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The Hits And Misses of Wine Tasting In Paso Robles

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Paso Robles Wine Tour, California, Travel, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles

 

There are now more than 300 wine tasting rooms in Paso Robles. Take that in for a second – 300 opportunities for wine tasting in Paso Robles! So, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that this is a complete guide to everything that is available to you when you come for a wine tour. But I will give you the straight scoop on our experience – the smaller treasures, the big views and what we brought home.

Paso Robles, California

Paso Robles is in San Luis Obispo County. Obviously, its climate is pretty incredible for wine, but the area also does a fair amount of olive oil production, so you may find yourself gravitating to an olive oil tasting in addition to the grapes. If you are taking the quickest route from Los Angeles, a drive to Paso Robles takes just over three hours using the I-5 as your main freeway. You can also take a much more scenic route up US-101, but it will add nearly an hour to your trip given typical traffic.

And now, the wines!

Note: Everyone’s palate is different. Our recommendations are solely based on what we responded to at the time.

 

Le Cuvier Exterior, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles

Le Cuvier, Paso Robles, California

 

Le Cuvier Winery & Tasting Room (3333 Vine Hill Ln, Paso Robles, CA 93446

Le Cuvier was our first destination. The tasting room is only open Thursday through Monday (11-5pm), so we got lucky that our travel plans overlapped. The chef who catered our wedding recommended Le Cuvier, and I’m happy to say that he did not steer us wrong. They have a word-of-mouth business. You can buy wines from their tasting room and wine club, but you are unlikely to find advertising or bottles in the local wine shop.

We did not have a reservation, but they do require them for groups. When there are a lot of drop-ins asking for immediate reservations, they may not have the second tasting area open, and you could get squeezed into the tasting area by the door. This happened to us at the end of our tasting when there was a four-adult group who stopped in. I recommend making a reservation no matter the size of your party so Le Cuvier can prepare and arrive at 11:00 am if you are looking for a calm atmosphere. It can be quite lovely and peaceful, as the tasting room is set off in a more rural area, and away from the bustle of downtown.

 

Le Cuvier, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles, California

A quiet moment in Le Cuvier, Paso Robles, California

Le Cuvier was one of the first of the tasting rooms in Paso Robles to offer food pairings with each taste. Don’t mistake this for lunch – the pairings are bites. But the pairings have been carefully considered, and do make the wine experience an interesting one. Even if you might not like one of the food items (Andy, for instance, doesn’t like olives), try them with the wine anyway, you might be pleasantly surprised (as Andy was).

We chose to share a $15 tasting (though the fee was waived because we bought wine). Of these, our favorites were the 2013 Cabernet Franc and the NV Pinot Noir (though there was nothing there we didn’t enjoy). The Cabernet Franc surprised me because it is bigger and bolder than I usually gravitate towards. There is an earthiness to it and some spice. They paired it with a rich cheese that worked well, and I can see why there are suggestions to try this with steak or game.

By comparison, the NV Pinot Noir was lighter in body than the Cab Franc but darker and richer than I expected. I got truffles, some raspberry and maybe something closer to moss undertones. It was paired with a “dirty martini” olive and onion combo, that set off a tangy note that I also didn’t expect. While we enjoyed both, we brought home a bottle of the Le Cuvier NV Pinot Noir (it retails for around $55).

 

Still Waters, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles, California

A glimpse of Still Waters from the gardens

Still Waters Vineyards (2750 Old Grove Ln, Paso Robles, CA 93446

Still Waters Vineyards was one of the last tasting rooms we visited on our wine tasting tour in Paso Robles, but one of our favorites of the entire trip. It’s a family business, run by someone who used to make wine for fun, but who was encouraged, after retiring from the restaurant business, to focus on wine. Still Waters sells grapes to other local winemakers, in addition to producing for their own labels. They sell direct to consumer from the tasting room, and they have a wine club. And they like their business model – they stay small and focus on creating quality wine and having fun.

