Paso Robles – Day 1
The Central Coast is ready and waiting for you with corkscrews, glasses, and happy welcomes! For Zinfandel fans, we are outlining a two-day series around rural, historic, and suddenly buzzy and vibrant Paso Robles whereby you can experience the best of what Central Coast Zinfandel has to offer. Glitz and luxe are here if you seek it out but the overall style of hospitality is friendly, down to earth and strong on the value proposition.
Planning a stay-over and plotting an itinerary is highly recommended due to the 3 hour drive from the Bay Area or L.A. The time and effort is worth it, though, and wine and food explorers will be rewarded. There are many scenic backroads to explore yourself, but if you would like to leave the driving to local pros, there are a number of limo and shuttle services to choose from. A popular choice is Breakaway Tours and Events. www.breakaway-tours.com
Glunz Family Winery and Cellars
Take a trip into the legends of old Chicago and get to know the brothers Glunz (Matt and Stephen) at Glunz Family Winery and Cellars in Paso Robles’ Geneseo AVA. From your home base head east on Highway 46 for about 15 minutes and look for the Glunz winery which comes up pretty quickly on your right. A recently-built winery with a classic American immigrant success story, this is an amazing family history of wine, beer and spirits that dates to 1880’s Chicago. The Glunz Paso Robles winery is the culmination of the family’s winemaking arm that began in 1992 in Illinois and which often sourced grapes from the Paso Robles area. Check out the historic family photos on display in the tasting room which is like a stroll back in time on Wells and Division streets where the family store House of Glunz still operates. Taste a lineup of Central Coast wines on the winery’s patios and terrace but be sure to zone in on the Dante Dusi Reserve and the Paper Street Vineyard Zinfandels if available. This is a chance to compare old and younger vine Zinfandels made by Matt Glunz in an up to date style showing pure Paso fruit with restraint.
Up for some great certified organically farmed Zinfandel? A picnic in a beautiful winery vineyard setting? Perhaps a rousing round of disc golf in the vineyard? Don’t call it Frisbee as this game has progressed to serious sport status these days. Timed right along with Paso’s Whale Rock annual music festival, how about attending a big-name concert? Whale Rock Music Festival.
How could you not?
Well, head back to town on highway 46, go south onto highway 101, then west again on highway 46. This is a famous stretch of Paso Robles in the Templeton Gap AVA Templeton Gap | Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance that features multiple wineries. Templeton wine growing is strongly influenced by the daily incursion of cool air from the Pacific Ocean. And the farther away you get from 101 heading west – there’s not a lot else but beautiful Central Coast scenery on the road’s winding descent to the ocean and the town of Cambria.
Niels and Bimmer Udsen founded Castoro in 1983 – Niels having grown up on the Central Coast and after studying agribusiness at nearby Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. These are homegrown certified organic estate wines by a homegrown Central Coast vineyard family. They named their fledgling winery in 1983 with the nickname Niels grew up with – Castoro is Italian for “beaver”, hence their motto “Dam Fine Wine”.
J Dusi Wines
And, while you’re in the neighborhood… you’re only a minute away from an essential stop in Paso, J Dusi Wines. Head out N. Bethel road to highway 46, make a right and in literally one minute you’re there! Here you can visit, taste, purchase, and pay your respects with the great granddaughter of the most recognized family name in Paso wine. The Dusi families are proprietors of two historic vineyards where fruit is sourced by a who’s who of Zinfandel producers that proudly display the famous Dusi name on their labels. Janell Dusi crafts Zinfandel from her grandfather’s historic Zinfandel vineyard, Dante Dusi, along with her line of other excellent wines from several varieties. Keeping with her family’s tradition of Zinfandel, Janell, a Cal Poly trained winemaker calls her new winemaking project Paper Street, whereby fruit is now being grown at a barely accessible high elevation vineyard in the mountains of Paso Robles, where the unnamed rugged roads exist only “on paper”.
Janell describes her winemaking mission as “A family tradition with a new perspective,” and while her methods and modern equipment might be a departure from how things were done 80 or so years ago, the basics are still there and the time-honored expression of the vineyards is paramount.
Making the drive into Paso Robles from either the L.A. or the Bay Area to spend two days of wine research, a good place to start would be to relax after the road trip and unpack. The traditional Paso Robles Inn would be a sound choice.
