Play & Shop: Paso Robles wine country is the third largest in California featuring more than 200 wineries (often delineated by their location east or west of Highway 101). With diverse soils (and an abundance of limestone) and favorable growing conditions, find everything from Zinfandels to Rhône and Bordeaux varietals and “crazy blends.” Growers in Paso are committed to sustainability – in how they grow their grapes (many are dry farmed) as well as their commitment to their workers. Driving the countryside, I visited:
Lone Madrone: The unique tasting room is a converted barn that sits among the vines with patios (adorned with sculptures and games) and knock-out views. Discover blends and rare single varietals like the 2012 La Mezcla (Granache Blanc and Albariño) and the 2006 Bollo. The grapes are from the limestone hills of Paso’s west side.
Adelaida: Just across the street, savor wine at picnic tables under a pergola. Enjoy hillside views while getting up close and personal with vines and sheep (part of the sustainability plan). The estate wines have a loyal following, including these 2010s: HMR Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir and Michael’s Estate Vineyard Zinfandel.
PasoPort: Located in a restored barn with panoramic views of Paso, dessert wines take center stage. Whether it’s a traditional ruby blend of Portuguese varietals (2008 Brandi), a Californian blend (2009 Ruby with Zinfandel), or any of the tawny blends, they are rich, aromatic and flavorful.
AmByth: The owners of this certified biodynamic hilltop winery and farm (with chickens, bees, cows, and olive, fruit and nut trees) on the east side are passionate about whatever they do. The name means “forever” in Welsh, and it’s the way they look at the land they tend. Stand among the amphoras and barrels and try delicious estate 2010 olive oil and wines, like the 2010 Venustas (Sangiovese and Tempranillo) and the 2012 Roussanne.
Wild Horse: Named for mustangs that wandered the hillsides, this east side winery has vegetable gardens and pet llamas alongside the vines. On the patio, take in the surrounding beauty as you sample wines from Central Coast grapes. Favorites include the 2012 Viognier and the 2010 Cheval Sauvage (Pinot Noir from the winemaker’s best barrels for each vintage).
Pasolivo Olive Oil: Before heading downtown, this olive grove and tasting room are a must-see. With 11 varietals of olives grown here, it’s fun to match the oils w/spices arranged for you as you taste. Find great products to buy.
Downtown, it’s a quick walk across the park to unique shops and the downtown winery trail. Be sure to stop at Firefly Gallery (805-237-9265), Reminisce Antiques and Your Intentions (805-238-7949). On “Third Thursdays,” retailers and the wine industry donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.
Inspired by art and ancient philosophies of India, the wines of LXV Wine Lounge use grapes from small-lot west side vineyards. Interesting blends include Crimson Jewel and Rising Tempo (both 2010 Reserves).
Paso Underground features the wines of Aaron, Clos Solene, Edmond August & Turtle Rock Vineyards. It’s a cool converted garage space (with outdoor patio) to sip wines from up and coming small (around 500 cases) west side winemakers.
Burbank Ranch was just opening a tasting room when I visited; now, the bistro is in full swing, too. Don’t miss the 2012 Zinfandel Estate “Fall Colors” and the 2010 Syrah Estate “Sunset.”
PATTY BURNESS can be found on Twitter at @pattygb