Tag Archives: Paso Robles AVA

Paso Robles Splits Up

Last year, several dozen wine grape producers and owners of nearly a third of the land, applied to split up the huge 33,000 acre Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA) into 11 smaller viticultural regions. This was done in an effort to describe each sub-appellation as separate and different areas. Now the United States Department of the Treasury has ruled that the new districts can designate using the new sub-appellations.

Better describe uniqueness

The smaller appellations will still remain under the 31 year-old Paso Robles AVA umbrella, but now they can explain and depict their vines more precisely. With over 300 wineries, the 11 sub-districts represent diverse terroir and micro-climates that give Paso Robles such a big advantage creating unique wines.

This concept of dividing the large Paso AVA was tried seven years ago when the Westside proposed a Salinas River split, but the plan was withdrawn a couple years later. Yet at that time, the first proposal to split the area into 11 separate AVAs began.

Winemakers can now designate their wines with the smaller sub-regional description to more aptly show consumers where exactly the grapes came from. The area is complex with some temperatures ranging 20 degrees just within the Paso Robles AVA. Also, winds have variations in them, the soils change dramatically and even diurnals can be very different.

Diverse region

Christian Lazo Wines helped Venture Vineyards quite a bit in the early going.

The region is as diverse as any AVA … maybe in the world.

The region is huge enveloping roughly half of northern San Luis Obispo County. Stretching from San Miguel in the north to Santa Margarita in the south and from Adelaida in the west to Shandon in the east, the Paso Robles AVA is mammoth .

Consider the relatively arid districts in the east with the wineries up in the much cooler Coastal Range to the west, gives just a peak as to the varied conditions weather-wise that the region offers. Compare those with more moderate climes in the south, brings the story home as to why the vintners and grape growers felt compelled to split the region up.

The 11 districts are:

  • Adelaida District
  • Creston District
  • El Pomar District
  • Paso Robles Estrella District
  • Paso Robles Geneseo District
  • Paso Robles Highlands District
  • Paso Robles Willow Creek District
  • San Juan Creek
  • San Miguel District
  • Santa Margarita Ranch
  • Templeton Gap District

These new identities will be official in November. It should be noted that while the wineries can use the latest sub-AVA, they must also have Paso Robles AVA on their label as well. Check out the Paso Man video below for a little, um, well, clarity.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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The World … And Paso’s King: Cabernet Sauvignon

‘Cab is king.’ That is not an uncommon sentiment and many in the world of wines wouldn’t disagree.

Let’s get this out of the way first. I’m not an expert on wine. I have many friends in the abernet_sauvignon-wordpressbusiness who are very knowledgeable in wines and although I’ve been involved with every aspect of grape growing, winemaking and even bottling, I’m simply a novice learning the ropes. Ask me about football, motorsports and of course oak wine barrels and you’ll get a much more informed opinion.

One of the most popular grapes in the world including Paso Robles, Cabernet Sauvignon or cab for short, is a rich, persuasive, hearty and commanding wine that has stood the test of time. Again, I’m no expert but good cabs age well in the bottle and unlike say a zinfandel, which is my favorite varietal, they can get even better as the years roll on.

Bordeaux

The French, and especially the Bordeaux region, consider the grape their domain and though I’ve had very few cabs from France, they are without question the epitome of quality when considering the best wines can be. However, California has a meritage – which my expert friends say is similar word for heritage – the grapes are strictly Californian and follow the French model of consistencies. Do I know what that means? Not exactly, but you get my drift. By the way, California only has one heritage grape and that is Zinfandel. I just threw that in to confuse so I’m not the only one … confused, that is.

Great wines from the Bordeaux region in France have created legendary vintages.

Great wines from the Bordeaux region in France have created legendary vintages.

France produces the most cab with Chile and the United States battling for the second spot. The grape can be grown in many types of regions (even deserts) and therefore has a wide and varied flavor. With a relatively dark brooding cast, experts will often say it has a black cherry and spicy plus peppery taste.

You can pair it with steak or cheeseburger – hey, I told you I’m a novice who is a home brewer. Still, I’ve had a few burgers and brews in my life, which IS something I know. Along with barbecued beef, pizza can go very well with cab as well.

People who are novices like myself, might ask if Merlot and cab come from the same background. Both varietals originally come from the Bordeaux region of France, but I do know enough to say they aren’t the same grape, yet you might find that lighter cabs have some similarities to Merlot. Personally I like big reds so cabs and high octane Zinfandels are great and pair wonderfully with meaty dinners.

