest Paso Robles. It could also be described as the wineries of Adelaide Rd. This article will detail my top five tasting recommendations there. It’s well worth a full day of tasting (or more).

Tasting Wine in Paso Robles: Northwest/Adelaida Road

Two main things distinguish this part of Paso Robles from other areas when it comes to growing wine grapes: proximity to the ocean and the soil. Being closer to the ocean means temperatures are more moderate. The growing season is longer. This increases the potential for elegance and complexity in the wine, and just the right level of ripeness.

There is more calcareous soil (a mixture of limestone and clay) in the Paso Robles AVA as a whole than in any other AVA in California. But, in these western hills, it is less granular and often mixed with denser clay. That allows for dry-farming in many years. Calcareous soil and a cool climate are prized for Chardonnay in Burgundy. It also makes this zone Paso Robles’ best for Chardonnay in my opinion.

Getting to these wineries takes more time than those in most other parts of Paso Robles. It’s not too long a trip though. Driving directly from a likely starting point, such as the Starbucks near 24th St. and Highway 101, to the most far-flung winery, Justin Winery, only takes 30 minutes.

You’ll spend five minutes or so heading west on 24th Street. Then, just as the road changes its name to Paso Robles Rd, your surroundings change from town to outskirts. Soon you pass the historic Paso Robles District Cemetery and the road changes names again. Now you’re on Nacimiento Lake Drive/Hwy G14. Just past Jardine Ranch, make a left turn onto Adelaide Rd.

As you wind through the countryside - driving carefully on the narrow two-lane roads — you’ll quickly find yourself in a totally rural/ranching environment with grassy slopes, scattered oak trees and the occasional wild boar jogging across your path. Most wineries here are set back from the road, so keep to the speed limit and watch for their signs lest you cruise right by.

Aside from Deborah’s Room at Justin which is open for lunch on weekends, there are no restaurants in this area. Unless you’ve made reservations at Deborah’s, you should definitely bring a picnic lunch of some sort, or be ready to buy some deli food at Halter Ranch or Justin. Almost all of the wineries in the area have nice places to sit down and enjoy your meal.


Alta Colina

Our first stop on this route is Alta Colina. Alta Colina is a small, relatively new, family-run winery known for excellent Rhone varietals from their estate vineyard. The tasting room is compact but there’s a good chance you’ll be tasting with one of the family members.

The Tillman family’s first vines were planted in April, 2005. Despite their young age, the vines are already leading to excellent wine. Their pedigree is excellent, coming from a French, government-owned, nursery and from Alban Vineyard in Edna Valley. The Alta Colina vineyard includes four red and four white Rhone varietals. Two star winemakers from the Paso Robles region, Amy Butler and Scott Hawley, guide the winemaking. Highlights for me recently were the 12 O'Clock High Viognier blend, the GSM and the Old 900 Syrah blend.

Address: 2725 Adelaida Rd., Paso Robles CA 93446 (co-located with Villacana Winery)
Phone: (805) 227-4191
Open Hours: 11am - 5pm, Thursday - Sunday Tours
Available: Vineyard tour by appointment
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No


Adelaida Cellars

The next recommended stop as you head west is Adelaida Cellars. The first Adelaida Cellars wine was made in 1981, but it wasn’t until ten years later that their first estate vineyard - the Viking Vineyard - was planted. Three years after that, the winery purchased 400 acres of the Hoffman Mountain Ranch vineyard. That land was, in 1964, the first in either San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara Counties to be planted to Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is not among the top five, or even ten, varietals that usually come to mind with regard to Paso Robles. However, Adelaida Cellars’ HMR Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir is very good. It offers aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry, Dr. Pepper and spice with a smooth mouthfeel and long finish. Other wines not to miss include the Version White, a Roussanne/Grenache Blanc blend and the Viking Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

The tasting room at Adelaida Cellars has just one stone-topped counter, but it's long enough to accomodate a dozen people. As you’re tasting, you can look beyond the bar through the large picture windows that reveal the stainless steel fermentation tanks. To the left are glass doors leading to the barrel room.