For a little pampering and higher thread counts on the downtown square, there are Hotel Cheval and the Piccolo The Piccolo: Hotel in Downtown Paso Robles CA . Those travelers looking for wine country luxury amenities among the vineyards of the Willow Creek AVA may want to settle in at the Inn at Opolo.
Following your first full day of touring Paso Robles and finishing south of Paso in Templeton, a recommended dinner spot in Templeton that is a favorite of local winemakers is McPhee’s Grill.www.mcpheesgrill.com where there is something for all tastes.
Paso Robles – Day 2
Your second day in Paso Robles should begin with a fortifying breakfast for the full day ahead. Perhaps eggs, abelskivers, and good coffee at Springside will do the trick.
Or, have breakfast and pack up sandwiches for your day’s picnic at the Red Scooter Deli – Paso Robles.
If you’ve chosen to stay at The Inn at Opolo, well, you’re already at your first stop – and they will have already served up your cooked-to-order breakfast! This winery was founded by Central Coast resident neighbors who started the vineyards and winery together in 2001 and have gone on to establish one of the most popular wineries on the Central Coast. Rick Quinn and Dave Nichols joined forces in 1999 to create a 300 acre vineyard estate, winery, extensive wine repertoire and hospitality venue that resonates with its extensive club membership, followers and first-time visitors. The name Opolo was inspired by the Serbian rosé wine known to come from founder Rick Quinn’s ancestral roots, and isn’t it fitting that this Zinfandel specialist adopted the grape now known to have originated on the coast of Dalmatia? Known not only for their organically-farmed wines, the winery and original tractor barn is a buzzing hub of entertainment with the Inn, tasting and event venues, vineyard tours, covered patio, busy pizza oven and kitchen, and even a distillery. Among many wines and options for tasting experiences at Opolo Vineyards, Zin fans should be on the lookout for the opulently styled Mountain Zinfandel and Reserve Zinfandel.
Peachy Canyon Winery
To get to Peachy Canyon from Opolo in about 15 minutes, take Vineyard Drive back to highway 46, make a left and proceed east to the tasting room and grounds on N. Bethel Road. Trail blazing winery founders, Doug and Nancy Beckett, established Zinfandel specialist Peachy Canyon Winery in 1988 and drew new attention to Paso Robles as a top wine producing region in California. Their efforts led to establishing Paso Robles as an officially recognized AVA. Today their sons Josh and Jake, successful vintners in their own right, have taken over the family-owned winery’s reins and are leading Peachy Canyon winery and its five estate vineyards, including the clonal preservation project called D Block, to new heights and a giant step forward for Zinfandel in general. The hospitality center and tasting room are located among vineyards just off highway 46 on N. Bethel Road and here you can do a casual and relaxed guided tasting through a series of Peachy Canyon’s latest. Be on the lookout for the special limited estate bottling of D Block that is composed of the 18 different Zinfandel clones that are interplanted in the one acre vineyard.
Turley Wine Cellar
Your final stop on your six winery Paso Robles adventure happens to be only 5 minutes away at Turley Cellars. Even though by now you’ve experienced many of the best Zinfandels around, some Zin fans might say that you saved the best for last. From Peachy Canyon, take highway 46 back west to Vineyard Drive and make a left then the short jog to Turley. This is the site of the former historic Pesenti Vineyards that Turley took over in 2000 and has made its base for its Central Coast winemaking. The winery itself sits among the perfectly preserved old vines of the original Pesenti vineyards. Larry Turley, a physician by trade founded Turley in 1993 on the idea of preserving California’s oldest vineyards and it quickly went on to become a critically acclaimed producer of Zinfandel. Today, three Turley wineries(Napa Valley, Amador, and Templeton) under the direction of head winemaker Tegan Passalaqua produce 47 wines, mainly Zinfandel, from 50 different vineyards. That’s some serious Zinfandel sourcing and nurturing! Turley’s Paso Robles repertoire includes the Ueberroth, Dusi, Amadeo, and Pesenti Vineyards and the hospitality area includes a tasting room, bar, and patio where you can do friendly, informative tastings of a selection of wines. Many of Turley’s vineyard designated wines sell out quickly and if you are or are becoming a Zinfandel fan, this is a mailing list that you want to be on.
If you finish your day early and are looking for some further exploration of fruit and grain beverages, you might consider doing a little exploring over at Tin City – an artisan beverages production complex featuring many small labels and tasting rooms. No Zinfandels at the moment, however!