Experience Paso Robles Wine Country’s Creative CultureAuthor:Annette Hanami
Head to the hills of Paso Robles and discover the fastest-growing and most dynamic wine region in California. An easy three-hour drive from either Los Angeles or San Francisco Bay Area on Highway 101, Paso Robles, the “pass of the oaks”, is blanketed in rolling hills of native grasses, chaparral and old oaks, the warm climate cooled in the afternoons by the ocean breezes that creep through the gaps of the Santa Lucia coastal range. The seashell-filled soils – the most limestone-rich of any appellation in California – are as unique as the creative winemakers behind the wines.
A former stagecoach resting stop and haven for Frank and Jesse James, Paso Robles is the Wild West for winemakers who experiment with different winemaking techniques and palate-teasing, innovative blends that might combine several of the Rhone, Zinfandel and Bordeaux grape varieties that grow here.
The Rhone varieties put Paso Robles on the map when Chateauneuf-du-Pape producer Chateau de Beaucastel established Tablas Creek in 1989. These Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre blends grow expressively in the light-colored limestone soils of western Paso Robles. If you love the purity of Rhone varietals, don’t miss the stunning wines of Russell From of Herman Story, whose tasting room is located right in Downtown Paso Robles in a retro-cool, reconverted warehouse.
Explore the historic wines of Paso Robles with heritage, old vine Zinfandel at J. Dusi or the wines of Zinfandel master Larry Turley at Turley Wine Cellars. Bordeaux blends are also important here, finding a home in the well-draining alluvial soils in the river valleys east of Highway 101. Relax at Paso Robles’ latest winery, Villa San-Juliette, with its wide patio, beautiful views and small plates menu including meze, charcuterie and cheeses. Bordeaux blends are their signature wines but don’t miss Adam Lazarre’s terrific single-varietal Cabernet Franc and Malbec wines. From the creative minds of TV’s hottest shows like American Idol, Villa San-Juliette owners Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick draw you in with wine tasting options like “So you think you can taste?” that rewards the champion with a free flight.
Taste the best of Paso Robles’ creative, seasonal cuisine at Artisan Restaurant, whose Chef Chris Kobayashi and staff farm their own organic ingredients. Chef puts the art in Artisan with dishes like this abalone tostada with avocado and pork belly. For a taste of down-home country Paso Robles, go to McPhees Grill in Templeton for mouthwatering ribs, oak-grilled steaks and tender, sous vide double-cut pork chops.
See Paso Robles from a different perspective, soaring over the valley and vineyards on 3,000 feet of ziplines at Santa Margarita Ranch. The ziplines are part of a larger agro-eco tour of the 12,000 acre ranch that explores the wildlife corridors, sustainable practices and history of one of California’s oldest continuously operated ranches established in the 1770’s.
For a relaxing diversion between winery visits, walk down Pine Street in Downtown Paso Robles for antiques and decor at The Cottage or the collective at Reminisce. If rock is your thing, visit Dale Evers Studios for a heavenly exhibit of guitar-themed steel sculptures.
Immerse in Paso Robles cowboy culture by staying Downtown in the equestrian-themed Hotel Cheval, where you can taste more Paso wines around the horseshow-shaped zinc bar in the hotel’s cushy Pony Club. Winery accommodations are also a good option in Paso Robles from homey Venteux Vineyards to full-service Just Inn at Justin Vineyards in one of the westernmost wineries in the appellation.
For more information, visit Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance at www.pasowine.com.
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