When you think of California wine, you often go to Napa or Sonoma. And given it’s proximity to the Bay Area, it’s the one we always visited when we lived there. But that has finally changed. This past weekend we drove up to Paso Robles with our dog Remy and spent a hot but relaxing weekend there.
Before we cover the wineries we visited and where we stayed, let’s quickly have a look at Paso Robles wine region and its history.
Paso Robles (PASS-oh ROH-buulz), is a city within San Luis Obispo County. It sits roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Paso Robles AVA (American Viticulture Area) was first established in 1983, with an amendment in 1996. The area covers about 666,618 acres and is split into 11 sub viticulture areas. Each with varying terroir.
Here’s a quick list of the sub AVAs of Paso Robles:
- Adelaida District AVA
- Creston District AVA
- El Pomar District AVA
- Paso Robles Estrella District AVA
- Paso Robles Geneseo District AVA
- aso Robles Highlands District AVA
- Paso Robles Willow Creek District AVA
- San Juan Creek AVA
- San Miguel District AVA
- Santa Margarita Ranch AVA
- Templeton Gap District AVA
Although its official establishment as an AVA was in 1983, wine making in this region dates back to 1787 when grapes were introduced by missionaries at Mission San Miguel Arcangel. With the first known commercial wine growing starting in the 1880s. In the 1990s there were fewer than 20 wineries in the area, and with explosive growth you’ll find around 200 there today.
Most wine regions will be known for a specific grape and Paso Robles is no different. Zinfandel was the most common grape grown in this area, but as the area matured and more wineries were established you’ll find a huge variety of varietals. In the ’60s many growers started planting Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties. In the ’80s Rhone varieties such as Syrah, Voignier and Roussanne were planted.
There are many wonderful hotels in the region, ranging from boutique to larger well known names. There are many pet friendly hotels so we decided to bring Remy. So we chose Allegretto Vineyard Resort, situated not too far from downtown (and fairly close to a supercharger). If you have your dog with you, you have to pick one of the ground floor rooms with a Terrazza. They provided us with dog bowls and a doggy bed for Remy.
I will admit, it was a bit overwhelming trying to decide which wineries we wanted to visit. There were so many great options. As with hotels, having a dog narrowed down the list a bit more. With only two days in Paso, we wanted to be thoughtful with the wineries we visited.
Our first stop was Tooth & Nail. We had decided to stop here for our lunch break after our 3 hr drive and prior to checking into the hotel. My wife was particularly intrigued by the winery because it is literally a castle surrounded by a moat, not to mention the selection of wines available.
Tooth & Nail was founded by Rob Murray with a focus on creating unique blends. Alongside their blends, you can find some really great single grape wines. Ranging from Syrah to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Along with lunch, we obviously decided to do their wine tasting. My wife had a tasty salad, unfortunately my chicken sandwich wasn’t as good. Luckily, their wines were worth the visit. Starting off with their Chardonnay, which was really refreshing on the warm day. The rest of the wines included a Gamay Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and their two popular blends: The Stand and The Possessor.
The Stand was a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Viognier. The color of this wine was very dark thanks to the Viognier, which helps extract more color from the skins of the Syrah and Petite Sirah. Finally, The Posessor was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah & Malbec. A lot of currant, cedar and some vanilla notes.
We decided to relax at the hotel for the rest of the afternoon before heading to dinner. Remy knocked out for a bit too.
On the Sunday we had two tasting booked: Booker and Daou.
The name Booker comes from the two orphan brothers, Claude and Dick Booker, who had purchased the land in the late 1920’s. By the turn of the century the Booker brothers had acquired over 1,200 acres on Paso’s Westside. In 2001 Eric and Lisa Jensen purchased 100 acres of the property. 2005 Vintage was Booker Vineyard’s first release with the wines being made by owner Eric Jensen.
If you want to experience a lovely setting with beautiful wines, you have to visit Booker. Wonderfully decorated with a welcoming atmosphere really helped us both sit and relax while going through some of their offerings. We chose the Terrace tasting to have a more intimate experience at this beautifully fully curated winery Here’s a quick list of the wines we tasted and I’ll talk about a few specifically:
- 2020 White (50% Viognier, 33% Roussanne, 10% Chardonnay, 7% Marsanne)
- 2019 Ripper EXT (100% Grenache)
- 2019 Oublié (34% Grenache, 31% Syrah, 27% Mourvèdre, 4% Tannat, 4% Petite Sirah)
- 2019 Vertigo EXT (48% Syrah, 47% Mourvèdre, 3% Grenache, 2% Viognier)
- 2019 Fracture and Fracture EXT (100% Syrah)
- 2020 Pink
- 2019 Ones
Booker’s wines were wonderfully balanced throughout the aroma to the taste. Their White has a great level of acidity but a lot of texture, making it super silky. (Yes, they know the irony of calling their white wine White.) Although the Ones isn’t something they usually give during their tasting (neither their Pink), but it was such a pleasure to experience. Super dark in color with a complexity that’s hard to describe. The Pink is a wonderfully made, crisp rose that is reminiscent of Provence style roses.
In a few of the items, you might notice EXT. This is short for extended and indicates the fact that they aged it a bit longer in the barrel. When we compared the Fracture and Fracture EXT, you can immediately notice the stronger tannins in the EXT.
I wanted to thank Antoine at Booker for giving us an unforgettable experience and a tour through their cellar and wine making area. So much so, we are now club members and brought some wine home with us.
After a super relaxing tasting at Booker it was time to head over to Daou. This winery is definitely one of the more popular wineries from Passo Robles, and its location alone is worth visiting. Daou sit at the highest point in Paso and the views they have are indescribable.
In 1961, Dr. Stanley Hoffman, a Beverly Hills cardiologist, moved his family to Paso Robles to follow his dream of becoming a winemaker. It was known as Hoffman Mountain Ranch, the property produced notable wines and was widely considered the birthplace of modern winemaking in Paso Robles. When Georges and Daniel acquired the original Hoffman Mountain Ranch property, they completely restored the original redwood winery preserving a vital part of Paso Robles history.
We were lucky that Daou also served lunch because we were super hungry! As we enjoyed our food we slowly went through their wine tasting. You can see some of the wines we tasted from the photos below. Daou had a huge range of wines all with their own unique characteristics. Their Cuvee Lizzy and Unbound were two of our favorites, and we brought some with us.
- 2020 Pinot Noir
- 2020 Cuvee Lizzy
- 2020 Unbounded
- 2020 Seventeen Forty Reserve
- 2021 Chemin de Fluers
It was a wonderful weekend in Paso Robles, even when the temperature hit over 100F. Thank you to Tooth & Nail, Booker and Daou for making our visit so special. We will definitely be back.