A ‘did you know’ about cab is that although it was considered its own grape for centuries, it was recently discovered that it actually is a hybrid of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc, created some four centuries ago. Here’s another interesting story I just saw that most folks won’t know. Former NFL star quarterback for the New England Patriots, Drew Bledsoe, under his companies name Doubleback, has a Top 100 cab (source – Fox News) grown in Walla Walla, Washington.  Ah, wine and football in the same sentence – you won’t find that too many times.

Paso

bon-niche-cellars_PasoRobles

Paso Robles was a hidden treasure but growing worldwide notoriety have brought the region and its wines to the forefront.

Gary Eberle helped focus attention on the cabs of Paso and they are the most widely planted grape in the Paso Robles AVA – the world’s number one wine region. Only Napa Valley bests Paso Robles as the biggest producers by region. Cab’s love the Paso diurnal, which is one of the most diverse in the world and coupled with a unique terroir, produced some great wines. Because of the relatively lack of rain Paso receives, unlike Napa or Sonoma, cabs can be controlled better on the Central Coast, creating world renown vintages. Variable and distinctive micro-climates offer contrasting flavors, giving vintners original and unique cabs.

Typical of the area, the Paso appellation has been creating better and better wines with cab leading the way. The innovative talent, terroir and weather have helped craft enormously powerful cabs with a heartiness that rivals any other wines of the world including Bordeaux and Napa Valley.

Barbequed ribs go great with Cab.

Barbequed ribs go great with Cab.

Paso Robles’ Cabernet Sauvignon have been widely known as maybe the best value wines in the world. However, with the advent of Paso’s worldwide notoriety, the rich and ripe big red cabs here on the Central Coast might find themselves as some of the premier wines in the world, period.

Now I need to grab a delicious local cab, get out the barbeque and cook up some ribs.  Or better yet, burgers … make those Kobe burgers.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Templeton, California: Secret Is Out

With so many honors being bestowed on Paso Robles including the world’s ‘Wine Region of Secretisout-oldladieswisperingthe Year’, it might be difficult to believe that one of the main reasons that Paso Robles is receiving so many accolades is the unassuming next town south of them: Templeton, California.  That’s right, when articles and association as well as websites talk about Paso Robles and wine, they likely are talking about none other than Templeton.  The secret is out.

You may be wondering why I’m mentioning Templeton.  It’s true that the Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area) is a wide swath of San Luis Obispo County that starts in the north with San Miguel at the Monterey County border and heads south to Santa Margarita, east to Shandon and all the way west through to the center of the Coastal Range.  In other words, there are many different towns and areas within the Paso AVA.  However, when discussing Paso Robles vineyards and wineries, many of these vintners are outside the city limits of Paso Robles and actually are in what was once the obscurity of the Templeton zip code.

Templeton Gap

Templeton Gap allows cool air from the Pacific to reach inland and moderate temperatures for great grape-growing.

Numerous vineyards set up shop in the Templeton Gap.  It’s a low point in the Coastal Range that allows the Pacific Ocean’s air to come through and essentially moderate the temperatures of the upper inland San Luis Obispo County valleys.  That moderation gives vintners an ability to grow a wider variety of grapes without the harsh highs in summer and lows in winter.  Also, the land is rich and has very favorable soil, yet the terroir is diverse.

A step back

The town itself of less than 8,000 is a lot like what Paso Robles was 50 or more years ago and sits roughly halfway between Atascadero and Paso – the two major cities in northern San Luis Obispo County.  There’s a simple downtown area that goes through Main Street (what else) and gives you the feel that you’ve entered into a different dimension – maybe a combination of the ‘old West’ and a typical small Midwestern town.  By the way, Templeton is full of excellent bed and breakfast inns.

As the end of the line heading south out of San Francisco in the late 1800’s, the town was originally called Crocker after an executive of the Southern Pacific Railroad, but then was promptly changed to Templeton, the executive’s son.  Known for its railroad yards in the early years, it was a major town in the region.  Never incorporated, the town was eventually bypassed by the trains and their larger brethren cities north and south of it, remaining just a small community.  That is, until Paso Robles began acquiring praise and reviews as a great travel destination and more importantly, as the number one wine region in the world.

Templeton has had its own Chamber of Commerce for more than 30 years now but remains a relatively quiet and small town reflective of a bygone era.  And yet, that era may be ending as folks find out where many of the now famous wineries are actually located.  When they discover how charming and quaint the town itself is, there won’t be holding Templeton’s seeming anonymity back any longer.

In fact, Paso Robles is the largest undivided AVA in California, but soon the region will be subdivided into approximately 11 new AVA’s including the Templeton Gap District.  Although still technically under the Paso Robles AVA umbrella, each of these districts will be able to label their wines with the new AVA designation if they wish.  At that time, the Templeton name will be splashed across all over the world as a major wine producing region.