You can walk into the tasting room without a reservation, although I’m sure if you are going with a big group, a reservation would be recommended. They have a large garden and patio where you can sit under the umbrellas and listen to live music as you sip. It was 93 degrees when we visited, so while we could appreciate the charms of sitting just beyond the grape vines, we hid inside to enjoy the air conditioning in the large tasting room.

 

Still Waters, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles, California

Watching the grapes thrive at Still Waters in Paso Robles

Still Waters was recommended to us for their award-winning white wines. And while we really enjoyed them, particularly the Sauv Blanc, our favorites ended up being the Clone 3 Cuvee 2012 (it retails for around $44). The Clone 3 Cuvee is a red blend of 25% Merlot, 25% Malbec, 25% Cab Franc, 12% Petite Sirah and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon. Naturally, the presence of Merlot sparked a hilarious conversation about how Sideways killed the Merlot market for years (much to the dismay of winemakers). I got some blackberry and currants from the tasting. Andy got vanilla notes, and we both agreed that this would be great with steak. In the end, we brought a bottle of this home with us.

 

 

Sarzotti, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles, California

Wine tasting at Sarzotti

 

Sarzotti Vineyard and Winery (180 Bella Ranch Rd, Templeton, CA 93465

Sarzotti is another family-owned operation. Their tasting area is relatively small, but there is ample outdoor space, and they provide a nice cheese and cracker plate for people if they want to pair any of the wines with some bold cheeses (naturally, I was on board with this!). The owners are usually on the premises, and it was fun to chat with them about the different wines they have produced over the years.

It was very crowded at the end of the day, and the limo filled with people from the B&B we were staying at had just arrived. Still, we didn’t feel rushed and had plenty of opportunities to chat with the owners as the tasting progressed. The tasting room is open for walk-ins Thursday through Sunday, and by appointment on Monday through Wednesday.

 

Sarzotti, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles, California

Visiting Sarzotti

Sarzotti was recommended to us by the owner of the B&B for their award-winning Petite Sirah. We did love this, but we also enjoyed the Sangiovese and new release Zinfandel. I got notes of blackberry and black pepper. There may also be hints of chocolate, but I’ll admit that I was trying it with chocolate so that I may have been more influenced by my actual chocolate than notes in the wine.

 

 

Tooth & Nail, Tooth and Nail, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles, California, Castle

Tooth & Nail Winery (yes, that’s a moat)

Tooth & Nail Winery (3090 Anderson Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446

Tooth & Nail Winery is not a place that you are ever going to confuse with any other wine tasting room in Paso Robles (or anywhere else, for that matter). Why? It looks like a castle. It has a green moat. Seriously. Every aspect of this massive space is on theme, as is every person who works in it, so it can feel a little bit like the Las Vegas version of a winery and event venue. They frequently have live music events (including some large, staged concerts), and there are a number of spaces specifically designed for events like bridal showers, corporate gatherings, etc. We loved having the big couches in the main tasting room to rest on while indulging. As a result, we probably spent more time here than at any other tasting room.

 

Albania, Tooth and Nail, Tooth & Nail, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles, California

Glasses of Albarino at Tooth & Nail

We tried the $15 Rabble Reserve Tasting, and we ordered some fries to help sustain us through what was going to be a longer day of sampling. Two wines here really stood out to me: the Stasis Albarino (pictured) and the Amor Fati Syrah (in fact, I may have found a new love for Syrah/Petite Sirah while we sampled the wares in Paso Robles).

Why did these wines stand out? The Albarino (retails for around $37) was a hit from the start – it had the minerality I prefer, it was light and dry, but with significant peach and apricot tones. It was perfect for the blazing hot day that we had just escaped. Once we cooled off in the a/c, we could fully appreciate the reds, including the Amor Fati Syrah (the dark garnet coloring is going to leave an impression). For me, I got some smokiness off of this, some fig and spice. This is another red that is going to be great with most meats. It’s a wine I’d love to have in front of a fireplace on a much cooler night, and I had the $48 to spend on a bottle.

