Paso Robles: California’s Emerging Wine Region



By Kori ~ April 7th, 2010.

Located along the Central Coast halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso Robles is California’s third largest and fastest growing wine region. The town of Paso Robles (“Paso” to the locals) is the heart of Paso Robles wine country. The Paso Robles AVA was established in 1983 and has expanded a couple of times to its present size of 614,000 acres, the largest geographic AVA in the state. The area is home to more than 26,000 vineyard acres and over 180 wineries.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend three days in Paso Robles wine country on a media tour hosted by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. We had the pleasure to meet winemakers, visit vineyards, dine at local restaurants, and stay in luxurious accommodations. Paso Robles, a quaint town of 30,000 people, is a wonderful wine country destination and served as an excellent home base as we toured the surrounding areas. Within walking distance of our hotel, Hotel Cheval, were many tasting rooms, restaurants, boutique shops, and a lovely park. For those of you who are more familiar with Washington wine country, Paso Robles reminds me a lot of Walla Walla. It is about the same size and offers numerous wine and food options.

I tasted a total of 65 wines on this trip, a representative sampling of what is coming out of the Paso Robles AVA. Sixty out of that 65 are wines that I would recommend. Suffice it to say, the wineries in Paso Robles are producing some high quality wines, and best of all, doing it with a smile on their face. Everyone we met genuinely seemed to love where they live and what they do.

Three things stood out as the common threads running through Paso Robles wine country:

  • Community – There really is a close sense of community. The wineries, restaurants, and hotels seem to work together to offer a wonderful wine country experience for their visitors. And many of the winemakers and vineyard owners are good friends with each other, often helping each other out and simply shaking hands to seal deals.
  • Local – The people of Paso Robles are passionate about where they live and what the land provides. The restaurateurs encourage their patrons to support local wineries while the winemakers recommend local restaurants. And many chefs take it even further by buying their produce at local farmers markets or growing it themselves.
  • Sustainable – The word I heard used most frequently by winemakers and vineyard owners was sustainable. They are strong proponents of sustainable viticulture and strive to be good stewards of the land.

In the coming weeks, I will be writing more about the people and places that I encountered in Paso Robles. And if you are planning a trip there anytime soon (which I highly recommend), feel free to ask me any questions about the area in the comments below or via our Contact Us form. I’m happy to help if I can.

Here’s a breakdown of the wines that I tasted while visiting Paso Robles. Under each Quality heading, the wine name and region will be listed along with price and QPR rating. Wines in bold type received a QPR rating of 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5).

Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
2008 Turley Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel, Paso Robles, $60, QPR: 3

Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
2007 kukkula Sisu (red Rhone blend), $24, QPR: 4
2006 Edward Sellers Syrah Selectionnée, Paso Robles, $32, QPR: 4
2007 Zenaida Cellars Zephyr (Syrah/Zin/Viognier), Paso Robles, $32, QPR: 4
2007 Four Vines Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel, Paso Robles, $35, QPR: 4
2006 Windward “Monopole” Pinot Noir, Paso Robles, $36, QPR: 4
2009 Villicana Viognier, Paso Robles, $23, QPR: 3
2007 Tablas Creek Rosé, Paso Robles, $27, QPR: 3
2007 Four Vines “Loco” Tempranillo, Paso Robles, $40, QPR: 3
2006 Terry Hoage “The Pick” Grenache Cuvee, Paso Robles, $42, QPR: 3
2006 Edward Sellers Cuvee des Cinq (red Rhone blend), Paso Robles, $42, QPR: 3
2007 Austin Hope Grenache, Paso Robles, $42, QPR: 3
2007 Justin Savant (Syrah blend), Paso Robles, $45, QPR: 3
2009 L’Aventure Estate Rosé, Paso Robles, $35, QPR: 2
2008 L’Aventure Estate Roussanne, Paso Robles, $35, QPR: 2
2007 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel (red Rhone blend), Paso Robles, $50, QPR: 2
2006 J. Lohr Cuvee St. E. (Bordeaux blend), Paso Robles, $50, QPR: 2
2005 L’Aventure Estate Cuvee (Syrah/Cab/PV), Paso Robles, $85, QPR: 1

Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
2007 J. Lohr Los Osos Merlot, Paso Robles, $15, QPR: 5
2007 Kiamie Late Harvest Zinfandel, Paso Robles, $18 [375ml], QPR: 5
2007 Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, $20, QPR: 5

