Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Winetasting Near Paso Robles - The Wine

This past weekend, I finally had a chance to do some winetasting near Paso Robles, about 3.5 - 4 hours south of San Francisco.  This wine region is growing by leaps and bounds with over 150 wineries located in the area. While there is just one wine region - Paso Robles - the climate is much warmer and drier east of town than on the west side.

More wineries are located west of the city of Paso Robles and that's where we spent our day tasting.  Wine grapes have been grown in the area for decades but, until recently, the area was best known for less expensive, bulk wines.  About a decade ago, the Zinfandels produced in Paso Robles started getting noticed.   More recently, some excellent wines from Rhone varietals, such as Syrah, Petite Syrah (Durif), Mourvedre, Roussanne,  Marsanne, and Viognier, have been produced.

We started tasting at two fairly well known producers - Justin Vineyards and Winery and Tablas Creek Vineyards.  Justin is one of the larger producers of premium wine in Paso Robles, making around 60,000 cases per year, and is best known for Cabernet.  You can taste wine while lunching at Deborah's Room, which we did, or in the winery's tasting room.  Tablas Creek produces some excellent Rhone style wines.  The tasting room, like all of the rooms we visited, was small.  The staff was friendly and attentive, even though they were stretched thin on a busy Saturday afternoon.

Local folks turned us on to two small producers that I was not familiar with:  Jada Vineyard and Winery and Halter Ranch Vineyard. Both produced very good wines from Rhone varietals.  At both wineries staff was very friendly and answered our many questions.  Jada offers cheeses paired with their wines.

We also tasted some wines which weren't very good and visited one winery -- Denner Vineyards -- where the staff was more interested in cleaning glasses and chatting with each other than talking with us.

I definitely recommend doing some winetasting in Paso Robles, particularly if you like Zinfandel and/or Rhone wines.  Tasting fees are reasonable -- usually no more than $10 or $15/person -- and staff friendly.  The tasting rooms are small and can be crowded on Saturdays so you might want to try to visit on another day.  If you would like to take a private tour from San Francisco that includes winetasting in Paso Robles, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or Rick@BlueHeronTours.com.

For more information on winetasting in Paso Robles, visit the Paso Robles Wine Alliance's excellent website:  www.PasoWine.com.   In my next post, I'll cover dining and lodging options in and near Paso Robles.



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