Highways have been known to divide cities and towns. One one side is one type of neighborhood, on the other, a completely different atmosphere. Sometimes divided by wealth, sometimes race, or other factors. Rarely do you find a difference in climate, in soils, in types of grapes grown, and in the wines made.
But you will find these viticultural differences while driving along California’s Scenic Freeway, Highway 101. When the 101 reaches the area known as Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast, going west you will find calcareous soil — white soil containing calcium and magnesium, similar to that of the Rhone Valley, along with temperatures that keep getting cooler as you get closer toward the coastal mountains. Going east will bring you sandy soils and warmer temperatures.
Great wines are produced on both sides of this divide. But different style wines. In the cooler zones you will find more structured wines with more complex flavors. In the warmer areas, there will be bigger and less nuanced wines, big Zinfandels, big Syrahs, and some gorgeously intense wines. While this difference is not absolute, each type of wine can be found on both sides, you may find you discover a preference for one or the other. These two areas should definitely be visited.
There’s actually a third area, an even cooler section that is just south of the town of Paso Robles. This is Templeton and some extraordinary wines are grown here.
Selected wineries (out of over 200) to visit.
DAOU Vineyards (West Side)
2,200 feet up, you see a Spanish Colonial winery called DAOU. The soil is 100% calcareous, and a breeze gently blows in through the Templeton Gap from the Pacific Ocean. Here, on the west side of Paso Robles, you will find Cabernet Sauvignon that rivals the best of the Napa Valley. They also produce extraordinarily delicious wine blends, as well as Chardonnay and Zinfandel.
DAOU is located at 2777 Hidden Mountain Road, Paso Robles 93466, is open daily 11 to 5 pm. . 805-226-5460. http://www.daouvineyards.com.
EOS Estate Winery (East Side)
Eos is named for the Greek Goddess of dawn. Their reputation rests on the beautifully big and rich reds, their stunningly complex whites, and dessert wines that are the luscious ambrosia for all the other Greek Gods and everyone else.
The Eos tasting room, located at 2300 Airport Road, Paso Robles 93466, is open daily from 10 to 5 pm with the exception of major holidays. Walk-ins are welcome. There are special reserve tastings including lunch options that are available only by advance reservation at 805-591-8050. http://www.eosvintage.com.
Tablas Creek Winery (Templeton)
In the mid 1970s, one of France’s top winemakers, Jean-Pierre Perrin of Château de Beaucastel in the southern Rhone Valley, came out to California as word spread of the excellent soils and climate needed to produce top quality wines.
He searched all the great regions of California and discovered perfection for his Rhone-style wines in Templeton, just south of Paso Robles. He and his US importer Robert Haas, launched Tablas Creek in 1989. Their reputation and skill gave the area new credibility and helped kick-start the growth of the Paso Robles wine industry.
Tablas Creek is a “must visit” for anyone who is seeking the best California has to offer. Their top of the line “Esprit” wine blends are coveted by collectors everywhere. They do lesser known varietals too, including Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Picpoul Blanc for the whites, and Grenache, Mourvedre, and Tannat for the reds. Their other wines include the popular Chardonnay and Syrah.
The Tablas Creek tasting room is located at 9339 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446 and open daily from 10 to 5 pm. http://www.tablascreek.com
You could spend days (even weeks) in Paso Robles and continue to discover new world-class wines every single day. In Paso, you have the quality of Napa, but with an easy laid-back feel and most importantly, without the traffic.