When you think quality California wine, Napa and Sonoma leap to mind. Today, a sound argument can be made to include Paso Robles in the conversation.
The region lies north of Santa Barbara County and south of the Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands—roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is inland from the ocean, giving it a warmer climate, but rolling hills and cooling breezes still penetrate, especially through the Templeton Gap located on the western edge of the Paso Robles AVA. It includes 40,000 vineyard acres producing more than 60 winegrape varieties.
“Paso’s strength is in its diversity,” according to the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “We learned long ago our region doesn’t have to adhere to the old paradigm of being about one variety or style.”
The Santa Lucia Mountain Range that defines the district’s western border has several gaps near the city of Templeton that pull cool, coastal air into the valley resulting in marine fog and lower temperatures. This significantly affects the grapes grown in the Templeton Gap and surrounding districts. The coastal climate flowing through Templeton Gap touches almost every district, and is a crucial feature of the AVA.
Paso Robles wineries produced zinfandel beginning in the 1880s. Zin thrives in the region’s hot days and chilly nights, creating a softer and rounder zin than the more intensely flavored and higher alcohol versions found elsewhere. But the region is speckled with microclimates. Figuring out which grapes show best in which plots is the force behind Paso Robles ascendancy in the wine world firmament.
That means that esoteric varieties like aglianico, counoise, and alicante boushet—hardly names that trip easily off American tongues—can make outstanding varietal wines that are just waiting to be the next big thing.
Napa and Sonoma dominate front-of-mind awareness of cab and, to a slightly lesser extent, chardonnay and merlot. Doesn’t matter. Through merit, Paso asserts itself as one of the great wine regions for a panoply of varieties. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
• Vina Robles Sauvignon Blanc Jardine Vineyard, Paso Robles 2021 is delightful and respectful to your palate, even with the expected sharp, bright acidity of sauv blanc. $15-20 Link to my review
• Broken Earth Winery Limited Release Tannat, Paso Robles 2016 is powerful, bold; big tannins nicely integrated with very ripe, tasty fruit. $22-35 Link to my review
• Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon Mountain Road Reserve, Paso Robles 2019 is smooth delight. Rich in flavor, long on the finish. $45-50 Link to my review
Last round: Q: What is worse than raining cats & dogs? A: Hailing taxis.