Wine X Staff
Wine X Online Edition
Paso Robles isn’t as well-known of a wine-growing area as other California regions, but it’s rising in popularity like a rocket lately. Chances are good you’ve had a Paso wine or maybe even sought it out, given the popularity of some of the labels. If you’ve driven north from Los Angeles or Santa Barbara, chances are good that to skirted Paso without even knowing it. That’s because Paso is pretty unpretentious. OK, it’s incredibly unpretentious. That’s a big part of the charm.
Paso Robles is located on the central coast of California, and its climate makes it really well suited to most warmer or Mediterranean climate wines. Cab and zin do really great in Paso and are some of my favorites, but Paso is also passionately applauded for producing high-quality Rhône-style wines. The region’s unique combination of climate, soil, and grape varietals make it an ideal location for growing Rhône varietals such as Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre.
In a recent interview with Jason Haas of famed Tablas Creek, we heard the story of how his family settled on Paso as home to its Rhone-only brand. If you haven’t read the article, you should. It’ll turn you into a Rhone Ranger-wannabe or at least make you want to go grab a bottle of Tablas. We approve!
One of the key factors that contribute to the quality of Rhône-style wines in Paso Robles is the region’s climate. The area experiences warm days and cool nights, which allows for a slow and even ripening of the grapes. This gradual ripening process results in a wine that has a good balance of acidity, tannins, and fruit flavors.
Another important factor is the soil. The region’s soil is primarily composed of calcareous shale, which is similar to the soil found in the Rhône Valley in France. This type of soil is known for its ability to retain moisture, which is essential for the growth of Rhône varietals. The soil also imparts unique mineral characteristics to the grapes, adding complexity to the wine.
The grape varietals used to make Rhône-style wines in Paso Robles are also well-suited to the region. Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre are all known for their ability to thrive in warm climates and calcareous soils. These varietals are also known for producing wines with high alcohol content, intense fruit flavors, and a good balance of acidity and tannins.
In addition to the ideal growing conditions, many wineries in the Paso Robles region have adopted traditional winemaking techniques from the Rhône Valley. This includes the use of small oak barrels for aging, which adds complexity and depth to the wine. It helps that the wine community in Paso is highly collaborative. Graciously so. They share key learnings and contribute to the community’s body of knowledge, which has easily accelerated the pace of making premium wines by at least a few decades.
Paso’s Rhone enthusiasts also share a commitment to educating, almost evangelizing their wines to newcomers. You’ll see numerous podcasts and blogs from winemakers. If you’re one to stream radio, check out 92.5 The KRUSH, one of the coolest radio stations in the country and a great source of wine chat mixed with good tunes. But above all else, there’s Hospice Du Rhone, America’s flagship event for Rhone lovers. For over thirty years, the event has been THE central gathering for Rhone lovers.
Haven’t thought about Paso as a destination, check it out. Haven’t tried a glass lately? Get motivated. Its past time.