The Paso Robles CAB Collective works to raise the visibility of wines made from locally grown Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux grape varietals such as Cabernet Franc and Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Below is a one-day Bordeaux-focused itinerary with stops at four of the collective’s members. This Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Tasting Tour starts with tastings at two east-side (east of U.S. 101) wineries with lunch at the second, followed by visits to two west-side ones. Alternatives are provided for each stop.
This itinerary is best done from Thursday through Sunday, when Vina Robles serves its lunch menu and the lunch alternative, the restaurant at Niner Wine Estates, is also open. At the end of the itinerary you’ll find a Pre-Trip To-Do List and winery-to-winery Directions.
If you’re not having breakfast at your lodging, drop by Spearhead Coffee for coffee and a pastry.
Tasting: Begin the day with a sit-down tasting in winemaker Roger Nicolas’s hilltop (elevation 950 feet) Mediterranean-style home. Roger, who was born in Brittany, France, and moved to the United States when he was 20, came to winemaking following successful stints first as a restaurateur and later as a hotelier. He strives to create low-alcohol, food-friendly wines in the French tradition. As a group, Nicolas’s wines from Bordeaux grapes—he also makes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—come off subtler and more elegant than many in Paso, in part because in addition to their time in oak the winemaker ages them a full year in the bottle. The Bordeaux-style wines also include Merlot, Malbec and two blends.
RN Estate Vineyard and Winery, 7986 N. River Rd., Paso Robles; 805-610-9802.
Alternatives: If an appointment isn’t available at RN Estate, try Eberle Winery, where in addition to tasting you can take the informative cave tour and learn a little Paso winemaking history.
Tasting and lunch: The climate and terrain vary between Paso Robles’s east and west sides. Vina Robles grows Bordeaux varietals in vineyards on both sides, so at Reserve Tastings here (which include non-Bordeaux offerings) you can get a sense of the differences between wines from two areas.
The flagship Suendero—the name is derived from a Spanish phrase that means “dream path”—is a red blend whose mostly Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown at elevation 1,700 feet in far western Paso Robles. For structure, winemaker Kevin Willenborg adds in a healthy dose of Petit Verdot from the same vineyard, Adelaida Springs Ranch. The soil here is calcareous (some limestone, high levels of calcium), and evening marine breezes mitigate the midday summer heat. The winery’s estate Cabernet and an excellent 100% Petit Verdot, on the other hand, come from hillside vineyards on the east side that on average are several degrees warmer during the day. Both wines are reasonably priced given the quality.
Following your tasting, enjoy lunch prepared by the winery’s executive chef. Grilled shrimp salad, a pasta dish, hanger steak and a grilled chicken sandwich were among recent menu items.
Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery, 3700 Mill Rd., Paso Robles; 805-227-4812.
Alternative: It’ll make your visit more west-centric, but the Restaurant at Niner Wine Estates is a superb option.
Tasting: Guests at Halter Ranch pass through a covered bridge on the way to the winery’s stone and glass tasting room, which sits on a knoll with views of vineyards and, in the distance, a massive oak that’s at least 400 years old and perhaps as many as 700. Although many of the 281 acres of vineyards have been replanted in recent years, farming has been the focus on this 900-acre property since the 1880s, when it was part of a much larger parcel.
Halter Ranch produces many Rhône-style wines, but Bordeaux grapes, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, represent about 60% of the plantings. Ancestor, the winery’s flagship blend of (in recent vintages) Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot, is named for the ancient oak. Other Bordeaux-style wines to seek out include the estate Cabernet Sauvignon and the Malbec Reserve. With the Cabernet Sauvignon–heavy Synthesis blend, winemaker Kevin Sass plays loose with tradition, adding Petite Sirah (a non-Bordeaux grape) along with a touch of Petit Verdot.
Tasting room staffers here are proud to point out Halter Ranch’s long-standing SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certification, earned not only for environmentally friendly vineyard practices, among them water conservation and safe pest management, but also for energy-saving activities within the gravity-flow winery and for employees’ wages and working conditions.
Halter Ranch, 8910 Adelaida Rd., Paso Robles; 805-226-9455.
