Events, Wine

Paso Robles – Where Cowboy Meets Class

Your Guide to Paso Robles Wine Country

Paso Robles

Paso Robles, once considered the wild, wild west of California wine country, has polished up its boots over the years. While there’s still plenty of evidence of the region’s rugged individualism, it has become more curated, more mature, and more nuanced. Today, Paso Robles (or simply Paso to the locals) is known for its many world-class winemakers producing incredible and incredibly diverse wines. It’s easy to see why Paso is attracting the attention (and investments) of many notable California winemakers and has become one of the Golden State’s most sought-after wine tasting destinations.

With its Central Coast location, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it’s the perfect distance for a weekend getaway from just about anywhere in California. If you consider yourself a wine expert or still have more to learn, there’s never been a better time to visit and explore all the region has to offer. Pack your bags, call your friends, and tell them to meet you  in Paso. But be sure to plan ahead and make reservations (and also maybe hire a driver) so you can make the most of this beautiful part of the Golden State. Here’s our handy guide to get you on your way.

grapes in vineyard

A Brief History of Paso Wines

Wine has been made in the area since California’s Mission days, but it wasn’t until the early 1970s that people really got serious about growing winegrapes in Paso Robles. The first large commercial vineyards were planted on famed vineyard consultant and agricultural advisor to San Luis Obispo County Jack Foote’s 1,200-acre ranch. They included Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Soon after, the first commercially grown Syrah in the state was planted on 700 acres at Estrella River Winery.

Several others followed suit, planting their own vineyards over the next decade. In 1983, the 556,765-acre Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area) was established, expanding by 52,000 acres in 1996 to include the vineyards that had popped up in the western portion of the region. By 1997, the wine world had started taking notice, with JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery’s Bordeaux-style ISOSCELES named one of the top 10 wines in the world by the Wine Spectator.

Paso Robles Vineyard people walking

All About Paso Robles Wines 

Paso’s long, warm days and cooler evenings create an ideal climate for growing a diversity of winegrapes. There you’ll find a sprawling landscape of rolling foothills surrounded by steep mountains and rugged canyons with over 200 wineries on 40,000 acres. Today, over 60 different varieties are being grown in the region. 

Though heat-loving and heritage variety Zinfandel has been popular with Paso winemakers for decades, you’ll also find many Bordeaux wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon. There is also a growing number of Rhône-style red wines like Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre, and whites including Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne. To the southwest, Pinot Noir rules, where ocean fog creates the right environment for cooler climate wines.

Paso Robles’ AVA is one of the largest in California and includes 11 sub-AVAs. Those to the east of the 101 have a warmer, dryer climate and include San Miguel, Paso Robles Estrella, Paso Robles Geneseo, and El Pomar. Here, elevations are between 700-1600 feet and have alluvial, clay, and loamy soils. 

Farther east, and with even more elevation you’ll find the San Juan and Paso Robles Highlands sub-AVAs. There, they have the least amount of rain and greater temperature fluctuations.

The sub-AVAs located to the west of Highway 101 are in the Santa Lucia mountains, are much closer to the ocean, and include Adelaida, Paso Robles Willow Creek, and Templeton Gap. With elevations of up to 2,000 feet, they receive about 30 inches of rainfall annually and have calcareous soils. Santa Margarita Ranch, the southernmost sub-AVA, is planted on steep mountain slopes up to 1,400 feet on mainly alluvial soils.

Get a Taste of Paso Robles Wineries 

Despite the growing number of wineries and the great diversity of wines produced in this unique AVA, Paso maintains its small-town feel. Winemakers there are a welcoming and unpretentious bunch, but they also are keenly aware that they are producing some of the best wines in the world. They have a lot of hometown pride and are more than happy to help you understand what differentiates this region from others within the state.

Tasting wine in Paso is an educational experience, but you’ll also find that it’s pretty chill and a whole lot of fun. With over 200 wineries to choose from, how do you decide where to taste wine in Paso Robles? Our first recommendation is that you visit Paso often! But if you’re planning your first visit, we suggest tasting wines from a variety of sub-AVAs so you can really get a sense of place.

wine pour

On the east side:

  • J. Lohr Wines – One of the most recognized of all California wine labels, family-owned J. Lohr has deep roots in Paso Robles. They are also major leaders in sustainability and have earned “Certified Sustainable” status for vineyards each year since the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance first began certification in 2010.
  • Robert Hall Winery – This acclaimed winery is Certified Sustainable and has set aside one-third of its acreage for regenerative viticulture as well. Visit their tasting room for a paired tasting experience, cavern tour, sustainability tour, or an “A La Carte” lunch featuring local produce and cheeses. Reservations required.
  • Tin City – Tin City, located in a former industrial park, now houses some of the edgiest, creative, and collaborative winemakers in the region. Some of our favorite stops include Desparada Wines, Sans Liege, Benom Wines, The Fableist, and Field Recordings.
  • Eberle – Gary Eberly is one of the OG winemakers in the region, working for his family’s Estrella Winery in the 1970s before going solo in 1984. Best known for their Zinfandels, they also have a number of delicious whites and Rosés worth exploring.
Tin City Paso Robles

