SLO DOWN IN PASO ROBLES
California’s fastest growing wine region is hot stuff. Hidden in plain sight right between Los Angeles and San Francisco, what was once one of California’s best-kept secrets is now on the tip of everyone’s tongue. So, how did the wine world’s wild west become a world class destination? A little faith, a lot of farming, and some damn fine wine.
The town of Paso (or, El Paso de Robles, if you’re fancy) was co-founded by the more reasonable uncle of famous outlaws, Frank and Jesse James. Uncle Drury was a cattleman of vision, determined to tap the magical properties of Paso’s natural mineral springs and turn the town into a health resort. Even the James boys took advantage. Jesse, who’d been shot, spent a few months healing and pretending to be a cowboy until Uncle Drury lost his patience and put the boys on a slow boat back to New York.
Fast forward to the 1950’s and you’d find a quiet town and a great place to stretch your legs on the drive from SF to LA. There were a few vineyards tucked into the agriculture, mostly thanks to a Polish statesman and bon vivant (Paso’s own Great Gatsby) who snatched up 2,000 acres and planted some Petite Sirah and Zinfandel.
In the 1980’s, when Cabernet Sauvignon was wrapping its vines around America in earnest, Paso Robles was still a pitstop. Over the next few years, Paso wine country exploded. Producers looking to make wine without the Napa price tag headed south and set up shop. High volume, high value producers were just the beginning.
Serious winemakers went down to kick the dirt and what they saw inspired a deep, unquenchable thirst.
This was terroir that could rival the best in the world. About 10 miles west of Paso Robles, calcareous shale soils are reminiscent of the Rhone Valley. With the Templeton Gap delivering fresh marine breezes in the morning and sharp temperature spikes during the daylight hours, savvy producers saw the potential for Rhone varieties to thrive. On the east side of Paso, warm days and cold nights help the region’s Cabernet Sauvignon maintain wonderful natural acidity. The rolling hills flanking the Salinas River are covered with sandy, loamy soils. Each sub-region tells its own story, an enthralling tale of terroir that brought more and more winemakers into the fold.
Today’s Paso Robles is crowded with winemakers taking full advantage of the magnificent grape-growing conditions across the region. Advanced viticulture and winemaking techniques just keep raising the bar and turning up the heat down south. We’d love to share the winemakers we think are getting it right, at every price point. Here are just a few of our favorites.