Shaking up Paso Robles
Paso Robles is one of the most seismically active regions in California, which says a lot considering the states reputation as an earthquake center. A few weeks ago we had a chance to experience a 6.0 earthquake, fortunately at the time we were not standing in the barrel rooms stacked to the ceiling with 500 pound wine barrels thinking of what “wine crush” could really mean. This earthquake was a wimp comparable to the “big one” last December which caused over 100,000 gallons of wine to run down the drain as the barrels crashed to the floor below. Now it’s the wine that is shaking things up in this quiet agricultural region halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Paso Robles currently plays host to over 80 wineries with at least 40 more on the planning table. The reason is simple, the topography and climate is perfect for growing premium wine grapes, especially the Rhone varieties Syrah, Mourvedre, Granache, Roussanne, and Viognier. Paso Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir, in the hands of the right wine grower, can also 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. A variety of great restaurants including French, Italian, Tai, and Mexican can be found 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 inviting and friendly and the wine generally stunning. If you visit, you will cheat yourself if you do not stop by Clautiere Vineyards. Husband and wife Claudine Blackwell and Terry Brady 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!
Others among 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, make a great selection of small lot wines available only in the tasting room in addition to their quality selection of everyday wine.