Wine tasting in Paso Robles, Ca

On Memorial Day we packed up the car and headed north … final destination Pismo Beach. Other stops included: Santa Barbara, Arroyo Grande, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and of course Paso Robles…

Every now and then I get a longing to drive through these rollings hills where I once lived… my childhood full of memories of beach days, camping trips, playing with frogs in the creek and that sweet feeling of surrender… so we made it happen! After MUCH deliberation we planned our trip… and wouldn’t trade it for the world!

So today I am finally getting around to blog about our wine tasting tour through Paso Robles…

We parked downtown Paso Robles and waited for the The Wine Line bus to pick us up. How does The Wine Line work? Well, like a true tour bus…

Of course you can check out their website for the full story.

Lori Jean’s version? Riders can hop off the bus at any vineyard or tasting room, hang out for a while, and then hop back on the bus when they’re ready to move on to the next stop… and for the record, they are THE best way to experience Paso Robles’ vineyards!

Since we’d never been through wine country in Paso Robles before we let them suggest which vineyards we should stop at and in which order. There was 1 additional couple on the bus with us… and we all just tagged along and enjoyed the day together. Afterall, we do love talking to strangers, meeting new people and finding out what we have in common… it was a perfect day!

Come with us on the pictorial review of our tour… ?

How wine tasting works in Paso Robles
As we visited various vineyards we found each vineyard has a different deal on prices for tasting. One place gave us 5 free tastings, another let us try ALL 10 of their wines for $3 and others were the standard $5 for 5 tastings. And yet another waived the tasting fee if we bought a bottle of wine.

You see, the proprietors want you to taste their wine in hopes that you’ll buy wine (and buy a lot of it). Obviously they don’t make much on selling tastings… they make their money by selling wine. (And sending people like us home share pics and talk about how great the wine is, friendly the vineyard staff is and how priceless an experience it all was!)

We started at Castoro Cellars … where we learned they are currently bottling the “Coastal” brand for Trader Joe’s. (note to self!)

The vineyard and grounds look like you’d expect a vineyard to look like. There is a long walkway up to the tasting room, rolling hills of vineyards, a large patio with chairs and tables placed strategically to enjoy the view, bundles of California poppies and lavendar speckling the planters and large empty barrels sitting about.

The tasting room was as comfortable as my imaginary italian aunt’s home … the walls painted in warm yellow tones and rich cabinetry… sofas and chairs and a big fireplace. Our Wine Line Guide was right… this was the perfect place to start!

While I had been wine tasting once or twice at local tasting rooms my hero-of-a-hubby has not. So we asked for the beginner’s tour at our first vineyard stop. The friendly wine steward took her time to help us become comfortable with the “in’s and out’s” of tasting. She explained “how” flavors work, how to taste, how to ALWAYS ignore the first sip and to judge the wine off of the second taste.

She was patient with us, funny, knowledgable and excited about 2 particular wines that we couldn’t wait to taste!

We tried 5 wines for FREE and bought a 2007 Zinfusion (this was not her favorite – but it WAS in our price range). Perfect way to start the tour!

I took a gander through their shop and stopped briefly in front of the syrups, jams, marinades, etc.

I could literally sit here all day… but alas, this is the just the beginning. We had several more hours of this.

So I kept walking…

Afterall, this is just the first stop!

We came, we tasted, we conquered! Time to hop back in the bus and move on to vineyard/tasting room #2…

Tasting #2 at Zenaida Cellars – surrounded by yet another awe-inspiring view from the patio…

This tasting room had a completely different feel to it… dark black-brown painted cabinetry, antiqued gray-tan walls, blue neon lights hanging from the ceiling. Just felt a bit more “cool” and updated, like a downtown loft.

We enjoyed 5 wines for a small fee… and took home their Zc Red. While my hubby was paying our bill I took the opportunity to stroll around their property a bit…

And you guessed it, again I found that I wanted to sit here all day!

