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San Luis Obispo County

The San Luis Obispo County area, including Paso Robles, Templeton and the Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande areas, has grown to be perhaps my favorite wine-producing region. The scenery is beautiful and pastoral, the wines are excellent, the wineries are generally uncrowded, and there are enough wineries to keep one busy for days. The most common varietals grown and produced here are Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The Zinfandels, no doubt, are some of the best in the country. Lesser-known Italian varietals are also becoming very popular. There is a growing selecton of accommodations- from small, secluded bed-and-breakfasts to hotels and motels in the city.

Not only are the wineries increasing in number every year, they are scattered throughout the Paso Robles area. It would literally take a week to visit each of these wineries. Many are located on Highways 46 West (west of 101 Fwy) and 46 East (east of 101 Fwy), however many are found in the hills of West Paso Robles and as far north as San Miguel. If you have the time to visit the "far out" wineries, I definitely recommend touring the wineries on Vineyard Drive (west of 101 and north of 46) and looping back to the 101 via Adelaida Road or Peachy Canyon Road. The scenery is worth the drive in itself.

The Edna Valley/Arroyo Grande area wineries are located at the bottom of this page.

Some of my personal recommendations are listed at the end of the page.

Adelaida Cellars
5805 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles / 805-239-0190

Adelaida is a winery not to be missed. The vineyard practices an organic philosophy of growing grapes which ultimately become some very intense wines. The tasting experience was very special with Susan, the manager of the tasting room, serving several homemade Hors de Ouvres which were specifically created to compliment select wines. The Zinfandel was excellent, rich in raspberry and black pepper, and the Cabernet Sauvignon was exceptionally dark with cassis and cherry flavors. The GPI (General Paralysis of the Insane) Select Cabernet Sauvignon, a non-vintage blend of Cabernet and Syrah, was a good value. Don't expect a fancy tasting room or gift shop here- just some very good wines.

AJB Vineyards
3280 Township Road, Paso Robles / 805-239-9432

The Spartan tasting room, housed in a white wood bungalow, opened it's doors in October 1999, eight years after the first planting. The winery produces 400 cases per year, all of which are estate-grown and available only at the winery. The short wine list consists of a Viognier with green apple and citrus flavors, Nebiollo, a smoky, fruity Sangiovese with jammy raspberry and blackberry flavors and a peppery Syrah wth black currant, plum and blackberry flavors. I especially liked the Viognier and Nebiollo.

Arciero Winery
Hwy 46 East, Paso Robles / 805-239-2562

This is a very popular eatate winery of Italian architecture, expansive lawns, and beautiful landscaping. Not only are their wines priced less than most of the competition, they have a very large wine boutique, one of the largest that I've ever seen, and even a race car exhibit (Arciero is a name you might know from auto racing). The wines are all modestly priced, and the large selection includes Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and several Italian varietals.

Bonny Doon Tasting Room at Sycamore Farms
Hwy 46 West, Paso Robles / 805-239-5614

Bonny Doon is situated in a barn-like structure on the herb and produce complex of Sycamore Farms. The wines of Bonny Doon Vineyard, known for their humorous names and labels, are tasted in a refreshingly funky atmosphere with a staff that likes to have fun. The wines, despite the funny names, are very good. I especially liked the Vin Gris de Cigare (a Rhone blend) and the Clos De Gilroy (a spicy Grenache). You'll also find a large selection of funky gifts and natural herbs.

Caparone Winery
2280 San Marcos Road, Paso Robles / 805-467-3827

Caparone Winery has been specializing in Italian varietal wines such as Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Aglianico since 1979. This is a small, no-nonsense family winery under the direction of winemaker Dave Caparone, and the tasting bar is usually manned by Dave or his son Marc. The industrial winery building conveys this no-nonsense attitude, where visitors can taste the wines and watch the winemaking process first hand.

Caparone produces unfined and unfiltered Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Aglianico, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo. The wines are of the light-bodied, fruity, and drinkable-now style and are very reasonably priced.

Carmody-McKnight Estate Wines
11240 Chimney Rock Road, Paso Robles / 805-238-9392

Carmody-McKnight (formerly Silver Canyon), is owned by actor Gary Conway (of "Land of the Giants" fame) and his wife, former Miss America, Marian. The setting is idyllic-- a small lake, lilies, green hills and a rustic ranch. The tasting room is nice and bright and lined with several of Gary's paintings. On warm days the tasting is sometimes moved outdoors under a canopy beside the lake. The setting is one of the most beautiful of any winery and the wines are among the best in the area. This "Far Out" winery is definitely worth the drive and is a good starting point for a wine tour.

