PRWC: Of Outlaws, Outliers, and Old Vines…

Welcome to binNotes’ Terroirist Tuesday. Today’s Topic: Part 1 of 3: Paso Robles, CA.

Paso Robles – a wine region steeped in saints, sinners and some of the most complex soils in California.

Image: L.M. Archer, binNotes©
Adelaida Springs, Paso Robles, CA.

Some History…

Considered California’s “Wild West” of wine regions, Paso Robles means “Pass of the Oaks”, from the abundant local oak trees, and sits along the Central Coast between the San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Saintly Franciscan friars took root in Paso Robles in the 1790’s, planting some really bad sacramental wine for their flocks, and brandy for export. Homesteaders followed, eventually bringing old world Zinfandel and Muscat grapes from France and Spain. Zinfandel thrived as Paso’s primary varietal for generations.

Besides the grapes, hot sulfur springs attracted outsiders to the area, including sinners Frank  and Jesse James (aka “The James Boys” of 19th bank robber lore), who visited Paso Robles to rest up after a Kentucky bank robbery. Luckily, uncle Drury James co-owned the Hot Springs, and the boys behaved themselves while in town.

In the 1920’s  – the Hot Springs still going strong – Polish pianist and statesman Ignace Paderewski sought relief for his gnarled piano hands. Enchanted by the area, Paderewski bought 2,000 acres and planted Petit Sirah and Zinfandel grapes.

Image: L.M. Archer, binNotes©

Fast-forward to the 1960’s and 1970’s, when Dr. Stanley Hoffman of UC Davis fame, enlisted “The Maestro,” André Tchelistcheff to help introduce Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varietals to the region.

By the 1980’s, Paso’s diverse microclimates, soils, and diurnal temperature variations attracted larger and mid-level vineyards, followed in the 1990s’ by international wine makers from France, S. Africa, Australia and Switzerland. These international wine makers helped introduce Rhone and Bordeaux varietals to the region.

Today, Paso Robles also enjoys a number of boutique wineries, tasting rooms, and  ‘farm-to-table’ food and wine pairing. As with any cult following…shhhh.. keep this place on the DL…

Paso Robles: Some Facts…

  • 200+ wineries
  • 26,000+ acres vineyards
  • 40 wine varietals
  • 45+ soil series
  • Geographic Features Include: Santa Lucia Range, Salinas River Valley, Templeton Gap
  • Predominant Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon  – 38%

Copyrighted 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Next Week: Part 2 of 3: Visionaries of Paso Robles: Eberle Winery &  Tablas Creek Vineyard

NOTE: Clink clink to Shannon Brady of Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance for the tee-up to some of the wineries you’ll be reading about…Cheers, PRWCA!

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