Day 3 - Paso Robles Wine Country Vacation
Off to the wonderful land of Zins! It took about 45 minutes to reach Paso Robles from Santa Maria. As we ventured deeper into Central Coast wine region of California on HWY 101N, we passed through rocky mountains. As we got closer to Paso Robles the mountains slithered down to rolling green hillsides. A Carolina girl, I was spellbound by California's diverse landscape throughout our trip.
Paso Robles wine country is home to 40 different varietals and is the third largest and fastest growing wine region in California. We learned that the area has a wide range of micro climates and soils to grow a variety of grapes to produce the superb wines of this area. It is know for their soothing, dynamic reds such as cabernets, merlots, zinfandels as well as their refreshing chardonnay and viognier varietals. Here in Paso, we'll enjoy my favorite deeply colored, rich, jammy red wines.
The excitement grew as we exited HWY 101 onto HWY 45E into the east side of Paso Robles where we focused our first day. Here we tasted at the following wineries and tasting rooms.
California's Central Coast
Paso Robles Wine Reviews
Firestone Vineyard Paso
Tobin James Cellars
Sylvester Vineyards & Winery
J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines
Peachy Canyon Winery
Opolo Vineyards and Eberle Winery are recommended wineries we didn't get a chance to visit on this trip.
Firestone Vineyard Paso
Open daily from 10-5:00 p.m.
Stone lined paths lead up to this impressively built winery which features a recently built tasting room with gift shop, barrel cellar, gardens, and large patio area. Firestone Vineyard Paso is known for their Paso Robles grown Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In the tasting room we met two locals, Richard Brown and Tod West, who are in the wine industry enjoying their flight while purchasing a case of wine.
October 09' Featured Wine Flight
2007 Chardonnay, Central Coast
2007 Gewurztraminer, Santa Ynez Valley
2007 Cabernet Franc Rose, Santa Ynez Valley
2005 Merlot, Paso Robles
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles
2005 Cabernet Syrah, Central Coast
2005 Late Harvest Riesling, Santa Ynez Valley
Surprised our tasting visit was only four dollars, we took advantage of that deal and tasted more than our share of wines. The 2007 Cabernet Franc Rose is the best rose I've sipped on this trip yet. It was soft with an infusion of berries and ended in a quenching finish. This is a great wine to sit on their patio and ship while contemplating the sun. For a chillier day, I would enjoy their full bodied, chewy 2005 Merlot with notes of black cherry, dark chocolate, cola and mocha. Sean enjoyed their 2005 Late Harvest Riesling. Our wine hostess recommended pairing it with a dry Champagne. Supposedly Rieslings, which are made form a late harvest where the grapes turn to raisins, pair very well with dry Champagnes.
We learned that the previous owner of this winery was on The Batchelor. We heard funny stories about ladies who visited the tasting room after his newfound fame. Also, we were informed that a wine label's year indicates what year the grapes were harvested. In the United States wine makers are allowed to blend in grapes from other years. The rule is 85$ of the grapes must come from the vintage on the label.
Tobin James Cellars
Open Daily from 10-6:00
The owners should be proud to know that they have the most recommended tasting room in all of Central Coast Wine Country and based on our experience, we cannot disagree. Tobin James Cellars has an amazing staff, fabulous wines and a unique atmosphere of Western spirit. Their tasting list states,
If this is their mission statement, they completely hit it! We had such a fun time at Tobin James Cellars that we couldn't leave. We could have spent the entire day sipping wine, and they would have served it to us all day too! To our surprise the tasting was complimentary. They must have so much confidence in their wines, they never charge for tastings. We attest to that.
The atmosphere of Tobin James Cellars reeks of the wild west. Before entering their tasting room there's a large picnic area with tables, benches and a fireplace; all built from stone. They are generous with the number of tastings you can try and once you start you will not be able to stop. All of their wines are great! But plan ahead and bring some lunch for in between tastings. Their wine lists are the longest I've seen yet. You could spend the entire day wine tasting here, we almost did.
The walkway up to the tasting room is filled with old wine presses and other historic relics. We opened the door to find a huge room with western decor and two antique bars. Mo, our exciting wine hostess, informed us that the 145 year old bar was made from mahogany and once owned by American outlaws', Jesse and Frank James. Don't forget to ask Mo about the bullet hole in the bar. You can imagine the bartender reaching for his gun and aiming it under the bar as she describes the story. Apparently, the bartender shot from underneath the bar in those days.
