Paso Robles Shakes Up California Wine

Paso Robles is one of the most seismically active regions in California, which says a lot considering the states reputation as an earthquake center. During our visit a few weeks ago, we had a chance to experience the shaking of a 6.0 and a 5.5 aftershock although fortunately at the time we were not standing in a barrel room stacked to the ceiling with 600 pound wine barrels thinking of what “wine crush” could really mean. This earthquake was a wimp comparable to the “big one” last December which killed two people and caused over 100,000 gallons of wine to run down the drain as the barrels crashed to the floor below.  Mother nature has the edge but the region’s wine is also shaking things up in this quiet agricultural community half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Paso Robles is a sub region of the Central Coast Viticulture Area and currently plays host to over 80 wineries with at least 40 more on the planning table. The reason? Simple. The topography and climate is perfect for growing premium wine grapes, notably, the Rhone varieties Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Roussanne, and Viognier. This being said, Paso Robles Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir, to name but a few, in the hands of the right wine grower, can rival the best of Napa and Sonoma. Summertime days tend to be hot but influences from ocean breezes funneled in through the Templeton Gap drop the nighttime temperature by an average of 40-50 degrees allowing the grapes to retain their natural acidity and still reach good maturity.

The wineries of Paso Robles are conveniently clustered, allowing a visitor to spend time at several during the course of the day. The success of the wine industry, (and the tourism it attracts), has spurred the opening of a variety of great restaurants including French, Italian, Thai, and Mexican in the downtown area. The atmosphere is casual and inviting with a wide variety of lodging in every price range.

We found the tasting rooms to be friendly and the wine generally stunning. Pick up a guide at any winery and ask the host for additional recommendations.

If you visit, you will cheat yourself if you do not stop by Clautiere Vineyards. Husband and wife, Terry Brady and Claudine Blackwell, in their own description have created a place “where Edward Scissorhands meets the Mad Hatter at The Moulin Rouge"! If you can’t have a good time here, you need medication!

Space does not allow us to list every winery but those on our “don’t miss” list include Robert Hall Winery, Justin Vineyards, Adelaida, Eberle Winery, Tablas Creek Vineyard, and J.Lohr who although being one of the largest producers in the region, produces a great selection of small lot wines available in the tasting room in addition to their quality selection of everyday wine. For more information visit

Our picks of the month:

Eberle Winery 2003 Mill Road Vineyard, Viognier: Explodes with aromas of peach, apricot, and honeysuckle with a lingering finish and great balance. ($18)

Clautiere Vineyard 2000 Mon Rouge: A blend of Syrah, Cabernet and Mourvedre. Intense on the nose with notes of currants, cherry and mushrooms. Smooth tannins and well-integrated oak. ($25)

Robert Hall Winery 2002 Vintage Port: Blended from traditional Portuguese varietals this knock your socks off port is loaded with berry fruit and a velvet finish of spice and tobacco leaves ($28)

wine tasting wine columns wine education Innovative Wine