 

Calcareous, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles, California

A view from inside of Calcareous.

Calcareous Vineyard (3430 Peachy Canyon Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446

The first thing you are going to notice about Calcareous is its amazing wine tasting facility. Glass walls cover three sides of the building revealing lush lawns and the rolling valley in the distance. It’s no surprise that they frequently have events here and that they host music gatherings outside during the warmer months. Its reputation for having great views did make us a little nervous – usually when people talk about the amazing views, it’s because they don’t think much of the wines. Luckily, that was not the case here. We found a number of tasty treats as we shared the $10 tasting, and we had great fun talking to the person doing the pours.

 

Calcareous, garden, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles, California, Travel

Calcareous Gardens

Most of the wines we had here were reds, in fact, there was a grenache and a zinfandel that I quite liked. But Andy and I both found ourselves drawn to the Calcareous Lily Blanc. It’s a blend of 43% Grenache Blanc, 39% Roussanne and 18% Viognier. It turns out that I’m a fan of Grenache Blanc, and I can’t remember ever having it before this trip (but it’s possible that I just don’t remember). I couldn’t quite pin down the different notes, but to me, there was a sense of apples, some citrus and something mysterious. It retails for around $34, and even with the hints of French oak, it stays pretty crisp and not buttery (which is something I like to avoid).

 

 

Daou, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles, California

Wine tasting at Daou

DAOU Vineyards and Winery (2777 Hidden Mountain Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446)

DAOU was another example of a winery that everyone raved about – for the views. It’s an impressive facility with plenty of space inside and out for hundreds of people. You can dine on the patio or out in the wooden chairs overlooking the valley. It is easily the most impressive of any tasting room we visited. Unfortunately, it was also wildly more expensive than any other tasting, and the wine was fine but unremarkable – it was hard not to feel like we were paying for the view. Even the charcuterie plate was twice the price of anywhere else.

 

Daou, Wine Tasting in Paso Robles, California, Travel

Wine and snacks at Daou

I will say that they are known for their Cabs which we didn’t try because we opted for the cheaper $30 tasting (the tasting that included the Cab was $45 per person). We had a Grenache Blanc as a palate cleanser that we enjoyed, and the DAOU Reserve Zinfandel (retails for $56) was by far our favorite of the tasting. If you find yourself drawn to wines with notes of plums, strawberries, and pepper, this might be a nice one for you to try.

I am glad we visited for the experience of it. It is stunning. I can’t imagine what it is like at sunset. I also understand that there are culinary pairings that are highly regarded. I just wish that we had really loved the wines as much as we loved their views.

Related: Exploring High Ridge Manor: a Bed and Breakfast High Above Paso Robles

52 Comments on The Hits And Misses of Wine Tasting In Paso Robles

  1. You had Grenache Blanc at wine club two years ago! 🙂 It was the winning wine on a white competition night.

  2. Given such a large number of wine tasting rooms in Paso Robles, your article makes it much easier for future visitors to know which ones to choose from. It’s so helpful to read your detailed and informative reviews. Thank you for sharing this!

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 19, 2017 at 8:48 pm // Reply

      Thank you! I hope it’s helpful for people who are trying to make a plan to tackle a wine tour up there. 🙂

  3. How did you survive such a long day of tastings!? I have never grown up enough to enjoy red wine so the Still Waters sounds like my cup of tea…or glass of wine.

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 19, 2017 at 10:04 pm // Reply

      The trick was to only do one or two a day (we were there for 4 days). That way, we were never feeling too impaired, and we never felt rushed. But we did see people on party buses going from tasting room to tasting room. That wouldn’t work for me — I would have no idea what I was tasting after the 3rd one!

  4. Megan Indoe // July 19, 2017 at 10:40 pm // Reply

    This makes me want to hop in my car and go back up to Paso Robles, I had no idea there were 300! I knew there was alot but no idea it was that many! I can’t believe DAUO’s tasting was THAT expensive?! What the heck. My inlaws love their Cab, it’s only okay to me too. Interesting to hear your take on it! We would love to go back up there and just wine around!

