As much as we love Napa and Sonoma, our palates are occasionally wont to wander. Paso Robles is on the tips of wine connoisseurs' tongues these days, so we headed south to check out what's being touted as California's hot wine region du jour.
Just a three-hour drive from San Francisco, Paso Robles is prime for a weekend road trip with friends. And, at least in terms of wine, it has a little something for everyone.
Because of the region's various microclimates, Paso Robles vineyards grow about 40 different varieties of grapes—cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, zinfandel, chardonnay, viognier, and roussanne are the most widely planted—all waiting to be blended by both American and international winemakers.
But perhaps the best thing about Paso (as it's often called by the locals) is its semi-secret status: While Highway 29 in Napa remains clogged with tour buses of Midwesterners thronging towards Rubicon, you could be careening carefree through Paso's pretty and relatively untouched hills toward a tasting room with virtually no crowd.
So, recruit your designated driver, or book an Uncorked van tour, and check out some of our favorite Paso wineries, from historic favorites to trending hot spots.
Morning light at Clos Solene. (Courtesy of Clos Solene Winery)
A piece of Bordeaux in Paso Robles, Clos Solène was founded by French winemaker Guillaume Fabre and his wife Solène this year. The landscape and the outdoor of the winery recall the countryside of France. Here, you can enjoy savory Rhones and Cabernet Sauvignon based blends wines on rustic communal tables, while overlooking 28 acres of vineyards. The winery also has a wood-fired brick oven, where Solène bakes her hommade bread that's served with tastings. By appointment only, Clos Solène offers two options. The first is a Cheese & Wine Sensory Experience, where, for an hour and a half, you can indulge in their bottles like L'Improvu or Fleur de Solene paired with a variety of hard and soft cheeses from Fromagerie Sophie ($40 per person, $30 for Club Members). The Vineyard and Terroir Tour is a semi-customized private tour for a group of six. Here, Guillaume takes the group to three different Paso Robles vineyards and ends with a private tasting at Clos Solène that includes barrel tastings and limited releases ($200 per person, reservations need to be made two months in advance) // 2040 Nidener Rd. (Paso Robles) clossolene.com –Anna Volpicelli
(Courtesy of Thatcher Winery)
Named for the area west of Paso Robles and selected for its similarities in climate and terrain to Châteauneuf du Pape, Tablas Creek, a must-visit here, is the result of a partnership between local wine importer Robert Haas and the family behind Chateau de Beaucastel in France. Tablas Creek is a certified organic estate specializing in such Rhone varietals as mourvèdre, counoise, and marsanne, and was one of the region's first wineries (it opened in 1989). // $10 tastings, 10am to 5pm daily; 9339 Adelaida Rd, tablascreek.com
The wine tasting bar at Adelaide. (Courtesy of Chris Leschinsky)
Adelaida Vineyards & Winery
Adelaida's rustic, midcentury feel blends seamlessly with the surrounding 150 acres of scenic landscape. After tasting the Cabernet Sauvignon Signature 2014, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah or Bourdeaux blend, ask the team to take you up to the hilltop to witness a panoramic view of the westside of Paso Robles. Then, pick a bottle and picnic under the canopy of oak trees. // 5805 Adelaida Rd. (Paso Robles), adelaida.com –Anna Volpicelli
Formerly the well-known horse breeding farm Kentucky Ranch, this 52-acre winery (just down the road from Tablas Creek) is now known for excellent Rhone varietals as well as its picturesque setting—a favorite among brides. // $10 tastings, Thursday through Monday, 11am to 5pm; 8355 Vineyard Dr., thacherwinery.com
Spanish Colonial style at Daou. (Courtesy of Daou Vineyards)
Sitting atop the rolling hills of the Daou property is a luxurious, old sanctuary in the Adelaida District. Upon entering, you'll be greeted with floor-to-ceiling windows and terracotta tiles, reminiscent of an old Spanish casa. Founded by two brothers from France, Daniel and George Daou, the winery specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon in a number of varieties from pure to blends with Merlot or Cab Franc grapes. Indulge in tasting flights with a selection of cheese and charcuterie. Note: the best spot to sip a glass of their 2013 Daou Reserve Seventeen Forty is on the comfy armchair on the lawn terrace, overlooking the vineyards. // 2777 Hidden Mountain (Paso Robles), daouvineyards.com –Anna Volpicelli
