Paso Robles is a land of wine maker dreams, located on California’s fertile central coast between Monterey and Santa Barbara. It is the variety of climates, the diversity of soils, the caress of cool ocean breezes, and the nuance of vivid imaginations that give this region such magic. The power to fulfill so many visions is what drew the numerous winemakers and owners to this region. It has the greatest diurnal temperature swing of any appellation in California, due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, and its calcareous soils offer wine makers the ideal conditions to make great wines.

Success stories continue to mount, with winery owners making award winning wines under nature ís fabulous watchful eye. Some seek to mimic the growing conditions of other great varietals found throughout the world, where other wine makers take advantage of their position under the sun by creating experimental blends, with some very notable outcomes for the wine taster. With longer growing seasons for wine grapes, Paso Robles vines receive all the needed time in the world to produce fully mature fruit, while overnight cooling keeps the grapes’ acid chemistry in balance. Respectful winery owners and their wine makers take extraordinary care in the vineyard, carefully controlling sun exposure, pruning for low yields, extracting the best that nature has to offer, and then passing it on to you, the winery visitor and taster, who has embraced these wines with volumes of repeat business year after year.

Here you will find beautiful wine estates at the height of their mature beauty, a musical step beyond tourism, where owners still pour for you behind the wine tasting bar, engaging you with tales to regale and connect. Sip their wine and carry their romantic stories of hard work and great passion back to your own everyday life, and remember with fondness that you met that owner, heard of his journey, and get to be reminded of it every time you take a sip of his personally crafted blends, his favorite grape, his “raison d’etre”, if you will. Maybe you will be inspired, too. The region itself offers an experience we hope will live on, for this close knit community historically started planting and building in the late 70s and 80s with the preponderance starting in the early 90s. That means that many of these wineries are just coming into their 20th year of existence. Long enough to put the hardest toiling years behind them, but short enough to remember that every expense is an added expense, and frugal spending is still the name of the game.

A fact of life is, if you’re not moving forward, you’re losing ground, so to expect everything to remain the same for the wine enthusiast visiting the region is not fair. Capture this experience while you can, for soon they may be as successful as the Napa and Sonoma wineries, who have hired their replacement behind the wine tasting bars. There are over 170 wineries to visit, up from 35 some ten years ago, and there is still land to be had.

The Viticulture Area
The different avenues of success are as varied as their total 24 square mile appellation, or 26,000 acres of collective wine grape vines could present. Within this confined viticultural area, there are over 45 different soil series found in the Paso Robles growing region. What is truly unique about this region, is that the soils have a high ph value of 7.4 to 8.6, that are not the norm for other growing regions of California. Calcareous shale is most available in the west side hills where dense clay based soils combine with plentiful rainfall to make it possible for some vines to be dry farmed without supplemental irrigation. Beautiful eye catching rolling hills found on both sides of the Salinas River are covered with sandy, loamy soils. Then, in the Estrella River plain commonly referred to as the watershed area, loam and clay are layered in with sand, offering yet a different opportunity to grow grapes. As you read throughout these different wineries, you will see that in many cases, the soil type was chosen for the type of grape the winery owner wanted to grow, or the revelation of the soil type dictated what type of grape the winery owner could grow.

Wineries to explore:

AronHill s a small family vineyard  Located in the coveted Templeton Gap where temperatures vary widely from day to night and the diverse soil mix of shale, clay and limestone provides ideal growing conditions for the finest grapes.

Eberle over 15 varietals of wine are produced through the Eberle Winery each year, on a beautiful wine estate complete with exquisite tasting room, tours, events and 16,000 feet of underground wine caves where all of their reds are aged to perfection.

Four Sisters Ranch a family affair since 1989, the Four Sisters Ranch is named after Michael and Serena Friedman’s four daughters, combining a family tribute with the production of their exceptional “River Cab” on the hillside banks of the Estrella River.

Halter Ranch is a new winery with a rich history.  Current owner Wyss’ beautiful 1885 Victorian farmhouse remains a Paso Robles landmark, surrounded by vineyards utilizing bio dynamic and sustainable ranching methods.

Since 1981 Martin & Weyrich has planted more than 250 acres in San Luis Obispo County and produce Niebbiolo, Sangioevese and Pinot Grigio among others.  They pair beautifully with hearty Italian fare.

Sculpterra Winery & Sculpture Garden has combined wine and art with a distinctive line-up of wines, and a magnificent sculpture garden to create a truly unique wine country experience.

By Jason Barlow

Wine Guy