Paso Robles wine country is open and welcoming
Don’s back, and so is Paso!
–It’s been a long, difficult, challenging year. Facing unknowns, business closings, shutdowns, partial openings, re-inventing, reacting, minute-by-minute changes. Paso Robles has reacted and acted in the truest sense of the Pioneer Spirit – forging ahead to meet each day with a determination to beat the odds. And now: Paso wine country is open and back —Vibrant, exciting and as always: welcoming.
It’s been a long six months since this writer’s last brief trip to Paso-and this quick three-day trip from SoCal couldn’t have been more exciting: Seeing and drinking in (literally) Paso Robles Wine Country. Never enough time to visit all my old friends or to discover and make new friends-this 400-mile round trip featured:
Five on our drive
(please note: Advance reservations are requested for all tasting visits-Please adhere to guidelines in effect)
In Tin City: Two for you
Onx Wines: Kevin was the perfect wine host, pouring and talking about the wines of Onx. This award-winning winery has carved a special niche as a premier blender. Mostly Rhone varietals, they also surprised me with a very sexy Bordeaux blend. And how good it was to spend some time with Jeff Strekas and Drew Nenow!
Onx has a tastefully set up a spacious outdoor tasting area. You can feel totally comfortable tasting, along with other couples at the well distanced tables. And, as a special consideration, they offer a totally “touchless” tasting experience! Individual 1oz bottles of the wines on the tasting menus. And don’t overlook adding a charcuterie or cheese box to complement your tasting. www.onxwines.com.
ONX is located just a minute walk away from:
Benom Wines: Sip back and relax in Benom’s comfortable outdoor “living room.” Benom is a project between brothers Guillaume Fabre (winemaker) and Arnaud Fabre. Coming from a six-generation French wine family, you will delight in not only an elegant cabernet sauvignon but also explore the complexity of blends from cabernet, Rhone and Spanish varietals. The wine DNA lineage defines the elegance of this label. As you sip, you will be treated to quintessential French hospitality by either Arnaud, Katie (who has been with Benom since day #1), or Maxime, newly arrived from France. www.benomwines.com.
Can’t make it to Onx or Benom? Check their website to participate in their virtual wine tasting experience!
Time for a break
Before continuing your (back to) Paso wine adventure, take a food break at McPhee’s Canteen in Tin City. Order online, by phone or at the counter. McPhee’s features wood-fired pizzas, salads, fish ‘n chips, sandwiches, and burgers. Then, sit back and snack by the water feature on the back patio. Tables are well-spaced, and the sound of running water will lull you into a mindset of peaceful, Paso tranquility. Hours: 11:30-6 p.m., 7 days a week. www.mcpheescanteen.com.
East Side-West Side
Top Winery, located just a few minutes off Highway 101 on the 46 East, is a relatively new project. Here we enjoyed a tasting, hosted by Elena Martinez, wife of winemaker Stanley Barrios. Seated in their intimate outdoor alcove, protected and shielded from the main road, we were able to enjoy the newest releases of this award-winning winemaker. Stanley and Elena gave up successful corporate careers to follow their passion, and with only five releases, have firmly established themselves as not only a premier boutique winery, but two of the nicest people you want to sip and visit with. Read their story, then visit their expressive Rhone wines. www.topwinery.com.
Heading over to Paso’s westside, we arrived at:
Torrin Wine: Scott Hawley has been a major influence on Paso Robles’ wine country and winemakers for about two decades now. Surrounded by hills and vineyards, we tasted on the very spacious patio with David Newell, Torrin’s director of sales and hospitality. In addition to new offerings from the original Torrin collection (Maven, Banshee, and Akasha), Torrin has expanded their line-up, which now includes the new Lagom collection of chardonnay and pinot noir. The most spacious patio can comfortably accommodate several parties, with heat lamps and fire pits spread throughout. We enjoyed our tasting and visit with Scott and David as we watched eagles soar, deer grazing, and then two fox cubs running through the vines playing. Pure serenity. www.torrinwines.com.
Paix Sur Terre: This was to be our last stop before heading back home. Located off Vineyard Drive, the winery and tasting area overlooks hills and vineyards, horses, and local wildlife. Nicole Pease (winemaker Ryan Pease’s wife) was our hostess. Bubbly, vibrant and excited to “be back” hosting and pouring, Nicole is the definition Paso Robles hospitality and charm. Ryan’s true passion is mourvèdre, and what he does with that and his blends is magic for the palate. Six close friends safely spaced and sipping on the patio, with a light breeze blowing was magical-and also gave us a feeling of normality returning to our lives. Maybe it was by chance, maybe not, but the last taste Nicole poured for us was the 2019 Mourvèdre: “Been Away Too Long.” That kind of said it all…and now we were back in Paso again! www.paixsurterrewines.com.
We will return again soon, continuing our decades long romance and adventure of Paso Robles wine country, experiencing the friendliness, the people, the wines, the food, and the vibe of this pioneer town… leading the way again, opening doors and welcoming the wine road traveler. Cheers!
Don Sonderling is a freelance writer covering California’s Wine Country lifestyle and culture, from the Central Coast through the Napa Valley. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org