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 19, 2017 at 11:11 pm // Reply

      It has gone nuts up there! I can’t decide if it’s a good thing to have that many choices, or if it just gets overwhelming. The one thing I do know is that I’m willing to go back up and try more!

  5. I would love to live in California just to visit a different winery every week. Paso Robles is definitely being added to my
    List of places to visit!

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 20, 2017 at 1:36 am // Reply

      I can’t believe how long it took for us to go up and properly visit! It will definitely not be that long again.

  6. I have been a plotting an escape to LA 🙂 I’ll def plan a wine-outing when that happens. Thanks for the wonderful suggestions and the breakdown.

  7. Wow! I just can’t wait to explore these. Your this post will really come handy when we will be taking a two hours drive to reach here. I liked Calcareous Gardens. I would love to sit and spend some time sitting on its lush green lawns. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Megan Jerrard // July 20, 2017 at 5:20 am // Reply

    I’m from way on the other side of the world in Australia, so when I think of California’s wine scene, I think Napa Valley – it’s nice to know that there are other regions of California I can add to my wine trail too. Some varied options for tasting in Paso Robles – a nice goal to get to all 300 wine tasting rooms!!! Tooth & Nail Winery sure stands out with that moat!

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 20, 2017 at 1:27 pm // Reply

      I think of Napa and Sonoma, too! And can you believe I’ve never been there? Napa Valley is on the list, but it’s pretty expensive, so we’re going to have to make a plan and some get some savings together so we can do it right. 🙂

  9. I would love to do this wine tasting tour. I recently returned from Chile and Argentina where I have visited many wineries and had a lot of wine. It’s such a nice way of developing your palette and getting to know the differences between wines.

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 20, 2017 at 1:26 pm // Reply

      I would love to do wine tasting tours in Chile and Argentina! Some of my favorite wines from that area, and I think having that experience would be amazing!

  10. 300 wineries?! Where do I start with this glorious wine tasting <3 – I am especially drawn to the moat at the Tooth and Nail Winery – something about the landscape pulls me in – its unique

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 20, 2017 at 2:27 pm // Reply

      It’s definitely a place you won’t forget any time soon! Plus, it was a great place to relax on the couches, enjoy the cool air and taste some very interesting wine!

  11. 300!! That’s so crazy. Seems like it’s a very large estate to have that many wine tasting rooms.

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 20, 2017 at 3:48 pm // Reply

      I think one of the reasons there are so many is because some of the winemakers buy grapes from other areas and then do their own blends, and there are still some small family vineyards (some who make amazing wine!). But if you drive through Paso Robles, you will see acres and acres of vines. It’s impressive!

  12. I have this thing for wine and cheese and I’d totally love to visit these vineyards. Believe it or not, my only wine tasting experiences were in Texas and Maryland.. and they are not even wine destinations, haha. Still Waters looks very interesting.

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 20, 2017 at 5:28 pm // Reply

      I must admit that I don’t know much about Maryland’s wine scene, but I’m hearing great things about Texas Hill Country wine. I’d love to try it!

  13. I love when wineries prepare a food pairing menu to go with the wines, so I think I’d really enjoy trying the food tasting at Lê Cuvier. The outdoor patio and live music at Still Waters sounds like just my cup of tea as well, although like you said definitely not on a 93 degree day. Thanks for sharing about these gems!

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 21, 2017 at 1:24 pm // Reply

      I love the pairings, too! They can make such a big difference on my experience with the wine.

  14. Thanks so much for this great guide! We live in LA and usually go tasting in Santa Ynez, but we’ve wanted to check out Paso Robles! I think Tooth & Nail will have to be on our list — the kids will love the moat, while the albarino will be flowing for mom 🙂
    Melissa Conn recently posted…Learning how to make crêpes (and friends) in ParisMy Profile

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 21, 2017 at 2:36 pm // Reply

      I haven’t been tasting in Santa Ynez yet, but I hear good things. Time to go! And yes, the kids will love the moat! There are tables outside on the patio that might even give you the view (though it was so hot when we were there that we headed straight for the air conditioning).

