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Paso Robles: The Ultimate Wine Country Road Trip

For those of us lucky enough to live in Southern California, one of the most enjoyable road trips we can take is a winery tour of the easily accessible Paso Robles AVA. We came home with a wonderful supply of wine for the holidays. I always drink red wine with Thanksgiving turkey and my famous Black Friday Roast Beef. Read on and discover that Paso is ground zero for world class red wine. For white wine lovers, the Rhone varietal whites are interesting and delicious alternatives to the usual Chardonnay.

A visit to Paso Robles has as much to offer as the more famous Napa Valley. It is also less crowded, less expensive and more casual.

  • The Paso Robles AVA was established in 1983 with 17 wineries and 5,000 vineyard acres. Today it has grown to 200+ wineries and 40,000 vineyard acres.
  • The wineries are 95 percent family owned. The visits are more personal and the owner and/or winemaker is often there to greet you.
  • World class wine with a strong focus on reds dominate. Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cab Franc (Bordeaux), Syrah/Grenache/Mourvedre (Rhone) and of course, Zinfandel, the region’s heritage wine grape variety, lead the pack. There are also whites, like Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne and other Rhone whites that when blended and served well chilled can convert you from Chardonnay.
  • Wineries throughout the Paso Robles AVA regularly achieve 90+ ratings from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Robert Parker. Our friends in Paso do not take a backseat to Napa or Sonoma.
  • Scenic day trips to visit winery tasting rooms on winding roads that are far less crowded and busy than those in the Napa Valley is a big part of the charm.
  • The square in downtown Paso is at the center of things when you visit, but it is really much lower key and also far less expensive than Napa and Sonoma.
  • The third weekend in May features the annual Paso Robles Wine Festival, one of the largest outdoor wine festivals in California, with four days of events and a Grand Tasting.

Making Alliances

We connected with Chris Taranto from the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance and he set us up with visits to some of the best wineries in the AVA. Chris is a great guy to know for all things Paso. Through him, we met several owners and renewed our friendship with my fellow Penn State alum Gary Eberle, the founder and “Pioneer” of the Paso Robles wine region. Wine country hospitality is famous for its genuine warmth and this visit once again confirmed it. We were welcomed at each stop with wine, food and a detailed and passionate description of what makes each winery unique.

So where to start?

Eberle Wine Estates

3810 CA-46, Paso Robles, CA 93446
805.238.9607 |

This was a most enjoyable visit with the guy who started it all, Gary Eberle. We rolled into Eberle Wine Estates at 10 a.m. I told Robin that chances were that when Gary got started kibitzing and sharing his library of wines and warm hospitality that we may be there for hours… we were. Gary is the ultimate raconteur. The delightful visit was capped off by lunch with Gary and Marcy Eberle, along with a magnum of his wonderful Reserve Cabernet. It made for a memorable experience. While premium Cabernet Sauvignon is Gary’s passion (and his is the best), you can enjoy a full range of varietals, all of which are affordably priced and excellent.  

Halter Ranch Vineyard

8910 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446
805.226.9455 |

Several years ago there was a charming covered bridge on the property and an older building. They now have a modern building that houses a gracious tasting room. Ashley Bratton guided us through their state-of-the-art production facility and then treated us to a tasting of their Ancestor Cabernet (named after an ancient Live Oak on the property) and CDP, a classic Rhone-style GSM blend. Were we in Bordeaux or the Rhone? Who cares? Delicious!

Daou Vineyards and Winery

2777 Hidden Mountain Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446
805.226.5460 |

The most beautiful and dramatic winery in Paso Robles sits on Daou Mountain and is surrounded by their vineyards. The wine matches the beauty and the drama. Visit, stay a while, enjoy. Katherine Daou was our gracious host for what was an incredible flight of their premium wines….all 90+’ers. The focus is on Cabernet Sauvignon either by itself or blended Bordeaux style. Our favorites included the Eye of the Falcon, a blend of Cab and Petit Verdot, and their 2015 Daou Estate Soul of a Lion, a blend of Cab, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot—dramatic names and even more dramatic wines. This is a family winery. Two brothers, George and Daniel Daou, started out in the Old World in Lebanon; in the New World they realized their childhood dream—making a testament to the timeless bonds of love and family.

