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First Wine Tasting Trip to Paso Robles

Planning a visit next month to Paso Robles and would appreciate your thoughts on top 5 or so wineries in the area.

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  1. For sheer loveliness of a drive and some individual award winners, take look at the group called "Far Out Wineries" out Peachy Canyon Road. They have a website.

    1. Visited Pas Robles in April and our favorites were Chronic Cellars and Tablas Creek.

      Full report is here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/847872

      1. LOTS of choices ! Can you give us some idea what you are looking for?
        Do you want the absolute top rated wine? Looking for cool tasting rooms? Great views and atmosphere? Food? Will you be there on a weekend or during the week?

        1. Paso Robles has gotten expensive. A lot of the reds have inched up into the $40 range a bottle. My top five would be (for someone's first time):

          Justin (furthest out of my recs)
          Tablas Creek (very well balanced reds and whites - a little more restrained in style)
          Daou (great new tasting room, whites are great, reds seem to be getting better)
          Denner (if you are going during the week you can try calling and getting in, they have very little wine to sell so they are mostly restricted to members these days)
          Terry Hoage - Small tasting room, really like their wines
          Villa Creek (if Denner doesn't work out - tasting @ wine facility very bare bones - great wines)

          1. I hope you don't mind my horning in on your post, but I am also planning a first trip to Paso with my husband and adult children in August and would love to hear what people recommend. As I will be the designated driver and won't be drinking, I'm interested in wineries in scenic settings or with interesting things to do besides tasting wine. We will be there Sunday-Wednesday. Food would be nice. My husband and kids are more interested in learning about and sampling wines than getting the absolute top rated wines. Thanks in advance for your ideas.

            4 Replies
            1. re: jinjur

              Unlike say, Napa - there aren't too many sights to see at wineries (to my knowledge). Justin, Tablas Creek and Daou (and Denner if you can get in) are rather picturesque with views. But they don't have the art collections, sculpture gardens etc.

              Restaurants in Paso worth trying are:
              Thomas Hill Organics
              Il Cortile
              Artisan
              Villa Creek has a nice happy hour

              1. re: goldangl95

                Sculptera Winery has a beautiful open sculpture garden and bi weekly singer songwriter concert series Sunday afternoons, called Songwriters At Play. Great quality touring musicians from all over. Pass the hat. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimg944/...

                For a look at a local Paso radio station that has tuned into its demographics ( locals, businesses and travelers) tune into 92.5 Krush radio. light rock and singer-songwriter music but interspersed with all sorts of wine industry analysis and interviews. Interesting shows and lots of event listings. http://www.krush925.com/shows.php

              2. re: jinjur

                Lone Madrone / Kenneth Volk tasting rooms on west Hwy 46 just off 101 are a nice rustic setting with picnic grounds, farm animals, and an organic herb garden and flower nursery run by Fat Cat Farms. Ken features some of the lesser know and more obscure Rhone varietals.

                1. re: jinjur

                  Again, I will recommend Far Out Wineries website - lets you plan a very scenic route and the wineries are small where you can get a lot of individual attention - some have food and snacks other have more substantial offerings. The website tells you what is what for each of them. If you can do this a week-day instead of the week-end, you will have a more serene time. http://www.faroutwineries.com/

                  Just being out in the quiet country can be beauty enough. Bring a good book, iPod, sunglasses, binoculars, a camera and/or some hiking shoes and just wander around the surrounding country side while you exercise your DD duty - good for you to do this -- these roads are narrow and only two lane. One needs to pay close attention because others may not be as responsible are you are.

                  If you decide to do the Far Out Wineries route, be sure to take the Peachy Canyon Road out from Paso Robles - a little tricky to find where it starts - I think it is out 4th or 5th streets through a residential area before it finally leaves town and changes its name to Peachy Canyon Road.

                  PS. The Far Out Wineries that offer event and wedding spaces are often the more scenically interesting. We are partial to Thacher Winery ourselves having attended an event there in the past and found the owners were so helpful and gave us a special background tour and preliminary tastings when we went back later for tastings. Doesn't hurt for them to also have an award winner best of reds Zinfandel at the last SF wine show either.

                2. I prefer the West side to the East side. Quite a difference in how the grapes are grown and the end result.

                  Tablas Creek - Rhones done in partnership with Chateau de Beaucastel
                  Le Cuvier - Great wines and the views are nice at the new location. The Owner, is a fun piece of work if you happen to meet him
                  Halter Ranch - Biggest grower in the area. He is putting out some great whites and roses. Good reds as well.
                  L’Aventure- Putting out some big reds that need to be put down for awhile prior to drinking.
                  Villicana - Good wines at reasonable prices
                  I’d skip Justin. I think he’s over priced and you have to join in order to taste is better wines.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: mike0989

                    I heard Justin got sold to some large corporate interest - do you know?

                      1. re: mike0989

                        An even more compelling reason to never buy another bottle from them.

                        1. re: PolarBear

                          Why? Because it is associated with a large industrial corporation? Because it is funded by a large industrial corporation? This is the case for most wineries these days (that or one is privately incredibly wealthy - due to working for a large industrial corporation). Take Jackson Family's wineries as an example in Sonoma.

                          Justin and his wife are still running the operation, and sold their winery in order to have more capital to grow certain of their lines. While they are still at the helm, there is no reason to assume the quality will change (indeed it may go up).

