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Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

We made a recent visit to the Paso Robles wineries and found a lot of excellent wines in this up-and-coming, although still relaxing and friendly wine region.

Characteristics of the region


Terraced vineyards and olive trees in the Santa Lucia Mountains.

Paso Robles is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) located roughly midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The region is characterized by a lot of different microclimates with the coolest areas (south of town, known as the Templeton gap) specializing in Pinot Noir and Syrah, the high elevation areas (west of town in the Santa Lucia Mountain Range) specializing in Zinfandel and Rhône varietals and the warmest areas (east of town) specializing in Bordeaux varietals.

The Wineries

There are around 85 wineries in the Paso Robles area. Most of them are opened daily for tasting, some require an appointment and some organize winery tours. In two days we were able to visit 8 of them.

Peachy Canyon Winery

Our first visit was Peachy Canyon Winery, housed in the historic 1886 Old Bethel School House. Peachy Canyon has four estate vineyards: Mustang Springs, Old School House, Snow, and Mustard Creek, planted with Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Sirah. The tasting room was open and we tried the following wines:
2002 Peachy Canyon Zinfandel Eastside Paso Robles: forward fruity nose, fresh and medium-bodied on the palate, uncomplex finish. A good, easy to drink, picnic wine.
2002 Peachy Canyon Zinfandel Westside Paso Robles: pruny nose with vanilla and dark fruit aromas. More complex than the Eastside but quite alcoholic on the palate
2002 Peachy Canyon Zinfandel Mr Wilson's Vineyard Paso Robles: sweet berries on the nose, fruity, spicy and peppery on the palate with some pruny aromas, nice complexity on the finish. This was my favorite from this tasting.
2002 Peachy Canyon Zinfandel Old School House Paso Robles: the nose is not as fruity as Mr. Wilson's, on the palate, maybe more peppery but not as complex.
2002 Peachy Canyon Zinfandel Mustang Springs Ranch Paso Robles: deep, dark color. Fruity nose with some pruny aromas. On the palate, concentrated and full-bodied
2002 Peachy Canyon Zinfandel Especial Paso Robles: deep garnet color. On the nose, hot and alcoholic. On the palate, a little bit harsh. May soften with more aging time.

Turley Wine Cellars

Our next stop was Turley Wine Cellars. The property is at the location of the old Pesenti winery, planted with 80-year-old Zinfandel vines. Turley is well known for producing big, lush old vines Zinfandel throughout California. The tasting room was open and we tasted the following wines:
2002 Turley Old Vines Zinfandel: vanilla/oaky aromas on the nose. Medium-bodied on the palate. Seems too oaky for now.
2002 Turley Zinfandel Pesenti Vineyard Paso Robles: sweeter nose than the Old Vines with more fruit but you can feel the 16% alcohol on the palate. I found it somewhat unbalanced because of the alcohol. May soften with more cellaring time.
2002 Turley Zinfandel Ueberroth Vineyard Paso Robles: definitively my favorite: deep color, a lot of concentration, fruity, rich, spicy. Enough body to handle the 16.4% alcohol. Should also age very well.
2002 Turley The White Coat: aromatic nose with notes of white flower blossom and white peach, fat on the palate but left a short finish.

L'Aventure

In the afternoon, we had an appointment at L'Aventure, a winery founded by the Bordelais Stephan Asseo. The winery is situated in west Paso Robles near the Templaton gap where a breach in the coastal mountain range brings cool ocean breezes and temperates the hot summer days. The estate is planted mostly with Bordeaux and Rhône varietals. We tasted the following wines:
2001 Stephan Ridge Red: spicy nose, medium-bodied on the palate, easy to drink.
2001 L'Aventure Zinfandel: red cherry nose, medium-bodied on the palate, dry style Zinfandel.
2002 L'Aventure Optimus: still young and oaky with vanilla aromas on the nose. On the palate, very smooth with berry fruit flavors. Well-balanced finish. A food friendly wine.
2002 L'Aventure Syrah: dark color, red and black fruit aromas on the nose with some peppery notes. On the palate, rich, full-bodied with a nice complex finish. My favorite with the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
2002 L'Aventure Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: dark purple color, red fruit aromas on the nose. On the palate, dense with notes of fruit compote and very smooth. Bittersweet cocoa powder on the finish. Delicious!