2007 Victor Hugo Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, $22, QPR: 4
2008 Villicana Zinfandel, Paso Robles, $26, QPR: 4
2007 Vina Robles Jardine Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, $26, QPR: 4
2008 Justin Sauvignon Blanc, Paso Robles, $15, QPR: 3
2009 Villicana Estate Vin Rosé, Paso Robles, $18, QPR: 3
2007 kukkula Lothario (Zin/Rhone blend), Paso Robles, $28, QPR: 3
2007 Villicana Estate Syrah, Paso Robles, $28, QPR: 3
2007 Adelaida Cellars Version (red Rhone blend), Paso Robles, $32, QPR: 3
2007 Grey Wolf Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel, Paso Robles, $36, QPR: 3
2008 Eberle Cotes du Robles Blanc (white Rhone blend), Paso Robles, $20, QPR: 2
2007 J. Dusi Zinfandel Port Dusi Vineyard, Paso Robles, $28 [375ml], QPR: 2
2007 Hearst Ranch “Lone Tree” Cabernet Franc, Paso Robles, $35, QPR: 2
2006 Kiamie Kuvee (Cab/Syrah/Merlot/Zin), Paso Robles, $38, QPR: 2
2007 Four Vines Anarchy (Zin/Rhone blend), Paso Robles, $40, QPR: 2
2006 Windward Gold “Barrel Select” Pinot Noir, $60, QPR: 2
2007 Lone Madrone “Points West White” Roussanne, Paso Robles, $28, QPR: 1
2008 Terry Hoage “The Gap” Cuvee Blanc (white Rhone blend), Paso Robles, $32, QPR: 1
2008 J. Dusi Carignane Dusi Vineyard, Paso Robles, $38, QPR: 1
2008 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc (white Rhone blend), Paso Robles, $40, QPR: 1
2007 Villa Creek Damas Noir Mourvedre, Paso Robles, $40, QPR: 1
2006 Steinbeck The Crash (Cab blend), Paso Robles, $42, QPR: 1
2007 Alta Colina “Ann’s Block” Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, $48, QPR: 1
2006 Terry Hoage “5 Blocks” Syrah Cuvee, Paso Robles, $50, QPR: 1
2001 L’Aventure Estate Cuvee (Cab/PV/Syrah), Paso Robles, $85, QPR: 1

Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
2007 J. Lohr South Ridge Syrah, Paso Robles, $15, QPR: 4
2008 Ancient Peaks Sauvignon Blanc, Paso Robles, $12, QPR: 3
2008 Clayhouse Wines Sauvignon Blanc, Paso Robles, $14, QPR: 3
2007 Ortman Family Sangiovese, Paso Robles, $22, QPR: 3
2008 Anglim Winery Rosé, Paso Robles, $15, QPR: 2
2008 Hearst Ranch “Glacier Ridge” Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, $25, QPR: 2
2009 Eberle Viognier, Paso Robles, $21, QPR: 1
2007 Kenneth Volk Roussanne, Paso Robles, $24, QPR: 1
2007 Steinbeck Viognier, Paso Robles, $29, QPR: 1
2008 J. Dusi Zinfandel Dusi Vineyard, Paso Robles, $32, QPR: 1
2007 Peachy Canyon Snow Zinfandel, Paso Robles, $36, QPR: 1
2008 Denner Vineyards Grenache, Paso Robles, $42, QPR: 1
2005 Halter Ranch Ancestor Estate Reserve (Bordeaux blend), Paso Robles, $44, QPR: 1
2007 Hope Family Treana Red (Cab/Syrah), Paso Robles, $50, QPR: 1
2007 Hearst Ranch “The Point” Special Reserve (Cab blend), Paso Robles, $70, QPR: 1

Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
2008 Robert Hall Rosé de Robles, Paso Robles, $15, QPR: NR
2007 Ancient Peaks Zinfandel, Paso Robles, $16, QPR: NR
2008 Niner Wine Estates Sauvignon Blanc, Paso Robles, $17, QPR: NR
2008 Thacher Vineyards Viognier, Paso Robles, $25, QPR: NR
2008 J. Dusi Syrah Caterina’s Hill Dusi Vineyard, Paso Robles, $38, QPR: NR


Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wine, Chardonnay, Dessert Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Grenache, Lesser Known Varietals, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Port, Red Wine, Rose Wine, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz/Syrah, Tempranillo, Vineyards, Viognier, White Wine, Wine Travel, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25, Zinfandel

Reader's Comments

  1. Sherman | April 7th, 2010 at 7:37 am

    I find it fascinating that two of the top-rated wines (Turley Dusi Vyd. at 4.5 stars and Four Vines Dusi Vyd. Zin at 4 stars) apparently use the same vineyard source as one of the five wines that you do NOT recommend (J. Dusi Syrah, Dusi Vyd.) As the first two are Zin and the NR is Syrah, but all come from the same vineyard, that would lead one to believe that (1) Dusi’s Zin fruit is good stuff (2) Dusi should look closely at their Syrah grapes. What would your take be on this?

  2. Scott | April 7th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Exactly because of the friendly attitude, obvious passion, and great quality that you note Paso is one of my favorite regions to visit. The proximity to L.A. doesn’t hurt either. I’m looking forward to some more in-depth looks at some of the people and places you encountered while in Paso. Here is my experience with some of the Paso wineries in the last couple of months http://www.thevinofile.net/search/label/Paso%20Robles

  3. Rick | April 7th, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    The Turley Dusi sells for $42, not $60, at least on their mailing list. Last time I was in Templeton the wines you could purchase at the winery had the same prices as the mailing list. The Dusi was usually available at the winery–did the price go up? (I was last there in 2008). My order form for this spring still has it at $42.

  4. Mark's Wine Clubs | April 7th, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    It pains me to say it, after you tasted so much while there…but can I make some suggestions for your next trip to Paso?

