CORK CORNER: Paso Robles Offers Tastings at Some 300 Wineries

With some 300 wineries in and around Paso Robles, it’s hard to ignore the region as one of the best in California – if not the world.

While some of the best Syrahs in California can be found in the Western Sierra, a gem of a Syrah is produced at a boutique winery on the western outskirts of Paso Robles.

Pipestone Vineyards has a 2011 Syrah, with its smooth, rich flavor and finish, to rival any found recently in California. The winery only produces 1,500 cases annually, but perhaps that’s why most of its wines are of a higher quality.

Pipestone also produces Viongier, Grenache, Mouvedre, an excellent Cabernet-Syrah blend, a Rhone-style red among others. It’s worth the windy road drive to fine Pipestone among the vineyard of Western Paso.

Some of the state’s best Zinfandels can be found on both sides of Highway 101 in and around Paso Robles. Longtime favorite Zin producer Peachy Canyon has produced great wines for many years with a number of old and newer vines.

However, a newer find turned out to be a winery with vines that have been around since the 1880s. Turley, also on the west side of Paso, produces almost two dozen Zinfandels, including blends of grapes from juvenile and old vines. Watch out: These jammy Zins have a 15.5 percent alcohol volume, which is about 3 percent higher than most reds.

But not all of Turley’s grapes come from Paso. For example, the 2013  “Judge Bell Vineyard” Zin is made from grapes on the Western Sierra. The grapes are from Story Vineyard in Shenandoah Valley, home of some great Syrahs as well. These vines were planted in soil with much volcanic ash in 1907 at about 1,500, creating tremendous complexity in the grapes.

If touring vineyards to taste Paso wines is not your cup of tea, try a tasting room called Fermentations in nearby Cambria closer to the ocean. Fermentations offers a number of Paso-area wines as well as some from other areas of California and Spain. Some favorites include: an August Ridge Barbera; Pipestone GMS-Rhone blend; a soft and fruity Pianetta Zine blend with Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah; and an especially tasty Syrah port, which comes in a small jug.

Don’t just try the west side of the Paso area. Many of the older wineries that still produce quality vintages are on the east side of Highway 101 or to the south  of Paso, including Eberle,  J. Lohr; Robert Hall; San Antonio; Tobin James; Wild Horse; and many more. Just a tip: try to taste in the fall or winter because Paso gets hot! Usually it’s 100 degrees or more in the late spring and summer.