Growing up in the wine business, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Paso Robles and the entire Central Coast wine region a myriad of times as a kid and adult. The Paso Robles wine country sprawls across valleys, ridges, and rolling hills along the South Central California Coast region. Paso Robles is one of the state’s oldest wine grape growing regions; the first vines were planted in the 1790s. The plentiful red grape varietals thrive in the Mediterranean climate, nurtured by a long growing season, dry hot summers, and mild winters.
Paso Robles’ 11 official AVAs enjoy great diversity in climate, rainfall, topography, and soils. More than 40 wine grape varieties reside in the region’s 32,000 vineyard acres. Over 200 wineries await your visit. You’d better carve out a week!
Note: This is not a ranking rather an alphabetical list of some of the best.
#1 Adelaida Cellars
Nestled in a 700-acre walnut orchard in the Adelaida District AVA, this Paso pioneer’s tasting room perches on a hillside at 2,200 feet offering sweeping views of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Adelaida produces 24 varieties, with a laser focus on all things Rhône. Proud owners of the HMR Vineyard, the oldest Pinot Noir Vineyard on the Central Coast, and a Viognier with a cult following, you can taste a relaxed hilltop flight for $20, a private reserve flight for $30, or treat yourself to the $50 two-hour Tour, Taste and Tailgate adventure. Explore the 150-acre estate and savor the wines in the vineyards in which they are grown.
#2 Calcareous Vineyard
Sip lush Rhône blends while soaking in the breathtaking 180- degree views through the glass walls of the massive wide-open tasting room. Grab a chilled Lily Blanc blend of Viognier, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc to pair with your picnic, along with the deeply seductive Moose red blend or the jammy Syrah. For $10 you’ll sample up to seven wines, and if you stop in on the weekend, a food and wine pairing lunch is served with no reservations required.
#3 Cass Winery
145 acres of perfectly ripened Rhônes and a decidedly chic tasting room designed to showcase them make a stop at Cass a must. Try the limited production, estate wine flight for $10 (waived with bottle purchase), or better yet, stay for lunch Pair a flight of wines with the chef’s gourmet creations outside on the vineyard-side veranda for approximately $22 per person. Grab the Rockin’ One red blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah, or the Late Harvest Roussanne.
#4 Clautiere Vineyard
Refreshingly fun, colorful, whimsical, and creative – Clautiere is a palate cleanser for the eyes. Metal sculptures and mosaics designed and crafted by co-owner Claudine Blackwell greet you. Vibrant colors, shapes, and textures swirl around as you sample 100 percent estate Sparkling Viognier, Tempranillo, Malbec, Syrah, and serious Bordeaux blends, all generously paired with cheeses. What a lineup. What a hoot! It’s a small winery with a very big vibe, stellar wines, and a wig room guaranteed to make you snort wine out of your nose from laughing so hard.
#5 DAOU Vineyards & Winery
DAOU boasts one of the best views in all of Paso Robles from the stately Spanish Colonial winery at 2,000 feet. Brothers Georges and Daniel Daou created a handcrafted dream of a tasting room alongside a meticulously manicured garden and spacious patio with 360-degree views. Choose from a few flights, ranging from $20 to $45, but we suggest you explore the private wine and cheese or wine and chocolate tasting experiences. Six winemaker-selected DAOU Reserve wines are paired with artisan crafted cheeses or handcrafted chocolates from local chocolatier Mama Ganache for $50-$60 per person.
#6 Eberle Winery
Founded by “Godfather” of the Paso Robles wine industry, Gary Eberle, back in the late 1970s, visitors love the free tasting and complimentary cave tour at this esteemed winery. Bring your picnic to enjoy on the deck with the sweeping vineyard views, or pre-order a picnic lunch from the winery. Syrah and Cabernet are king at Eberle, but the limited production Sangiovese, Full Boar red blend, and Syrah Rosé rock.
#7 Halter Ranch Vineyards
After years of selling grapes to other wineries, Halter Ranch founded their own winery in 2005 and today turn out Bordeaux and Rhône-styles wines with sustainably farmed, 100 percent estate-grown grapes. The brand new, and very Green, multi-level gravity flow winery offers a tasting room and picnic area set in a beautiful garden shaded by massive oak trees. Stay a while and take the free 45-minute winery and cave tour. Better still, pay $25 to tour the subterranean cave network, sampling wines from barrels and finishing with current releases.
#8 Jada Vineyard & Winery
Climb the hill and follow the row of plum trees to this charming boutique winery committed to biodynamic farming practices. The very friendly staff keeps it low key and no pressure while they pour you five Reserve or Signature wines paired with artisan cheeses for less than $20. Finish with a sample of Jada’s Tuscan-style estate olive oil crafted from a blend of over 300 olive trees that thrive on the property. With Rhône wines named Jersey Girl, Hell’s Kitchen, and Sawbones — you know you’re guaranteed a great time at Jada.
