These favorite stops treat guests like old friends.
With nearly 300 wineries in the Paso Robles appellation, figuring out which ones to visit can be daunting. To help you make the most of your time, here are a dozen tried-and-true favorites. Some are unassuming, others luxurious, but all pour superb wines and treat guests like old friends.
If you’re looking to broaden your Central Coast palate, Anglim Winery is an excellent place to begin. Winemaker Steve Anglim works mostly with Rhône varietals – Viognier and Roussanne on the white side, with separate bottlings of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre among the reds. Anglim, who says he got into the business after receiving a home winemaking kit, has proceeded far from the land of DIY into a sophisticated realm. His grape sources include some of the Central Coast’s top vineyards, and he is a consultant for other Paso Robles wineries.
Why go: boutique winery; grapes from top vineyards; new tasting space.
Welsh-born Damian Grindley, an avid caver, makes the wines for Brecon Estate, run with his Australian wife, Amanda. Damian describes his approach as “Paso-centric,” which is to say he emphasizes the varietals that do well here. Brecon Estate is perhaps best known for its estate Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, both complex wines with strength but soft tannins. The tasting bar opens out to a concrete patio furnished with oversize chairs and sofas and shaded by umbrellas and nearby oaks. The outgoing Amanda sets a welcoming tone that, along with Damian’s delectable wines, invites lingering.
Why go: complex wines with strength but soft tannins; sophisticated architecture; welcoming, laid-back setting.
Established in 2000, Calcareous Vineyards takes its name from the lime-laden soil lacing the 442 hillside acres on which it sits. The winery’s reputation rests on bold interpretations of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and especially Rhône varietals, in both traditional and alternative blends. Sip them in the stone and glass tasting room; after choosing a wine proceed to the grassy picnic area, a grand Peachy Canyon perch with miles-long views.
Why go: traditional and alternative interpretations of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhône varietals; a place to linger; expansive picnic area; hillside views.
In 2006 Carl and Pam Bowker opened Caliza Winery, whose name derives from the Spanish word for limestone. The strain embedded in their west-side vineyard’s soil is most evident in the hilly rows behind the tasting room, but you can also detect it in the ones nearer the entrance. Carl, also the winemaker, believes in making wine “from the ground to the bottle.” To this end he grows most of the grapes used in his wines on this 60-acre site and another vineyard. The Bowkers feel their terrain, soil, and climate best suits Rhône varietals. The flagship Azimuth wine, a traditional blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, smoothly bears out their thesis. Several other reds, though, stray from the Rhône paradigm with admirable results.
Why go: impressive small-lot Rhône-style wines and other blends; most wines available only in tasting room; casual experience; owners often on hand.
Epoch Estate Wines
The gifted Jordan Fiorentini creates the elegant, intelligent mostly Rhône blends of Epoch Estate Winery. Epoch occupies the site of the Central Coast’s oldest bonded winery, formerly known as York Mountain. But the historical connections don’t stop there. Some of the winery’s grapes come from the 67-acre Paderewski Vineyard, first planted by Ignacy Jan Paderewski in the early 1920s. A celebrated pianist, composer, and Polish politician and diplomat, Paderewski became captivated by Paso Robles after experiencing a spa cure here for arthritis in his hands. The tasting room, completed in 2017, incorporates timber, masonry, and old equipment from the original winery, reflects the past yet feels contemporary.
Why go: elegant, intelligent blends by winemaker Jordan Fiorentini; wines from historic vineyard; contemporary tasting space.
J Dusi Wines
Paso Robles producers in search of quality Zinfandel vie for “Dusi juice” from the decades-old vines planted by the Italian-American Dusi family in the 1920s and 1940s. The family sold its grapes to other wineries until 2006, when fourth-generation farmer Janell Dusi set up her own operation, J Dusi Wines. Her flagship wine, an estate-grown Zinfandel, is made from grapes planted by Dante Dusi, her grandfather.
Why go: Estate Zinfandel from 70-year-old vines planted by winemaker’s grandfather; upbeat staffers; casual outdoor tasting and picnic areas.