So the secret is out.  None of us who love Templeton necessarily wanted this secret to get out but what heck, we’ll share.

Related:

“Plum Blossoms” Fine Art Photo Templeton, California By Michael Verlangieri

Cheers,

Daryle Hier

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Paso Robles History

Paso Robles Library Museum

Paso Robles Historical Society – Downtown Museum

Here we’ve combined the very early years of Paso Robles with the establishing era and then more recent developing times to give you a small picture into the history of Paso Robles.  Paso Robles has an interesting past on the American frontier and makes the current period all that more amazing when you consider the Paso Robles AVA is now the world’s top Wine Region of the Year.

I should note that the Paso Robles’ Library is a museum of sorts and has an incredible wealth of information pertaining to the town and its history.

Some folks asked where the rest of the history was because they would read just one section of our three-parter – so here they are spliced together.  Just click on the story headline for the full period rundown of each of the three eras.

PART 1

The Earliest Years Of Paso Robles’ History – Paso Robles, California, is growing in popularity, especially in regards to the wine industry and in fact was just named the top wine region of the world (see related articles below).  Wine has been a part of the history of El Paso de Robles but the early beginnings of the town had as much or more to do with ranching, farming, orchards and hot springs. … continued …

PART 2

Paso Robles History Moves From Wild To Wines – As we noted during the earliest years of Paso Robles, founded by James Blackburn and Drury James, the 19th Century offered up the town as little more than a respite for those traveling up and down the coast of California.  They had the sulfur mud hot springs and a train depot but for the most part, the region was ranch and farmland during the Wild West. … continued …

PART 3

Current History of Paso Robles – In our two earlier stories (see related articles below), we talked about the beginnings of Paso Robles with its connection to the mission and then how the town morphed from the Wild West into a growing viticultural area by the 1970s. … continued …

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Current History of Paso Robles

Part 3 of 3

In our two earlier stories (see related articles below), we talked about the beginnings of Paso Robles with its connection to the mission and then how the town morphed from the Wild West into a growing viticultural area by the 1970s.

Paso Robles’ roots were still in ranching, but the land was found to be worth more growing grapes than growing grass for cattle and horses.  The soil was learned to be extraordinary and the vast diurnal between day and night time temperatures made the grapes exceptional.  Thus, the current boom blossomed.

Soil & climate made for a boom

Ranches and orchards once dotted the landscape as much as vineyards do now.

Ranches and orchards once dotted the landscape as much as vineyards do now.

I recall visiting Paso Robles in the ‘80s many times and although it was becoming obvious that big wineries were moving in, there was still vast lands that hadn’t seen grapes – or at least not yet.  That would continue to change as the town once more became a destination for visitors, whether it was for a day or a week.  The population of the town was still only 9,000 30 years ago, yet a decade later had more than doubled in size to 19,000.

About 20 years ago, the wine businesses got together and formed the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance (PRWCA) to help market the wine commerce under one umbrella and put the word out that Paso Robles was an authentic producer of different kinds of high quality wines.

Not to be outdone by the wineries, California Central Coast olive orchards have continued to expand their breadth and now have a widely popular Olive Festival every August.

Earthquake slowed but didn’t stop growth

The San Simeon earthquake of 2003 destroyed much of the old downtown buildings.

The San Simeon earthquake of 2003 destroyed much of the old downtown buildings.

The little city took a setback and no one who lives here will forget the San Simeon earthquake (just west of Paso) that had its tenth anniversary just before Christmas of 2014.  The 6.5 temblor damaged much of downtown and lives were lost with century old buildings demolished in the process.  Interestingly enough, the hot sulfur springs that had dried up many years prior, reemerged after the earthquake creating a sinkhole that only just recently was finally covered.

It should be noted in one year, from 1999 to 2000, the city had ballooned from roughly 21,000 to 25,000.  Except for a lull in ’09 during the height of the Great Recession, Paso has grown steadily passing the 30,000 mark in 2012.

#1

The area continues to be the fastest growing wine region in California and the Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area) was recently named the world’s top Wine Region of the Year.  It’s estimated that there are 32,000 acres of vines growing in the Paso AVA with roughly 300 wineries.  It should also be noted that due in part to drought coupled with the increases in vineyards, water has become an issue in the area.

Paso Robles AVA

Paso Robles has quite a history and the town has changed a lot, yet kept its small town charm.  If you like the California Central Coast and love wine, scenic drives or just a quiet serene place to relax, the city that was originally established in 1889, has everything you need.  Or as they say: ‘Come for the wine, stay for the view’.

