A weekend away: Paso Robles

thumb_IMG_3086_1024Even craft beer lovers need to clean their palates, so today’s column takes us to California’s Central Coast for wine tasting.

Situated halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Paso Robles is far enough away for a weekend getaway, yet just a four-hour drive from the Inland Empire. But give yourself time to arrive for Friday afternoon samplings before the tasting rooms close.

Lesser known than the bigger and more expensive wine regions of Napa Valley and Sonoma County, Paso Robles boasts some 200 wineries that produce some of the state’s finest Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and Zinfandels. Still, there are plenty of well-known wineries spread through the region, including Justin, J. Lohr and Eberle. The beauty of the vineyards changes from the tree-filled hillsides on the west side of Highway 101, to the rolling open spaces on the east.IMG_2380 (1)

I love Paso Robles because of its big, bold fruit-forward Zinfandels. There is a distinct flavor to the Paso Zins, and there are two wineries that produce my favorites. Opolo is tucked along the hillsides on the west, and Tobin James Cellars is the farthest winery east on Highway 46.

After our visits over two days to EOS, Sextant, Whalebone, Opolo and Pear Valley, along with a detour to the Firestone-Walker Brewery, we closed each day at Tobin James, which has the most fun tasting room in Paso. Even Tobin James himself hangs out there. Tobin James (the place not the person) may be the only tasting room in Paso that doesn’t charge a tasting fee. James Gang wine club members and visitors fill three separate bars in the large saloon. It’s no surprise that TJ boasts the largest wine club in the world, offering great deals, exceptional wines and the best place in town to end your day.

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