Paso Robles California

Paso Robles is located in California’s Central Coast Wine Region in the San Luis Obispo county.


The Paso Robles AVA is mostly known for Zinfandel grapes. However, it also produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone blends such as Syrah, Viognier, and Roussanne.

Since last year’s plans were so unceremoniously disrupted by Covid, this is our first trip to Paso Robles since 2018 and only a short trip at that, with time for only about a dozen wineries and a few restaurants. Following are brief overviews of our limited post-lockdown experiences and perceptions.


Paso Robles Town

The pretty downtown is built around a large, open square that is lined with boutiques, restaurants, and of course, wine tasting rooms.

Of more interest to us is Tin City. This industrial park is located about four miles south of downtown. It consists of dozens of tin buildings (surprise). While a few are still occupied by small industrial companies, the vast majority have now been repurposed into what used to be very inexpensive quarters for small (most well below 5,000 cases) craft wineries and breweries. Now that the area has made it onto “the tourist route”, the area is now shared with artisan food companies, boutiques, and a couple of casual restaurants. We ate lunch at one of the restaurants, MacPhee’s Canteen. We also visited two of the 22 wineries: Sans Liege which focuses on Rhone varietals, and Giornata, which specializes in Italian varietals. We discuss the canteen and wineries below.

Tin City

Paso Robles Wineries

We visited only a few of the area’s wineries.

  • Sans Liege makes Rhone wines ranging from small-volume, lesser-known grapes such as counoise and a number of whimsical sculptures (most of which ne popular varietals such as Viognier, Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedere, the latter offered both individually and in blends. We particularly enjoyed the expressive, full-bodied 2018 Adversary (100% Mouvedre), and its 2019 Late Harvest Roussanne (tastes of apricot, orange, and honey).
  • Giornata makes wines from grapes native to different sections of Italy, such as Sicily (especially with its two Aglianicos), Tuscany (Sangiovese and Super Tuscans), and especially Piedmont and Lombardy (Barbara and particularly, Nebiolo). We especially enjoyed three of its wines: 2020 Vermentino (crisp and minerally), 2019 Sangiovese (expressive red fruit and light tannins), and 2017 Gemellaia, a Super Tuscan blend of 60% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot, and 10% Petite Verdot (blackberry and moderate tannins).

gioruata Wines

  • Sculpterra Winery is surrounded by a sculpture garden. Most of the metal sculptures were made in an on-premise studio which the winery offers to select sculptors that it commissions to create works for it) and includes an art gallery with work from selected local artists. And not to forget, it also produces 15,000 cases of wine per year. While it offers a range of single varietal wines, its primary focus is on Cabernet blends. Of the several wines we tasted, we especially enjoyed the 2020 Chardonnay (pear, apple, and spice with a bit of butter), 2019 Viognier (apricot and peach), and the 2016 Maquette Blend (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Mouvedre, 10% Merlot and 2% Petite Syrah.

Sculpterra Winery sculptureSculpterra Winery

  • Daou Vineyards, which combined an over-the-top view over vineyards with tables spread out across a beautiful garden, wonderful service, and wine to match. Although the wine is rather pricey for Paso, we especially enjoyed the light, refreshing 2019 Reserve Rose (from Grenache Blanc), 2018 Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir (similar to many winery’s instantiations of Garys’ wines) and our favorite, the big, full-bodied, 2018 Estate Cabernet, 100% Cabernet that the winery believes is the purest expression of the fruit from the mountain atop which the winery is located. These wines are all from the winery’s “mid-market” Estate Series, as differentiated from the high-volume Discovery series and its premium Patrimony series which is no longer available at Daou pending its release as a separate label.

