Paso Robles: My Thoughts On The Region

Back in the day (and I’m talking once upon a time in the wild, wild west) Paso Robles had its groove going on. In the 1800’s many saw potential in the winemaking business and made wine like nobody’s business. Fast-forward a century later and California wine region attracts U.C. Davis graduates and legendary enologists like André Tchelistcheff.

In ’67,  producers like Ridge beat a path to obtain fruit from the Benito Dusi Ranch. It really says something about a region when a stellar producer (such as Ridge) seeks fruit from a region other than their own.  The area really takes off during the 70’s when Gary Eberle and Cliff Giacobine plant 700 acres and build the first modern commercial acreage of Syrah.  It wasn’t long thereafter when J. Lohr, EOS, Meridian Vineyards, Justin, and Peachy Canyon follow suit. Jump forward a decade and Wildhorse produces 150K cases with fifteen different varietals all while obtaining high scores from the Winespectator.

Then in 1989, a partnership between the Perrin family and Robert Hass rewrite Paso’s history with Tablas Creek Vineyard. Its a 120-acre property that brings in accolades year after year with its Châteauneuf du Pape style wines that  come to life from its rugged terrain and limestone soils.

Across the nation, Paso Robles producers catch the attention of well-known wine magazines, sommeliers and enophiles. Awards are won, hearts are stolen and great Paso wines are sold from coast-to-coast. Best of all, they place themselves on the map as a world-class wine region. They have winemaker talent. They have money. They have producers pulling 90+ wine ratings for Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah in the 90s.

I sold Justin Isosceles on my wine list back then. It sold like hot cakes at $60 a bottle ($30 retail). Eberle 1990 Cabernet flew out the door as if I was giving it away. Ten years later, the region is still hot. Paso’s own Saxum took the #1 spot in Wine Spectator’s top 100 list in 2010.

In my opinion, Paso is to wine as Haight-Ashbury is to San Francisco. It’s been *hot* figuratively and literally for quite some time now and it’s as good as it’s ever been. And the reason why it has not taken off as the next big Napa or Sonoma region is because they don’t want to grow up to be like their big brother. They only want to be Paso. Purely Paso. And it’s the same as it ever was. And there is nothing wrong with that.

So the next time someone tells you that Paso might be the next big thing, tell them, “dude, this is  SO 1998!”  And if you are heading to Paso, try not to party like its 1999. And yay to Pioneer Days. Ok, this is an inside joke. Ask Cris Cherry.

Paso Robles and its golden rolling hills are the vineyards backdrops, which are quite picturesque.  Photo credit: Wink:


About the Author:

Editor and co-founder of, Pamela is a sommelier and former restaurant manager and wine buyer with Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), Court of Master Sommeliers & Center for Wine Origins certification. She has contributed to or been quoted by various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sommelier Journal, Vegetarian Times, VIV Magazine, UC-Berkeley Astrobiology News, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, NPR and USA Today. True to her roots, she seeks varietal and appellation integrity and is always passionate about finding the next great bottle of wine.


  1. Darren June 22, 2013 at 5:05 PM - Reply

    I agree with the hot aspect 100%. As a somm I have seen the influx of hot and cold regions and this one has had it going on for quite some time now in my opinion. I carry a good selection on my list and customers will always look for the new as well as old producers coming from this region. I don’t see any comparison to Napa or Sonoma as it is like comparing apples to oranges in terms of style, climate and soil.

  2. Kristen L. June 22, 2013 at 9:49 PM - Reply

    What I really enjoy about Paso is the diversity. I was introduced to Paso wines for the first time during a Las Vegas trip (seriously!) and I had an Eberle Cabernet and loved it so much that I tried to find as many wines from this area at my local wine store. I was quite surprised at the differences from Tablas Creek Rose to Turley Zinfandel to Babcock Pinot Noir! This is quite a spread when it comes to styles but equally good.

    • Pamela Heiligenthal July 9, 2013 at 7:06 PM - Reply

      Ah yes, completely agree with you on the diversity aspect! Thanks for the comment Kristen.

  3. Alyssa A. Harding July 6, 2013 at 7:16 PM - Reply

    The emerging popularity of the region’s wines has led it to become the site of the annual “Hospice du Rhône” conference on Rhône style wine. Today, Paso Robles Wine Country is receiving attention for its unique Paso Blends, also known as “Crazy Blends.” These wines are more unique to the area, and with varietal make-ups that do not follow traditional rules and expecatations of winemaking, as characteristic in other regions of the wine world.

    • Pamela Heiligenthal July 9, 2013 at 7:04 PM - Reply

      Thanks for the information Alyssa, I am looking forward to trying some of those crazy blends.

  4. […] this article from my partner and Enobytes co-founder Pamela Heiligenthal titled Paso Robles “My Thoughts on the Region” which clearly defines Paso Robles as no Johnny Come Lately. In a fortunate twist of fate I recently […]

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