Wine Culture Magazine

Hills, valleys and ocean influence all create a wine region of exciting variety

A vineyard in Paso Robles. Christine Campbelll photo

Situated along California’s Central Coast famed wine region, almost halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Paso Robles—or simply Paso, as the locals refer to it—is enticing wine lovers with its wide diversity and consistent quality. With more than 60 grape varieties planted across 40,000 acres, Paso Robles divides into 11 American Viticultural Areas (AVA), each with unique soils, terrain and microclimates.

Grapes flourish here, all types of them: alluring expressions of Rhône varieties including Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Viognier; Spanish Graciano and Tempranillo; local expressions of Italian Barbera and Sangiovese; as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Chardonnay. A single grape or style does not define the region.

Paso Robles, which means “the pass of oaks,” is a relatively recent, top-rated destination for wine connoisseurs. With over 200 wineries to visit, the energy in Paso is evident.

Paso Robles spans 72 kilometres from the Cholame Hills in the east to the Santa Lucia Mountains in the west and 40 kilometres south from Monterey County to the Cuesta Grade. Its western border is only 10 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, and the Salinas River flows right through the middle of the region.

The Paso Robles landscape. Christine Campbell photo

Paso Robles enjoys a significant diurnal shift from day to night, thanks in part to its varied landscape, which includes rolling hills, river bottoms, benches and mountains. Soils range from calcareous/carbonate-rich to clay to sandy loam to siliceous/silica. All this diversity allows for a multitude of grape varieties to grow.

Paso Robles, which established as its own AVA in 1983, is often considered one large region. But there are differences between the east and the west and from north to south. As a result, in 2007, an independent AVA committee submitted a petition proposing 11 sub-regions. Each sub-region offers something unique and many reasons to visit.

Both tradition and trends exist alongside each other in Paso Robles. There is reverence and respect for the pioneers who led the way, like Jerry Lohr of J. Lohr Vineyard and Wines, Gary Eberle of Eberly Winery, and Amy Butler of Ranchero Cellars. At the same time, trailblazers like Riley Roddick of Hubba Wines, Ryan Pease of Paíx Sur Terre, and Nancy Ulloa of Ulloa Cellars do not feel encumbered by rules and charge forward with conviction and imagination.

Enjoy a glass at Tablas Creek Vineyard. Christine Campbell photo

Wineries to Visit in Paso Robles:

Tablas Creek Vineyard: Pioneers of the Rhône movement in California.

Halter Ranch: Bordeaux and Rhône-style wines.

Hubba Wines: Interesting and delicious blends.

Austin Hope: Premium Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Denner Vineyards: Spanish, Rhône, and Bordeaux varities.

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