As I reported in the Day 1 posting of this Paso Robles road trip, March is an absolutely wonderful time to visit the Central Coast and Paso Robles. Paso Robles, or officially El Paso de Robles, is in San Luis Obispo County. Translated it means “The Pass of the Oaks.” Paso Robles’ elevation averages 740 feet above sea level (between 675’ and 1,100’). The highest elevations are on the west side of the City with the heat focused on the East side of Highway 101. The proximity to the Pacific Ocean (a 20-minute drive west) adds to the interesting climate and terroir of the area with wide overnight (diurnal) temperature swings.
Our party of eight was large and many wineries require advanced reservations for groups larger than six. Knowing that and not wanting to race through our tastings, we limited our daily visits to three. In consideration of efficiency and drive times we focused this first full day on the warmer, eastern side of Paso Robles (Paso). With about 200 wineries in the area we had a larger number of choices.
Our first stop was Vina Robles Vineyards and Winery just south of Highway 46E and four miles from the downtown city park. Vina Robles is the brainchild of two Swiss entrepreneurs named Hans. Established in the late 1990s, Vina Robles has grown to encompass 1,600 planted acres, growing 25 grape varieties and includes an entertainment Amphitheater on the property.
The Amphitheater hosts about 30 musical events throughout the year with well-known performers. The tasting room is beautiful and was opened 10 years ago. Case production is about 45,000 cases but growing. We tasted Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Tannat. Everyone in our group thought the Tannat was exceptional.
Family owned wineries can be small, medium and large and family direct participation can vary but J.Lohr, headquartered in San Jose, California represents one of our favorites. Large, over 1.5 million cases, with direct family involvement, siblings Steve (CEO), Cynthia and Lawrence Lohr continue the adventure their dad, Jerry and mom, Carol started in 1971. Beginning in the Central Coast, J.Lohr now has 3700 acres of planted vines in Paso Robles, Monterey and Napa Counties.
We were fortunate to be guided on our tour and tasting by Steve Peck, Director of Winemaking extraordinaire during our visit. The production facility is world-class with a barrel room housing 12,000 barrels. Quite amazing. The wines range from a very approachable price point of $10 for a Cypress Grove Chardonnay up to $100 for the delicious and well-structured Signature Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting room is dated but plans are in the works to expand and upgrade. There is a wine for every palate and the hospitality is unmatched.
Gary Eberle is known at the ‘Pioneer’ of Paso Robles wine region having moved there in in the 1970’s. He cofounded Estrella River Winery & Vineyards, now owned by Bronco Wine Company, and began his own project in the late 70s. This year Gary is celebrating the 40th anniversary of his first Eberle wine. Debuting his 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon with the iconic boar logo, which depicts the German origin of the name Eberle, meaning “small boar. Gary’s son Chris is the winemaker now but Gary still greet visitors, like he did during our visit, at the tasting room.
Eberle produces about 25,000 cases annually and had 38 planted acres on his 6
4-acre property. We tasted about 12 wines and decided we enjoyed the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) and 2016 Barbera ($36) the most. All palates are different and sometimes they change during a single day.
Where to Dine: Il Cortile in downtown Paso Robles’ is a fine dining Italian Restaurant. We have been several times and always enjoy the seasonal menus. Executive Chef and owner Santos MacDonal, provides a vast array of exceptional homemade pastas, fresh seafood, top quality meats and antipasti created with the freshest locally sourced ingredients.
The evening we were there, a Monday, Chef MacDonal and his son were visible in the small kitchen. The service was exceptional and the food delectable. Reservations are always recommended via OpenTable or directly by phone: 805-226-0300. Il Cortille Ristorante is located at 608 12th Street, Paso Robles.
Where to Stay: The Oaks Hotel because of the service, room quality and location. Only about 7 years old, The Oaks has large suites and significant amenities (robes, slippers, a pool, happy hour and complimentary breakfast).
The personal service and kindness of the Oaks team makes you feel at home. Located about 1.5 miles north of the central Paso Robles Park, you wouldn’t want to walk into town but with free parking, that should not be an issue. Additionally, there are several restaurants (and a Starbucks) within walking distance if you would rather walk. The Oaks is a member of the Ascend Hotel Collection. (805-237-8700)
Paso Robles and vicinity: Paso is a uniquely friendly community sprinkled with talented winemakers, artists, farmers, ranchers, and cowboys. It hosts the California Mid-State Fair at the end of July (17-28 July 2019) featuring horse shows, carnival rides and big-name musical entertainment (the music actually runs year round). Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton will appear this year.
Paso Robles is a short drive from the pristine Pacific Ocean coastline, the renowned Hearst’s Castle, and quaint beach towns like Cambria and Morro Bay.
From the north take U.S. Highway 101 south from San Francisco to Paso Robles (Paso) – about 4 hours (~205 miles).
From the south take I 5 to exit 278 Highway then follow CA 46 west to Paso. From Los Angeles – about 3hrs and 40 minutes, depending upon traffic. A real gathering spot for northern and southern California wine lovers.
Stay tuned for the next posts to learn where we toured and tasted on days 3 through 4 of our ‘Delightful Escape to Paso Robles’!
HINT: Daou, Halter Ranch and Tablas Creek.