                          1. re: goldangl95

                            Google "Fiji water greenwashing". One of the most despicable corporations on the planet. Children dying of water borne diseases while they export all the clean potable water.

                            Personally i've thought for years that Justin's wines have been on a downhill slide, but the Fiji name just assures that I'll never find out or care if they do improve or not.

                            1. re: PolarBear

                              Spent quite a bit of time in Fiji in remote villages - not sure why they picked this name or exploitation.

                              Just learned it also takes 3X the amount of water to make the plastic bottle as what is in the contents of the bottle. Yes, bottled water brings in clean water to area with no possibility of safe municipal supplies, but it also means now billions of water bottles are consumed every few hours around the world. As Carl Sagan would say that is billions and billions ..... and billions .......... 24/7/365.

                              This is staggering for a commodity that is handed to us by nature and can be harnessed with targeted infrastructure projects. 5000 years ago the Persians transported melting snow and mountain water in to Turpan China over thousands of miles of underground canals they dug at precise drops of elevation

                              For those with access to safe municipal water, do us a big favor and the rest of the world a big favor rejecting your need to swill H2O from individual plastic, disposable bottles and turn that plastic into safe irrigation pipes for the rest of the world.

                              1. re: glbtrtr

                                I'll read into Fiji water, but for the record if one truly wants to not consume from an industry that is destroying the environment/manipulating natural water systems... I would have to place many (if not all?) of the California wine industry in this category.

                                1. re: goldangl95

                                  When they start selling wine in 1 cup disposable plastic bottles, then we all do have to worry. ;-)

                                  1. re: goldangl95

                                    I think we agree on one major point, why aren't wine bottles reused, not just recycled? Last I heard on individual servings of bottled water, @ 80% do not get recycled, plus almost every large conference I attend most of the bottles are left on the tables with only 1/4 to 1/2 of the contents consumed at best. And glbtrtr is correct, using 60 oz of water to produce a 20 oz product (40 oz to manufacture the cap, bottle, and label) makes as much sense as our government continuing to spen $0.02 to make a penny and $.08 to make a nickel. No wonder we're in trouble.

                                    1. re: PolarBear

                                      Whatever you do, don't research how much resources are used to make a single bottle of wine.

                                      From the vines & pesticides, to the water used, to the scorched earth policy on deer/bear/birds....getting the grapes from the vineyard to the winery, to the store.... the CARDBOARD we use...its enough to drive you to drink.

                                      1. re: OldJalamaMama

                                        And then add the social costs of excessive and dysfunctional alcohol consumption .... sobering! And itinerant labor costs not covered in-house by the industry. Hard to believe TwoBuck Chuck can be a profit center.

                                        1. re: OldJalamaMama

                                          Or lobby for high quality wine in a box. ; >P

                                          Actually, I'm intrigued by the few BYO empties/jugs for refill. Also recall the old college days when we could purchase a wooden 7 gal (iirc) barrel directly from the vintner. Problem was that the deposit on the keg was minimal and nobody returned them, made for cool looking gas tanks on 3 wheel motorcycles and who knows what else.

                        2. re: mike0989

                          Is Le Cuvier back? We belonged to their club years ago, then the owner (can't remember his name, but I agree, he was a hoot) closed the tasting room and I think threw in with Halter Ranch. If there's a tasting room again, we'd love to visit. His wines were usually pretty interesting.

                          1. re: judybird

                            Didn't know they ever went away. They have a new tasting romm near Villicana, off of Adelaida Rd. It just opened in time for the Harvest Festival last October. John Munch is the Owner and he is a piece of work, in a fun way.

                        3. I am surprised no one has mentioned Epoch and Booker. They are by far two of the best in Paso Robles. I will be visiting Paso Robles at the end of the month and those are two of the wineries I will be visiting. Others include: Villa Creek, Turley and Terry Hoage. I am also going to try a wine tasting bar downtown. Paso Wine Centre offers 48 wines "on tap" to try. I like that they donate most of their profits to charity. You could start there, see what you like, and then visit those wineries.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: wineanddine2nite

                            My thoughts:

                            Booker is just a tasting room, wine are around $50 a bottle, they are very big, very fruit forward, oaky, tannic wines. They release the wines young, and I frankly, cannot taste much under all the oak and tannin. I did had a three or four year old Booker bottle a few months back, and I realize they can settle down into a great wine, but I have a real hard time tasting there. If your family does like big red wines, in addition to Booker, I'd recommend Linne Calodo.

                            Epoch: I've only been to once, and all the wines had a strange metal tinge at the end (which I blame on my off palate that day and not on them). They have a great reputation (again just a tasting room).

                            Thought: I know Tablas Creek has tours and classes etc, so that may be something to look into.

                            1. re: goldangl95

                              I love Linne Calod since I discovered them about 15 yrs ago. But good luck getting in. Last I remember it was Memebers only( a waiting list) and even they had to make an appointment. If you see it on a menu though and want to splurge, do try them. in my opinion, Matt is makeing one of the few wines in the area that can justify the higher price point.

                              1. re: mike0989

                                They've gotten less strict. During off season/weekdays, you can usually get in these days without being on the list - so it doesn't hurt to call. HOWEVER, most of the wine you try you can't buy unless you are a member. So it is a nice introduction to the winery, but it is just a tasting room, and they may have very little to sell.