Paso Robles Wineries & Wine Tasting
Only 40 miles north of Pismo Beach, lies the California Central Coast’s famous Paso Robles Wine Country. The official name, El Paso de Robles, is Spanish for “The Pass of the Oaks”. For generations, this area was home to cattle ranches, and was only established as the Paso Robles AVA in 1983. However, by 2013, Paso was awarded Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s “Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Region of the Year,” an award given by the magazine recognizing excellence in wine quality, innovation and excitement.
It’s hard to believe as recently as 1990, Paso Robles had less than 20 wineries. Viniculture in Paso dates back to 1797, when Mission San Miguel Arcangel planted more than one thousand vines to produce sacramental wine. A century later in the 1880’s, commercial wine growing began with the establishment of Ascension Winery by Indiana rancher, Andrew York. Now called Epoch Winery, it is the longest operating winery in the county. Today, with over 200 wineries and 32,000 vineyard acres, Paso vintners thrive to achieve premium wine production. Vintners navigate challenging conditions including varied microclimates, diverse soils, hot days and cool nights to produce more than 40 wine varieties of grapes. Paso Robles remains famous for its heritage Zinfandel grape but others include Albarino, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Counoise, Grenache, Grenache blanc, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Mourvedre, Nebbiolo, Orange Muscat, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Picpoul, Pinot gris, Pinot noir, Riesling, Roussanne,Sangiovese, Sauvignon blanc, Syrah, Tannat, Tempranillo, Tinta Cao, and Viognier.
The Paso Robles AVA is California’s largest geographic appellation. Divided into eleven distinct grape growing regions, the region comprises a sprawling 666,618 acreage area. It is largest of three AVAs in San Luis Obispo County, making San Luis Obispo county the fourth largest county in planted acreage among California’s coastal AVA’s behind Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties. The Paso Robles AVA encompasses approximately 42 miles east to west. Its western boundary is six miles from the Pacific Ocean on the inland side of the Santa Lucia Mountains, and stretches to the Cholame Hills in the east. It extends 32 miles north from the Monterey County border, to the south at the Cuesta Grade below Santa Margarita.
Vast differences in terrain and the influx of marine air produce many different microclimates across this sprawling region. In summer warm, still, clear days reach temperatures between 85 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit; nighttime lows drop by 40 to 50 degrees in some areas when the marine layer arrives in the late afternoon. Winter temperatures can sink to a frigid 20 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas, and by mid-December, most vineyards are dormant. With warm days, cool nights and late rains, vines have a longer growing season, lending Paso Robles wines to display ripe, intense flavors, a characteristic cherished by many California wine lovers.
The diverse land of Paso consists of rolling hills, riverbeds, planes, canyons, and mountains. More than forty-five soils types can be found, from volcanic rocks, granite, and marine sedimentary rocks of calcareous shales, sandstone, and mudstone. Because of the dramatic differences making up the Paso Robles AVA, its numerous acres are now sub-divided into the eleven distinct viticultural areas: Adelaida District AVA, Creston District AVA, El Pomar District AVA, Paso Robles Estrella District AVA, Paso Robles Geneseo District AVA, Paso Robles Highlands District AVA, Paso Robles Willow Creek District AVA, San Juan Creek AVA, San Miguel District AVA, Santa Margarita Ranch AVA, Templeton Gap District AVA.
In addition to Paso’s heritage variety Zinfandel, numerous styles of wine are produced in this very distinct region. The Paso Robles Wine Trail and onsite tasting rooms are open regularly, and the historic downtown of Paso Robles is filled with boutique stores, wine country-inspired cuisine, and tasting rooms surrounding a charming city park.