Paso Robles – Getting to Know its Wines
Don’t Pass Up Paso
Make room Napa and Sonoma. Here comes Paso Robles. With the recent growth of Paso as a wine growing area, its 614,000 vineyard acres is roughly three times the size of Napa’s. Its eleven vinicultural districts now encompass over 150 wineries. A must-visit destination for wine lovers, it is located half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles off Highway 101. Comprised of varied topography from valleys to magnificent mountain vistas, its climate ranges from hot and dry in the east to temperate on its western mountains. The diversity in temperatures and soil conditions (from sandy to clay to stony) supports many different varietals and styles of wine. Paso is a destination for the wine enthusiast, but a designated driver or teetotaler will find much to enjoy including hiking, a charming historic downtown area, and many tasty food options.
The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance organized an informative, engaging, and delicious wine tasting event at the grand Scottish Rite Temple overlooking Oakland’s Lake Merritt. An enlightening seminar was followed by a walk-around tasting in the Temple’s elegant ballroom showcasing delicious wines from 30 wineries and accompanied by an extensive selection of artisan charcuterie and cheeses.
The seminar’s moderator was Christopher Taranto who shared information about the Paso Viticultural Area and introduced speakers from five wineries. Chris Eberle, Eberle Winery (one of the most award-winning wineries in the U.S.) brought a 2015 early ripening, brightly acidic 100% Viogner. This was followed by four diverse red wines, starting with Chuck Mulligan’s Harmony Cellars 2013 Claret style 86% Zinfandel blend. Dorothy Schuler then explained that the east side’s hotter climate is perfect for Rhone and Spanish varietals such as the earthy 2010 Vaca Roja (75% Monastrell 25% Garnacha) she brought from Bodegas Paso Robles. David Galzignato of Jada Vineyard & Winery shared his 2013 Strayts, an organic 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Jada Winery went organic in 2013 and biodynamic in 2014 yet utilizes considerable modern technology. The final presenter was Soren Christensen from Hearst Ranch Winery. His 2013 Pergola, a favorite of many of the tasters, was an easy drinking mellow 100% Petite Sirah.
At the walk-around, the majority of tasting options were reds priced from $20- $50. Because of differences in Paso’s terroir and temperature, wine lovers can find beverages to suit all tastes. Examples include an elegant Portuguese Bastardo (Trousseau in France); a full-bodied yet mellow Cabernet; a 100% organic Rhone; a bold dry-farmed Italian Primitivo (Zinfandel); and a Bordeaux-style blend.
Many of the wineries in the region are family owned with expertly hand-crafted wines. When visiting Paso, each winery has something unique to offer. Some vineyards such as Daou offer fine wine flights with food pairings. Eberle Winery celebrates 37 years in the industry and offers complimentary wine tastings and tours.
Many wineries with varied and interesting offerings for visitors were not represented at the gathering in Oakland. At Tobin James Cellars one can drink fruit-driven wines while leaning on its iconic mahogany bar, originally from Blue Eye, Missouri and dating from the 1860’s. At Robert Hall Winery, one can play bocce ball. With a stop at Pipestone Winery, a Green Award winner, see sustainable farming with draft horses. At Croad Vineyards, join a “down-under” experience and drink 50% off wine by the glass during Kiwi Hour from 2-3 pm; or appreciate a tasting of only Gold Medal wines at Michael Gill Cellars. After visiting these unusual and friendly tasting rooms, or enjoying an outdoor picnic, you can sample dessert wines at a number of wineries such as the ultra-premium Port-style wines made in the traditional Portuguese method at Roxo Port Cellars.
Many of the wineries are open daily and the remainder are open Friday through Sunday. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the many festivals throughout the year. For more complete information ask for the “Paso Robles Wine Country” visitors’ guide and area map (toll free – 800-239-8463) or view at www.pasowine.com.