Exploring the Heart of Paso Robles: A Wine Time Fridays Journey

Exploring the Heart of Paso Robles: A Wine Time Fridays Journey Exploring the Heart of Paso Robles: A Wine Time Fridays Journey

By Phil Anderson

If you’re a wine enthusiast seeking an unforgettable getaway, Paso Robles should be at the top of your list. Our recent trip to this charming California gem left us with a trove of delightful memories, exquisite wine and unique experiences. From sipping on Grenache, Syrah, Zinfandel and reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (just to name a few), to indulging in the local culinary scene, to visiting the rich sites of Paso Robles, our four-day adventure was nothing short of a wine lover’s dream. In this blog post, we’ll share our Paso Robles journey, complete with wine tastings, vineyard tours, and delectable cuisine. If you want the perspective of Shelley, she wrote a complete blog post on her Meaningful Midlife website and you can read it HERE. #ItsWineTime! #PasoRoblesStyle! #Cheersing

Day 1: Sunday, September 24: The Oaks Hotel and Sensorio Light Show

The Oaks Hotel, Paso Robles

Our journey began on a picturesque Sunday when we arrived at The Oaks Hotel, which would be our home for the first night. The Oaks Hotel, nestled in the heart of Paso Robles, offered us a comfortable and memorable stay. In fact, we would highly recommend this hotel to anyone! As is our tradition on road trips, we booked through the app, Hotel Tonight. It’s a 50/50 proposition when doing that but in this case, we were blessed with an outstanding outcome! We were already off to a fantastic start!

In the late afternoon, we embarked on a delightful wine tasting adventure at the Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery. We had the privilege of trying an array of exquisite wines, including San Simeon Viognier, San Simeon Grenache Rosé, San Simeon Chardonnay, Windstream Chardonnay, San Simeon Petite Sirah, Maddalena Cabernet Sauvignon, Opaque Malbec, and Opaque Darkness. Each sip transported us deeper into the world of Paso Robles’ winemaking.

Sensorio Light Show in Paso Robles

Afterward, we ventured to the Sensorio Light Show, an enchanting display of art and technology that illuminated the Paso Robles night and that Shelley REALLY wanted to do! It didn’t disappoint!

Nestled amidst rolling hills, Sensorio Light Show is a 15-acre dreamscape bathed in the magic of light. Artist Bruce Munro’s “Field of Light” shimmers, over 100,000 fiber optic spheres creating an ethereal glow that mimics a starry night. Nearby, “Light Towers” rose like luminous giants, their recycled wine bottles pulsating with color to a mesmerizing soundtrack. We explored further and encountered “Gone Fishing,” a playful labyrinth of illuminated buoys, and “Fireflies,” where twinkling lights danced amidst the trees. Sensorio wasn’t just a light show, it was a journey through art, technology and nature, leaving us spellbound under the Californian sky. The combination of stunning visuals and the peaceful Paso Robles landscape made for a captivating evening that we won’t soon forget!

Day 2: Monday, September 25: Tablas Creek and Halter Ranch

Tablas Creek in Paso Robles

Monday, our day kicked off with a visit to Tablas Creek at 10 AM. (Be sure to check out Episode 180 of our Wine Time Fridays podcast for a detailed review of this visit.) We were nearly late to our designated appointment time because we saw a tarantula in the road and stopped to take pictures of it! It literally was the first time I had ever seen a tarantula in person!

Behind the scenes at Tablas Creek
Behind the scenes at Tablas Creek

In Paso Robles’ sun-drenched Adelaida District, Tablas Creek stands as a pioneer. Imagine rugged, limestone hillsides cradling meticulously nurtured Rhone varietals and a vineyard born from a French-Californian dream. Breathe in the cool ocean air and warm summer sun, flavors that echo in their award-winning wines. Tablas Creek isn’t just a winery; it’s a pilgrimage for Rhone enthusiasts, a beacon of regenerative organic farming and a canvas for artistry in every bottle. Step into their tasting room, a rustic-chic haven, and savor the soul of Paso Robles, one sip at a time. Which we did, tasting six of their amazing wines!

After we recorded we were very lucky to be offered a brief tour of their production facility while Grenache grapes were delivered and sorted through! SO much fun!

Halter Ranch in Paso Robles

After we recorded that episode, we headed to Halter Ranch, as an unplanned trip, where we not only enjoyed a sumptuous lunch but also embarked on a wine tasting journey we couldn’t even have imagined! We hadn’t heard of Halter Ranch before but we won’t ever forget how well we were treated and the delicious wines we were blessed to have tasted! Shelley wrote a wonderful review of our time at Halter Ranch which can read HERE.

As we drove in, we were taken in by the beauty of the property! Trains, planes, well of course, automobiles. I was able to get a great picture of Shelley under the covered bridge where they will sometimes have big dinner parties. And what wineries have an airport on their property?? Well, Halter Ranch does! We had to be a bit careful wandering around this property because there are rattlesnakes, and there was a sign warning of that to prove it.

We were greeted by very unique statues and artwork as we made our way from the parking lot into their restaurant, Le Jardin at Halter Ranch.

Halter Ranch Vineyard Estate

Our server was Liam (who Shelley said looks a bit like Stanley Tucci, which I don’t disagree with at all), and his in-training server, Katelyn. We savored the 2022 Effervescent Rosé, 2022 Vermentino, 2022 Viognier, 2020 CDP, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2020 Tannat, Block 22 Syrah Estate Reserve, 2020 Cuvee Alice Estate Reserve and their 2019 Ancestor Estate Reserve.

Lunch was amazing, the weather was fantastic and we really enjoyed our time at Halter Ranch. As we left, our hope was to stop at the Mt. Olive Organic Farm, which was just down the road from Tablas Creek and Halter Ranch, however they were closed.

