If you have been following along on Winetraveler’s Paso Robles wine adventures, you know this was a very busy trip researching places to stay, where to eat and things to do in Paso Robles, and as promised it’s now time to highlight a few of the must-visit wineries.

I say “a few wineries” because with more than 40,000 vineyard acres across the Paso Robles region and over 200 bonded wineries (some estimates have the number of wineries closer to 300 now), in our five-day exploration we barely scraped the surface. That said, we did cover a range of options from large producers to small production wineries, and from those that specialize in Bordeaux varietals to those making Rhône-style wines.

In sitting down to write this piece, it was difficult to decide how to breakdown the individual producers. Each one is unique, and every stop demonstrated the hospitality, passion and distinctively varied terroir of Paso Robles. So, my Paso Robles winery recommendations will be broken out simply by geography: five to the east of the 101, five south of downtown Paso, and five in the northwestern highlands. I’ll provide a brief story of each winery, the wines they offer and anything that stood out to me personally.

I highly recommend perusing each winery’s directory listing page (you can also click on each link below) for more in-depth information and I don’t recommend visiting more than two to three wineries per day. This will give you the opportunity to enjoy your tastings, but also to have the option of relaxing with a glass of wine overlooking the stunning views, geeking out with a winemaker over viticultural management, or exploring potentially haunted caves.

Paso Robles truly has something to offer everyone regardless of how you travel, who you travel with, or even what kind of wine you’re hoping to find. It’s all represented here.


GREAT PASO ROBLES WINERIES ON THE EAST SIDE OF 101

J. Lohr

The Story: For two generations the Lohr family have been leaders in winegrowing on California’s Central Coast at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. Jerry Lohr planted the vines in Paso Robles in 1987 and quickly demonstrated an instinct for matching crop with soils and climate. Today, he and his three children — Steve, Cynthia and Lawrence — work closely with their father in every aspect of the family business from Monterey and Napa to Paso Robles. They have also assembled a winemaking team as knowledgeable and passionate about vineyard potential as themselves, and which has been with the winery for more than three decades.

J Lohr Winery in East Paso Robles
J Lohr Winery in East Paso Robles. Image courtesy Kristy Wenz.

The wines: J. Lohr wines are crafted to be food-friendly, balanced and flavorful. The Estate line represents the best of each vintage and the ability to source from various estate properties allows for blending the best grapes for the most balanced wines. The Vineyard Series wines are limited release wines showcasing the highest caliber fruit from select vineyards and offer a true sense of place through the wine. The Cuvée Series are prized Bordeaux-style wines with the blends cultivated solely from J. Lohr’s Paso Robles vineyards. Each release reflects the vintage, site and heritage.

Winetraveler Tip: Have a little fun at your tasting and see if you can guess which of the Cuvée wines is reflective of Bordeaux’s right and left banks and if it matches your usual preference!


Eberle

The Story: Eberle Winery is one of the OG wineries in Paso Robles and a family-owned producer of single varieties since 1979. Founder, Gary Eberle, grew up in Pennsylvania and went to Penn State on a football scholarship. After graduating with a BS in biology, he attended Louisiana State University where he continued his graduate work studying cellular genetics. While attending LSU, Gary developed an appreciation for wine and much to the surprise of those that knew him, changed his academic path to become a winemaker. He then received a degree in Enology at UC Davis and launched his career as the “Pioneer” of the Paso Robles Wine Region by helping to establish his family’s Estrella River Winery & Vineyards in the early 1970s. By the late 70’s, he had ventured out on his own and acquired nearly 64 acres down the road. It was here he first debuted his first Eberle wine, the 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Since then, he co-founded the Paso Robles Appellation in 1983, was the first to use Paso Robles appellation on his wine label and was also the first to produce a 100% Syrah. Gary has also earned awards including the 2015 Wine Industry Lifetime Achievement award and most recently was honored with the 2019 Robert Mondavi Hospitality Award. Today, if you visit the tasting room, you’ll likely find Gary sitting outside welcoming visitors with his renowned humor and hospitality.

The wines: You’ll find an array of single varietal wines including Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Barbera, and more.

Winetravler Tip: Make sure to take the free cave tour to see view the extensive cave system built by Gary Eberle. Or better yet, reserve a VIP tasting and cheese pairing in your own private space in the caves.


Cass Winery

The Story: After 20 years at Charles Schwab, Steve Cass left the corporate life for winemaking. In 2000 he helped to establish the Cass vineyard as one of the first California vineyards to be entirely planted with ENTAV certified clones from France. In 2005, Cass co-established the winery with Ted Plemons, and today the Cass family produces 10,000 cases of 100% estate wines annually. Although Cass is considered a Rhône house, over half the vineyard is planted in Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cass Estate Vineyard — located in the Geneseo AVA southeast of the town of Paso Robles — exemplifies the quality of the Paso Robles region with its warm days, cool coastal breezes and exceptional soils.

