The best places to taste wine in and around Paso Robles, CA?
June 4, 2007 11:54 AM   Subscribe

California wine buffs: Which are your favorite vineyards in Paso Robles wine country?

My wife and I will be staying a few days in Cambria next month and plan to spend at least a day, no more than two, on a wine-tasting tour of the Paso Robles/Central Coast area. I've been to the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance website, which has a map of the area's wineries and short descriptions of each, but was hoping for some personal recommendations.

We like wine but are by no means connoisseurs. Red, white, or rose, we like them all. No varietal is too obscure or too passe for us. We're there to explore.

Neither of us has ever visited a vineyard or been in a tasting room so general advice on tasting etiquette, etc. is also welcome. Recommendations for restaurants and wine bars, too. Thanks.
posted by otio to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've never been to Paso Robles wine country...but if it is anything like Sonoma's wine country, it will be a laid back wonderful experience. Take your time, don't be pushy or make an appearance that you are there just to get messed up on free (or almost free) samples. It has been my experience that the people who work in these places espacially the smaller ones, are very friendly and very interesting. Engage them in conversation, talk about the wines with them (doesn't have to be snooty...casual comparisons are good). Show that you care about the product and the people at the tasting rooms will show you a grand time.

Also, resist the temptation to buy everything you might spend a ton and it can be a pain to lug it all around. This is espacially important if you are flying. You don't want the special pain that is lugging 4 cases of wine through the airport. If you've ever been in SFO for any period of time, you've seen that person.

Have fun and I am envious.
posted by mmascolino at 12:15 PM on June 4, 2007

I know of and like Firestone, Wild Horse, J. Lohr from the PRWCA's list. But, perhaps like you, I'm not picky and like most wine, and most varietals pretty well. I also never buy very expensive wine for home, and not usually California wines in restaurants, but I have bought bottles from those three wineries, though I haven't visited them. I think those three are among the biggest on the list, so definitely explore for yourself, but hitting one big winery at least is a must, since the experience is somewhat different. I have lived on the Central coast or near it all my life, and as a kid I went all over Santa Ynez cork-sniffing with my folks, determining that my favorite varietal was Gerwurztraminer by smell!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:28 PM on June 4, 2007

I've been wine tasting in and around Paso Robles and in my experience the wineries were very friendly- they love wine, and they like to share their wine with people who like wine. The tasting rooms were rarely crowded- we were often the only people there- and the tasting rooms lacked the 'tude that certain Napa wineries have.

It sounds like you are already approaching it with the right attitude- you like wine, you have an open mind, you're interested in trying new things.

My personal favorite down there was Bonny Doon, but they closed their Central Coast wine tasting room. If you are ever in the Santa Cruz area, I recommend a visit- they make good wine and the do not take themselves too seriously.
posted by ambrosia at 12:33 PM on June 4, 2007

Ha, my mother swills J. Lohr chardonnay by the gallon, Ambrosia Voyeur, so I will have to make it over there to pick up a few bottles for her from the source.

ambrosia, we'll be up in Capitola for a wedding later in our trip so maybe I can sneak in a visit to Bonny Doon. Someone gave me a bottle of their Boutteille Call port a few years back and I enjoyed that.
posted by otio at 12:51 PM on June 4, 2007

I'm not a local, but my inlaws live in the area so all visits there involve at least a couple of trips to the local winereies. Based on those experiences I'd second Wild Horse (never had anything from WH that wasn't excellent), and also throw in Justin, which has a superb (but not cheap) little restaurant on the premises called Deborah's Room. As for friendlyness and general accessibility Castoro probably remains my favorite, though.
posted by AwkwardPause at 1:02 PM on June 4, 2007

Peachy Canyon Winery. I have yet to visit their winery, but I am a big fan of their zins.
posted by gatorbiddy at 1:02 PM on June 4, 2007