Winemaker Stephan Asseo describes his flagship Estate Cuvée, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Syrah, as the reason he left a successful career in the French wine business for Paso Robles. Asseo chafed under French winemaking rules that prohibit, for instance, blending Cabernet, Petit Verdot, and other Bordeaux varietals with Rhône ones such as Syrah. A bit of an iconoclast even in Paso Robles, where such combinations are not an issue, Asseo makes edgy, emphatic “crazy blends,” as he calls them. All tastings at L’Aventure Winery, about 6 miles west of downtown off Highway 46 West (Arbor Road to Live Oak Road), are by appointment only.
Why go: Cellar-worthy wines from iconoclastic French expat; adventurous blends and single-varietal wines; 100% estate-grown fruit.
LXV Wine Lounge
The downtown tasting room of LXV Wine is alone worth a visit for its East India–chic decor and gracious staff. The spices co-owner Neeta Mittal pairs with the wines she produces with her husband, Kunal, further elevate the experience. The hosts, sometimes Neeta herself, explain why understanding a dish’s spicing is as essential to pairing it with an appropriate wine as knowing the protein. The Mittals favor an Old World style of winemaking that emphasizes flavor but focuses on its subtler aspects as opposed to merely amplifying fruitiness. Sommeliers applaud the wines for their food-friendliness, but even solo they come across as complex, delicate, and delicious.
Why go: spice pairings; East India–chic tasting lounge; gracious staff; Old World winemaking approach.
Niner Wine Estates
The massive fieldstone hospitality center of Niner Wine Estates and the heart-shaped grove of blue oaks amid Heart Hill Vineyard a bit to the north catch the eyes of most travelers along Highway 46 west of U.S. 101. The barnlike building houses a restaurant that serves lunch on some days. A spacious vaulted-ceiling tasting room also within is open daily for sampling wines crafted from grapes grown on estate vineyards in three separate AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). The winery first came to notice for Cabernet Sauvignon and the flagship Fog Catcher blend of that grape and other Bordeaux varietals plus Syrah. Purchases of other vineyards have added to the mix more Rhône grapes plus Sangiovese, Barbera, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.
Why go: Bordeaux varietals and Syrah; vineyard setting; stone hospitality center; winning restaurant (lunch only, Thursday–Sunday).
Owner-winemaker Roger Nicolas was born in Brittany, France, and moved to the United States when he was 20. Nicolas, who came to winemaking following successful stints first as a restaurateur and later as a hotelier, strives to create low-alcohol, food-friendly wines in the French tradition. As a group, his Bordeaux blends and Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs come off more nuanced than many in Paso. RN Estate‘s private appointment-only tastings take place in at Nicolas’s hilltop (elevation 950 feet) Mediterranean-style home.
Why go: French-born winemaker’s nuanced, food-friendly wines; tastings at hilltop home.
Tablas Creek Vineyard
The visionary founders of Paso Robles’ 120-acre Tablas Creek Vineyard focused their attention on varietals native to southern France, particularly the southern Rhône Valley. Engaging vineyard tours conducted daily at 10:30 and 2 highlight Tablas Creek’s organic, biodynamic, and sustainable farming philosophy and the pivotal role the winery played in the ascendance of Paso Robles as a hub of Rhône-style production. You can drop in anytime at the wood-paneled hospitality center to sample several estate wines, but to taste older and small-production wines it’s best to make a reservation. Do the same to book a tour.
Why go: pivotal role in Paso’s Rhône ascendance; lower-profile varietals; balanced, food-friendly wines.
Turley Wine Cellars
A mandatory stop for Zinfandel lovers, Turley Wine Cellars is known for its velvety smooth, exquisitely crafted single-vineyard wines from old-vine grapes grown throughout California. Some Turley fruit thrives on certified-organic head-trained vines—freestanding, rather than in trellised rows—planted in the 1920s on the winery’s property a few miles south of Paso Robles in Templeton. On a misty late-winter morning before the year’s buds have broken, these dark, gnarly mini-trees set against the green limestone-riddled hills are a sight to behold. The wine they produce, the Pesenti Vineyard Zinfandel, also impresses. The two wines from this historic site—the other a Petite Syrah, as the winery spells it—are among several you can only taste at Turley.
Why go: velvety smooth, exquisitely crafted single-vineyard Zinfandels; noteworthy Petite Sirah wines and Cabernet Sauvignon; outdoor tasting area.
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This story first appeared online in 2017; it was fact-checked and updated in early 2020.