Wine production includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a Bordeaux-style blend. The Chardonnay was light and fruity with apple and peach flavors and the Pinot Noir was peppery with plum and black cherry fruit, the Cabernet Franc had nuances of cranberry and rose petals, and the Merlot exhibited currant and black cherry flavors and a nice finish. The Late Harvest Cabernet Franc, the only one of it's kind in the world, was lush and fruity with black chery and cassis flavors. A clean, fresh Brut Cuvee Sparkling Wine was recently introduced.

Castoro Cellars
1315 N. Bethel Road, Templeton / 805-238-0725 / castorocellars.com

The tasting room is housed in a beautiful Italian-styled building with a long trellised colonnade enmeshed with grape vines. The room is huge with a fireplace, beamed ceilings, a long tasting bar, and crowded with many gift items. The tasting staff is always friendly (many thanks to Aaron Palmer) and there is a nice picnic area in the courtyard outside. Castoro is Italian for beaver and the fitting motto is "dam fine wine."

The Zinfandels are the hot items here, and there are many styles to choose from. Of these, my favorite is a big and bold rendition called Zinfusion. In addition to the Zins, Castoro also produces Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Primativo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat Canelli and a Late Harvest Zinfandel Port. The Chardonnay was surprisingly good, crisp and buttery, however my favorite non-Zin is the full-bodied Tempranillo, with black cherry flavors and plenty of tannins. Overall, I find these wines to be among the best in the county and beyond.

Chumeia Vineyards
8331 Highway 46 East, Paso Robles / 805-226-0102 / chumeiavineyards.com

Winemaker Lee Nesbitt turned to making wine after being drafted as a linebacket for the Minnesota Vikings. After forming a partnership with co-owners Mark Nesbitt and John Simpson, he opened Chumeia (pronounced koo-may-a, Greek for alchemy) in May 2001. The winery is small and the tasting bar is situated in a corner of the winery, surrounded by stainless steel tanks and wine boxes- my favorite atmosphere. The wine list is impressive, as most of the juice is bought from other winegrowing areas, but the real surprise is in the quality of the wines. Like his enthusiastic personality, Lee makes enthusiastic, likeable wines, which are, by the way, very reasonably priced.

The wines include Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and several Zinfandels. My favorites were a Viogner that exhibited hints of apricot, peach and honeydew with a butterscotch finish; a Chardonnay with butterscotch and honey aromas; a Merlot with plum and dark fruit flavors and a licorice finish; an intense chocolate scented Cabernet with blackberry and raspberry flavors and a jammy, smooth Zinfandel.

Doce Robles Winery
2023 Twelve Oaks Drive, Paso Robles / 805-227-6521

Doce Robles Winery opened it's doors in October 1999. The long, narrow tasting room is open and airy with a tasteful selection of gift items, sauces and glassware. The tasting staff is friendly.

The wines consist of Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, a Bordeaux blend called Robles Rojos and a Late Harvest Zinfandel. The Chardonnay was light, with flavors of green apple and citrus, the Estate Merlot was medium-bodied with black cherry and pepper, the Estate Zinfandel was medium-bodied with berry and pepper flavors, the Syrah had cherry and plum flavors. The Robles Rojos, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, had plum and blackberry flavors with a smoky finish and the Late Harvest Zinfandel was light and semi-sweet.

Eberle Winery
Hwy 46 East, Paso Robles / 805-238-9607

Eberly Winery is one of the most popular wineries in Paso Robles. It is also one of the most award-winning wineries in the U.S. A crowd, sometimes several deep, can be found along the tasting bar that runs the length of the large tasting room at almost any time of day. In addition to a nice selection of wine-related gifts, the tasting room offers panoramic views of the vineyards and hillsides. I would also highly recommend the ten-minute tour that will take you into the winery below the tasting room and into the wine caves.

