Why You Need to Drink Wine in Paso Robles Before the Region Really Blows Up

These 14 wineries are just a starting point.

Cass Winery
Cass Winery | Photo courtesy of Yvonne Goll Photography
Cass Winery | Photo courtesy of Yvonne Goll Photography

Think the only place to find world-class California wines that compete with other global wine regions like the Rhone Valley in France or Piedmont in Italy is Napa Valley? Think again. Taking a gorgeous drive down the coast from the famous wine region north of San Francisco, passing Monterey and Big Sur, you’ll enter into a once-sleepy Central Coast almond farming community known for its thermal hot springs that is gaining global acclaim: Paso Robles.

Paso Robles—pronounced row-bulls and referred to more casually and simply as Paso among locals—had a reputation for producing high-alcohol red wines, particularly cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel. But over the last decade, a collective of wineries has quietly moved away from those overly tannic or fruit bomb wines to create gorgeous, layered, nuanced wines that have caused people rethink to Paso.

In a region with more than 200 tasting rooms and 11 diverse viticultural areas enjoying the maritime effects of the Pacific Ocean, producers experiment with dozens of grape varietals. You can taste more than 60 single varietals and blends including syrah, grenache, mourvedre, roussanne, petite syrah, viognier, grenache blanc, sauvignon blanc, clairette blanche, and yes, zinfandel and cabernet.

“We’re an enormous grape growing region and Paso is a little harder to define,” said Anthony Yount, winemaker at Denner Vineyards and Sixmilebridge as well as his own labels Kinero Cellars and The Royal Nonesuch. “Napa is cab. Sonoma is pinot and chardonnay. Paso does a bit of everything.”

Cass Winery
Cass Winery | Photo courtesy of Yvonne Goll Photography

What allows this freedom to experiment is due to an area rich in limestone (predominantly on the west side), clay and sandy loam soils offering minerals that impart rich flavors into the wine. That along with one of the largest diurnal temperature shifts (hot days and cool nights) in the world, sustainable farming practices, a collaborative attitude in the community, and accessible winemakers at tasting rooms (as in, the likelihood you’ll taste and chat with a winemaker in Paso is quite high) creates a playground for wine lovers.

“There’s a level of authenticity you don’t get elsewhere,” Yount added. “Paso was built by dreamers; they could chase that dream here and now have a style and hospitality they want to give and be a part of.”

Wineries like Torrin, Villa Creek, Law Estate, Daou, J Dusi, Tablas Creek, McPrice Myers, Austin Hope, L’Aventure and more—including some very cool indie wineries at Tin City like Nicora, Benom, and Field Recordings—are garnering high praise. Coupled with beautiful tasting rooms and experiences like wine-paired chef-driven dinners and hilltop guest houses, Paso is the California wine country you won’t want to overlook anymore.

While numerous fantastic wineries and tasting rooms exist, this batch below gives you a good starting point. And while in town, hit the main square downtown (and don’t miss the super cute General Store). Then make reservations at top restaurants including French-inspired California bistro spot Les Petites Canailles, Michelin-starred Six Test Kitchen inside Tin City, and newcomer In Bloom at Paso Market Walk where you’ll find a menu with a playful and modern approach to seasonal, locally sourced ingredients.

Here are 14 Paso Robles wineries to visit now—and be sure to check their websites or call to schedule appointments as many wineries aren’t open for drop ins.

Barton Family Wines
Barton Family Wines | Photo by Dylan Kyle

As Paso’s 2020 winemaker of the year, Joe Barton is giving attention to clairette blanche, which makes for a lovely sipper outside at the Barton farmhouse. Here, you can also indulge in Barton’s Watchtower Rhone blend or other wines named for classic songs, while enjoying bites from their farm-to-table kitchen—even having a cocktail from the onsite Krobar Distillery.
How to book: Reserve on the Barton website via OpenTable.

Cass Winery
Cass Winery | Photo courtesy of Cass Winery

You could easily spend half a day taking in all the spoils this large ranch-like property offers: horseback riding, archery, cooking classes, olive oil pressing, beekeeping, tasting in the vineyard, and staying on site at its super cool Geneseo Inn set among the vines. Book a tasting where you’ll sip the award-winning Rhone wines beneath massive oak trees or inside at the cafe.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Daou Vineyards & Winery
Daou Vineyards & Winery | Photo courtesy of Acacia Productions

Sitting 14 miles from the ocean and 2,200 feet above sea level atop Daou Mountain, the family-owned and -operated Daou Vineyards is the highest elevation vineyard in the Central Coast. The gorgeous estate has sprawling views of the region and an indoor outdoor tasting room with high-beamed ceilings and beautiful Spanish archway. Grab a seat outdoors at the edge of the mountain and enjoy any of the Bordeaux varietals (like a glass of their Soul of a Lion) while noshing on snacks from their Lebanese-inspired menu.
How to book: Book flight tastings via Tock. Call 805-226-5460 or email cx@daouvinyards.com to reserve the ATV tour.

Eberle Winery
Photo courtesy of Eberle Winery

One of Paso’s pioneers, Gary Eberle, was named Wine Enthusiast’s 2020 American Legend Wine Star and his property remains a destination for sought-out wines, including syrah, cabernet sauvignon, viognier, sangiovese, and zinfandel. Booking a tasting here often includes a tour of the property’s nearly 17,000 square feet of underground caves (unless closed for production) and a greeting from the winery’s two standard poodles, Sangiovese and Barbara.
How to book: Reserve various complimentary tastings directly through the Eberle website.