Ambrosias agree: Bonny Doon Vineyards is the bomb. They even let Guerilla Drive-In use their power for the movie projector, every other friday night. Sa-weet.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:03 PM on June 4, 2007

bonny doon and robert hall were my two favorites the couple of times i was in that area.
posted by booknerd at 1:33 PM on June 4, 2007

oh, i'll second the recommendation for castoro too. that was excellent.
posted by booknerd at 1:34 PM on June 4, 2007

I'm a recent local, and here is my faves list for a bit south of there:

Babcock 5175 E. Highway 246, Lompoc, CA (805) 736 1455 $5.00
Foley Estates 6121 E Highway 246, Lompoc, CA (805) 737 6222 $- No
Sanford 7250 Santa Rosa Road, Buellton, CA (805) 688 3300 $5.00 Yes Make 12:30 reservation
Lafond 6855 Santa Rosa Road, Buellton, CA (805) 688-7921 $5.00 No
Sunstone 125 Refugio Road, Santa Ynez, CA (800) 313-WINE $7.00 Yes
Artiste 3569 Sagunto Street, Santa Ynez, CA (805) 686-2626 $- No If there's time
ConsilieCce 2933 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, CA (805) 691-1020 $- No If there's time
Firestone 5000 Zaca Station Road, Los Olivos, CA (805) 688-3940 $- No I
posted by k8t at 2:56 PM on June 4, 2007

I'll second a lot of k8t's faves, Sunstone especially. But my faves in the "Sideways" country, aka the lovely Santa Ynez Valley, are Buttonwood Farm (with a reliable Sauvignon Blanc) and Zaca Mesa. Firestone does a fun tour, but I find their wines to be fairly forgettable.
posted by ikahime at 3:56 PM on June 4, 2007

After a quick look I can't believe no one's mentioned Turley. Did I miss that?
Just about as good as zin gets.
(tasting room is in Templeton)
posted by artdrectr at 4:54 PM on June 4, 2007

I second Justin. I've been in there Wine Club for a few years now and I can't get enough.

Also, I suggest L'aventure. Mmm... Optimus.

Also, I second Turley. The woman is a legend.
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:11 PM on June 4, 2007

posted by hortense at 10:03 PM on June 4, 2007

At last count we had 95 wineries in SLO Co, most of them in north county around Paso. Lots of places to choose from all along Hwy 46 between Morro Bay and Paso as well as all those on the east side of PR. Experiment and have fun. Another vote for Robert Hall, the Rhone de Robles is my favorite. Way down south in Solvang, Lucas and Lewellen tasting room has a great Cabernet Franc. It's the only wine I buy by the case, but like so many other things it's a matter of personal preference. Hidden away in Paso Robles the Park Grill, on Park Street near 14th has no ambience but had excellent food the times my wife and I have eaten there. I think their food is much better than many of the more well known eateries in the area, also has a nice wine list and is frequented by local vintners.
posted by X4ster at 11:09 PM on June 4, 2007

Restaurants - I forgot Linn's, in Cambria! Great food. Lots of other fine restaurants up there too. Bistro Laurent another great one in Paso Robles.
posted by X4ster at 11:28 PM on June 4, 2007

Paso Robles is my parents' favorite place to go wine tasting. I know nothing about wine so I can't vouch for their taste, but here's what my mom had to say:

Everybody's favorite seems to be Tobin James. The tastings are free and plentiful, but can get you into trouble first thing in the morning. Anyway, there are many, many tasty and good ones.

Clautiere is fun because it's small and has a different style. We have some fun pictures from there. My new favorite, both for location and reasonably priced, good wine is Minassian-Young. It's owned by a fairly young, very low keyed guy, as opposed to some snootier ones.

The wineries are split by the 101, and for scenery, I prefer the ones on the west.

I don't know who is going, but tell them to pick up a wine map at the first stop. There are descriptions of hours, picnic grounds, etc. I always prefer the small Mom & Pop ones as opposed to the corporate ones, but that's just my "taste." HA!
posted by natabat at 7:38 AM on June 5, 2007

Great suggestions. Thanks to all and a special thank you to natabat's mom.
posted by otio at 11:24 AM on June 5, 2007

Tablas Creek and Dover Canyon. Superb.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:45 AM on June 18, 2007

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