The winery produces Roussanne, Viognier, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Although all wines are highly rated, Eberly is known for their excellent Syrahs. The Steinbeck Vineyard Syrah boasted black cherry flavors and big, bold and peppery notes, the Lonesome Oak Syrah was smoky and woody with plenty of plum fruit. Also of note was the Viognier, exhibiting pineapple and green apple flavors and an excellent Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

Fratelli Perata Winery
1595 Arbor Rd., Paso Robles / 805-238-2809

Fratelli Perata Winery was established in 1987 by brothers Gino and Joe Perata and remains family-owned and operated. The winery may be a little hard to find from the road, and even after successfully locating it, one can wonder if this is the winery at all. Unlike the larger commercial wineries, Fratelli Perata has a very unpretentious and homey feel to it. The tasting room (look for the beautiful wall mural) is almost entirely filled with wine barrels-- reminiscent of the way wineries used to look prior to the onset of "visitor centers."

All wines are hand made, unfined and unfiltered and are produced from estate vineyards planted in 1980. The winery produces Syrah, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The Sangiovese and Merlot were the standouts.

Harmony Cellars
3255 Harmony Valley, Harmony / 805-927-1625

Harmony Cellars is located in the coastal town of Harmony- just south of San Simeon and Cambria and about 30 minutes east of Paso Robles voa Hwy 46. The tasting room, which includes an extensive gift boutique, is in a spacious barn-like structure on a hill overlooking the tiny villiage and Pacific Ocean. As with the stunning view, I was pleasantly surprised with some very good wines, especially with a very nice, buttery Chardonnay. Harmony also produces Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinjolais- a blend of Zinfandel and Beaujolais.

Hunt Cellars
2875 Oakdale Road, Paso Robles / 805-237-1600

Located in a wood bungalow, the tasteful tasting room, which opened in October 1999 along with several others, consists of a tasting bar and a white grand piano. Having tasted the first release of winemaker David Hunt's wines, I am expecting this to be a producer of some of the area's best wines. A Sauvignon Blanc had flavors of melon and a very fruity finish, the buttery Chardonnay had nuances of green apple and the Sangiovese had a bouquet of carmel and honey and flavors of cranberries and raspberries. The Syrah, a great barbecue wine, had flavors of black cherries and blueberries and a hint of spice and the Cabernet Sauvignon exhibited black cherry and vanilla flavors. For a fee, you can taste the Zinfandel and an excellent blend called Rhapsody in Red.

JanKris Winery
1266 Bethel Road, Templeton / 805-434-0319

The JanKris Winery tasting room, formerly of Dover Canyon, is located in a 120-year old Victorian house situated in a ranch setting complete with farm animals. The tasting room has a very small tasting bar which is often shoulder-to-shoulder in tasters, and offers some gift items and sauces for sale. This is a fine place for a picnic or lunch: the winery offers a prepared deli menu available for take-out or to eat at the winery and there is a nice grassy area and a gazebo available to eat, sip wine and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere. The host staff are very friendly and offer a lot to the experience.

JanKris produces Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet/Syrah, Syrah, a Merlot-Zinfandel blend called Merzin, Zinfandel, Sangiovese and a Port. The Chardonnay had tropical and toasty flavors with a creamy finish, and the Zinfandel had berry, cranberry and light pepper flavors. My favorite is the smooth, rich Port.

Justin Vineyards and Winery
11680 Chimney Rock Rosd, Paso Robles / 805-237-4150

The winery looks much like a French Chateau and now includes a Bed & Breakfast called the Just Inn. The tasting is done at a round table in the middle of a square tasting room. The Cabernet Sauvignon had nice plum and cherry flavors and the Justification (my favorite), a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, had plum and cassis flavors- both with a nice tannin finish. I also like their blended red wine called Isosceles. Also available are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel.

Laura's Vineyard
5620 Hwy 46 East, Paso Robles / 805-238-6300

The Laura's Vineyard tasting room is located in small cottage overlooking the vineyards and Highway 46 East. There is no winery on the premises. The tasting room sells wine-related gifts and clothing items and is usually staffed by long-time tasting hosts Betty and Mary. And who's Laura you ask? Winery founder Cliff Giacobine named the winery after his mother Laura, who lived in the home now occupied by the tasting room.

Several recent changes of ownership have resulted in an inconsistent wine list. At my last visit there were only four wines available: a bright citrus and green apple flavored Chardonnay, a Merlot with black cherry and clove flavors, a blend named Old Bull Red, and a Zinfandel exhibiting jammy raspberry and black cherry flavors. Previous years have offered an excellent Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

L'Aventure Winery
2815 Live Oak Road, Paso Robles / 805-227-6988

This small winery, founded in 1998 by Stephan Asseo, produces a modest 7,500 cases annually. The tasting bar is located in the metal winery building nestled among the surrounding vineyards. The winery produces Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Syrah, and several Bordeaux blends. The best, by far, is the Estate Cuvee, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot. The wines are all very good but somewhat pricey, and the $10.00 tasting charge may turn some away.