Visiting J Dusi’s outdoor patio overlooking beautiful vineyards also gives you a look inside Paso’s history as the Dusi family has farmed the land for generations, providing sought-after grapes to many of the area’s top producers. Here, you’ll taste owner/winemaker Janell Dusi’s Rhone blends, but also her silky zinfandels with bright fruit and integrated tannins, showing a more elegant side to what zins can be.
How to book: Reserve tastings directly through the J Dusi website.

One of the largest wineries in Paso, Justin produces acclaimed Bordeaux blends and has for more than 40 years. You can stop in for a tasting of Isosceles (blending cab, cab franc, and merlot) and other wines such as tempranillo, syrah, and sauvignon blanc, and take in lunch in the tasting room. Or plan a longer visit while staying on property in one of three luxe suites and have a multi-course tasting menu at the restaurant that sources most of the produce from the on-site garden or try the Charter Oak Cheeseburger made with house-ground meat.
How to book: Reserve an indoor or patio tasting via Tock.

L’Aventure Winery tasting room | Photo courtesy of Oak & Barrel Photography

Wishing to break free of the rules in Bordeaux, winemaker Stephan Asseo set out to find a place to experiment and really flex his viticultural muscles. He found it in Paso and has been producing prized bottlings since 1998. Visit the modern-yet-rustic tasting room set back among rolling vineyard hills for private, one-on-one tastings of Asseo’s wines blending various Rhone and Bordeaux varietals.
How to book: Reserve a 60-minute experience on the patio via Tock.

Law Estate Wines
Law Estate Wines barrel room | Photo by Doug Dun, Courtesy of BAR Architects

This property has one of the most beautiful tasting rooms in the region. Go for the modern art and design. Stay for the tasting and views, where you’ll sip through a flight of five mostly Rhone varietals—which hopefully includes the current bottling of Sagacious (a beautiful expression of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre) while overlooking nearly 80 acres of planted vineyards
How to book: Email the winery to set up your tasting.

Photo courtesy of Nicora

Winemaker Nick Elliott is just one of a number of intrepid independent winemakers set up at Tin City, but exemplifies the dream of Paso. Instead of joining the family business, he focused on his passion to make high-quality wine. The result is a mostly direct-to-consumer winery where he produces delicate Rhone blends, but also single varietals with a big focus on syrah.
How to book: Reserve tastings on the patio at Tin City via Tock.

McPrice Myers
McPrice Myers | Photo courtesy of Jason Hickman Photography

While the tasting area comprises a somewhat basic set up, what’s in your glass is anything but basic. Owner Mac Myers is one of the most respected winemakers in Paso. His lineup of wines often focus on the well-known Rhone varietals, but you’ll also find surprises like petite sirah, clairette blanche, and zinfandel adding balance to the blends. If you get the chance to taste the Paper Street Cuvee (comprising syrah, grenache, petite verdot, mourvedre, and graciano, consider yourself blessed).
How to book: Reserve a $25 tasting via Tock.

SixMileBridge | Photo courtesy of Acacia Productions

Enjoy your tasting inside the tasting room at the property, which pays homage to the family’s ancestral Irish home. Or book the special bottle service tasting on the deck shaded by towering trees as you look out on sweeping views of the rolling vineyards. Here, you’ll experience winemaker Anthony Yount’s focus on Bordeaux blends, which for now are sold only by allocation or at your tasting.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.

Torrin Wines
Torrin Wines | Photo courtesy of Heather Wang Photography

Torrin boasts a beautiful, modern property built by Scott and Viquel Hawley set on 70 acres, with 50 reserved for its hillside forest and the animals that roam there. Winemaker Scott crafts elegant wines that reflect the magic of the soil. Reserve a $50 private one-on-one visit to taste from the current Lagom and Torrin offerings in the minimalist indoor tasting room and comfortable outdoor area. Ask to taste the Akasha, comprising 100% syrah and shows chocolate, menthol, olive, rosemary, and great acid.
How to book: Reserve on Tock through the Torrin website.

Don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by three sweet Great Pyrenees dogs who preside over the sprawling hillside property and guard the sheep that graze the land. This rustic space has a smaller interior where they also dry-age estate-raised jamon, but take your tasting of either Villa Creek ($30)—look for the clairette or finao—or its sister winery, Mana, outside looking out toward the vineyards planted with grenache, syrah, clairette, and more.
How to book: Reservations can be made on Tock.

Villa San Juliette Vineyards & Winery
Villa San Juliette Vineyards & Winery | Photo courtesy of Craft & Cluster

Driving up to this breathtaking property, especially around golden hour, will have you wondering if you’ve traveled to the Tuscan countryside. The magnificent villa offers tastings ($20 gets you a seven-wine flight; add shared plates from the kitchen) on its patio. Here, you’ll taste entirely estate-grown Bordeaux and Rhone varietals while looking out at manicured lawns, statues, fountains and rolling hills dotted with vineyards.
How to book: Reserve a 90-minute tasting via CellarPass.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Ari Bendersky is a Chicago-based lifestyle journalist who has contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal Magazine, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, and many more. He is also the co-host of the Overserved podcast, featuring long-form conversations with food and beverage personalities. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.