Paso Robles - The Wine Country You Don't Hear About
Nestled in the coastal mountain range, Paso Robles, California is becoming a wine seekers paradise. Not as well known as Napa Valley, Paso Robles still embodies a real wine makers paradise. While Paso Robles still embodies the charm of an old wine country, they're leaping forward with viticulture, art, commerce, and a growing housing market. A perfect trip for the girls or the special someone in your life, Paso Robles has everything from fantastic vineyards, downtown wine tasting events, and olive oil tastings at some of the most beautiful countryside you'll see in California.
We ventured out to Paso Robles for a quick weekend trip, and we had 36 hours to enjoy the city. Just as with the rest of our quick trips, planning was essential. We knew we wanted to experience the Pinot Noir's during this journey, so we planned our visits around some of the highest rated Pinot Noir vineyards. We arrived on Friday afternoon knowing the vineyards may not be the best bet because they close early, so we decided to start the trip downtown with a few wineries and some to die for cookies.
If you can imagine "old country charm" meets modern updated stores, you have the blueprint for how the shops in Paso Robles are laid out. Notably The General Store and Brown Butter Cookies.
The General Store had local delicacy’s, homemade jewelry, and gorgeous boutique clothing. I left there with a heap full of homemade taffy from Mehlen Bacher’s Taffy.
Brown Butter Cookies store is adorable, the staff was so sweet and helpful, and I may or may not have sampled each flavor. The original cookie I had paired so well with Pinot Noir. They also have a soft cookie that they only sell on Fridays. The lucky citizens of Paso Robles!
Later in the evening, we started our downtown tasting tour (self-guided). The first was unique to us; we've never had sparkling wine before, so we wanted to give it a shot. The wine is called Bling. It's inside of a cute shop that is Alice and Wonderland themed. The wine sparkled, but there was a smoothness to the flavors on our flight: Brut, Peach, Raspberry, Pomegranate. With tastings downtown and most wineries, you have the option to trade the fee that you paid into payment toward a bottle of wine. We ended up trading the $5 tasting for an inexpensive $20 bottle of Peach sparkling wine to take home. It will be perfect for summer BBQs. Our last stop for the night was Asuncion; they are known for their Pinot Noirs. So I had a flight of three, a 10′, 11′, and a 12′. 2010 was hands down my favorite. The wine was smooth with a great aftertaste. The manager of the vineyard was there, and she explained how the 11' and 12' were more of a dryer taste because of the drought California has been going through. It is eye-opening to see how the elements affect food and wine.
Saturday, the only full day we were in Paso Robles was set aside to visit vineyards. Because the times the vineyards are open (they close early afternoon), we ended up only making it to four wineries. We choose strategically based on the reviews for Pinot Noirs. Our tastings were at Chronic, Chateau Margene, Windward Vineyards, and Dunning.
Chronic Cellars: A wine for the casual life. Chronic Cellars opened publicly in 2008, with their fun day of the dead and skull wines, you could tell they were here to appeal to the new crowd of wine drinkers. The outdoor patio with games like horseshoe and corn hole made for a welcoming first stop to the day.
Chateau Margene: This winery is made in small lots, and is a luxury wine that exhibits intense varietal character. The owner was our guide for the tasting, and the passion he had when he talked about the wine was incredible. Their white wine was smooth, and their reds were delicious. This place was a small boutique vineyard. It is a father and son team with a couple of additional workers. They hand pick the grapes, they shake and use pressurized oxygen to start the process. And you could tell, the wine, all of it, was incredible.
Windward Vineyards: This was a beautiful view, and they only made Pinot Noir. We had a vertical flight with 09′, 10′, 11′, 12′ and 13′. The difference was incredibly different because of the elements the grapes grew in. I also was able to charm them into letting me try the 14′ wine right out of the barrel. That was one my favorite but, of course, I didn’t get to buy any since it wasn’t bottled yet.
Dunning Vineyards: This was the most secluded. The location was so remote there was no way you couldn’t just stop and enjoy the views. The tasting took place in a little cottage in the middle oh nowhere. Once you were done, you were welcomed to enjoy the views of the vineyards, which after a long day of tasting we welcomed.
On Sunday, before leaving, we decided to detox and went olive oil tasting instead. The richness of tasting fresh oil olive will leave you breathless. A personal favorite throughout each tasting was the basil olive oil. We were told that they have a hard time keeping it in stock.
The last stop before we headed back to our real life was a quaint and secluded farmers market. The richness of color from the produce, the freshness of the juice will leave anyone wondering why they haven't found Paso Robles before.