Le Cuvier
9750 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles / 805-238-5706 / lcwine.com

You can expect some very good wines to come from the Le Cuvier label with winemaker and local legend John Munch (previous winemaker at Adelaida Cellars) at the helm. The Winery's tasting room seems almost as eclectic as John himself-- let's say a red schoolhouse with massive rock chimney followed by a glassed-in sunroom where the small tasting bar is located. There are a few gift items for sale here.

Le Cuvier produces Chardonnay, a white blend called Chrysos, a Rose, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The Chrysos, a blend of Viognier, Rousanne, Marsanne and Pavanne, had characteristics of orange peel and dried apricots, with a carmelized finish, and the Pinot Noir was light and dry with aromas of orange peels. My personal favorites were the rich and powerful Cabernet Sauvignon and the bright and fruity Zinfandel.

Linne Calodo
3845 Oakdale Roada, Paso Robles / 805-227-0797

A winding dirt road leads to a wooden barn structure that is the Linne Colado winery and tasting room. The winery's name is taken from the type of rocky, limestone soil found in westside Paso Robles. The winery, under direction of winemaker Matt Trevisan, specializes in Rhone and Zinfandel blends. There were three wines available at my last visit: a white blend of Viognier and Rousanne, and two blends of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. All were excellent, solid wines earning my top rating (5), although they were priced higher than most in the Paso Robles area.

Martin & Weyrich Winery
2610 Buena Vista Road, Paso Robles / 805-238-2520

The M&W (formerly Martin Brothers Winery) tasting room recently underwent a major renovation and is now one of the most impressive in the area. Resembling a Tuscan villa, you will find one of the best gift selections (especially higher-end items) at any winery here. They also have a good selection of deli items for sale and a nice picnic area complete with fountain.

Martin & Weyrich specializes in Italian varietal wines and they have quite a list to choose from. Included in their list are: Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Moscata Allegro, Nebbiolo, Insieme, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Cabernet Etrusco, a sparkling wine and several Grappas. Their signature wine, the Nebbiolo (they were the first grower and producer of Nebbiolo in the U.S. in modern time), is slightly spicy with cherry and tobacco flavors, and the Zinfandel La Primitiva had berry and black pepper flavors.

Mastantuono Winery
2720 Oak View Road, Templeton / 805-238-0676 / mastantuonowinery.com

Mastantuono Winery is beautiful- somewhat resembling an English hunting lodge from the outside and an Irish pub on the inside. The room is dominated by wood, including an enormous well-worn tasting bar. Along with the typical wine-related gifts there is an extensive selection of jarred food items, dried fruit, sauces, crackers and and some deli meats and cheeses and cold drinks. There is also a picnic area around the side in which one can relax and enjoy the view. Adam and the rest of the tasting staff are very friendly and informative.

Italian varietals are the specialty here. Mastantuono produces Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, White Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Barbera, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Muscat Canelli, Nebbiolo, an excellent Port and now a sparkling wine. The Chardonnay was buttery and tasted of citrus but my favorite white was the Chenin Blanc, which had apple and pear flavors with a floral aroma. The Sangiovese was very good with lots of black cherry flavors, the Syrah was peppery with lots of dark fruit, the Zinfandel was light and fruity and the Barbera Port was rich and smooth and a good value. Look out for the San Luis Tequila Wine-- a novelty but popular.

Meridian Vineyards
7000 Hwy 46 East, Paso Robles / 805-237-6000

Meridian, a very commercial venture owned by Beringer, has perhaps the most widespread distribution of Paso Robles wines. However, the winery is most worth a visiting to sample the limited release wines that are not commercially available elsewhere. There is also a nice selection of gift items available at the tasting room.

Midnight Cellars
2925 Anderson Road, Paso Robles / 805-239-8904 / midnightcellars.com

This is one of the newer wineries in the Templeton area and is a real family-run operation. Owned by the Hartenberger family, sons Mike and Rich run the tasting room. There are some gift items and clothing for sale.

Midnight produces Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, several red blends and a Rose. The Chardonnay was light and fruity, the Cabernet Sauvignon was fruity with good structure, and the Zinfandel was bright, fruity and tannic. The Mare Nectaris, a Bordeaux-style blend had medium body with dark fruit, plum and smoke flavors. You should find some good wine values here.

