March 11, 2019, marked 130 years since the town of Paso Robles was founded. Located on California’s Central Coast and almost exactly midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, this town is brimming with tasting rooms and restaurants perfect for allowing one to get to know the region’s wine and cuisine.
Like the town, there’s a long history of producing wine in the Paso Robles area. Grapes were introduced in the late 1700s by missionaries, but commercial wine production was inhibited by Prohibition. However, over the past three decades, the number of wineries in the region has grown exponentially. The Paso Robles AVA, which was established in 1983, is now home to over 200 wineries and 40,000 acres of vineyard. With so many options, there’s sure to be a bottle for everybody.
Toast to the next 130 great years with this diverse selection of red wines.
Herman Story 2016 Milk & Honey Red (Paso Robles); $48, 96 points. Russell From masterfully captures the unctuous ripeness of Paso Robles while retaining enough structure to keep the resulting wine balanced. This heavy duty blend of 32% Tempranillo, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Petit Verdot and 19% Syrah is thick and inky in the glass, with transcendent aromas of blueberry syrup, cappuccino and smoked meat that drill deep into the cortex. A firm structure and steady acidity present flavors of black currant and charcoal. Editors’ Choice. —Matt Kettmann
Benom 2016 Origin Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles); $65, 95 points. This bottling from a new label by the French-born Fabre brothers is very dark in the glass and shows thick, luscious aromas of black plum, concentrated violets, mocha, minty cola and leather. It’s soft and supple on the palate, where chalky tannins presents intense black-currant, black-pepper and elegantly herbal flavors. —M.K.
MCV 2016 Rosewynn Vineyard Petite Sirah (Paso Robles); $52, 93 points. Matt Villard is forging a path worth following with his single-vineyard Petite Sirahs, and this bottling is a strong example of why. Deep and dark in the glass, it shows aromas of concentrated blueberry, violet and lavender. Mouthcoating tannins consume the palate, but are soft enough to let unique flavors of pepper-spiced cassis shine through, as acid rises strongly into the finish. —M.K.
Epoch 2015 Sensibility Grenache (Paso Robles Willow Creek District); $75, 93 points. It’s rare for a Grenache to be deemed cellar worthy, but this beauty, which is strategically bolstered by 4% Syrah, packs the right mix of tannin, alcohol and acidity to do the trick. Baked red cherries, clove and gingerbread show on the nose, while the sip grips the palate with chalky tannins, showing flavors of plum, cranberry, orange rind and baking spice. Drink now through 2028. Cellar Selection. —M.K.
Dusty Nabor 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles); $65, 92 points. A fresh cherry aroma is wrapped in loads of intriguing spice on the nose of this bottling, including clove, mint and cocoa. A chalky texture of grainy tannins frames the palate, where plum, blackberry, dried ginger and more baking-spice flavors ride a persistent acidity. —M.K.
Chronic Cellars 2017 Suite Petite Petite Sirah (Paso Robles); $15, 91 points. The Beckett brothers deliver a wine that starts with aromas of concentrated blackberry jam, toasted wood, plum and violet. The palate is floral and fresh, with penetrating flavors of blueberry sorbet that rest against a strong tannic structure. Best Buy. —M.K.
Opolo 2016 Summit Creek Merlot (Paso Robles); $20, 91 points. Candied black cherry, hickory smoke, vanilla and dried herbs show on the complex nose of this bottling. It’s very plush, rounded and likable on the palate, where flavors of red cherry and caramel prove quite lengthy and medium weight. —M.K.
Bishop’s Peak 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles); $22, 91 points. Snappy blackberry and boysenberry aromas combine with lilac, herbs and olive on a very inviting nose in this second-label bottling by the Talley family. It’s a fully flavored experience on the sip, with black plum, savory charred meat and dried herbs, showing great complexity for under $25. Editors’ Choice. —M.K.
Hubba 2016 Dreamland Red (Paso Robles); $37, 91 points. A fascinating look at cofermented grapes that don’t usually hang out, this blend of 69% Grenache and 31% Cabernet Sauvignon offers aromas of candied strawberry, potpourri, smoked cranberry and sagebrush on the nose. It’s soft and plush on the palate, where cran-raspberry flavors meet with wild thyme. Editors’ Choice. —M.K.
McClean 2015 Simone Zinfandel (Paso Robles); $15, 90 points. Ripe and candied strawberry aromas meet with nutmeg on the delicious nose of this bottling. There is a strong acidic tang to the palate, where macerated strawberry flavors feel quite fresh and young. It goes down easy. Best Buy. —M.K.
Now Presenting… 2016 Red (Paso Robles); $15, 90 points. Aromas of red currant paste, wood spice and crushed red flowers show on the nose of this reliable value wine. It’s full and lovely on the palate with rich yet tart red cherries and a hint of lavender oil. Best Buy. —M.K.
Pull 2016 BDX Estate Grown Red (Paso Robles); $18, 90 points. This blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon shows aromas of red berries, peppercorns and a hint of green herbs on the nose. It’s tightly woven on the palate, where a tangy red-plum flavor leads into a caramel-kissed finish. —M.K.