#9 JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery
There’s more to JUSTIN than that iconic Isosceles blend, but we’d never turn down a luscious full-bodied red from one of the best producers in Paso Robles since the early 80s. JUSTIN’S fossilized limestone soil births meaty Bordeaux-style reds you can sip in the open and airy resort-like tasting room or al fresco on the patio. A multitude of tastings, tours, seminars, the popular restaurant, and the three-suite JUST Inn provide plenty of getting acquainted options for guests. So worth the drive!
#10 Le Vigne Winery
If you love a little cheese and chocolate with your wine — and who among us does not? — Le Vigne is a must-stop. There’s a full cheese shop in the winery, and the tasting room boasts the Central Coast’s largest charcuterie bar. We’d suggest you opt for both flights: the Reserve tasting for $10 and the Cheese or Chocolate flight for $15. You even receive a logo cheese board. Plan to picnic on the covered patio or in the outdoor wine park with the 1947 Pullman Train car.
#11 Niner Wine Estates
One of the newest wineries in Paso Robles, Niner boasts LEED-certified architecture and sustainable farming techniques. Try the flagship Bordeaux-style wines in a pristine new building set in immaculate grounds with views of Heart Hill. Taste six wines for $10 and buy just one bottle for a fee waive. The winery’s restaurant serves a weekend lunch that includes such treasures as Duck Leg Confit paired with the Reserve Sangiovese and Grilled Quail & Savory Bread Pudding washed down with the Reserve Syrah.
#12 Opolo Vineyards
280 acres of gently rolling vineyards dotted with owl boxes growing Viognier, Pinot Gris, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel, and Sangiovese lead you to the bright red tasting room with the cheery staff and fire roasted pizzas. A $10 tasting fee grants you access to Opolo’s stellar, sustainably grown lineup. Linger a while and enjoy oysters served three ways on the relaxed patio.
#13 Oso Libre
Oso Libre’s Adelaida District tasting room is bright, contemporary, and vibrant, just like their sustainably grown wines. The winery’s strong commitment to environmentally friendly agriculture and renewable energy strategies is on display everywhere you look, especially in the busy vineyards as Olde English Babydoll sheep, grass fed Black Angus, and free-range chickens work the land. Pay $12 for a sampling of some beautiful white and red blends in an inspiring setting.
#14 Peachy Canyon Winery
Calling all Zin Heads: Peachy Canyon is your dream destination. The winery sources grapes from over twenty local growers and sustainably farms over 100 acres of their own plantings in four estate vineyards on the west side of Paso Robles. Known for Estate Zinfandels, a $10 tasting fee gets you into the circa 1886 Old Bethel School House and the chance to try over a dozen handcrafted small batch Rhône and Bordeaux varietals and more than a few Zins.
#15 Pear Valley Vineyards
Beautiful stonework, vine-wrapped archways, and blooming rose gardens showcase the vast tasting room at Pear Valley and convince you that you’re not in California any more. Pear Valley’s stated goal is to produce high-quality wines that people can afford to drink every day, and they succeed beautifully. You’ll find over a dozen selections in the sub-$20 range, including a lovely Chenin Blanc, Orange Muscat, and the “Pretty Girls” Muscat Canelli. Pay $10 to sample five of the estate offerings.
#16 Penman Springs Vineyard
Penman Springs is a very hospitable, warm, and friendly stop on the Union Road Wine Trail. The intimate, family-owned artisan winery produces very affordable estate grown Muscat Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Petit Verdot on their 40-acre property. You’ll enjoy a complimentary tasting as long as you buy something, and they’ll ply you with delicious appetizers as you sip. Sit outside, relax, and enjoy a refreshing Alsatian-style Dry Humor Muscat Blanc or the Two Roses Syrah Rosé.
#17 Robert Hall Winery
This state-of-the art wine facility owned and operated by Robert Hall and family produces small lots of 11 varietals with a focus on Rhone, Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Do take the 30-minute guided tour and barrel tasting in the underground 19,000-square-foot cavern system, the largest on the Central Coast. Belly up to the wraparound tasting bar with the majestic views, and then mix it up outside on one of the two regulation Bocce courts.
