Discover the Road Less Traveled

Southport residents Nancy Neidig, Joaquin Carbonell and Bob Neidig join Winemaker Carl Wicka (red shirt) of Turley Wine Cellars in a barrel tasting. Photo by Amanda Carbonell

Southport residents Nancy Neidig, Joaquin Carbonell and Bob Neidig join Winemaker Carl Wicka (red shirt) of Turley Wine Cellars in a barrel tasting. Photo by Amanda Carbonell

Paso robles has become one of our favorite wine destinations—and we’re not alone. In 2013, Paso Robles Wine Country was named Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Wine Region of the Year. Located along California’s central coast, it is about mid-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Originally named El Paso de Robles, or The Pass of the Oaks, winemaking began in the area with the Franciscan Friars in the late 1700s.

Today, the Paso Robles American Viticultural Appellation (AVA) is home to more than 200 wineries, mostly comprised of boutique and small family-owned vineyards, with 32,000 vineyard acres. The area produces 40 wine varietals—and although everything from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Syrah, Viognier and Roussanne can be found there, it is best known for its Zinfandel.

Paso Robles wine grapes display intense varietal character due in part to the large swing between warm days and cool nights. With a longer growing season, the AVA’s wine grapes have more hang time compared to other wine regions, resulting in mature fruit with balanced acid chemistry.

As described in Matt Kramer’s book “New California Wine: Making Sense of Napa Valley, Sonoma, Central Coast and Beyond,” “You can pick just about any Paso Robles red, whether Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot or Pinot Noir, and you will find the following: Soft, sometimes seemingly nonexistent, tannins; intense, deep color verging on the opaque; an unmistakable scent and taste of dark chocolate; a soft lushness with a velvety mouth feel; above all, a rich, opulent, voluptuous fruitiness, often with a whiff of violets.”

 

Winery Tours

There are so many wineries in the area, you really can’t go wrong picking at random. A few of our favorites will not disappoint.

Turley Wine Cellars is at the top of our favorites list. In fact, we love Turley wine so much, we named our Aussiedoodle in its honor. Owner Larry Turley was a former emergency-room physician turned vineyard owner, founding Turley in 1993 after selling his share of Frog’s Leap. Turley Wine Cellars currently makes 34 wines, the majority of which are single vineyard designated Zinfandels and Petite Syrahs. They are somewhat hard to find, as the release is limited. (If you stumble upon a Turley in a wine shop, buy it!) On our last visit, we were treated to a private barrel tasting, sampling nearly a dozen upcoming releases of their signature Zins and Syrahs (followed by a nap).

Justin Vineyards and Winery is another not-to-be-missed stop. The winery and tasting room experience are exceptional. When Justin first planted Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in the Santa Lucia Mountains, Paso Robles wasn’t even on the wine lover’s map. Thirty-five years later, Justin is recognized as the pioneer of award-winning Bordeaux-style wines on California’s Central Coast. The Justin Isosceles is their flagship wine and is the result of the dream to produce a red wine worthy of the great chateaux of Bordeaux. Isosceles is named for the three classic varietals that make up the blend—Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

Hope Family Wines are the makers of Treana wines, which are their signature blends. The Treana Red is a blend of two varieties that thrive in Paso Robles, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and is consistently good. Treana White is a blend of Viognier and Marsanne, two varieties indigenous to the Rhone Valley in France that are well-suited to the cooler areas of the Central Coast. Hope Family also produces Candor, Liberty School and Austin Hope wines as well.

Tablas Creek Vineyard is the result of a decades-long friendship between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands who has played a leading role in the American wine industry for over half a century. The families created a partnership in 1985, and in 1989 purchased a 120-acre property in the hilly Las Tablas district of west Paso Robles for its similarities to Châteauneuf du Pape: limestone soils, a favorable climate, and rugged terrain. Their premium wines are the Espirit de Tablas based on Mouvèdre and the Espirit de Tablas Blanc based on Roussanne and are both produced from grapes grown on their certified organic estate vineyard.

 

For a fun-filled weekend of tastings and events, visit during the Paso Robles Wine Festival: the third annual event will take place May 14th through 17th, 2015. Considered the marquee-tasting event held along California’s Central Coast, it offers guests the opportunity to taste Paso Robles wine in the Downtown City Park. More than 60 wineries are on hand for you to sample. When its time for lunch, a line of food trucks are available to choose from. The weekend includes a winemaker seminar and several winemaker dinners. Area wineries also host special events, tastings and musical entertainment.

 

Amanda Carbonell is the owner of Uncorked by the Sea Wine Shop and Gallery.  For Amanda’s recommendations on traveling into Paso Robles and where to stay, visit www.southportmag.com/category/cheers. For more information, visit the store at 602 N. Howe St., Southport; call (910) 454-0633; or visit www.uncorkedbythesea.com.

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