Tasting: On a sunny afternoon there are few better perches to end a day of tasting than at DAOU, which sits atop a mountain (elevation 2,200 feet) with panoramic views of much of the Paso Robles AVA. Lebanese-born winemaker Daniel Daou started the winery with his brother, Georges, after the two sold their successful IT services company.
Daniel’s stated goal is to produce great Bordeaux-style wines, and he spares no expense in pursuing his quest. As might be expected of someone with an engineering background (Georges has one, too), Daniel takes an analytical approach to winemaking, but not, contend wine critics who hail these wines, at the expense of finesse. The stars include the estate Adelaida District AVA Cabernet Sauvignon (100%) and Soul of a Lion, a Cabernet-dominant blend. Recent vintages of both were intense, fruit-forward and frisky, likely only to improve with a few years of aging.
Micho, a Merlot–Cabernet Sauvignon blend (heavier on the Merlot), and Seventeen Forty, a Cabernet Franc–Merlot blend, are, like Soul of a Lion, available only at the tasting room, whose Spanish Colonial–style architecture pays homage to Paso Robles’s days as Spanish and later Mexican territory. As with the wines, the Daou brothers spared no expense furnishing the space, whose Mexican floor tiles, dark-wood furniture, onyx tasting bar and hand-tooled metal chandeliers evoke a lavish hacienda.
DAOU Vineyards & Winery, 2777 Hidden Mountain Rd., Paso Robles; 805-226-5460.
For a down-and-dirty experience, visit Rotta Winery, one of Paso’s oldest wineries but heading for a bold new future under winemaker Christian Tietje. His bios on various winery websites including Rotta’s bill Tietje as a “surfer, punk rocker, metal artist, winemaker who makes big, badass red wines.” Some of the grapes in the estate Cabernet Sauvignon grow on old-style head-trained vines visible from the parking lot, as are similar, older Zinfandel vines. Another laid-back spot, open like Rotta until 5:30, is Castoro Cellars, where you can choose among several Bordeaux-style wines.
Il Cortile (Italian), La Cosecha (Latin American) and Thomas Hill Organics, The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar and the Allegretto resort’s Cello Ristorante (all Modern American) are good dinner choices. Check out A Paso Robles Restaurants Cheat Sheet for more suggestions.
If you’re itching for one last tasting and it’s Friday or Saturday night, Parrish Family Vineyard’s downtown space is open until 7:30. Be sure to taste the estate Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon, made from a finicky variant of Cabernet owner-winemaker David Parrish says he both hates and loves but turns into an exemplary wine.
1) Make an appointment (always required) at RN Estate. Walk-ins are welcome at the alternative, Eberle Winery.
2) Make a reservation (recommended on weekdays, essential on weekends) at DAOU.
3) Make dinner reservations at your restaurant of choice (particularly wise on weekends for Il Cortile and Thomas Hill).
To RN Estate: The directions to the first stop, RN Estate, can be tricky. Do not use GPS for this one! The winery’s website has instructions, but from downtown Paso head east on 13th Street. Then turn left (north) on North River Road. Stay in the left lane, as you’ll soon need to turn left again (there’s a sign) to stay on North River Road. After that second left, follow the road for 6.5 miles to a gravel-and-dirt driveway marked only by a mailbox with the winery’s address (7986 North River Road). Head east (right) here and continue for a little more than a mile.
To Vina Robles: From RN Estate’s driveway entrance, backtrack south on North River Road. Turn left (east) on Wellsona Road, right (south) on Airport Road and left on Highway 46. At Mill Road, turn right.
To Halter Ranch: Backtrack on Mill Road to Highway 46 and turn left (west). After the highway passes under U.S. 101, continue straight ahead on the now narrower road, signed as 24th Street. After about a mile, the name changes again, to Naciemento Lake Road. Continue about 1.4 miles to Adelaida Road, turn left (west) and following the winding road for 9 miles.
To DAOU: Backtrack east 4.5 miles on Adelaida Road to Hidden Mountain Road (look for the DAOU sign), which leads up the hill to the tasting room.