Norman Vineyards and Winery
7450 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles / 805-237-0138

Norman is housed in a huge building that seems to mirror the area's historical past. Access to the tasting room via a large wooden staircase leading to a balcony. Once inside, the tasting room resembles a huge, comfortable living room with a fireplace in the center and the tasting bar at the far corner. There is a fantastic view from the patio and a nice picnic area outside. Norman is billed as one of the "Far Out Wineries" of Paso Robles and is definitely worth the drive.

The winery produces Chardonnay, White Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, a Meritage blend, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Nebbiolo and several Zinfandels. The best wines are their Zinfandels, and they are known for their heavy and explosive "Monster Zin," of which they are often sold out. Their Merlot is excellent, a big fruity wine with nice tannins, the buttery Chardonnay had flavors of butterscotch, peach and green apple, and the Late Harvest Zinfandel is one of the best I've tasted. Owner Art Norman's favorite is the Cabernet Sauvignon, full of plum and black cherry flavors. Also of note are the "No Nonsense Red" Meritage blend, consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and the tannic and fruity Petite Syrah.

Opolo Vineyards
7110 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles / 805-238-9593 / opolo.com

Opalo (pronounced OPAL-oh), a joint venture by Rick Quinn and Dave Nichols-- neighbors in Camarillo, CA.-- opened its doors in May 2001 with 1999 as a first vintage. The spacious tasting room, with lots of oak barrels and a C-shaped tasting bar, is large and tasteful. The tasting staff were very friendly and encouraged tasters to have fun.

Opolo produces Viognier, Sangiovese, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel. All but the Viognier are estate-grown. My favorite wine is consistently the rich, jammy Mountain Zinfandel, one of my favorites in Paso Robles. Also earning top marks were an earthy and slightly smoky Syrah and a Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend called Fusion.

Peachy Canyon Winery
Hwy 46 West at Bethel Road, Paso Robles / 805-237-1577

Peachy Canyon recently moved from their "far out" location to the former Live Oak Vineyards location on the main highway. The Paso Robles Chardonnay had apricot and butter flavors, and there are several distinct Zinfandels to choose from. The Merlot was smoky and the Black Muscat dessert wine had a deep floral bouquet and was rich in raspberry flavors.

Pipestone Vineyards
2040 Niderer Road, Paso Robles / 805-227-6385 / pipestonevineyards.com

Opening in 2001, Pipestone Vineyards is small, producing under 2,000 cases annually. The grapes are organically farmed and the small tasting room includes some food and sauce items, a dog and a cat. Pipestone produces Viognier, Rose, Grenache, Melange, and Syrah. The tasting staff could use some improvement: speech regarding the visitor's obligation to buy their wines was presented at my last visit.

Pretty-Smith Vineyards & Winery
13350 River Road, San Miguel / 805-467-3104

Pretty-Smith Winery, located just north of Paso Robles, is literally a one woman show-- that woman being Lisa Pretty. Not only does Lisa farm 65 acres of grapes and make the wines, she also acts as tasting room host. The tasting room is decorated with bright orange walls and a Southwestern flavor. Specializing in Bordeaux varietals, the winery produces Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, a Late Harvest Zinfandel and a Zinfandel Port. My favorite is a mellow and smoky blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc called Palette de Rouge.

Rabbit Ridge Winery
1172 San Marcos Road, San Marcos / 805-467-3331

Rabbit Ridge Winery is located in the scenic San Marcos hills just north of Paso Robles. This is a large winery that produces a large selection of wines common to the area. The tasting room is spacious and includes an assortment of gift items.

Rabbit Ridge produces Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, a Rose, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Primativo, Zinfandel, Petit Syrah and Syrah, in addition to blended wines. The Zinfandels are powerful and outstanding and earned my highest ranking (5). The Syrah, exhibiting dark fruit and pepper notes, was not far behind. The wines are top quality and are priced as outstanding values (many as low as $6.00).

Rio Seco Vineyard
4295 Union Road, Paso Robles, CA / 805-237-8884

Rio Seco, which opened in February 2000, is owned former schoolteachers Tom Hinkle and his wife Carol. The big red barn that serves as the winery and barrel room was originally constructed as a catering room for a movie production. The front corner of the barn contains a rustic tasting bar and some wine-related and novelty gift items. There is a picnic table located outside the winery.

