The winding roads, sun-stroked hills, and draping tree branches of Paso Robles, California, were just as I remembered from our first visit a year and a half ago. I relaxed in the car’s passenger seat, taking in the scene while Jim navigated us around one of our now-favorite destinations. But in addition to viewing the area’s natural beauty, we had another agenda for our trip: wine tasting.
Paso Robles’s warm days and cool nights encourage the production of a wide variety of excellent wines, including Cabernet, Syrah, Viognier, and of course Zinfandel. (We’re not big fans of Zin, but the area is very well-known for them.) As the reputation of the local wines has grown, so has the number of wineries dotting the landscape. During our first trip we explored several of Paso’s family-owned vineyards and chatted with their friendly, passionate winemakers. This year we returned to visit old favorites as well as wineries we missed the first time around. Here are some of the standouts, all of which produce both red and white wines:
Adelaida Cellars: As soon as we arrived in Paso we drove straight to Adelaida. Their vines grow in the limestone soil of the Santa Lucia Mountains, imbuing Adelaida’s vintages with bold flavors and minerality; the winery is actually located at an elevation of 1,800 feet. Picnic tables overlooking the panorama supply the perfect spot for outdoor tastings. Upon entering the small, unassuming tasting room, we were happy to see staff members we met during our first visit. Favorites from our tasting included the Viognier Glenrose Vineyard from 2005, a tart, clean white wine with hints of grapefruit, and the fruity Rhône Style Red from 2004. 5805 Adelaida Road T: 800-676-1232
Hansen Vineyards: A leisurely scenic drive towards Templeton led us to Hansen Vineyards, where the gregarious owner was holding court in the rustic tasting room. We had arrived on a lark, looking to buy a bottle of wine for a friend with the same last name as the winery, but we wound up being pleasantly surprised by Hansen’s strong, peppery Cabernet Sauvignons. After a lively discussion with the owner over which vintage we preferred, Jim selected the 2004. We ended our visit with a picnic lunch in the winery’s sunny yard, and then moved on to our next stop. 5575 El Pomar Drive, Templeton T: 805-226-9023
Maloy O’Neill Vineyards: We visited this small, family-owned vineyard after several disappointing stops at larger wineries along busy route 46E. While Maloy O’Neill has been growing grapes since 1980, the actual winery has been open for only 2 years. Concentrating on handcrafted quality, Maloy O’Neill sells 35 different wines, mostly blends, and makes very small quantities of about 200 cases each. Most can only be bought at the winery or through their wine club. Among the many interesting wines on their list were a 2004 Malbec, an unusual wine varietal for Paso Robles, and the 2005 Enzo, which utilizes a grape called Lagrein, originally found in Northern Italy. 5725 Union Road T: 805-238-7320
Tablas Creek Vineyard: Robert Haas partnered with the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel in France to create Tablas Creek, one of Paso Robles’s best-known wineries. It specializes in estate-grown, Rhône style blends, focusing on the Châteauneuf-du-Pape style. During our first visit to Tablas Creek a year and a half ago I discovered my love for Mourvèdre. Mourvèdre is a meaty, fruity grape often used in blends with other grapes such as Grenache and Syrah. And even though Tablas Creek uses it often in their blended wines, they also produce a 100% Mourvèdre, which I especially enjoy. 9339 Adelaida Road T: 805-238-2083