Daou WinesDaou Winery overview

  • Halter Ranch Vineyards where we were in the enviable position of enjoying each of the six wines we tasted. These were the winery’s 2019 Picpoul Blanc (from a crisp, refreshing, citrusy southern French grape which we seldom see in the U.S.), 2019 Viognier (relatively full-bodied for a viognier with nice aromatics and spice), a full-bodied, savory 2018 Syrah, a smooth, very approachable 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (with 15% Malbec and 12% Petite Verdot) and our favorite of the tasting, the 2018 Ancestor, a Left Bank-style, Cabernet-dominant blend of 71% Cabernet, 20% Malbec and 9% Petite Verdot that is named after the property’s 600+-foot California oak (supposedly the oldest in the world).
  • Tablas Creek is one of the region’s Rhone-focused pioneers. We especially enjoyed the 2018 version of the 2017 Mouvedre that we had for dinner the previous evening (see Il Cortile below) and a side-by-side tasting of the winery’s three Red Blends: a low acid/low tannin Cote de Tablas and its premium 2018 and 2017 Esprit De Tablas. While both were primarily Mouvedre (40%), each had a different mix of other Rhone-based grapes. The 2018 has 27% Syrah, 23% Grenache and 10% Counoise. The 2017 has 35% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 5% Counoise. Probably the biggest difference, however (which applied to the single varietal Mouvedre and well as the blend, was that 2017 was the last year of a five-year drought that resulted in more concentrated, fuller-bodied wines with more expressive fruit. Overall, we found the 2019 Mouvedre and Esprit de Tablas our favorite of the Tablas Creek wines we tasted this trip.
  • Justin Winery is another nice setting where we enjoyed a four-wine red flight with lunch. Our personal favorites were a 2014 Library Cabernet (100%) and the 2016 vintage Isosceles Reserve, a Left-Bank-inspired blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, and 1% Petite Verdot. The latter is a big, expressive wine that spends 24 months in 100% new French oak barrels.
  • Booker Vineyards is a small, boutique winery (8,000 cases) that specializes in Rhone varietals. Its white wines and most of its red wines are blends (including a Grenache/Mouvedre/ Syrah or GMS and an SMG). We especially appreciated the 2018 Fracture EXT, a 100% Syrah that is full-bodied with expressive fruit and an overlay of spice—and priced at a disconcerting (for a Syrah) $98 a bottle.
  • Broken Earth Winery produced a wide range of wines from primarily Mediterranean (Southern French, Italian and Spanish) varietals along with a few surprises, such as Tannat. Of the eight wines we sampled, our tastes gravitated to the fruity, mildly acidic 2019 Verdelho, 2019 Viognier, 2017 Limited Release Grenache and fruity, approachable (albeit not terribly complex) 2018 CV Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Robert Hall Winery is where we enjoyed the uncharacteristically light, red licorice taste of its 2018 Cavern Select Zinfandel and the fruit-forward (characteristic of most wines of this hot region), moderate tannin 2017 Cavern Select Meritage (comprising 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec).

Paso Robles Restaurants

  • MacPhee’s Canteen is a casual restaurant in Tin City. You order at the counter, pick up your food from an open kitchen and sit at inside picnic tables or smaller outside tables. We enjoyed a delicious lunch of a Shrimp PoBoy which was loaded with large prawns and tasty homemade onion rings in buttermilk batter.
  •  Il Cortile Ristorante is a downtown Northern Italian restaurant. We had two wonderful dishes and an equally wonderful wine that went with both dishes. The dishes consisted of Fettucine with pork sausage, fennel, tomatoes, herbs and white wine and a large veal chop with porcini mushroom sauce. The wine was a 2017 Mouvedre from Tablas Creek.

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  • Justin is where had a delicious lunch alongside our wine tasting: a chicken pot pie with cheddar cheese and a thyme crust; and ocean trout with farro risotto and asparagus.
  • BL Brasserie is another downtown restaurant. We had a dinner of two small plates (Roasted Quail in a honey-based reduction and Crispy Crab Croquettes) and one entrée, Halibut with Morels and morel cream sauce. While the food was nice, it was not especially memorable. We paired the food with a 2017 Loring Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highland’s always good Sierra Mar Vineyard.

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Exploring Paso Robles – Active Boomer Adventures

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