#18 Sextant Wines
Ambitious and classy Sextant has 486 acres of vineyards stretching across three distinct Central Coast AVAs: Paso Robles AVA, Edna Valley AVA in San Luis Obispo County, and San Lucas AVA in Monterey County. The Sextant Wines Estate Winery and Hospitality Center is on the west side of Highway 46 in Paso Robles, and the Edna Valley Tasting Room and Hospitality Center is in nearby San Luis Obispo. The Paso Robles tasting room is exquisite and serves reserve wine tastings for up to $13, waived with a three-bottle purchase. Make time for the $75 ($90 with lunch), 90-minute Estate Tour, and you’ll receive an overview of the three distinctive AVAs and their terrain, a tour of the vineyards, and sample an array of current offerings.
#19 SummerWood Winery
Elegant wood and comfy leather furniture speak to the vision of this ultra-premium, limited production maker of American Rhône and Bordeaux wines. Pull up a fireside chair and relax a while, or retire to the expansive deck and garden gazebo with the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard overlook views. The tasting bar offers a clear look into the tank room where you can watch the unique blends receive tender loving care from specially designed equipment. Stay at the SummerWood Inn Bed & Breakfast across from the winery, and you’ll be treated to free wine tastings, afternoon snacks, and farm-to-table breakfast. The contemporary farmhouse-style inn is just four miles from downtown Paso Robles and makes a great base camp for exploring the region over a longer period.
#20 Tablas Creek Vineyard
Affectionately known as “California’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” Tablas Creek is the love child of American wine merchant Robert Haas and the Perrin Family of the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape winery Chateau de Beaucastel. The founders wanted their California Rhône wines to precisely replicate the French vineyards, so cuttings from France were imported and grafted onto the rootstock. Step into the tasting room and you feel like you’re adrift in a massive wine barrel as you peer directly into the cellar through glass walls. Estate tastings are $10 per person, (waived with a one-bottle purchase), and a private reserve tasting of rare library selections runs $40. For sure take the tour through the grapevine nursery and the organic vineyards.
#21 Tobin James Cellars
Tobin James Cellars is 8 miles east of Paso Robles on Highway 46, but you’ll swear you stepped onto the set of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” when you approach. Once a stagecoach stop, the tasting room is found underneath the huge water pump and resembles a genuine Wild West saloon, complete with a brass rail for your boots, intricately carved panels, and warm wood everywhere. Belly up to the 1860’s Brunswick mahogany bar and ready your palate not for whiskey, but for generous pours of award-winning Zinfandels, Syrah, and for the white lovers — Sundance Sauvignon Blanc and a James Gang Reserve Riesling. It’s a super fun stop on your happy trail!
#22 Turley Wine Cellars
The “one and only” King Zin Larry Turley, former ER doc and founding partner of Frog’s Leap, opened Turley Wine Cellars in 1993 to focus on old vine reds, notably Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Turley now curates 28 separate wines from 35 different vineyards, some with vines stretching back to the late 1800s. Check the site for updates, but late 2015 found the tasting room pouring Zinfandels from Paso Robles, Atlas Peak, and Napa Valley, including several of the highly rated 2013s, for a steamy price of $10 per person, waived with a two-bottle purchase. Truly, we recommend you spend $40 and book a limited seat at the table for a focused tasting of classic and reserve tastings in the library.
#23 Whalebone Vineyard
The Simpson family dug up whalebones while plating their vines on the 1,800-foot hill overlooking the Adelaida region in the late 1980s, thus the cetacean theme. They now raise Angus cattle and 128 acres full of Cabernet Sauvignon. Step into the tasting barn and quaff the fruit-forward and intense cult favorite BOB WINE (Estate Cabernet, Merlot, and Petite Sirah), Zinfandel, Syrah, and several exotic white and red Rhône blends.
#24 Wild Coyote Estate Winery
Bold and strong like the name implies, Wild Coyote is a small, family-owned winery that has been turning out some big red wines since 1995. One of the first 20 wineries in the area, they practice “old school” winemaking and grow Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Mourvedre, Tannat, and Tempranillo in the newly designated Adelaida District. Visit the adobe-style “House-Of-Reds” to sample unfiltered, juicy wines for $10. Stroll the vineyards and picnic next to the genuine Native American Tipi and sweat lodge. If you plan to stay in the area, check into one of the five Santa Fe-style guest casitas at the winery’s B&B.
#25 Zenaida Cellars
Zenaida winemaker and owner Eric Ogorsolka’s 35-acre property contains 22 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards. The winery resides in the original 100-plus-year-old homestead of the property. Zenaida produces small lots from nine estate varietals and additional grapes sourced from a small group of Paso Robles AVA growers. Grenache, Zinfandel, Cabernet, and a few exciting blends like the ZC Red (60% Petite Sirah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah) make for a red-lover-focused line-up. The staff is warm and accommodating, there’s a beautiful vineyard-overlook picnic area, and two well-appointed suites above the tasting room where you can lay your head. Based on customer feedback, Zenaida offers one of the best wine club programs in the industry.