A Beginner’s Guide to Paso Robles Wine Country

Paso Robles is a California Central Coast wine gem, home to more than 200 labels. The region is often associated with Next to, the dark comedy about love, infidelity and excess. But it is a multi-faceted destination, picturesque with its olive groves and sunny hillsides, and a thriving wine region, as it is one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country.

Just north of San Luis Obispo, about 25 miles from the Pacific, Paso Robles has some 40,000 acres of planted vineyards that produce 60 varietals. It’s a fairly convenient road trip for big city dwellers, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Currently, eleven distinct sub-appellations reside in the Paso Robles wine region, differentiated by altitude, climate, soils, etc., which means there is plenty of variety here, both in terms of wines and geography.

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Lovers of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals have a lot to love at Paso. But there’s depth to what’s planted, with rows of everything from pinot noir and sauvignon blanc to merlot and zinfandel.

Here are the wineries to look out for in Paso Robles, along with some tips on where to eat and stay.

legal succession

Law Estate Tasting Room.
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Rhone grapes also thrive in Paso Robles and that’s pretty much Law Estate’s calling card. The wines are almost entirely red blends, skillfully put together and resonating in the glass (although it’s worth asking about the occasional offering of small rose or white productions). The tasting room is beautiful architecture with amazing views and there is even a guesthouse if you can’t get away with it.

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Heritage area

Vineyards of the Patrimony estate.
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Located in Bordeaux’s Adelaida de Paso district, Patrimony is the work of the famous Daou brothers. These are the steak wines of kings, including single-varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc as well as some solid blends. The wines are crafted with care and patience, with an average turnaround time of nearly three years from harvest to bottling. This tends to give all sorts of depth and complexity to the glass.

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J. Lohr

Bottle of J. Lohr wine.
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Drop the J. Lohr name and you’ll get rave reviews from consumers and industry types alike. The label has been a model in the Central California wine circuit for some time, launched in 1971, and still family owned and operated. Beyond the great wines, of which there are many (including pretty Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc), the label has always valued sustainability and social responsibility, excellent additional reasons to visit the estate.

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Field recordings

Field Recordings wine bottles.
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This label is the work of intrepid winemaker Andrew Jones, known for producing unique wines from underrated or lesser-known locations. Field Recordings makes interesting red blends, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Chenin Blanc, even orange wine, among others. The tasting room is open daily, adjacent to Franklin Hot Springs, and even hosts live music and parties on weekends, complete with homemade wine and beer.

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Tablas Creek Vineyard

Tablas Creek Winery.

Another standby, Tablas Creek started in the 1980s and has put Paso on the map ever since. It is a renowned wine estate, the result of a partnership between two emblematic families from America and France, which tends to follow the assembly label of the famous region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This means wines with character: finesse, minerality, freshness and persistent power. Visitors can enjoy fine Rhone blends (think GSM) as well as unique varietals like Pinot Noir, Tannat, Vermentino and many more at the estate on the cozy heated patio overlooking the rows of resident vines.

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Beyond wine

Although you should focus on wine here, there are also many other interesting activities. Where there is good wine, there is almost always good food. Il Cortile specializes in handmade pasta and exquisite Italian dishes. La Cosecha is an ideal stop for a cocktail or Latin-inspired cuisine, while Thomas Hill Organics celebrates the region’s wines with local, farm-fresh cuisine prepared with care to enhance what’s in the glass. Beer lovers should stop by Firestone Walker for a visit and a pint or two in the tavern.

If you’re planning an extended stay, check out the intimate, boutique accommodations at places like The Piccolo and Hotel Cheval. For more of a farm tour in the heart of wine country, check out the Summerwood Inn. It offers nine well-appointed rooms and a farm-to-table breakfast, as well as full concierge service.

To relive the glory of Next to, get a table at the iconic Hitching Post II in Buellton. It’s a 90 mile drive, but pretty, and the destination offers a terrific wine list as well as excellent grilled meats.

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