And a Spotlight on Four Fantastic Paso Robles Wineries
As the world’s fourth-largest wine producer, California has no shortage of destinations promising a world-class wine-tasting experience. The state boasts 142 AVAs, federally recognized American Viticultural Areas. Claiming no fewer than 12 of them (the acclaimed Paso Robles AVA along with 11 sub-AVAs) is Paso Robles, a scenic and charming wine country destination in the Central Coast region.
For wine aficionados and novices alike, there’s a lot to love in Paso’s 250-plus wineries, many of which are open for tastings. World-class wines are reason enough alone to book a trip, but there are countless incentives to pick Paso Robles for your next wine-themed adventure. Here are eight, along with a spotlight on four remarkable Paso wineries.
1. Paso Robles is an acclaimed AVA famous for Bordeaux- and Rhône-style wines
The Paso Robles AVA was established in 1983, but the region has a history of winemaking dating to the late 18th century. Today, Paso Robles claims an additional 11 sub-AVAs, establishing it as one of California’s most exceptional wine regions for quality and diversity. Wine aficionados know Paso for its Bordeaux- and Rhône-style wines – its soils and climate are similar to those European regions – and in particular for Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, and beautiful blends. More than 60 wine grape varieties are grown in Paso Robles, so there’s something for every wine drinker to enjoy.
2. Paso Robles wineries and tasting rooms are open!
Since June 2021, many wineries and tasting rooms have reopened to the public. Many are open by reservation only to limited group sizes, but it just takes an online click or phone call to book a timeslot. Expect to be seated outdoors – not a problem in this sunny, scenic region. Check with individual wineries about mask requirements and other policies. Overall, limited capacities at tasting rooms can be a benefit to customers. Enjoy an absence of crowds, more personal attention from servers, and a more intimate, peaceful tasting experience than during pre-pandemic times.
Spotlight: Eberle Winery
One of Paso Robles’ most award-winning, storied wineries, the family-owned Eberle Winery has been producing outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhône varietals since 1979. The vineyard deck overlooking neat rows of Chardonnay vines is open for tastings by appointment, and visitors can also book a tour of Eberle’s extensive wine caves. Check the calendar for live music and food truck events.
On the lighter side of the tasting flight are a beautifully balanced 2019 Estate Chardonnay, and the 2018 Cotes-du-Robles Rouge, a rustic, fruit-forward bistro wine. Sample a 2018 Sangiovese and a full-bodied, brambly 2018 Steinbeck Syrah, followed by a 96-point 2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, an Eberle signature.
Owner and winemaker Gary Eberle is an industry icon, recently named an “American Wine Legend” by Wine Enthusiast. A one-time Penn State football star with degrees in biology and enology, he discovered the world of wine while studying cellular genetics at LSU. Combining his new interest in wine with a scientist’s curiosity, Eberle came to California with the goal of creating a homegrown rival to the finest Bordeaux. He co-founded Estrella River Winery in Paso Robles in 1973, followed by his namesake winery and its first Cabernet Sauvignon in 1979.
Among a long list of awards and achievements, Eberle Winery was the first in California to produce a 100% Syrah commercially. Gary Eberle co-founded the Paso Robles AVA in 1983, and built Paso’s first wine cave in 1994. That network of cool underground caves has expanded to 18,800 square feet, all lined with rows of barrels along with a romantic private tasting alcove. Dozens upon dozens of framed medal collections decorate the walls of Eberle’s wine and gift shop. Gary Eberle and his two friendly black standard poodles – the winery’s mascots – are often present on site to mingle with visitors.
3810 Highway 46 East, Paso Robles
3. Paso Robles is easy to get to from all over California
Paso Robles is at the northern edge of San Luis Obispo County, near the southern edge of Monterey County and 24 miles inland from the ocean. It is exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, approximately 200 miles and a 3.5- to 4-hour drive from both major cities. Paso Robles is 270 miles from Sacramento, about a 4-hour drive. Connect via US-101 from the north or south. From the east, connect from I-5 via Highway 46 or 41. Its central location might make Paso Robles an ideal wine country destination for meeting up with friends and family who live elsewhere in the state.
4. The wine country scenery is stunning
Paso Robles means “the Pass of the Oaks,” and gnarled old-growth oak trees dot the hillsides of this spectacular wine country. Vineyard-covered hills, which change in color and form with the seasons and daily shifts of sunlight and fog, loll toward the horizon, sometimes sharing space with olive groves and almond orchards. To the east of Paso Robles are chaparral-covered foothills rising to the Santa Lucia Coastal Range. Bring your camera to capture these gorgeous backdrops along with the up-close beauty of the vines that touch outdoor wine-tasting venues.
Spotlight: Austin Hope & Treana Tasting Cellar
The Hope family started as apple and grape growers in the late 1970s before shifting to winemaking in the mid-90s. The vineyard venture proved a major success, and the still family-owned, award-winning winery now offers wines under five distinct brands: Liberty School, Treana, Quest, Austin Hope and Troublemaker. Austin Hope wines use only estate-grown grapes, while the other brands source grapes from over 50 growers in the Paso Robles AVA. All are meticulously selected for quality, terroir and sustainability.
Austin Hope trained as a winemaker in France and Napa, bringing old and new world techniques back to the family estate. Its 40 acres are in the Templeton Gap district, Paso’s coolest microclimate where Rhone varietals thrive. The district’s dense clay soils, a focus on limited yields and sustainable practices characterize Austin Hope wines.
Wine tastings, by appointment, take place on the shady patios tucked behind and in between large, weathered, barn-like buildings. Guests can spot nesting red-tail hawks, sprinting California quail and the occasional woodpecker tapping into the old-growth oaks left intact amid the vineyards.
