As I reported previously on this Paso Robles road trip, March is an absolutely wonderful time to visit the Central Coast and Paso Robles. Officially ‘El Paso de Robles’ and translated “The Pass of the Oaks”, is in San Luis Obispo County. The highest elevations (2,200’) are on the West side of the City with the heat focused on the less elevated (670’) East side of Highway 101. The 20-minute drive to the Pacific Ocean adds to the interesting climate and terroir of the area with wide diurnal temperature swings.
You may recall, we were leading a party of eight and many wineries require advanced reservations for groups larger than six. We limited our daily visits to three. In consideration of efficiency and drive times we focused this second full day on the steep hillsides of the western side of Paso Robles (Paso). With about 200 wineries in the area our choices were many. Despite having visited Paso for tasting numerous times, we had never been to the day-three wineries. We were in for a very pleasant surprise.
DAOU Vineyards and Winery is located on 212 acres at, virtually, the top of the western hills overlooking Paso Robles at 2,200 feet elevation in the Adelaida District. DAOU was established by Lebanese brothers Georges and Daniel Daou (via Paris and southern France), around 2007 with their first vintage 2009 and their first estate vintage, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Daou brothers graduated from the University of California at San Diego (Georges in 1986 and Daniel in 1987) with degrees in engineering. At DAOU they evolved the former Hoffman Mountain Ranch Winery into a virtual paradise of wine growing and wine tasting. The property is exceptionally beautiful with near 360° vistas of the surrounding area. The complex features a bell tower with a rare 1740 era bell imported from Spain.
The winery features Bordeaux varietals including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot as well as Syrah and a high elevation Chardonnay. We thought the 2016 Estate Micho Red ($85), a Cabernet and Merlot Blend named after their sister was truly exceptional. We also thought the 2016 Estate Mayote (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petite Verdot named after their mother, Marie ) was rich and well structured ($100). The 2016 DAOU Port Style Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Fortified Wine was very delicious ($100).
Perhaps one of the most important, serious and fascinating wineries in Paso Robles is Tablas Creek. Also in the Adelaida District, Tablas Creek was established in 1989 by Robert Haas formerly of Vineyard Brands and the Perrin family, proprietors of Château de Beaucastel, in the Rhône Valley.
The tour was so informative and explained why this family I so important to Paso. Robert, along with his Perrin family partners, was the key to bringing Rhône varietals to the area. Now, 40% of the vineyards in Paso grow Rhône varietals. Production ranges from 25-30k cases annually with about 40% estate. Tablas Creek makes extensive use of ‘pudras’, 1,200 gallon barrels for wine storage.
The Paso Robles Wine Community recognized Bob as the 2007 Wine Industry Person of the Year, and in 2014 he received a lifetime achievement award from Rhône Rangers for his contributions to the American Rhône movement. Haas passed away in March 2018 but his son Jason has, ably, stepped into his shoes.
The last stop of the day was Halter Ranch also in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles. Another fairly young winery established in 2000 by a gentleman of Swiss origin whose family is committed to land preservation globally. The estate is located on 2,200 acres, with 281 acres planted to 13 varietals. All vintages are hand harvested at night due to the day time heat extremes.
Halter Ranch is a pretty amazing property less than a mile from Tablas Creek. The production facility that we toured is world-class and the member/visitor space and tasting room is equally impressive, new in 2016. In keeping with the owner’s passion, there is an 800-year-old California Live Oak within view.
The harvest is conducted at night and 100% by hand to afford the pickers, and the grapes, the advantage of night time coolness. Total production hovers around 24,000 cases. We all thought that the 2016 CDP (Côtes de Paso – $38) was a fresh, bright and well-structured Rhône Red Blend. The 2018 Rosé ($28) was also worthy of note as indicated below.
The 2018 Rosé was awarded ‘Best Rosé’ at the 2019 Monterey Wine Competition. Even more exciting for this destination winery is the award of ‘Winery of the Year’ at the same competition.
It bears mentioning that Paso plays host, on a biannual basis, for a splendid event called Hospice du Rhône. As one might guess, the 4-day event focuses on the delight wines of the Rhône Valley in France. Of course, I mean Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Picpoul, Clairette, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre , among others. The wineries represented come from both U.S. and international producers including nearly half from the Rhone Valley. The seminars are informative and fascinating.
Where to Stay: The Oaks Hotel because of the service, room quality and location. The Oaks (not to be confused with the Black Oaks Motel, also in town) has large suites and significant amenities (robes, slippers, a pool, happy hour and complimentary breakfast). The Oaks is a member of the Ascend Hotel Collection. (805-237-8700)
Nearby: Paso Robles is a short drive from the pristine Pacific Ocean coastline, the renowned Hearst’s Castle, and quaint beach towns.
Getting There: 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 following posts to learn where we toured and tasted on days 4 of our ‘Delightful Escape to Paso Robles’! Also, where we stayed and dined in Monterey on our way home.