The winery produces Rousanne, Viognier, a 50/50 blend of Orange Muscat and Viognier, Zinfandel Rose, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel. The Muscat/Viognier blend, called "Viongerie," had fruity melon, peach and honeysuckle flavors-- nice for a warm afternoon. The Syrah had plum, black cherry and pepper flavors, The Cabernet Franc had spicy, plum and raspberry flavors with a light smoke finish and the very fruity Zinfandel had notes of raspberry, cherry and plum.

Robert Hall Winery
3443 Mill Road, Paso Robles / 805-239-1616 / roberthallwinery.com

Robert Hall's 40-year dream of producing wines is evident at this winery, just a short drive off the main highway. The winery includes 19,000 sq. ft. of underground caverns in which the wines are aged in an ideal environment. The huge tasting room, which includes a horseshoe-shaped tasting bar, opened in May 2002.

The wines include Sauvignon Blanc, a blush blend, Chardonnay, a Rhone blend, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Zinfandel. My favorites were the Cabernet Sauvignon and a yet-to-be-released Port. I recommend the short tour of the winery that includes the caverns.

Rotta Winery
3750 Hwy 46 West, Paso Robles / 805-237-0510

The historic Rotta Winery, founded in 1908 and the second oldest in San Luis Obispo County, has recently been given new life. The temporary location of the tasting room is located within the Cider Creek Bakery on Highway 46. A permanent location should arrive in 2006. Rotta produces Chardonnay, Zinfandel Rose, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat Canelli, Zinfandel Port and a Dessert Sherry. My favorites were the tart and fruity Estate Zinfandel, a light-bodied Merlot and the Zinfandel Port.

Summerwood Winery
2175 Arbor Road, Paso Robles / 805-227-1365 / summerwoodwine.com

Summerwood Winery (Treana Winery) is a beautiful winery and a very nice place for a relaxing lunch. The remodeled tasting room opened in May 2001. They offer a good selection of wine-related gifts and clothing and a small selection of deli meats, cheeses and crackers. Outside there is a beautiful picnic area and gazebo, surrounded by many very impressive rose bushes-- one of my favorite spots for a picnic. Across the street is the Summerwood Bed & Breakfast (formerly the Arbor Inn), which proved to be a wonderful experience. Situated among the vineyards, this beautiful estate had beautiful rooms, a homey atmosphere, and an excellent breakfast.

Summerwood produces several Chardonnays, Viognier, Syrah Rose, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. My favorites are the creamy Monterey Chardonnay with flavors of green apple, citrus and vanilla, the Paso Robles Zinfandel with cherry, plum and blackberry flavors and "a lot of pepper for the fruit," and a very good Cabernet Sauvignon with flavors of plum, dried cherry and tobacco.

Tobin James Cellars
8950 Union Road, Paso Robles / 805-239-2204

With the slogan "the only rule in our tasting room is-- to have fun," Tobin James Cellars is definitely the most fun winery in the area. The tasting room looks like an old wild west saloon, including an authentic saloon bar and mirrored backbar. There is even a "jail" full of toys in which to put the kids while mom and dad are tasting (kudos for that!). And the people are fun and want you to have fun.

The wines consist of Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Barbera and Cabernet Franc. There is a excellent value fruity red table wine called "Chateau de Cacheflo" (think about it for a while) a dessert Zinfandel and a Late Harvest Merlot with flavors of plum, black cherry and chocolate called "Liquid Love."

Turley Wine Cellars
2900 Vineyard Drive, Templeton / 805-434-1030

The winery, built and licensed in 1934, operated as the Pesenti Winery until it was purchased by Turley in 2000. The winery looks very industrial (quite different from the many "rural" wineries), and upon entering the tasting room, looks more like a liquor store. Have you ever tasted wines from a shot glass? You will here. Of the extensive wine list, which also includes fruit and berry wines, I particularly liked the peppery Late Harvest Zinfandel and the Zinfandel Port.

Twin Hills Winery
2025 Lake Nacimiento Lake Drive, Paso Robles / 805-238-1084

Twin Hills practices environmentally conscious methods of winemaking, minimizing the use of chemicals. The French Country style tasting room has outdoor tables, a picnic area, some nice gift items, and a spacious room complete with couches and a fireplace. One vintage 100% Cabernet Sauvignon had a good balance of fruit and pepper qualities while the next year was spicy with a blueberry taste. The "Old Vines" Zinfandel was light and fruity with a dry finish, and the Vintage Zinfandel Port was excellent, with nutmeg and spice flavors. The winery also produces an award-winning Paso Rose and a Dry Sherry.