  15. I’m not a massive wine drinker but I think that’s because I always go for the cheapest one on the shelf! Maybe I’d like the fancier stuff. Sounds ike a fun day regardless 🙂

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 21, 2017 at 4:40 pm // Reply

      I rarely drank at all before 2009, when I started to learn about wine. Each time I taste something new, I learn more about my own preferences. I’ll never stop learning!

  16. That sounds like a lot, 300 opportunities for wine tasting! It would be great if one could visit them all. Is that even possible? 🙂

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 22, 2017 at 6:15 pm // Reply

      I like a challenge, but that seems like a pretty big one. We’d need to move there for about 6 months, I think!

  17. You described the taste of wines like I tasted it, too! The Tooth & Nail Winery and the Calcareous Gardens stood out for me. How did you choose out of the 300 wine tasting rooms??! That’s so many!!!

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 24, 2017 at 1:34 am // Reply

      Honestly, we winged it. A couple were from recommendations from friends or people we met on the trip. Others were pure whims. If we plan on getting to all 300, we’re going to need to devise some sort of method to our madness. 🙂

  18. I could totally see us ordering blackberry wine for a tasting. We always swing to the sweet side of the scale with a pinot being on the dry end of our pallet. There is always the incredulous look when we order our dinner wine off the desert menu.
    Jenn and Ed Coleman recently posted…Flying High at Eagle Creek Reservoir IndianaMy Profile

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 24, 2017 at 4:10 am // Reply

      LOL! It’s great that you’ve found what you guys like! I’m really still learning, and I probably will be for a long time. 🙂

  19. I have to admit, I’m not really a wine drinker but I have been on a wine tour before and it was so much fun. When I do drink win I prefer sweeter wines must be great to find your taste 😀

  20. I haven’t spent any time in Paso Robles and it isn’t that far from my home. I think a mother daughter trip is in order, My mom would be thrilled!

  21. Three hundred wine tasting rooms–wow! I can imagine it must have been very difficult to narrow down the best ones to try. You’ve provided an awesome overview of some top picks!

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 25, 2017 at 1:46 pm // Reply

      I can’t imagine what it would take to try all of them, but I am willing to try. Of course, it might entail moving there. 🙂

  22. I’ve never been here! Actually I’ve never done much wine tasting, but I really need to give it a go, it seems! Calcareous looks like an enjoyable place to sit and enjoy some wine!
    Paige W recently posted…A Tale of Two Trails – Mount Magazine State ParkMy Profile

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 25, 2017 at 1:49 pm // Reply

      It was lovely, and had it not been so incredibly hot, I’m sure people would have taken advantage of it even without the music.

  23. Wow lots of places to choice from but The Daou winery looks the best, great views while sipping your wine and watch the sunset loOks fantastic place.

  24. Sandy N Vyjay // July 25, 2017 at 11:39 pm // Reply

    Wow! 300 wine tasting rooms, that indeed is a lot of wine! The range of the wines available is really mind boggling. But I am sure that the wine tasting experience was indeed a heady experience.

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 25, 2017 at 11:53 pm // Reply

      It was fascinating. Some we really loved, and others we probably wouldn’t revisit. Of course, we have a lot more to explore, so we had better get to planning another trip!

  25. This is such a fantastic post for wine drinkers. There is something about wineries and vineyards that is so beautiful. I wish i liked wine as much as I love beer! That tooth and nail winery with the moat look amazing!!

    • PatriciaSteffy // July 26, 2017 at 3:34 am // Reply

      I have friends who are huge craft beer fans. The movement is really taking hold here in California! And Tooth & Nail is a fascinating place to just sit back and experience.

  26. I have never been to a winery, hoping to visit one in the future. I am so amazed how you were able to make the list to only 6 from 300 wineries in the area.

    https://www.ecomtuning.com/2017/06/20/unconventional-guide-seo-services-small-business/

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