Tobin James Cellars Tasting List Included:
2006 Chateau Le Cacheflo
2006 Petit Sirah
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 Estate Private Stash
2006 Late Harvest Zinfandel
Sean and I both favored their 2006 Merlot. Aged in an oak barrel it's placed over a fire where the flame chars the inside to a medium to heavy intensity which creates a smokey, unique bouquet and flavor. Mo describes it perfectly as, "BBQ in a glass." My absolute favorite wine is their 2008 Charisma dessert wine. Which surprised me since I usually don't take to sweet wines. This one was delicious with lingering flavors of strawberry, guava, mango and peach. I savored every sip of this unique mouth feel. Mo suggested marinating this wine with fresh apricots and blackberries then pouring it over vanilla ice cream. My bottles went to fast to get too this point. Next time I'll certainly be ordering a few cases of their Charisma Dessert Wine.
Mo was kind enough to let us try a few wines from their reserve list. This list is only available to wine club members, or the charmingly named, the James Gang. As we were finishing some of Mo's superb zinfandel recommendations a Tobin James Cellars chef came by with appetizers. A tradition in the afternoons at Tobin James, we devoured some delicious bbq sausage with cheese on a baguette.
Eventually, it WAS time to leave and as we headed for the door, Richard and Tod entered. They weren't surprised that we spent nearly the entire day there. We were grateful they recommended Mo, a pleasure to spend the afternoon with and a real asset to Tobin James Cellars. We did ask Mo of her favorite wine. She had the best response, "I don't have a favorite. I'm a wino! I have a favorite wine in each varietal."
Sylvester Vineyards & Winery
Open Daily, Winter 11-5:00, Summer 11-6:00
Our next stop was Sylvester Tasting Room which is known for their assortment of international cheeses and of course wines! More wine - yeah! We decided to try their cheese flight that is paired very well with their wines.
2008 Kiara Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
Grafton Sage - White Cheddar from Vermont rubbed with sage oil
2007 Kiara Reserve Pinot Noir
Petit Basque - Basque Sheep's Milk Cheese
2006 Kiara Reserve Zinfandel
Mimolette - 1 1/2 Year Aged French Cow's Milk
2006 Kiara Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Regnant - Extra Aged Argentinean Cow's Milk Cheese
Our favorite pairing was their Sauvignon Blanc with Premium Vermont Sage. It's a naturally aged Vermont Cheddar Cheese made from cultured whole milk by the Grafton Village Cheese Company. We also favored their earthy Zinfandel paired with Mimolette, a rich nutty cheese from Normandy, that goes great with wine and even better with strong ales.
We mentioned we like port and so we received an extra tasting which included their Sangiovese and Syrah ports. Their highly rated 2003 Kiara Reserve Sangiovese Port is 100% estate grown. This delicious dessert wine had flavors of cherries and roasted dark cocoa. It has a bright, vibrant mouth feel and smokey finish.
Their Kiara Reserve tastings are complimentary. If you try their Cheese Flight or Chocolate Pairings with Wine they'll charge a minimal $5.00. They were closing as we finished our tastings. Next time we're going to arrive earlier and schedule a tour of their facility in advance. The settings are beautifully planned. I could easily see spending a day here as well. Check out their Weddings page where they have a lovely virtual tour of their vineyards and winery.
Insider Scoop -
Schedule their VIP tour 2 weeks in advance. The Sylvester Vineyards & Winery tour features a full facility tour, private barrel tasting & gourmet cheese pairing aboard their 1947 Pullman train cars.
J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines
Open Daily from 10-5:00 p.m.
The ride to J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines tasting room is picturesque. They have a charming old style building off a country road surrounded by vineyards, where they produce primarily Cabernet Sauvignon.
Naturally, we savored out time here. Mark Gibbs, our tasting host, showed us a unique wine cork creation, a wine cork purse. In the photo, it is made with J. Lohr wine corks. Mark let us try their limited production 2005 Cuvee St. E. It is a smooth sipping wine of Bordeaux style with black cherry flavors. A Cuvee is made by a wine producer who creates a special blend of wines; often from different vintages.
If you're on a budget we recommend stopping here and trying their complimentary wine flight in their cozy tasting room.
Open Daily from 11-5:00 p.m.
We were on our way to our hotel when we stopped at the Peachy Canyon Winery, where we didn't realize they closed at 5. We entered their packed filled tasting room and enjoyed wine and delicious appetizers, not realizing that we crashed a party! Everyone was giddy from drinking "peachy perfect" wines, so they didn't seem to mind.
Their tasting room is an Old School House, a cozy atmosphere where you can walk around their tasting bars that drift from room to room. Their outdoor picnic area has an old fashioned gazebo with views of rolling vineyards. Mary, hostess, introduced us to their 2007 Old School House Cabernet Sauvignon. We enjoyed this well balanced, smooth dark red wine with berry and cherry notes. We had a great time easting dessert appetizers and schmoozing with Mary.
The sun was settling while we tasted at Peachy Canyon Winery. Even though we no longer could view the rolling vineyards that surrounded their Old School House Tasting Room, we relished this peaceful, cottage style atmosphere.