    Alta Colina-Syrah, 0900 Syrah and GSM
    Barrel 27: They make some great stuff, plus each winemaker has their own label which is just as good.

    Lastly the new winemaker at Denner (Anthony Yount) has his own label as well (kinero) which is some of the best Rousaine I’ve had in some time, partly because he sources from James Berry.

    I think Paso offers some of the best value anywhere right now.

  5. Pete | April 7th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Ahh, Why didn’t you go to Tobin James?

  6. Kori | April 8th, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Sherman,
    Excellent observations. Yes, Dusi is producing excellent Zinfandel fruit. It is my understanding that the Syrah is an experimental block planted in a different part of the vineyard called Caterina’s Hill. Unfortunately, I was not impressed by that particular Syrah. Before writing off their Syrah grapes altogether, though, I would want to try another vintage or another producer.

    Scott,
    Thanks for sharing your Paso experiences. I look forward to going back for another visit.

    Rick,
    Thank you for the Turley price information. Unfortunately, the price was not provided at the time I tasted it and I could not find it on their site. Therefore, I had to search online to find where it could currently be purchased which is where I found it for $60. FYI, the mailing list price of $42 would make it a QPR: 4.

    Mark,
    I appreciate your recommendations and will keep them in mind for my next trip to Paso.

    Pete,
    Since I was visiting Paso as part of a media tour, our itinerary was set by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. It was a busy three days but we obviously did not have a chance to visit all of the wineries in Paso Robles. I will add Tobin James to my list for a future trip.

    Cheers!

  7. Jason | April 19th, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    So the Turley Dusi gets a QPR score of 4.5 when the price is $60 but a 4.0 if the price were $42? This doesn’t make sense. If the price for the same bottle goes down, the QPR should go up, no?

  8. Kori | April 20th, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Jason,
    The QPR does go up. The 2008 Turley Dusi Zin received a QUALITY rating of 4.5 stars (out of 5) regardless of price. With a price of $60, its QPR rating is 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5). With a price of $42, its QPR rating goes up to 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5). For a complete explanation of our ratings system, please visit our Wine Ratings page, http://winepeeps.com/wine-ratings/. Cheers!

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  11. Steve | May 10th, 2010 at 9:41 am

    We were just up there this weekend. I would second Barrel 27 and also suggest Hug Cellars (right next door). Augie Hug worked with John Alban, and makes some very good wine.
    Also, the Paso Wine Centre in downtown Paso offers tastes of many of the very small producers in the area.
    Now on the flip side, don’t even bother with Croad, what a disappointment. The Zin was terrible, the rhones were so-so but then you could hardly tell, the pours were minuscule.
    Steve

  12. Kori | May 11th, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Steve,
    Glad to hear you enjoyed your time in Paso. Thanks for the recommendations. I saw the Paso Wine Centre when I was there but didn’t get a chance to stop by. Cheers!

  13. Stevie | May 26th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I adore wines from Paso Robles, especially the reds! I agree with you that L’Aventure is wonderful. So is Tablas Creek. Did you try the wines from Adelaida? I’m a member of their wine club as I’ve enjoyed them so much. I’m tryint to get on the List for the famous Paso Robles wine maker, Saxum, but have been patiently assured year after year that you have to wait. That’s a place I’d like to tour someday!

    Didn’t know that Paso was like Walla Walla.

    Did you visit Cambria just over the mountains on the coast? It’s a very charming town. And just up the highway is Hearst Castle, an amazing spectacle, and if you go in the right season, you can see the sea lions nearby. I love that part of California! Thanks for the great post!

  14. Kori | May 26th, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Stevie,
    Glad you enjoyed the post. I had a wonderful time in Paso. I only had one Adelaida wine on this visit. We went through Cambria and visited Hearst Ranch. It is a beautiful area. Cheers!

  15. Gracian Adame Craig David | June 22nd, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Great posts and also it’s because i love the site entitled Great California Wine.

  16. Jenn | July 9th, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    I love Paso! Some of my favorites are Caliza (brand new), Linne Calodo and Croad (my three C’s)! I just think the prices are so right… especially when compared to Napa, and you get GREAT wines. Croad just took some medals at the Central Coast Wine Competition (I was recently in their tasting room, and they were very excited about it). I also like how many of the wineries are small… I’ve met the owner/winemaker at all my favorites.

    And I totally agree Stevie – Cambria is a blast! Especially if you like antiques. :)

  17. Kori | July 15th, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Jenn,
    Thanks for sharing your Paso favs. I’ll have to check out your three C’s the next time I’m in the area. Cheers!

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  19. Carol | September 30th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Great post Kori, I love your wine picks! I am a frequent visitor to Paso Robles and I am looking forward to tasting some your listed wines next visit. Spot on with the Turley Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel. Imbibe well!

  20. Kori | October 1st, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Carol,
    Thanks. I look forward to visiting Paso again sometime. Cheers!

  21. Paso Robles Wine Club | October 23rd, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Visiting is always best but if you can’t just join the Paso Robles Wine Club and we ship you the best of what’s out there!

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