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Paso Robles, A Great Wine Town

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‘e’wineoftheweek

bruce cochran

Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s not as famous — yet — as some of California’s older wine regions, and it’s certainly not as easy to get to but Paso Robles is a great wine town. If you’ve been to Napa and Sonoma and are ready for what’s next, take a look at this fast-growing Central Coast wine town and the region around it.

Many of us have been going to northern California for years, watching as it developed from quiet valleys filled with not-very-developed wine towns to a place where limousines and $200-plus bottles of wine are a common site. It’s still pretty cool, and it’s still very beautiful. And you get to spend some time in nearby San Francisco.

But in the past decade or so, much of the real wine action has been happening about three hours south of San Francisco, which is about the same distance north of Los Angeles. Right in the center of the Central Coast wine region is Paso Robles, sort of a cowboy town-turned-wine town. Ten years ago, being a wine town was still sort of a new idea for Paso Robleans, but today they have a great downtown area filled with wine tasting shops, boutique restaurants, hotels and even places to taste and buy the local olive oil.

The reason, of course, is the great wine being made nearby. From the north or from the south, Highway 101 takes you to Paso’s other main axis, Highway 46. That’s most of the directions you need. Highway 46 East takes you inland where sprawling vineyards and impressive architectural edifices dot the countryside. Here, summer days are sunny and hot, cooling rapidly in the late afternoon and evening for one of the world’s great vine climates. Highway 46 West takes you across the coastal mountain range, past hillside vineyards to one of the world’s most scenic coastlines.

Paso is probably best known today for cabernet sauvignon with some of the most pure fruit flavors found anywhere. They’re probably proudest of their zinfandel, which they celebrate each year at their zinfandel festival. And adding to their palette is a broad range of wines made from grape varieties native to the Mediterranean, from syrah and petite sirah for reds to roussanne and marsanne for whites.

A good Paso Robles cabernet is Vina Robles 2006 Paso Robles Huerhuero. This single vineyard cab is a product of the sunny, warm days and cool evenings of Paso’s east side. It retails for $20.

Bruce Cochran has traveled to every major wine region on four continents. A 30-year veteran of the wine trade, he taught continuing education wine classes for 26 years at colleges throughout Arkansas.

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