Anyone who's ever bought a bottle of wine at the store is likely familiar with Justin, which was recently named Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. More than just a place to drink Bordeaux-style wines, Justin has a great restaurant overlooking the vineyard. We recommend pairing that wine flight with lunch. // $15 tastings, 10am to 4:30pm daily; 11680 Chimney Rock Rd, justinwine.com
Vineyards surrounding L'Aventure Winery. (Courtesy of L'Aventure Winery)
When Bordeaux winemaker Stephan Asseo found himself wanting to create more innovative wines than what was allowed under French AOC law, he set out on a yearlong search for a new place to practice his craft. After visiting South Africa, Argentina, and Napa Valley, Asseo came upon Paso Robles. As the story goes, he fell in love with the unique terroir and relocated his family to the region. His L'Aventure Winery has a cult following of fans who appreciate its high quality and limited distribution. // $15 tastings by appointment only, 11am to 4pm daily; 2815 Live Oak Rd., aventurewine.com
Table spread at Ancient Peaks Winery. (Courtesy of Ancient Peaks)
Enjoy some vino in the newly renovated tasting room at Ancient Peaks in Santa Margarita. Between sips of the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, notice the quirky details like a mounted cow head or pre-historic clam shells. As one of the largest vineyards on the central coast, you can explode via Jeep or zip line. Note: planning the tasting after the tour is recommended. // 22720 El Camino Real (Santa Margherita) ancientpeaks.com –Anna Volpicelli
Officially called Marquita Crossing, this collection of boutique tasting rooms off the 101 and Ramada Road gets it nickname from the number of tin buildings that make up the industrial complex. Tin City is home to a guitar shop and a distillery in addition to a couple of must-try tasting rooms: Desparada, known for cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay; and Giornata, which specializes in Italian varietals. If you get tired of drinking wine (it's possible!), grab a pilsner at Barrelhouse Brewing Co.
(Mars Lasar, courtesy of Windward Vineyard)
If you're on a quest for that perfect Burgundian pinot noir, Windward winemaker Mark Goldberg is your man. Here you will find nothing but estate-grown pinots handcrafted in the style of the French masters. Enjoy a game of pétanque in addition to tastings teamed with cheese and charcuterie. // 10:30am to 5pm daily; 1380 Live Oak Rd., windwardvineyard.com
Just down the street from Windward, former NFL player Terry Hoage and his wife, Jennifer, are making Rhone-style wines from their organically farmed estate and serving them up in a swank tasting room. Say hi to Terry! // Wednesday through Monday, 11am to 4pm (reservations required for parties of 6+); 870 Arbor Rd., thestatewines.com
The Garden at Cass Vineyard & Winery. (Photo by Charles Roberts Photography)
Lose track of time entirely in the stunning veranda at Cass, one of the few vineyards that serves a full meal. Enjoy a chicken salad sandwich or the signature Bennie's Burger by chef Jacob Lovejoy, and pair it with the 2012 reserve or blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Vernot; or choose from their list of wines produced from 12 varieties of grapes they grow onsite. For the full experience, make a reservation for Cass Library, where instead of books, you'll be immersed in shelves filled with hundreds of bottles of wine. Led by owners Steve Cass and Ted Plemons with winemaker Sterling Kragten, this tasting includes a cheese and charcuterie plate with 6-8 bottles ($35 per person). // 7350 Linne Rd. (Paso Robles) casswines.com –Anna Volpicelli
Known for estate-grown cab, pinot, and chardonnay, as well as its flagship Fog Catcher blend, Niner Estate is a LEED-certified winery that also has a yummy restaurant (open Thursday through Sunday). // $15 tastings, 10am to 5pm daily; 2400 Highway 46, ninerwine.com
The outdoor tasting room at Eberle Winery. (Photo by Anna Volpicelli)
Nestled among vineyards and a clean garden, Eberle Winery the pagoda style - patio is a sort of piece of eden. Considered a pioneer in Paso Robles, Gary Eberle was one of the first winemakers in the region. Now, 25 years later, the winery is known for the quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel; and Eberle still greets guests during daily wine tastings ($10 per person for a group of 10). In addition to sampling the wines, you can also attend a monthly guest chef dinner under the winery in the 17,000 feet of caves. // Eberly Winery, 3810 Hwy 46 East (Paso Robles), eberlewinery.com –Anna Volpicelli
This family-run winery offers five great Rhone labels, including Austin Hope and Treana, each best enjoyed in the vineyard's cool picnic area. Go for the lively vibe, charming people, and gorgeous views. // 10am to 4pm Thursday through Monday, and by appointment Tuesday and Wednesday; 1585 Live Oak Rd, hopefamilywines.com
This article has been updated since it was originally published Mar 25, 2016.