Wild Horse Winery
1437 Wild Horse Winery Court, Templeton / 805-434-2541 / wildhorsewinery.com

The winery is located along a country road in the southern Templeton area. The story goes that Ken Volk, the owner and winemaker, first used a baseball bat and trashcan to crush his first grapes into "Garage Gamay" while at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The tasting room is almost always crowded. Tasting is limited to five wines and you can browse through some unique wine-related gifts, food items and clothing available for sale.

The winery produces an extensive array of wines. The whites include Malvasia Bianca, Tocai Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Rousanne, Viognier, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Orange Muscat and Gewurtztraminer. The reds include Valdiguie (Gamay), Pinot Noir, Temperanillo, Dolcetto, Merlot, Negrette, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Blaufrankisch, Trousseau, Mourvedre, Zinfandel and Syrah. Wines of note include a slightly dry Chardonnay, a bright, fruity Pinot Noir, a rose-petal aromaed Tempranillo, the Blaufrankisch, the cranberry and cherry flavored Trousseau and the fruity, intense Zinfandel.

Zenaida Cellars
1550 Hwy. 46 West, Paso Robles / 805-227-0382 / zenaidacellars.com

Zenaida Cellars, established in 1998, is located in an attractive building with two-story colonial-style front a side dominated by 16-foot wooden doors and a nice outdoor patio that can be used for a picnic. The second story includes a two-bedroom self-service guest suite called The Loft.

Zenaida produces Viognier, Estate Chardonnay, Estate Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, Estate Zinfandel, Estate Merlot and Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are generally very good, my favorites being the Viognier, Sangiovese and Merlot.

My Recommendations:

Don't Miss: Carmody McKnight, Castoro, Rabbit Ridge, Martin & Weyrich, Mastantuono, Opolo and Tobin James wineries.

Best New Wineries: Chumeia and Opolo wineries.

Best Wine Values: Chumeia and Rabbit Ridge.

Best Places for an Impromptu Picnic: JanKris (prepared food), Martin & Weyrich, Mastantuono and Summerwood wineries.


Edna Valley/Arroyo Grande Area

Edna Valley Vineyard
2585 Biddle Ranch Road, San Luis Obispo / 805-544-9594

This winery includes one of the most beautiful wine tasting rooms anywhere. After first walking into the Jack Niven Hospitality Center, one will be suddenly struck by the stunning view from the large picture window directly behind the tasting bar. The hospitality center, one of the nicest you'll find anywhere, offers many wine-related gifts and also contains several banquet facilities that are booked for about a year in advance. Lori, our tasting host, was very friendly and informative.

The wines were very good, especially the Reserve Chardonnay, which had intense pineapple flavors and hints of toast and oak. Also produced are two styles of Pinot Noir, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscat Canelli.

Laetitia Vineyard and Winery
453 Tower Grove Drive, Arroyo Grande / 805-481-1772

Laetitia Winery (formerly Maison Deutz) is located just off Highway 1 and high enough to forget the traffic below. The tasting room is large, with an L-shaped tiled tasting bar on the right, a large fireplace on the back wall, and a wall of windows to the left. There are some food and gift items for sale. Being a joint venture with Barnwood Cellars, wines under the Barnwood label are also available for tasting and purchase.

Laetitia produces Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir still wines and several varities of vintage and non-vintage sparkling wines made with the aforementioned varietals.

Talley Vineyards
3031 Lopez Drive, Arroyo Grande / 805-489-0446

Talley's tasting room is housed in the restored El Rincon Adobe, built in 1863. The Talley family excercises complete control over all aspects of winegrowing and winemaking, which is Burgundian in style. There are two small tasting rooms and our tasting host was very friendly. The Chardonnay had hints of carmel, the Pinot Noir was dry and tasted of spicy raspberry, and the Cabernet Franc ($16 under the Bishop's Creek label) had a distinct bell pepper quality.

Saucelito Canyon Vineyard
3031 Lopez Drive, Arroyo Grande / 805-489-0446

Saucelito Canyon's wines are tasted in the Talley Vineyards tasting room, as the winery is located several miles up the road. They specialize in Zinfandel, which was excellent- complex with a cherry bouquet, and a long, peppery finish.   

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