Garretson Wine Company

We also had an appointment at Garretson Wine Company, a winery whose focus is to crafting the best Rhône wines possible. In honor of the owners' shared heritage, each wine features some Gaelic-inspired reference. We tasted the following wines:
2004 Garretson G White Central Coast: golden color, honey and stone fruit aromas on the nose. On the palate, slightly sweet and fresh finish.
004 Garretson Viognier The Saothar Paso Robles: not a very aromatic nose, sweet on the palate. I found the wine to lack freshness and flavors. The term Saothar is the Gaelic word for classic.
2003 Garretson Grenache The Spainnéach Paso Robles: fruity nose, aromas of cherry and notes of caramel. Spainnéach is the Gaelic word for Spaniard which pays tribute to the Spanich origin of Grenache
2003 Garretson Mourvèdre The Graosta Paso Robles: caramel aromas on the nose, sweet on the palate, uninspiring. Graosta is the Gaelic word for saddle. Saddle leather is often a descriptor associated with Mourvèdre.
2002 Garretson Syrah Rozet Vineyard The Luascáin: dark color. licorice and tar aromas on the nose. On the palate, full-bodied and concentrated, nice complexity on the finish. The best wine of the tasting. The term Luascáin is the Gaelic word for rocking horse, another name for the vineyard.

Wild Coyote

We also visited Wild Coyote, a winery on the westside hills of Paso Robles with an adobe-style tasting room showcasing an authentic native art collection. Owner and Winemaker Gianni Manucci is a former architect moving back to his family roots: winemaking. The wines are exclusively made of estate grown fruits: Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah, planted on terraced vineyards next to the winery. We tasted the following wines:
2001 Wild Coyote Zinfandel Paso Robles: fruity nose with a hint of prune, peppery and dry on the palate.
2001 Wild Coyote Merlot Paso Robles: oaky nose with notes of chocolate, some acidity on the palate. Still a young wine.
2000 Wild Coyote Merlot Paso Robles: dark color, black fruit aromas on the nose, concentrated, full-bodied and smooth on the palate with some additional notes of chocolate. Very tasty finish, excellent!
2002 Wild Coyote Syrah Paso Robles: purple deep color, vanilla on the nose, full-bodied on the palate with peppery flavors.
2002 Wild Coyote Zinfandel Paso Robles: fruity nose, sweeter than the 2001 on the palate with more concentration. Lively acidity on the finish.

Tablas Creek Vineyard

The next day, we had an appointment for a tour at Tablas Creek Vineyard. We stayed at the winery for more than two hours, learning about the property's vineyard and winemaking practices. For more details, read the Tablas Creek Vineyard tour report.

Opolo Vineyards

Then we stopped at the nearby Opolo Vineyards. The name Opolo is actually the name of a rosé wine from the Dalmatian coast and is a node to one of the owners' Yugoslavian heritage. The wines (red and white, no rosé!) are made of estate fruits growing in two locations, one westside, mostly for Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Sangiovese and one eastside, mostly for Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. We tasted the following wines:
2002 Opolo Pinot Noir Paso Robles: characteristic Pinot nose with some vanilla and cherry aromas. Medium-bodied on the palate with a light finish.
2001 Opolo Syrah Paso Robles: dark color, black fruit aromas on the nose with some chocolate notes on the palate.
2003 Opolo Mountain Zinfandel Paso Robles: black sweet fruit on the nose, full-bodied with lively acidity on the palate. Well-balanced although high in alcohol. Our favorite from the tasting.
Opolo Summit Creek Zinfandel Paso Robles: dark color, prunes and dried fruit aromas on the nose, almost port like.

Justin Vineyards & Winery

Next, we had an appointment for a tour at Justin Vineyards & Winery. The property is situated in the remote Adelaide valley, west of Paso Robles and the dry farmed vineyard is mostly planted with Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Unfortunately, we found the tour to be a waste of time. It took us through the winery caves, the winemaking installations and the Inn suites but we learned little about grape growing and winemaking practice. We decided to leave early so we only tasted the Isosceles.
2002 Justin Isosceles Paso Robles: dark color, raspberry aromas on the nose followed by a medium to full-bodied palate with additional chocolate and dried fruit flavors.

See our other tasting reports.