Address: 5805 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (800) 676-1232
Open Hours: Daily, 10am - 5pm
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: Yes


Halter Ranch

Halter Ranch, with it’s newly remodeled facilities, is another excellent spot for tasting. It is in a lovely setting, surrounded by big oak trees and a nice garden. The ranch-style buildings are lovely too, as is the restored Victorian Farmhouse.

The Halter Ranch vineyard was established in 1996. Planted on well-drained, south-facing slopes are 20 different grape varieties, almost all of which are either Rhone or Bordeaux varieties. Initially, the grapes were only sold to other wineries. Some, such as Justin, have used them as important components in flagship wines. Now Halter Ranch produces its own wines too. I particularly recommend the Viognier, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Address: 8910 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 226-9455
Open Hours: Daily, 11am - 5pm
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: Yes
Picnic Area: Yes


Justin Winery

Justin and Deborah Baldwin founded Justin Winery in 1981. There were very few wineries in Paso Robles back then, and almost none were focused on high-end wine. Justin thrived. It has developed massive and loyal wine club — the Justin Wine Society — and produces a large number of very good wines, with broad distribution. It's focus on quallity and the good life extended to its grounds too, which made it what was probably the first true destination winery in Paso Robles.

There are now two tasting areas. One is at the original facility, which also houses Deborah’s Room restaurant (dinners served nightly), a very chic four-room bed and breakfast and nice gardens. Members of the wine club can also enjoy the Wine Society Lounge. That’s located down the road at the massive winery and event center.

The wines range from excellent but affordable whites and reds up to the very exclusive Bordeaux-varietal blend, Isosceles Reserve. Over the years, Justin has also experimented with a lot of different varietals. And they’ve done a good job with them. There has been Malbec, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo and a very convincing Sangiovese among others. My usual favorites are their crisply citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, the various red Bordeaux-varietal blends and the Reserve Chardonnay which may be Paso Robles’ best take on white Burgundy.

Past NorCalWine review of Justin wines:
2008 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles
2008 Justin Sauvignon Blanc Paso Robles
2008 Justin Reserve Chardonnay Paso Robles

Address: 11680 Chimney Rock Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 238-6932
Open Hours: Daily, 10am - 5pm
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: Yes
Picnic Area: Yes


Tablas Creek

Tablas Creek is probably the best-known of all Paso Robles wineries specializing in Rhone-variety wines. That recognition is well-deserved. Tablas Creek was among the very first in the area to put a major focus on such wines. And it has been one of the most important on all of the west coast for popularizing Rhone varietals. This is no accident.

Tablas Creek is a partnership between Chateau de Beaucastel, the most celebrated winery in all of Chateauneuf du Pape, and Robert Haas. They chose this area of Paso Robles for its close similarity to the climate and soil conditions of Chateauneuf du Pape. The Rhone variety vines planted there now were all taken from Chateau de Beaucastel or grown at Tablas Creek’s nursery from those cuttings. The winery produces a very large number of Rhone blend and varietal wines as well as a couple of Chardonnay. All are very high quality. The Esprit de Beaucastel red blend is the flagship wine, excellent and ageworthy every year. But, make sure you try the Cote de Tablas. It's very good too and a great value.

Tablas Creek’s hospitality center has also been remodeled recently. Now there is a very large and elegant tasting room with three long counters of polished wood. Behind the central counter is a long wall of glass showing massive wooden barriques used for aging some of the red wines. There is another smaller tasting room with two counters. The gift shop has been expanded. And there is a large patio and picnic area just outside.

Past NorCalWine review of Tablas Creek wines:
2009 Tablas Creek Rosé Paso Robles
2008 Tablas Creek Roussanne and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc Paso Robles

Address: 9339 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 237-1231
Open Hours: Daily, 10am - 5pm
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: 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 Excellent Stops near 101 and Downtown
My Top 4 Picks in Southwest Paso Robles
3 Top Stops on Anderson Road
3 Winning Wineries on Live Oak and Arbor Roads

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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. All rights reserved.