Cass Winery in East Paso Robles
Cass Winery in East Paso Robles. Image courtesy Kristy Wenz.

The wines:  Cass Winery produces wines that express their varietal nature and the Cass estate vineyards from which they are sourced. The wines are typically lighter in color and body, but more complex in flavors and nuances, reflective of an ‘Old World’ style. As for varieties, you’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, Roussanne, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Viognier, Marsanne, Merlot and Malbec either as single varietals or blends.

Winetraveler tip: If you want to stay in one of the more unique wine country accommodations, Cass Winery’s new bed and breakfast experience will soon offer guest quarters made of shipping containers!


Chateau Margene

The story: Michael Mooney’s family history in California dates back seven generations, five in the Central Coast. His forefather, Ignacio Linares, was a soldier on the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition into California in 1775. Ignacio’s grandson, Victor Linares was granted a Mexican Land Grant in San Luis Obispo County, by then Governor Juan B. Alvarado, for Rancho Canada de Los Osos in 1842. After California became a state, it set up a land commission to settle private land claims and unfortunately, Linares lost his property to the English-speaking settlers. Generations later, Michael Mooney and has wife decided to launch Chateau Margene in San Luis Obispo county where his forefathers settled and since 1998, Michael and Margene Mooney have been planting vines and producing wine in the Creston District AVA. Their first wine was their 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon and their goal today remains to produce exceptional Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon wines at small production levels available direct to the consumer.

Grapes at Chateau Margene Winery in Paso Robles
Grapes at Chateau Margene Winery in Paso Robles. Image courtesy Kristy Wenz.

The wines: The vineyard was re-planted in 2015 and 2016 with a total of nine acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot & a small lot of Sangiovese (for their Super Tuscan-style blend Cielo Rosso).  Farming practices are organic and sustainable with the family doing most of the work on-site. 

Winetraveler Tip: If viticulture and winemaking are your jam, make a private appointment to visit Michael. He will walk you through the vineyards and cellar and answer any and every question you might possibly have – he’s both knowledgeable and passionate and it shows!


Ancient Peaks

The Story: Ancient Peaks Winery and Margarita Vineyard are owned by three winegrowing and ranching families. Two generations of each family are actively involved in the daily operations of both the vineyard and winery. Ancient Peaks Winery and vineyards sit along the southern border of the Paso Robles wine country in Santa Margarita. The Margarita Vineyard is the only one located in the Santa Margarita Ranch AVA and is distinguished by one of the coolest, longest growing seasons in the Paso Robles region. It also features a rare diversity of soil types—a testament to the tectonic friction that created the surrounding Santa Lucia mountain peaks – including ancient seabed fossils, alluvial and volcanic deposits, shale and granite.

The View from Ancient Peaks Winery in Paso Robles
The View from Ancient Peaks Winery in Paso Robles. Image courtesy Kristy Wenz.

Ancient Peaks is also known for its numerous sustainable viticultural practices including sourcing water rotationally and only from the property, deficit irrigation, natural cover crops, wildlife corridors with the promotion of natural predators and the use of compost tea in place of synthetic fertilizers. The vineyard is SIP Certified by the Central Coast Vineyard Team, a non-profit group promoting sustainable winegrowing.

The Wines: The wines are crafted by Mike Sinor and one of the highest-rated winemakers of the Central Coast, Stewart Cameron. The Estate wines feature both single varietals and blends including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The limited-edition Pearl Collection wines are derived from small lots of the highest-quality grapes and expressed through unconventional blends including Petit Verdot, Malbec and Petit Sirah.

Winetravler Tip: Feeling adventurous? Join Ancient Peaks for a ziplining adventure over the vineyards followed by a tasting and lunch at the winery. It’s an experience the whole family can enjoy.


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Kristy Wenz
Wine / Travel Writer & WSET III Candidate at Winetraveler
Kristy Wenz is a Wine & Travel Writer for Winetraveler. She is a writer, entrepreneur, wine lover and avid traveler. She first developed a passion for wine travel at random in Southern California. Since that first experience, Kristy has explored wineries in over 20 states from coast-to-coast as well as multiple European wine regions. When she's not writing about wine, wine traveling or updating her cellar in Vivino, she can likely be found sipping a Cab Franc from her travels while cooking dinner with her family.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristy Wenz is a Wine & Travel Writer for Winetraveler. She is a writer, entrepreneur, wine lover and avid traveler. She first developed a passion for wine travel at random in Southern California. Since that first experience, Kristy has explored wineries in over 20 states from coast-to-coast as well as multiple European wine regions. When she's not writing about wine, wine traveling or updating her cellar in Vivino, she can likely be found sipping a Cab Franc from her travels while cooking dinner with her family.

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