The number one reason I love going to Paso Robles, a hilly sprawl of countryside halfway between San Francisco and L.A.?
Wine tasting in Paso Robles, California is a delicious exercise in waking up your taste buds, meeting delightful people and gazing out over gold-and-green valleys, all while swirling a glass full of happy.
And yeah, I know. I want to go back there, too.
Over a recent long autumn weekend, I introduced my boyfriend, Eric, to Paso Robles and wine tasting; happily for me, he found both of them delightful. There’s a certain joy in slowing down and savoring a little sunshine, a soft breeze, and the fruits of a great deal of detailed labor. Over two and a half days in Paso, we wandered all over Highway 46, the hills and winding backroads, sipping different vintages indoors and out, taking our time and letting our city selves unfurl.
Continued from Wine Tasting in Paso Robles: Part One, here are four more Paso wineries we visited:
This well-regarded (and well-funded) winery has made a name for itself far beyond Paso, showing up in wine shops and on restaurant menus throughout the West. My name for it is: “The House of Zinfandel.”
This is one of my favorite wineries in Paso because of its spicy, elegant Zins, especially the big, bright Ueberroth Vineyard Zin. However, it’s now become so popular that the experience of tasting here can feel like a visit to a crowded local attraction. On weekends, the rustic-chic tasting room is packed with big groups who’ve reserved long tables, and explanations of the wines feel scripted rather than organic.
It’s easy to retreat from the herd, though, by simply taking your glass and heading out to the patio or over to the vines. We were granted permission to wander over to their next-door production facilities, which looks like a big chemistry lab with fermentation tanks and concrete floors; we loved seeing all the beakers, tubes and grape samples in plastic zip-lock bags. I’d also recommend a pause on the patio, and a stroll up to the winery’s impressive panorama of old-growth vines set in some of the chalkiest soil you’ll ever see. You can certainly find Turley wines at other spots around Paso, but it’s still worthwhile to make a visit here and see how well-loved grapes look, smell and taste.
Just before I left for Paso, my colleague J.R. Johnson (creator of travel advice site, Trippy) e-introduced me to his buddy Shayne Kline, the general manager of SummerWood; the winery had recently re-opened their nine-room inn, and J.R. felt sure I’d want to see it. So, Eric and I made a spontaneous stop here — and had a truly lovely time.
Set in a renovated sprawl of a farmhouse with a wraparound porch, the tasting room is laid out like a big living room. That is, if your living room happens to sell t-shirts and have a wall of glass that looks out on a state-of-the-art winemaking facility. Stopping in on a Saturday, the crowd was loud and elbow-to-elbow, so we were thrilled when Shayne suggested repairing to the back patio. Why anyone wouldn’t just head out here in the first place, I have no idea: you can sit in a padded bistro chair underneath an umbrella, gazing out at grapevines, hills and oaks, sipping beautiful wines you may or may not be able to afford. It’s so peaceful, you’d never know you were only about 200 feet from Highway 46.
The blended wines here are rich, balanced and expensive (e.g., the 2008 Diosa, a cocoa-scented GSM that means “goddess” in Spanish, retails for $58), but their delicious single-varietals (like the standout the Zin and Grenache Blanc) are more affordable. This is an elegant operation: their winemaker is Chilean, several of their wine casks are concrete (ideal for the fermentation of non-oaky white wines), wine-growing here is low-water, and production is small-batch. While the design and decor elements of SummerWood feel corporate, the wines are produced with the mindfulness of a small, independent label.
And that nine-room inn? Oh. Wow. Set across the street from the tasting room, it’s like walking into an Architectural Digest shoot where you can actually sit on the sofas. There’s an open kitchen downstairs and rooms look out on graceful trees and grassy open space. Sometimes the entire inn will be rented out for a wedding or event, but if you’re coming up for a special occasion yourselves, it’s well worth a shot to see if they have room for you for the weekend (average rate per night, $325, including breakfast, afternoon snacks, and winery tastings).
We made a last-minute decision to stop in here, inspired by my Paso-loving friend Lauren, and we were glad we did. It’s a funky little Hobbit-shire of a place, with stained glass windows and Day of the Dead-style murals, and the entire tasting experience is fun. Only around since 2008, this is the, um, joint project of a pair of buddies who grew up together working in area wineries, and they clearly don’t take themselves too seriously. The pierced and tattooed staff-folk are knowledgeable and friendly and everything from the gift bags to the labels are emblazoned with grinning skulls.
The wines, which sound not unlike they were named in a fit of late-night munchies, are damn good. The floral-scented, half-dry Spritz and Giggles is the best sparkling wine I’ve ever had in Paso, and the full-bodied, Zin-heavy Purple Paradise has a spicy, complex nose that makes me want to pair it with a winter stew, followed by a gingerbread for dessert.
Ah, how I love this place. Set way up in the hills of Peachy Canyon, this is the Paso house of my dreams: glassy French doors, pepper trees, hilltop vines, and absolute quiet, save for the trickle of a glaze-tiled fountain. Eric and I were pretty sure the hillside patio and pizza oven were put here just to torture us with jealousy.
Minassian-Young is the collaboration of a very cool, precisely focused married couple, David and Amparo Young, who in addition to running the winery are raising adorable twin sons. Both are plant nerds and modern-day farmers with a passion for the history of what they call, quite appropriately, “Paso de Robles.” Design elements in their tasting room are spare and serene, allowing their sophisticated wines, with aromas redolent of the unspoiled landscape, to be the stars.
Both Eric and I stocked up here, coming home with the shimmering 2010 White, a blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc that reminded me of a springtime walk in a grassy field; the stunning, dry-farmed 2010 Zinfandel, which affected me as though a sexy tango dancer leaned me back in a full-scale dip; and the bold, intense, just-shy-of-dry finish Junipero, a complex blend of Zin, Tempranillo, Grenache and Mataro (the Catalonian name for Mourvèdre) named for Father Junipero Serra, Spanish founder of the nearby mission in San Luis Obispo.
As soon as I finish these bottles, I’ll know it’s time to go to Paso again.
And check out this post: A Weekend of Wine in Paso Robles
Other Paso Robles wineries I’d recommend trying:
Alta Colina • Asuncion Ridge • Halter Ranch Vineyard • Justin Vineyards & Winery • Kukkula • L’Aventure • Liberty School • Linne Colodo • Opolo Vineyards • Peachy Canyon Winery • Terry Hoage Vineyards • Thacher Winery • Tobin James Cellars • Treana • Zenaida Cellars • Zin Alley
Our complimentary wine tastings at
Turley and Minassian-Young
were arranged by the
Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance,
and our SummerWood tasting and tour was provided by the winery.
However, all opinions and observations presented here
are personal, thoughtfully considered and unsolicited.