On the west side:

  • Hope Family Wines – Austin Hope’s family began growing winegrapes in the area in the late 1970s. After college, he trained under Napa Valley’s Chuck Wagner and is now producing award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon himself under his Austin Hope label. Enjoy a private outdoor cabana, or taste indoors in their sleek, eclectic tasting rooms. Either way, be sure to order a cheese pairing.
  • Tablas Creek – Tablas Creek pioneered California’s Rhône movement and has close ties with the famed Château de Beaucastel in France. Their grapes are dry farmed, and biodynamic and recently they became the first Regenerative Organic Certified™ vineyard in the U.S. Be sure to listen for their flock of vineyard sheep bleating in the distance.
  • Adelaida Cellars – Adelaida is another of Paso’s first wine growers and producers, and their wines are a beautiful expression of the varied microclimates and terroirs in the region. Each of their varieties was planted to leverage the varied soil, elevations, and climates at their multiple farms spanning over 2,000 acres.
  • DAOU – DAOU has continuously produced some of the finest Bordeaux wines in Paso, outscoring many of their Napa Valley counterparts. Though their flagship wines are in the triple-digit range, they also have excellent, more moderately priced offerings. From their tasting patio, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better view in all of Paso.
  • Turley – Old vine guru Larry Turley makes 47 different wines from over 50 different vineyards, some with vines that date back to the late 1800s. He has vineyards throughout the state, including Paso Robles where one of the oldest of their Zinfandel vineyards, planted in 1885, is located.
Wine Tasting in Paso Robles

What Else to Do in Paso Robles 

  • Downtown Paso – Paso has a quaint and historic downtown area that is a great place to grab a bite to eat and shop at the many boutique stores that flank a grassy central square. Be sure to grab an ice cream cone from Negranti Creamery and relax under the shade of a heritage oak in the park.
  • Vina Robles – Vina Robles Vineyards and Winery has been hosting a summer concert series since 2007. Over the years it became so popular that they built a beautiful 3,300-seat amphitheater that now features top acts from around the globe. There’s no bad seat in the house, and there are plenty of food and wine options available.
  • Bruce Monroe’s Light at Sensorio – Don’t miss this stunning 15-acre illuminated art exhibition. 58,000 colorful fiber optic lights undulate gently over the rolling hills throughout this walk-through (and ADA compliant) exhibit. Try to book tickets around sunset for the most dramatic experience. Food and wine are available and bring a jacket because evenings can be chilly.
Live music
Live music at Vina Robles Amphitheatre

Where to Eat in Paso Robles

La Cosecha Bar and Restaurant i
La Cosecha Bar and Restaurant

You will have no problem finding a delicious meal in Paso Robles, whether you’re looking for farm-to-table or epic BBQ, you’re in luck. Here are a few of our favorite places that offer a great selection of California wines:

  • La Cosecha Bar + Restaurant – This Latin-inspired restaurant is right in the heart of downtown Paso. They have many small plates meant for sharing and an extensive, award-winning wine list featuring many Central Coast wines. 
  • Thomas Hill Organics – This is an excellent farm-to-table restaurant with a beautiful patio for semi-outdoor dining. They feature local, organic produce on the seasonal menu as well as local wines.
  • Finca – Located in an old farmhouse on the former Old Hometown Nursery property, this fast-casual restaurant features fresh local ingredients and a great wine list. The operation is family owned and operated by the owners of La Taquiza in Napa. Co-owner Patrick Aguirre has worked under Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bakery and Suzanne Goin of AOC, so while it may be fast-casual, the food is incredible. 
  • Six Test Kitchen – What started out as a pop-up restaurant in Chef Ricky Odbert’s parents’ garage has evolved into a fully-fledged restaurant with a newly awarded Michelin Star! Located in Tin City, this tiny, but classy restaurant features an ambitious prix fixe tasting menu and a small, but selective wine list (or BYO). 
  • Jeffry’s Wine County BBQ – Chef Jeff Weisinger started his BBQ business as a catering company but became so in demand for his delicious smoked pork, brisket, tri-tip, and chicken, that he opened a restaurant in 2018. Tucked into Norma’s Way Alley between 12th & 13th St. and Park & Pine St., you’ll find a fleet of Traegers smoking up incredibly flavorful meats, plus a fun patio (thankfully cooled by misters) where you can tuck into sandwiches, tacos, salads, and his award-winning mac and cheese. They also offer a great selection of local wines, ciders, and beers.

Where to Stay in Paso Robles 

 There are many different types of accommodations in Paso from boutique to budget-friendly, as well as inns on winery grounds. Check out these hotels that feature a wide selection of Central Coast and California wines:

Winery Stays:

Boutique Hotels:

Paso is definitely happening – whether you’re an established wine lover or just dipping your toes in, you will find plenty to sip, savor, and see when you visit. For more information about the region visit our website

Paso Robles wine

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