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Continuing on with more things to do in Paso Robles, it’s now time to head south and east of downtown for wine tasting. Spread this list of Paso Robles wineries out over several days to take more time lingering at each while adding in some of our other suggested activities in the area.
Provided you have a designated driver, I’ll highlight a suggested plan for a multi-day tour below. Oh – and I suggest bringing a wine suitcase or shipping box along as you’ll definitely want to bring some of these wines home!
IN THIS PASO ROBLES WINERY GUIDE:
- Wine Tours
- Austin Hope & Treana
- Niner Wine Estates
- J. Lohr
- Cass Winery
- Chateau Margene
- Ancient Peaks
- …and more
Wine Tours & Getting Around Paso Robles
From the 101 you’ll take the exit for 46 West toward the suggested wineries. If you don’t have a designated driver, consider hiring a guide from Toast Tours to take you around, or hire a driver to drive YOUR car for the day. The Allegretto resort also offers limo and town car services for its guests (prices vary). In fact, if you’re staying at the Allegretto Vineyard Resort Paso Robles, it’s only a 15-minute drive to start your day.
Morning Wine Tastings
L’Aventure is open by appointment only. I suggest scheduling your tasting for 10 a.m. and starting your one-day tasting adventure in this beautifully designed tasting room with their very knowledgeable team.
The Story: Stephan Asseo, owner and winemaker at L’Aventure Winery, began making wine in France in 1982, following his education at L’Ecole Oenologique de Macon, Burgundy, France. There he produced wines under various labels including Domaine de Courteillac, Chateau Fleur Cardinal and Chateau Robin in Bordeaux.
For 15 years, Stephan developed his craftsmanship and gained a reputation as a maverick. This desire to be more innovative than allowed by AOC law is what ultimately led him to California. In 1996, he searched for the right vineyard location from South Africa to Lebanon and Argentina to Napa — until he ultimately discovered Paso Robles. He immediately fell in love with the unique terroir: the rolling hills and mountain peaks, the deep calcareous soils and the maritime influences. All of which he felt made it a world-class wine region.
The Wines: The spirit of L’Aventure is best observed in the “Paso Blends,” including the Optimus and the Estate Cuvée. The wines are blends of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot with percentages varying based on the vintage.
Winetraveler Tip: Ask for a brief look at the winery’s caves — completed in 2016 — to ensure natural cooling without the use of outside energy. The highlight of the cellar is the exposed limestone wall, which gives you a tangible understanding of L’Aventure’s soils.
Following our one-day itinerary, plan to arrive between 11:15 and 11: 30 a.m. for your tasting of Hope Family Wines. Walk-ins are welcome, but it is highly recommended that you make a reservation as they are frequently sold out. Weekends can be sold out up to 3-4 weeks in advance. If you’re looking to linger, inquire with the winery ahead of time if you can bring a picnic lunch to the vineyards as tasting space is limited.
The Story: In 1978, Austin’s parents moved the family from Bakersfield, California to Paso Robles to become farmers. At the time, the region had less than 1000 acres of grapevines planted. The Hope family planted grapevines and apple trees and fast became one of the region’s largest growers for Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Initially, the family had no desire to make wine. But in 1988, the Hopes opened a small tasting room while growing an ongoing collaboration with Caymus to include making and bottling the Liberty School wines coming from the Hope family’s Paso Robles vineyards.
Later, in 1996, Austin and his small team released the first red blend under the Hope family Treana label. It was the first red blend in Paso Robles to combine Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The following year, the winery’s new building was constructed and the family took Liberty School under the Hope Family umbrella. As the winery operations grew and new labels and wines were added — including the Austin Hope label in 2000 — the family turned their focus from farming to winemaking. You can read all about it here.
The Wines: The Hope Family Wines consists of five individual brands: Liberty School, Treana, Quest, Austin Hope and Troublemaker. Each of the wines expresses the richness of Paso Robles from award-winning Cabs and Syrahs to a velvety Mourvèdre. The consistently renowned Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon is a pure expression of Paso Robles and is sourced from five of the 11 sub-AVAs of the region. Vineyard sites are selected for their specific soil type and fermentation takes place in stainless steel for precise tannin extraction. The wine is aged in 75% new French oak for 16 months.
Winetraveler Tip: Ask for the story of the label on each of the Austin Hope Rhône varietal wines. They represent the very essence of this family-owned winery.
It’s now likely around 12:30 and you’re more than ready for lunch, so we’re going to drive back west on the 46 to another renowned Paso Robles family-owned winery — Niner — for a 1 p.m. lunch on the patio overlooking the winery’s picturesque Heart Hill Vineyard.