Ecluse Wines

1520 Kiler Canyon Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446
805.238.4999 |

We first discovered Ecluse Wines several years ago when we drove up a windy out of the way road. They are as good as we remembered. Still small-scale, laid back and ready to spontaneously offer us a barrel tasting of wine still in progress. The 2015 Ensemble, a Bordeaux blend, and their 2015 Rendition, a Rhone GSM blend, were outstanding. Small wonder that they received 92 and 93’s from Robert Parker.

Niner Wine Estates

2400 CA-46, Paso Robles, CA 93446
805.239.2233 |

Their very attractive and modern tasting room is right off the 101 on Hwy 46 as you enter the Westside. Their Fog Catcher is a Bordeaux blend (the 2014 was predominantly Cab Franc and has been one of our favorite wines for years). They offer a broad selection of excellent varietals at reasonable prices. Niner is also as well known for their fine dining as their wine. Their restaurant was recognized by Food & Wine Magazine as one of the best winery restaurants in America. Our lunch was worth 5 stars and the setting was beautiful. Another day in wine country…lovin’ it!

Close Solene Winery

2040 Niderer Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446
805.239.7769 |

Clos Solene is the most charming family winery in Paso; it is the very definition of boutique. It is also a “Love Story,” the result of un coup de foudre”- a bolt of lightning, when Guillaume Fabre met Solene. They came to Paso Robles from France and started their own winery. The result is magic. Their estate vineyard is right outside the front door, dotted with small tables to enjoy wine that Bacchus would enjoy. Several wines received 95 scores from Wine Advocate for Rhone blends named after Guillaume’s wife and three children. My favorite is the 2015 Harmonie blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah.

Tablas Creek Vineyard

9339 Adelaida Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446
805.237.1231 |

Tablas Creek is the realization of the combined efforts of two of the international wine community’s leading families: the Perrin family, proprietors of Château de Beaucastel, and the Haas family of Vineyard Brands. Together they were the pioneers of bringing the Rhone to California. To ensure that the vines at Tablas Creek were of the highest quality and same genetic source of those at Beaucastel, the partners imported vinifera from their French estate that allows Tablas Creek to replicate the clonal selection of an established French vineyard. This passion lives on with our host Jason Haas, who educated us on their heritage and unique terroir. We have been visiting Tablas Creek for many years and over time the wine has never failed to be great. What is really amazing are two of their signature blends, Patelin de Tablas which earns 90+ scores and can be found at retail for under $20, and its big brother, Esprit de Tablas that comes in at 95+ for under $65. These are premium Rhone blends that are simply world class.

Justin Vineyards & Winery

11680 Chimney Rock Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446
805.238.6932 |

Justin may be the best known premium winery in the Paso Robles AVA. They certainly earned it with their Isosceles and Justification Bordeaux blends. Their Isoceles Reserves have been ranked among the best wines in the world. We stayed on the property at their Just In and enjoyed a spectacular Chef’s Wine Pairing dinner at The Restaurant at Justin. The 2014 Isosceles Reserve paired with a CAB Short Rib was sublime. Executive Chef Paul Arangorin and Grillardin Timothy Barakat outdid themselves. The next day Sommelier Jim Gerakaris treated us to a wine flight and a golf cart tour of the winery and the estate vineyards. All of this is worth the drive all the way out to Chimney Rock. Justin also announced the opening of a new tasting room in the heart of downtown Paso Robles on the Square at 811 12th Street. Every detail of the new space was artfully curated and customized—from the “infinity” underground bottle display at the front alcove down to the pattern of the floor tile, which is a reproduction of the famous “Gaudí tile” designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí in the early 20th century. They also offer fine dining to go with the wine.

Ready to go? Please take me with you!

  • Ecluse Wines
  • Gary & Marcy Eberle
  • Halter Ranch
  • Halter Ranch
  • Justin Cave
  • Justin Vineyard at Chimney Rock
  • Justin Caves
  • Eberle Deck
  • Justin Winery Tasting Room
  • Clos Solene
  • Guillaume & Solene