Wine Tasting in Paso Robles - 3 Winning Wineries on Live Oak and Arbor Roads

This is the final installment our series of articles on where to taste wine in Paso Robles. Today, we look at three of my favorite Paso Robles producers of Rhone variety wine. They are located on Live Oak and Arbor Roads off of Hwy 46 West, not far from Hwy 101. While getting to the wineries is not a long drive, you will spend time on a sometimes bumpy dirty road. This is not a tasting route for low-slung sports cars with tight suspension. I speak from experience on this.

Terry Hoage Vineyards

Terry Hoage is one of those winemakers who nearly won a Heisman Trophy as a defensive back, did win a Superbowl, played 13 years seasons in the NFL, has been inducted into four different Halls of Fame and then, just 12 years after hanging up his cleats, found his winery named one of California’s top new wine producers by Wine Spectator. Ok. He’s the only winemaker that’s done that.

Growing up in New Orleans with a mother who worked in some of that city’s top restaurants, Jennifer Hoage’s passion for food and wine developed early. Later, she lived in Paris where she studied the arts, learned French and was immersed in the food and wine of France. (Her host family owned a Bordeaux chateau and didn’t hesitate to break out the good stuff.) Back home again after college, Jennifer managed, and dramatically improved, the food and wine section at New Orleans Magazine.

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Jennifer and Terry Hoage at Rhone n Bowl, Hospice du Rhone, April 28, 2011. Photo: Fred Swan

The Hoages moved to Paso Robles in 2000. “We wanted to bring our kids up in an agrarian community,” Terry says. “We moved here not knowing what we were going to do.” Conversations with Cris Cherry led them to buy their vineyard in 2002. It had been designed by John Alban and planted to Syrah. They subsequently planted another 17 acres of Rhone varieties in consultation with Justin Smith (Saxum). I asked Jennifer if they use a vineyard management firm. “We’re it,” she smiled. “The quality of the fruit is so important to us. We want to have complete control.” They use most of the grapes in their own wines, but also sell some to Saxum.

Justin Smith made the Terry Hoage wines for the 2002 and 2003 vintages, with Jennifer and Terry studying his processes. He supervised the Hoage’s winemaking at his facility in 2004. By 2005, Terry and Jennifer had “graduated” and moved into their own brand new winery.

The Hoages work together on nearly everything, but have their own primary responsibilities. Terry has a degree in genetics and loves being outside, so he takes the lead on viticulture. And years of football drills give him an advantage in punching down the cap. Jennifer is responsible for the blending, as well as determining which barrels (all French) to use and how to apply them. White wines are the one thing they don’t collaborate on. Those are her special project.

Jennifer Hoage likens her style on the red wines to that of mentor Justin Smith, but she uses less oak to keep the fruit front and center. It’s working. The Terry Hoage wines are consistently among the very best of their type in California. I love the purity of their fruit. The wines also tend to sell out quickly.

The only way for non-club members to get Terry Hoage wines right now is at their tasting room. It’s worth the trip, and not just for the wine. The winery, clad in  century-old siding reclaimed from barns in the Midwest, is situated in one of the most scenic areas Paso Robles.

Address: 870 Arbor Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 238-2083
Open Hours: 11am - 4:00pm, Friday - Sunday and by appointment
Tasting Fee: $10
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

Treana

Treana is one of the brands of the Hope Family, which has been growing wine grapes in Paso Robles since 1978. Treana was established in 1996. Austin Hope took over as head winemaker for Treana two years later. He grew up in the business, studied fruit science at Cal Poly and then apprenticed under Chuck Wagner of Caymus Vineyards.

The connection with Wagner still extends to the vineyard selection for Treana White, my favorite of their two offerings. It uses only Santa Lucia Highlands fruit. One of the primary sources is Wagner’s Mer Soleil Vineyard. Whereas Paso Robles is known for it’s large diurnal temperature shift — hot days but much colder nights — Treana’s Viognier and Marsanne grows where temperatures are more consistent but substantially cooler during daylight hours. This helps preserve freshness in those varieties which tend toward low acidity.

