Our recent wine trip brought us to several California wine regions for the first time, including Paso Robles. We left Paso Robles with two distinct thoughts.
First, why did it take us so long to visit this awesome wine region? Second, we're going to be in trouble because we want to come back soon. Real soon.
Here are some of the highlights from our three day visit:
Wild Horse Winery was our first stop in Paso Robles. They have a wide range of wines but are best known for their Pinot Noir. Their Wild Horse Pinot Noir is distributed outside the winery and is a very good, fruit forward California Pinot. They also make several other outstanding Pinot Noirs under their limited production Unbridled label and their Cheval Sauvage reserve program. Wild Horse is a must stop if you like Pinot Noir, though we tasted some other terrific varietals too. For example, we aren't big Merlot fans but thought their Merlot would be a perfect compliment to a nice steak dinner.
Cypher Winery is worth a visit for their "Barrel Comparison" wine tasting. You drink the same wine directly from two different barrels to experience how barrels can influence the flavor and character of the wine. We tried Malbec, Petite Verdot, Petite Sirah, and Tempranillo. The Petite Sirah was particularly interesting. The wine from one barrel tasted a bit too fruity while the wine from the other barrel was too tannic. However, when a splash from each barrel was blended in our glasses the wine suddenly had terrific balance and character.
It was a fun way to imagine how a winemaker tries to achieve the perfect flavor and balance.
Herman Story might be our new favorite winery. Winemaker Russell From makes awesome stuff with deep, bold flavors that somehow escape all the messy blasts of alcohol and tannin that often accompany big flavors in wine. He is also very focused with only four wines making up his list of current releases: a Viognier/Roussanne blend, a Granache, and two Syrahs. The wine room is the front portion of a small warehouse in downtown Paso Robles, but the complete lack of pretentiousness is part of the charm. Just be careful - time can move pretty fast when you are chatting with a winemaker who is happy to keep pouring throughout the conversation!
Other honorable mentions from our visit to Paso Robles include Niner Wine Estate, Anglim Winery, and Tobin James. Better make Tobin James your last visit of the day. Their wine is decent, but they make a lot of stuff and they'll keep pouring as long as you keep drinking. It can get a bit wild out there late in the afternoon!
Paso Robles didn't strike us as a haven for foodies, but there were a couple of cool places worth mentioning. We had lunch one day at Farmstand 46 which is in the same complex as Cypher. They are best described as an upscale deli that features a lot of locally sourced food.
We also had a wonderful dinner at the Enoteca Restaurant and Bar at La Bellasera Hotel and Suites, a hotel restaurant that actually brings in the locals. Tip: Enoteca waives their corkage fee if you bring in a bottle of local wine, so we enjoyed a bottle of Zinfandel that we purchased from Kenneth Volk Vineyards.
Downtown Paso Robles has a cluster of small cafes around their main square. While they don't qualify as gourmet, a small cafe can be the perfect place for lunch or dinner after a long day of wine tasting!
We stayed at La Bellasera Hotel and Suites. All of their rooms are large and very comfortable. The hotel was also located in the center of the Paso Robles Wine Country, so it was easy to get to all of the wineries from there. The only drawback was there weren't many restaurants within walking distance, except for their very nice Enoteca which is on the property. If you don't mind driving to dinner, this hotel is a perfect home base for a visit to Paso Robles.