After finishing our Paso Robles top ten wineries article, we were left with some wineries we really love. We decided that these wineries weren't quite right for our top ten, but deserve their own category. That prompted us to create a top five list of "off the beaten path" Paso Robles wineries.
These are mostly smaller wineries with limited production. They all make excellent wine. They also have interesting stories and unique tasting rooms. If you want to see a different side of Paso Robles, these wineries are for you.
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This winery is technically in the Paso wine region even though it is located about 30 mins south of Paso in the town of Santa Margarita. The recently renovated tasting room building sits alone along the main street of the town. The feeling inside is modern and calming. The tasting room staff are friendly and knowledgeable. It is clear from the moment you enter Ancient Peaks that this is a professionally run winery.
The tasting room features some quirky decorations. Starting with the mounted head of a much loved cow from the rancho and continuing on to the massive pre-historic clam shells that were discovered in the hills of the vineyard. Ask the staff to explain why they are finding sea shells at the top of a mountain range and why that makes for good wine!
The tasting room design, the staff and the quality of the wine are reason enough visit Ancient Peaks, but the real fun starts in the vineyard. Ancient Peaks controls a massive piece of the California Central Coast. One of the few intact examples of the original Rancho land grants, this vineyard is so large it was made a single AVA. The cool part is, you can explore this massive vineyard via Jeep and zipline. Just imagine dangling perilously over the very grapevines that produced the wine you'll need to calm your nerves when you are back on earth.
The Steinbeck family are early pioneers of the Paso Robles wine scene. They started as grape suppliers to many of the now iconic wineries of the region. Now they are both growers, trusted vineyard managers and winemakers. After seeing how much success the wineries they supply had with their grapes, they decided to make their own wine. They started with a small tasting room in the family house. Then, they decided to convert an old iron working shop into a new tasting room. With a talented wine maker and access to some of the best grapes in Paso, they now produce very high quality wines.
This winery is not glamorous and that is what makes it so appealing. The rustic surroundings, the battered and beaten jeep and the old iron works transport you to a simpler time in Paso before the mega brands started building ornate tasting rooms along the highway. You can see and feel the grapes that are deftly transformed into Steinbeck's The Crash red blend.
Make sure you spend some time learning about the Steinbeck family history as you sample the wine. The tasting room provides you with a greater understanding of the history of winegrowing in Paso and this family's place in it.
This winery is tucked away on the east side of Paso Robles. The surroundings are noticeably dustier and the feeling is more relaxed in this part of town. The history of the area feels more accessible here as you pass the cattle ranches and aging barns along the winding roads. Cass fits right into this laid back country vibe.
The building that houses the tasting room and kitchen is surrounded by vegetable gardens, gathering spots to enjoy lunch and, of course, the vineyards. The tasting room has a large bar you can stand at for tastings. It also has tables where you can order from onsite kitchen. Cass was one of the first Paso wineries to offer full meals in their tasting room. They continue to excel at providing tasty food to pair with their wine.
Cass offers tastings outside. We suggest taking advantage of this option. Order something from the kitchen and enjoy the natural beauty.
Ask the tasting room staff about their plans for future. There are some exciting new developments happening at the winery!
While this isn't one winery or even one tasting room, this is a can't miss area of Paso Robles. Many of the areas most exciting boutique wineries have made a home in this newly built industrial complex. Whether the original builders of Tin city intended this to become a wine community is unclear. Start up winemakers took advantage of the lower cost real estate and turned this into a kind of winery incubator. Make sure you check out Levo Wine, Field Recordings, and ONX wines. There is also a brewery if you need a change of pace.
Be aware that not all the wineries in Tin City keep regular hours. You should check out their websites in advance. If necessary, you can book an appointment to make sure the winemaker is available.
Tin City is a great place to explore new winemakers and exciting new winemaking techniques. Make sure you give yourself a few hours to wander around and visit as many wineries as possible.
Some places just make exceptional wine. Dunning vineyards is one of those wineries. And thank God they do, because you deserve a reward after driving over the dirt roads, roots and potholes to this remote tasting room.
Once you make it to Dunning, you may want to stay a while. They offer accommodations across from the winery and tasting room. This is a great place to come if you want to get away from it all. Just you, the woods and some great wine. What else do you need?
If you are into ratings, you will be happy to know that Dunning has been awarded a number of 90 pt. ratings from the national wine press. All of this from a very unassuming family winery.
When you have to post directions with the warning, "Please use directions below as GPS is not accurate", you know you are off the beaten path! After going old school with written directions, you are treated to a thoroughly modern wine tasting experience.
Treana, part of the Hope Family Wines group, created what many feel is the ideal tasting room. A comfortable space with an eye toward contemporary design and just a hint of quirkiness. It's a space you would be happy hanging out in even if you weren't surrounded by world class wines. The good news is, you are surrounded by range of excellent wines from the various Hope brands, so find a comfy spot and work your way through the list...and good luck finding your way home!
As with all of our travel lists, this is just a starting point. Make sure you wander a little. We discover some of our favorite wineries by accident. Just turn up a road if it looks interesting and you may discover the next great Paso Robles winemaker!
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