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5 Great Southern Paso Robles Wineries To Visit
Continuing on with our Paso Robles adventures, it’s now time to head South of Downtown Paso Robles for wine tasting. You can choose to visit these five wineries in one day focused mostly on the tasting experience, or you can spread it out over several days to take more time lingering at each while adding in some of our other suggested Paso Robles activities.
Provided you have a designated driver, I’ll highlight a suggested plan for a one-day Paso Robles 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!
How to Get There
Fortunately, these five wineries are within close proximity of one another and straight south on the 101 from downtown Paso. In fact, if you’re staying at the Allegretto Vineyard Resort Paso Robles, it’s only a 15-minute drive to start your day. 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 for the day, or use Uber, which has a plethora of drivers in the region. The Allegretto also offers limo and town car services for its guests (prices vary).
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 world-class wine country.
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, or make an appointment. I will note, this cozy space is perfect for a laid-back and relaxed tasting, so if you’re looking to linger, bring a picnic for the vineyards.
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 grape vines planted. The Hope family planted grape vines 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 on-going 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.
Plan Your Trip To Paso
If you’ve followed our one-day itinerary as outlined above, congratulations! It was a full day and you’re probably ready for some rest and relaxation, and you’re most certainly ready for dinner. Not to worry, we have you covered there too. And, as mentioned, if you’re interested in breaking out these wine tasting options into more leisurely visits, it’s also a fabulous way to go. You might even get all 18 holes of disc golf in!