Maintaining acidity is particularly important given the style of Treana White. Part of the blend is fermented in stainless to preserve acidity as well and it undergoes only partial malolactic fermentation. New oak is limited to 30% or less. Despite all that, Treana White is viscous on the palate. Ripe, almost unctuous, peach and apricot are accentuated with honey and gorgeous floral aromatics. It’s a sensual, Rubenesque wine.

When young, it can be almost overwhelming rich. Yet it ages very well. The underlying acidity — and minerality — are there. They begin to show themselves after just a year or two in bottle. The best vintages are easily good for six years (even longer to my palate).

The other Treana wine, Treana Red, comes from a variety of Paso Robles vineyards and is Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Syrah. It gets roughly a year of barrel age in French oak, the majority of which is new. It is a balanced and structured wine intended to age.

The public tasting room at Treana/Hope Family is a fairly recent development. It has a barrel room motif and overlooks the estate vineyard. While there, you can also taste Hope Family Wines’ other brands: Liberty School, Austin Hope, Candor and Westside Red.

Address: 1585 Live Oak Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 238-4112
Open Hours: 10am - 4:00pm, Friday & Saturday
Tasting Fee: No
Tours Available: No
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

L’Aventure

Most wineries talk about production in terms of cases and yield in tons per acre. Stephan Asseo of L’Aventure has said that the yield for his “estate-level” wines is one bottle per vine. That succinctly addresses his high-density, low-vigor growing strategy, suggests high-quality and gives us a memorable mental image tying a vine on his soil to the wine in our glass.

Asseo wants his wine to talk about Paso Robles and his vineyard specifically. A Frenchman trained in winemaking at Burgundy’s L’Ecole Oenologique de Macon and for 15 years an owner-vigneron of Bordeaux properties including Domaine de Courteillac and Chateau Fleur Cardinale, he believes strongly that great wine should reflect terroir.

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Stephan Asseo (right) with Pierre Gaillard at Hospice du Rhone, April 30 2011. Photo: Fred Swan

When he decided to leave Bordeaux and, literally, put down roots elsewhere, Asseo spent an entire year studying sites around the world: Australia, South Africa, South America and the United States. His end-goal was to make high-end, terroir-driven wine that also reflected his creativity in blending varieties, unlimited by the strict laws of France (and many other European countries) governing which grapes might be used where. In particular, he wanted to make wine that combined Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah.

Paso Robles turned out to be the ideal spot for him. Its calcareous soil builds character in grapes by forcing vines to work hard for moisture and nutrients. Massive daily temperature swings during the growing season promote ripeness while preserving acidity. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah both excel in Paso Robles. And when he founded L’Aventure in 1998, land values in Paso Robles were such that he could afford to build a winery and buy more than 120 acres with a variety of aspects to suit different varieties. Voilà.

Even so, he and his family spent years living in a mobile home on the property. They put all of their money into the land and winery, with nothing left over to build themselves a house. Their sacrifice has benefitted wine enthusiasts. From the start, L’Aventure reds have been deeply-colored and delicious expositions on black fruit, flowers, earth, spice and herb. There is also a top-notch white (a Roussanne-Viognier blend) and a rosé. The wines earn high scores every year and in 2007 Stephan Asseo was named San Luis Obispo County Winemaker of the Year.

The focus at L’Aventure is on their wine. The winery was built for function not elegance. The tasting room is small and without frills or shelves full of souvenirs However, if you call ahead to make an appointment for a time outside regular tasting hours, they will be happy to give you a winery tour. And, though space is limited, L’Aventure is the only winery on this route with picnic seating.

Address: 2815 Live Oak Road, Paso Robles CA 93446
Phone: (805) 227-1588
Open Hours: 11am - 4:00pm, Thursday - Sunday and by appointment
Tasting Fee: $10, keep the Riedel “O” stemless Syrah glass
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: Yes


Wine Tasting in Other Parts of Paso Robles

This article is the last in a five-part series on wine tasting in Paso Robles' different areas. Here are links to the other four articles:
5 Excellent Stops near 101 and Downtown
5 Can't Miss Wineries in Northwest Paso Robles
My Top 4 Picks in Southwest Paso Robles
3 Top Stops on Anderson Road

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. All rights reserved.