The Story: Richard Niner spent his career building small businesses, one of which brought him to Paso Robles in the early 1990s. It was then that he was immediately drawn to the potential of both the land and by the warmth of the people who lived here. After a long search, Richard and Pam purchased their first vineyard, Bootjack Ranch, in 2001 and spent the next decade building a tasting room and winery and sourcing and planting two additional vineyards. Today, Richard and Pam are retired, while their son Andy runs the business and oversees 223-acres across three different vineyards in Paso Robles and Edna Valley.
The Wines: All the wines are made on-site in the LEED Certified Winery at Heart Hill Vineyard. Niner Wines are estate grown and the integration of farming and winemaking is their signature style. They are known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as their flagship blend Fog Catcher. While dining at the restaurant or tasting in the winery you’ll also find a wide range of varietals and small lot bottlings.
Winetraveler Tip: This is an ideal place for that “framer” of a photo with Heart Hill Vineyard in the background.
Finishing lunch by 2:30, you’ll want to hop across 46 West to Sextant where hospitality is a hallmark. The friendly staff will greet you upon arrival and enthusiastically guide you through a tasting of their Old World varietal wines.
The Story: The Stoller family founded Sunridge Nurseries in 1977 with the goal of producing the finest grape stock in the world. They developed exclusive relationships with French, Portuguese and Spanish institutions to import certified wine grape selections that can be traced back to the Old World. Many of these vines were sold to winegrowers around the world. Fast-forward to 2001 and grandson Craig, along with his wife Nancy, planted a new vineyard in the Templeton Gap District of Paso Robles using French wine grape clones. While they continue to operate Sunridge Nurseries, in 2004 they also began to produce their own line of wines under the Sextant label.
The Wines: Sextant specializes in powerful Zinfandel and Petite Sirah blends. They are devoted to making Old World varietal wines by making the most of the Central Coast terroir. Grapes are grown to optimal maturity for unique wines of the highest quality. And you’ll find everything from a Grenache Blanc to Cabernet Sauvignon as well as both Bordeaux and Rhône blends.
Winetraveler Tip: Try Sextant’s Caladoc, a grape hybrid of Grenache and Malbec sourced from the estate vineyard in the El Pomar District of Paso Robles. Sextant is the first winery to import and certify these vines in the United States. The best traits of Grenache and Malbec are combined for characteristics of raspberries, red currants and strawberries as well as blackberries, cedar, sweet tobacco, dried herbs and black tea. Wowza!
Winetravler Bonus Tip: If you’re not following the one-day itinerary and are going the more leisurely route, reserve a private sit-down tasting. It’s a personalized experience featuring a selection of the current release and library vintages in a unique cellar setting.
Now back on the road for this marathon of a tasting day we’re heading two minutes north up 46 West to Castoro Cellars for a 3:45 to 4:15 arrival. This lovely establishment is where you will end your day.
Fortunately for us, Castoro Cellars is one of the few wineries open until 5:30. This allows you a few options for tasting. Now, if you arrive before 4 p.m. and feel like having a little fun and sporting adventure, you can check-in at the tasting room for a round of Disc Golf – in the vineyard! In fact, it’s a full 18-hole course. How unique is that! The course is open until 5 p.m. After which you can head back into the tasting room for your wines.
The Story: Castoro Cellars was established in 1983 by husband and wife Niels and Bimmer Udsen. One of the first 15 bonded wineries in the region, Castoro Cellars is 100% estate grown on 13 vineyards across 1,400 acres. Four of the vineyards, including the winery are within the Templeton Gap District, while the nine others are found in the Estrella District. The vineyards are SIP Certified, farmed organically and feature 125 acres of biodynamically farmed vines. Stewards of the land in all that they do, Castoro Cellars also has solar panels throughout the vineyards which power both the tasting room and winery. And interestingly, the winery’s resident winemaker — Tom Myers — made his first vintage at Castoro in 1978 and today is one of the longest standing winemakers in Paso Robles.
The Wines: Castoro Cellars grows around 28 grape varieties of which about 75% are red wine grapes. The variety of wines offered is extensive from Bordeaux and Rhône blends to single varietals including Albariño and Zinfandel. The winery is best known for its Zinfandel (which is only 8% of the vineyard), Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends.
Winetraveler Tip: Again, if you’re winetasting on a more laidback schedule and have an interest in spirits, Niels and Bimmer’s children are spearheading the family’s Bethell Road Distillery & Winery across the road. Here, you’ll find handcrafted Grappa, Brandy, Gin and a few small-batch, artisanal wines.
Best Wineries on Paso Robles’ East Side
In sitting down to write this piece, it was difficult to decide how to break down the individual producers. 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 more must-visit wineries. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 wine growing.
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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