Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles lies the Paso Robles American Viticulture Area, or AVA. With growing conditions and soils unique to California, the popular wine region produces some of America's favorite wines, and lots more undiscovered small-production wines.
The Paso Robles AVA
Paso Robles is a unique area that has more than 200 wineries and 40,000 acres under grapevine. Many varieties are represented here with an emphasis on French Rhone vines.
Winemaking history here dates as far back as 1790 when Catholic Franciscan Friars built an assistance mission between the larger northern San Luis Obispo and southern San Miguel missions on what's now known as the Santa Margarita Ranch. Here they raised cattle and farmed the land, thankfully for us with grapevines included.
In 1828 the area was recorded as El Paso de Robles which means the Pass of the Oaks, it was shorted later when the city was founded in 1886.
In the 1920s Zinfandel was the most widely planted grape in California and in Paso Robles the Pesenti and Dusi families planted vineyards that Turley Winery currently makes delicious single vineyard Zinfandels from. Come by the store and find out for yourself as long as supplies last..
The area remained quaint and old fashioned until the early 1970s when the region's winemaking potential started to be realized. One of the first modern wineries was Hoffman Mountain Ranch, a 1,200 acre ranch that was planted then to Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, some of the first French varieties of the area. Under the guidance of legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff who was their consultant and helped introduce French Oak and stainless steel tanks, Hoffman Mountain Ranch showed for the first time that despite the challenges of the region great wine can be made.
The history of Hoffman Mountain Ranch lives on despite closing in 1981, as Daou Winery purchased most of the land and restored the original winery. Adelaida Vineyards bought the HMR Ranch Pinot Noir and Cabernet Vineyards.
Gary Eberle followed with his own trailblazing spirit, planting some of the very first commercial acreage of Syrah which is now a Paso Robles staple, before anyone else. By 1983 the secret of Paso Robles' great wines was out and it was officially recognized as an AVA of more than 550,000 acres which soon expanded thirteen years later to include the vineyards in the western hills and then again in 2008 which extended the southern border.
In 2014 the region was subdivided into 11 different viticultural areas, the first time this large growing area, 42 miles east to west and 32 miles north to south has been split up to highlight all the different microclimates and soils. Jason Haas of Tablas Creek is a wealth of information on this topic and I would encourage anyone wanting to know more to check out his great Tablas Creek blog.
The differences of these new areas can be vast as the western most edge of Paso Robles, just 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean receives around 30 inches of rain annually compared to under 10 inches at the eastern end. Elevations can range from 700 to 2,400 ft and large temperature differences are found between the coolest and hottest areas along with soil variations that determine what will grow best.
Wineries in these new sub AVAs will now be focusing on these variations and we consumers get to see how producers narrow down their choice in varieties and winemaking style.
Could we see more Italian, Portuguese and Spanish grapes in these new areas as they try to market their brand in new ways? Only time will tell but as wine lovers and consumers we will help decide by tasting and buying the new and exciting wines that will be coming.
Keep coming to The Wine Country where you'll find all your old Paso Robles favorites plus wines from these new AVAs.
The Wine Country is going crazy for Paso Robles this August. One event is a Winery spotlight on Cass Winery on Thursday August 30th. Ted Plemons and Steve Cass decided to become business partners during a wine trip in South Africa after one or two...or three bottles of Shiraz. Cass Winery would be the combination of Ted's 30 year experience building custom homes and boutique wineries, the large vineyards already owned by Steve Cass and their shared desire to produce amazing wine in Paso Robles. Ted, of course, is the guy in the Hawaiian shirt below next to Steve Cass.
Often blended together with its twin Marsanne, Roussanne by itself will bring ripe rich flavors of pear and a powerful mouthfeel of honeyed richness. Since this grape will already provide such intensity, malolactic fermentation was inhibited. This had the additional benefit of preserving acidity in the wine, adding a fresh crisp character to balance its ripe fruit. Expect ripe golden delicious apple, apple butter and crushed white flowers for its floral aromatics.
With Cass Winery you can expect vibrant dynamic flavor and this Syrah is no exception. Paso Robles does an excellent job at providing warm days and long growing seasons for the grapevines to ripen fully so expect plenty of dried black fruit here. There is freshness in this wine though that balances such rich flavor and the quality remains high making a smooth finish. Despite such warmth in Paso Robles cool evenings ensures no overly baked and prune flavors. This massive Syrah full of dried blackberry, dark cherry and sweet tobacco was aged for 22 months in French and American oak.
This smooth Rhone style blend is full of ripe black fruit and stewed blueberries. Grenache here provides a touch of red cherry and cranberry that freshens the wine up. Mourvedre adds a depth of caramel and forest floor earthiness. Syrah brings a bit of black pepper and raspberry black tea flavor. Sure, there is more complex wine out there, but this bottle is fun with a very smooth approachable finish able to please a group of friends with its high quality and great price.
Also Featured from Paso Robles:
This is a limited release from our oldest California Winery, owned and operated by the Riboli family for generations to celebrate their 100th anniversary. This bold beauty was aged in French oak for 24 months, adding spice and toasty vanilla to the rich decadent blackberry and chocolate notes. This is a blend of premium selected estate fruit: 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Malbec, 21% Petit Verdot, 11% Petite Sirah, and 4% Syrah. This shows the pedigree and dedication of this family. Worth every penny!
$91.99 per bottle