But no sitting was going to be done quite yet. I just couldn’t… afterall, it’s only noon! We’ve got some more touring and tasting to do! Let’s get a wiggle on…

Tasting #3 – (admittedly, my favorite stop of the day)… AronHill Vineyards

We drove up, climbed out of the van and saw THIS view…

Now THIS?! THIS is where I was going to sit for a while.

I mean, can you blame me?! Look at that view! It was a perfect 71 degrees outside with a slight breeze and we were among fantastic company!

Our Wine Line guide brought out the pre-ordered lunches (sandwich, potato salad and fruit) as we were treated to a remarkable wine tasting affair.

It is apparent that Judy, the proprietor of Aron Hill Vineyards, is in love with what she does on a daily basis! Not only did she personally deliver our tastings and talked to us about each wine… but she had a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye that showed me she has found her passion in life and is living it outloud!

Can I tell you how much I love that?!

We sat, enjoyed lunch, enjoyed 5 tastings and took in this view…

We didn’t rush to get up and Nic, our Wine line guide, talked to us about the history of this region, how certain aspects of the wine industry work and his personal travels.

We brought home a bottle of the best wine we’d tasted all day, Judy’s 2006 Primitivo and two pieces of her stemware.

We helped ourselves to a self-guided tour of her new tasting room (it opened less than a month ago), which included her new shiny (and fully-stocked) chef’s kitchen where they will soon start preparing/selling food for lunches, etc. I noted she had a few panini presses and said “Oh – we’ll be back!”

Let it be known – the tour could have been over at this point. My expectations had been greatly exceeded and the rest of the day paled in comparison… (sorry in advance to the next 2 vineyards, I’m just sayin’… )

Tasting #4 at Norman Vineyards … known for their Monster Zinfandel. We brought home 2 bottles…

It was obvious they were cat lovers (that’s neither a good or bad thing) … not to mention the company logo.

I enjoyed strolling around their property with my camera, and of course with the cats following every move…

And it was time to get back in the bus…

Tasting #5 at Rotta Winery… the oldest family-owned winery in San Luis Obispo county.

As soon as I walked in I wondered if I was on the set of “Will & Grace”. Why? Our wine steward was the spittin’ image of Karen! Rather weird and comical all at the same time… but I didn’t say anything to her until the end.

On one end of the bar was a group of 3 guys who had obviously been drinking (oh, rather “tasting”) for a good portion of the day (and one who smelled pretty ripe, I might say)… these boys were “good ol’ boys” and were giving the wine steward quite the trouble. But it was all in fun…

Here we enjoyed a taste of each of their wines (I think a dozen of them?) for $3! Yes, only $3. We were definitely feeling our wine at this point…

Look at all those awards! They wanted us to TASTE what made them so good!

Ugh… it was now about 4:30 pm and we had been “tasting” since 11 am. Phew… I needed to sit down again (while I’m on that subject – why don’t these tasting rooms have chairs to sit in?!)… but the tv show look-alike was keeping us on our toes!

We brought home the 2007 Estate Zinfandel… she explained that this was the reason we came in today. And she was right! It’s pretty darn fantastic!

As we said our goodbyes at Rotta I asked the wine steward if anyone had ever mentioned her uncanny resemblance to Karen of “Will & Grace”… she laughed out loud (just like Karen, of course) and said “NO – but I love it!”

Then we hopped back in the bus, rehydrating with WATER and took the leisurely drive back into town… and our thoughtful and helpful Wine Line driver dropped us at a dinner locale downtown Paso Robles, just about a block from where we had parked. We slowly ate dinner, drank WATER and chatted over the favorite’s of the day, how we were impressed with the whole experience, etc.

We eventually walked back towards the truck and made our way back to our hotel in Pismo Beach.

We talked about how glad we were to have been able to experience this, and dreamed about how soon we can come back! We are glad we toured Paso Robles for our first wine tasting tour together… it was a complete experience!

(And we have half of a case of wine to prove it! Sheesh!)

Best part of it, my hero-of-a-hubby and I haven’t gotten away (just the two of us) for quite a number o years. We relished in the opportunity to reconnect, dream and relax together. What a treat…

And I leave you with this…

“When wine enlivens the heart, may friendship surround the table.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

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