by Xochitl Maiman – January 7, 2017
Downtown Paso Robles offers a comprehensive wine tasting experience that’s still a secret to many touring and tasting visitors to the area.
The Paso Robles wine region of Central California is no longer the secret of locals and wine writers on the lookout for the next best thing. Nope, Paso Robles is now a major player in the California wine scene, in fact, it was named “Wine Region of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2013.
The region, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and named for its oak studded rolling hills on either side of the 101 freeway, boasts over 200 bonded wineries, many of them with tasting rooms along various wine trails zig zagging through the hills. Visitors can literally spend days touring and tasting before heading back into town for dinner.
What is still somewhat of a secret is that there are over a dozen tasting rooms located in the charming and historic downtown area, offering myriad wine varietals and styles for every palate. These tasting rooms generally represent smaller boutique wineries that aren’t equipped with an “on site” tasting room facility to receive guests, or are just too far off the wine trails to be easily found. Most of the wineries belong to the Paso Robles Downtown Wineries Association, and each offers a unique tasting experience. Many also offer live music performances in the late afternoon and evenings on weekends.
The trick is to actually plan to spend a few hours downtown – simply park your car and stroll the streets surrounding the downtown park, stopping to taste wine, have lunch, and shop at any of the wonderful stores boasting food goods, clothing, home décor, antiques and collectibles. Alternatively, you could spend a few hours tasting, then relax with some music in one of the tasting rooms before heading to dinner with your new favorite wine in hand.
If you’re planning a trip to Paso Robles, you might consider planning to be there when the Downtown Tasting Rooms have one of their “wine strolls”, usually once during each season. This is the perfect opportunity to meet many of the winemakers/owners themselves, and each tasting room generally offers a food pairing to showcase one of their wines. Many also offer music and wine specials during these events. The group also does similar walk-around events to benefit various charities, like Zoo to You and Wine 4 Paws.
I haven’t visited all the downtown tasting rooms yet, and more have opened recently, but here are a few standouts I would suggest.
Located in the historic train depot, just a couple of blocks from the Downtown Paso Robles Park, are Anglim Winery, producing wines primarily from Rhone varietals, and the very unique tasting room of D’Anbino Cellars. Co-owners John D’ Andrea and Carmine Rubino, come from the music industry and their tasting room is like a TV and film music museum with much of their music memorabilia on display. The tasting room bar is made of piano sound boards and the whole place doubles as a much sought after music venue featuring some of the finest musicians in California, with concerts 2-3 times a week. Their annual “Italian-night” is a ton of fun.
LXV is one of the most unique tasting rooms you will probably ever experience. Here your senses are aroused by the color of the walls, the texture of the fabrics of the couches, the smell of spice, and, of course, the taste of their beautifully crafted wines with labels inspired by the 64 arts of Kamasutra.
For most unique building, Derby Wine Estates, located in an iconic Downtown Paso Robles landmark, is the place to visit. Erected in 1922, the building was a processing plant for the Almond Growers Association for the period of time when almonds were the area’s prime agricultural commodity. The building went through a number of incarnations before being purchased and meticulously renovated by the Derby’s in 2010. Call ahead for a “reserve tasting” in their lofty “Almond Room” with stunning views of the surrounding hills.
Frolicking Frog also boasts a unique location as it shares space with a jewelry store, fitting as owner/winemaker Stu Goldman is also a jeweler. The “jewels” of his winemaking include rich, lush wines made from zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and other red varietals.
Parrish Family Vineyard not only offers wonderful wines, both red and white, but their family history is deeply rooted in the Paso Robles area. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a day when David Parrish or his daughter, Cecily, is there, do ask for the family story while you sip one of their delicious zinfandels or Cabernets. Don’t miss the “Silken” blends, both white and red versions.
Download and print tasting guide and map of Downtown Paso Robles Wineries tasting rooms.
I’LL DRINK TO THAT!