At this point, we introduced ourselves to our new home for the next three days, The Paso Robles Inn.

The Paso Robles Inn was established in 1889, the same year that El Paso de Robles was founded as a city. It has stood as a downtown landmark in Paso Robles for over 130 years.

The Paso Robles Inn (Obviously)

In the late 1800s, the original “fireproof” El Paso de Robles Hotel was constructed of solid masonry and featured parlors, billiard rooms, a saloon and a barbershop. It attracted notable guests like pianist Ignace Paderewski, President Theodore Roosevelt and actors John Wayne and Clark Gable who sought the hotel’s soothing mineral hot spring waters.

However, in December 1940 a fire destroyed the entire hotel except for the Grand Ballroom. As luck would have it, all guests escaped safely thanks to the heroic night clerk. Construction of the current inn was completed by 1942, using bricks salvaged from the original hotel ruins. It was designed to accommodate travelers by car with rooms offering garage parking behind.

In 1999, the Paso Robles Inn was purchased by Martin Resorts who embarked on restoration efforts. It now offers 98 guest rooms, The Steakhouse restaurant, a retro Coffee Shop, Cattlemen’s Lounge and meeting spaces. Today, the Paso Robles Inn serves as a landmark representing the hospitality of Paso Robles. It offers a chance for guests to experience the region’s history and culture firsthand.

Here I am getting things ready for Lindsay & Brian

Since I’m writing in ‘per day’ blocks, we’ll be revisiting some of the great areas of The Paso Robles Inn as we move through the week. The rest of this day was spent decompressing and getting ready for the arrival of my daughter and son-in-law, Lindsay and Brian. They were an intricate part of our Wine Time Fridays team, from this point on as our DP Team (Different Perspective Team). When they arrived, we spent the rest of the day, in outside lounge chairs, watching the day turn to night, sipping on many wines while nibbling on some light bites and snacks. Among the wines we had that night was a 2020 Rivaura Cabernet Franc, a 2019 Nova Vita Firebird Cabernet Sauvignon and a sensational 2021 Terre di Talamo Vento Forte Vermentino, which Lindsay and Brian sent us when they were in Italy, earlier in the year!

After a very long day, we all retired for the night, knowing the next day was going to be even more aggressive.

Day 3: Tuesday, September 26: Peachy Canyon, Levo and Justin

As I mentioned, day three was going to be a very long, but immensely fun, day dedicated to wine tasting adventures and episode recordings. We couldn’t have been more excited!

Peachy Canyon Winery

We began our day with a visit to Peachy Canyon at 11 AM. For a detailed review of this visit, check out Episode 182 of our Wine Time Fridays podcast. The presence of Winemaker Drew Phillips made this experience even more special.

We got off to a semi rocky start, however, as we went to their tasting room, a cute little house that we really wanted to hang out at! But alas, they were expecting us up at the wineries production facility, which is not regularly open to the public.

Peachy Canyon Winery has been crafting award-winning wines from this renowned region since 1988. Founded by Doug and Nancy Beckett, the winery remains a family-owned and operated business dedicated to respecting terroir and winemaking excellence.

Zinfandel is considered Peachy Canyon’s flagship varietal, and rightfully so. They produce several single-vineyard Zinfandels that truly showcase the diverse soils and microclimates within Paso Robles. Wine lovers can taste the differing expressions of terroir through nuanced variations in flavors, aromas and styles across their Zinfandel lineup. We tasted through two Zins on this day, along with a Rosé and a red blend called, The Odd One (there was NOTHING odd about this one!) which was a blend of 81% Zinfandel, 13% Carignan, 6% Mourvedre.

While Zin leads the way, Peachy Canyon also works with other classic Paso Robles grapes. Their wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Viognier that perform well in the region’s warmer climate. In fact, we were treated to some Viognier grapes to try that were just picked!

High praise has followed Peachy Canyon over the decades. Their wines have earned 90+ point scores and frequent mentions in Wine Spectator’s top 100 lists. Through quality winemaking and championing single-vineyard wines, the winery has rightly contributed to Paso Robles gaining international recognition as a premierwinegrowing area. Our time there was incredibly special and Drew Phillips was a wealth of knowledge and transparency!

For more information about Peachy Canyon Winery, please click HERE.

Our welcome sign to Tin City and Levo was 3rd down on the sign

Next was a visit to Levo in Tin City at 1:30. Check out Episode 183 of our Wine Time Fridays podcast for a comprehensive review of our visit. We were particularly impressed with Levo Wines, which left an indelible mark on our Paso Wine tour. We sat down with their, Direct to Consumer Manager, and fast talking, Lizz Sevin, who was very preggers!

Nestled within the oak-dotted hills of Paso Robles’ Willow Creek District lies Levo Vineyard, a 17-acre boutique property renowned for coaxing profound expressions of Rhone varietals from its calcareous soils. Brett Urness is the winemaker and proprietor there, having started the winery in 2011, although he was not there when we tasted through the wines and recorded the podcast.

The Levo Tasting Room in Tin City

Located just miles from the Pacific, Levo benefits from the extreme diurnal shifts that lend the region’s Rhones intensity, structure and nuance rivaling their counterparts across the seas, yet Urness pursues refinement over power, allowing each parcel and grape’s inimitable personality to shine through rather than conform to predetermined styles.

Lizz was an absolute joy! Even though she was quite literally due in just days, she had a sip of some of these wines with us as she exclaimed, “the baby is pretty much cooked and ready to come out at this point!” And sure enough, she delivered even before this episode published!

Tin City is a place where you could spend the entire day. We had to beat feet back to Paso Robles city center for our next stop at Justin but we would be able to spend a little bit more time the following day. But, off to Justin!

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