You've heard of California's Napa, Sonoma, and maybe even Mendocino wine regions, but Paso Robles? The tricky-to-pronounce name alone is testament to the fact that many wine connoisseurs are still missing out on this wine hot spot. Even locals sometimes fluctuate from the more common pronunciation of Paso Roh-buhlz to the Spanish Paso Roh-blays, so best stick with just “Paso,” which rhymes with “lasso.”
Located in the larger Central Coast wine region midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this pastoral valley is a stark contrast to the metropolises to the north and south. Here, “Paso” was originally named for the oak trees that still distinguish the landscape: “El Paso de Robles,” or “The Pass of the Oaks.”
Vine growing was introduced to Paso Robles in the late 1700s. Today, winemakers grow grapes to stand out from the more famous wine regions to the north and offer memorable experiences for those interested in visiting and tasting—expansive picnic spaces to disc golf courses on vineyard grounds. Vines often cover some of the region's gently rolling hills, and with 32,000 vineyard acres, Paso Robles is on the map as the nation's fastest-growing wine region.
Rather than boasting one signature grape, Paso Robles grows more than 40, from cabernet sauvignon and merlot to grapes traditionally grown in France's Southern Rhône Valley or Italian wine country—Grenache, Mourvèdre, Barbera, Sangiovese, and more.
Here are four can't-miss wines from this under-the-radar California region:
1. Cabernet Sauvignon
Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon: Intense in color and in fruit, with currant, dark cherry, and chocolate flavors. Pair with aged Gouda cheese, steak, and red-sauced pastas.
2. Cabernet Sauvignon
Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon: Ruby black in color with crushed blackberry, sandalwood, and peppercorn flavors that finish across velvety tannins. Pair with filet mignon with a blackberry chutney.
J. Lohr Estates Los Osos Merlot: Plum and pomegranate flavors are integrated with mocha and baking spice notes from this wine's time spent in oak. Pair with cheese tortellini or herb-roasted chicken.
4. Cabernet Sauvignon
Slow Press Cabernet Sauvignon: A bold, powerful wine with dense blackberry notes and smooth tannins. Pair with a grilled top sirloin or a Bolognese pasta.
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