Sources: City of Paso Robles, The California Directory of Fine Wineries: Central Coast: Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, PRWCA, Paso Robles (Images of America)

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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The Other Towns Of Paso Robles AVA

Because it is the biggest and most prominent city along with being the namesake, Paso Robles can be thought of as the only town in northern San Luis Obispo County.  However, the AVA (American Viticultural Area) which was just named the world’s Wine Region of the Year has several other towns that in their own right have as much to do with the areas notoriety as Paso Robles does.

The Paso Robles wine region runs from Shandon in the east to Adelaida in the west and from San Miguel in the north to Santa Margarita in the south.  These towns are all unincorporated, yet have a distinguished and long history with the ‘North County’, as it is sometimes called.  We can’t list them all but here are a half-a-dozen towns in the Paso AVA, with a very short description of each (listed alphabetically).

Adelaida is one of the oldest and smallest areas in the Paso AVA along with being the furthest west and highest in elevation.

  • Adelaida – This is an old town that has a history going back almost as far as Paso Robles.  It was created in part by mining and was a thriving community with everything a small town could ask for, but now is little more than some crumpled old buildings.  Adelaida and vicinity has about 500 residents peppered through this hill country and sits between 1,500 and 2,000 feet elevation-wise up in Santa Lucia’s of the California Coastal Range roughly a half hour west of Paso.  With milder weather than Paso, Pinot Noir – known to be a cooler weather varietal – is said to have first received its start in the Central Coast, among the hills just west of Adelaida.
  • Creston – A very small town with little more than a 1,000 residents, it’s as well known for its ranches as any vineyards.  Many horse ranches dot the area as well as cattle, plus also orchards are not uncommon to see in between the mix of horses, cattle and grapes.  The Creston temperatures are ever so slightly warmer in Summer and cooler in winter than Paso Robles.  Some 20 minutes or so minutes southeast of Paso, the soft rolling hills of Creston and surrounding area offer an idyllic setting that is pastoral and quiet.  Rhone varietals (Syrah, Grenache, Viognier et al) are common in Creston.
  • San Miguel – Likely the oldest settlement in North County and started up by the Franciscans (Mission San Miguel Arcangel), this town of less than 3,000 is just a couple miles from the Monterey County line and less than 10 miles north of Paso Robles.  A relatively flat farming community with slight undulating hillsides, wineries can be seen in all direction around San Miguel.  The temperatures are about the same as Creston with all assorted grapes common for the area.

    With moderate temps helping, Santa Margarita has an abundance of rangeland (such as this poppy field). Due to the mild climate, the area can grow almost year around.

    With moderate temps helping, Santa Margarita has an abundance of rangeland (such as this poppy field). Due to the mild climate, the area can grow almost anything year around.

  • Santa Margarita – The quaint town of 1,500 is about as far from Paso Robles as you can get (22 miles south) and still be in the AVA.  It is just over 1,000 feet in elevation and is at the edge of the Santa Margarita Valley which was a popular place for farming 200 years ago.  Ranching is still common in this area but wine is obviously produced from this quiet corner of the world.  Just north of the Cuesta Grade and San Luis Obispo, the temperatures are very mild in comparison with any of its brethren in the Paso AVA and that allows for a longer growing season.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel are among the many wines grown in this very southern tip of the Paso Robles AVA.
  • Shandon – Somewhat like Creston but with a drier climate and further east, this cowboy and ranchland also has its fair share of wineries.  Called the San Juan Creek region at just over 1,000 feet in elevation, this town of maybe 1,500 sits on low lying hills and grasslands about 20 minutes east of Paso Robles.  With likely the driest region of all the Paso AVA, they are still able to produce robust wines including Cabernet Sauvignon on the land south and west of Shandon.

    Templeton Gap

    Templeton Gap allows cool air from the Pacific to reach inland and moderate temperatures for great grape-growing.

  • Templeton – Probably the closest and most similar to Paso Robles, the charming town of Templeton is known for the Templeton Gap where the winds come through the Coastal Range and keep things a bit cooler than Paso.  The town of Templeton has about 8,000 residents but that includes a sprawling area that reaches several miles east and west of the town which is less than 10 minutes south of Paso Robles.  Somewhat quirky, it has a very small town atmosphere and is much like Paso was a half a century ago.  Everything you can think of in wines is made in the Templeton area and in fact, many of the wineries with Paso Robles designations are actually in Templeton.

These towns are rich in history so the next time you have a chance to visit the number one wine region in the world, definitely check out these unique and charming towns who help make up the viticultural area called the Paso Robles AVA.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier 

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