Sip your way through the tasting menu, which features a 2020 Rosé, 2017 Grenache, 2018 GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre), 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2019 Lagrein & Petite Sirah, all from the Austin Hope label. Or, chat with your expert server about custom tasting options. A gourmet charcuterie box is available to accompany a tasting.
Austin Hope’s signature is its Cabernet Sauvignon, the result of a seven-year pursuit for perfection. The winemaker’s goal was a Cabernet Sauvignon that showcases the best of Paso, a Napa-quality Cab that’s approachable for all. The 2017 Cab Sauvignon was ranked No. 10 of the World’s Top 100 by Wine Enthusiast, a first top 10 for Paso. The magazine has also given Austin Hope its Winemaker of the Year award.
1585 Live Oak Road, Paso Robles
5. Paso Robles offers a wide variety of wines
While Zinfandel is considered the heritage grape of the AVA, Paso is especially known for its Bordeaux and Rhône-style wines, which include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache. The region’s Spanish and Italian varieties also enjoy critical acclaim, as do its unique and non-traditional blends. Overall, there are more than 60 grape varieties grown in Paso Robles by over 250 wineries. All wine enthusiasts are likely to find their favorite varieties represented, and the region presents plenty of opportunities to discover delicious new wines as well.
6. Paso has a thriving food scene
Food and wine belong together on the dining table, and in your vacation destinations! Along with its wonderful wineries, Paso Robles has a vibrant restaurant scene. The Central Coast is surrounded by year-round agricultural bounty as well as fresh seafood from nearby Morro Bay. Dining options are diverse and suit a range of budgets, with the most plentiful options surrounding downtown’s City Park.
Spotlight: Rangeland Wines
Rangeland Wines runs the loveliest of tasting rooms on a 50-acre countryside farmstead, 2 miles from its winery on the western edge of the Paso AVA. The winery, a small section of a grass-fed cattle and sheep ranch, benefits from a unique terroir with mostly limestone soils. A commitment to ultra-sustainable, all-natural growing practices purposely stresses the grapes. Further, winemaker Paul Hinschberger embraces the concept of “field-crafted” winemaking, resulting in complex, flavorful wines with all-natural credentials.
Rangeland specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon and also produces excellent Merlot, Syrah and Grenache. Visit the tasting room and take a seat on the patio next to the pond, where you’ll take in sunny, serene views of heritage oaks and a walnut orchard. A rickety, century-old wooden barn complements the bucolic vibe. Highlights of the tasting list include the bone-dry, palest pink 2020 Flora Rosé; an elegant, bold, almost-purple 2017 Petite Sirah; and the signature 2018 Mistletoe, a Cabernet and Syrah blend created at Christmastime.
Charcuterie is available alongside a tasting, and you can order wines by the glass as well. On weekends, the tasting room offers burgers made from Rangeland’s 100% grass-fed cattle. You can also taste those burgers and more at Rangeland’s burger shack in nearby Templeton.
6996 Peachy Canyon Road, Paso Robles
7. Wineries in Paso Robles are approachable
Wine tasting can be somewhat intimidating to novices, but rest assured that tasting rooms throughout Paso Robles are typically friendly and approachable. There’s no expectation for guests to know anything about wine, and servers are happy to chat about the winemaking process, make recommendations and answer even the most basic of questions. Many are child-friendly and dog-friendly (although you should check first), and it’s not uncommon for the owners and winemakers to be on site.
8. There are lots of other things to do in Paso Robles
Wine tasting is the biggest draw for visitors to Paso Robles, but there are plenty of other attractions too. Check out City Park downtown, which has a playground and spacious lawns, and hosts regular festivals, concerts and a farmers’ market. It’s the centerpiece of downtown Paso, with restaurants, cafes and boutiques surrounding the park. Stop in at Studios on the Park, a delightful gallery space showcasing works by local artists. Hiking and biking are popular activities in this outdoor haven. Old Mission San Miguel, the oldest historic landmark in the region, is open to visitors.
Spotlight: Robert Hall Winery
An expansive property with elegant brick towers, arches and topiary reminiscent of a Tuscan country estate, Robert Hall Winery makes a memorable first impression. Walk through the central courtyard to the large and open back patio – an occasional concert venue – and claim an airy seating area for a top-notch wine-tasting experience.
Robert Hall’s winemaker Don Brady is a big name in the Paso wine business. He helped to establish the Paso Robles AVA back in 1983, and was named Winemaker of the Year by the International Wine and Spirits Awards in 2006. The winery sources its grapes from Hall Ranch, a 173-acre estate covering a range of microclimates and soils. A dozen varietals are grown on the estate, which is certified sustainable.
Robert Hall Winery stands out for its variety of tasting experiences, including estate vineyard tours. Order from the traditional wine tasting menu, order food from the a la carte dining menu, wines by the glass, or choose the wine tasting and food pairing menu. This new option combines flights of five Cavern Select tastings with five seasonal dishes created by chef Mike Learned using locally sourced ingredients.
The menu changes seasonally, but pairings might include a medium-bodied 2017 Cavern Select Zinfandel served with an organic baby wedge salad, accented with onions braised in the same wine. The spicy notes and hints of cherry and tarragon in the 2018 Cavern Select GSM complement a slow-braised pork slider with a GSM and berry glaze. Dark chocolate cherry truffles are a complex treat to savor between sips of the velvety 2018 Cavern Select Petite Sirah.
A recommendation: Ask to sample the delicious 2020 Grenache Gris, the brainchild of Bry, a Robert Hall harvestologist (and blogger over at PurpleTeethClub).
3443 Mill Road, Paso Robles
Looking for more food and wine content? Check out “Sip, Savor and Stay Safe” and “Stay at South Coast Winery for a Complete Wine Country Experience.”