California, North America, United States

The Perfect Wine Tasting Guide for Paso Robles, California

July 21, 2015
California - Paso Robles - Around the World with Justin

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Living in California my family and friends always ask me if I’ve been wine tasting in Napa Valley or Sonoma. Sure, wine country and wine tasting just north of San Francisco is well known across the United States, but let me add a hidden gem to California’s wine country to do list – Paso Robles.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting aroundtheworldwithjustin.com
Around the World with Justin
Paso Robles is located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco making it about a 3 to 4 hour drive from both cities. If you’re coming from out of the state, the closest major airport is San Jose International Airport (SJC), about a 2 and a half hour drive. Other major airports in easy driving distance are Oakland (OAK), San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Burbank (BUR) and Long Beach (LGB). For more helpful information check out Travel Paso.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

Before you arrive, the most important transportation decision is how you get to the wineries. If you have a designated driver and a car, your decision is easy. If everyone plans on wine tasting you need to make sure you safely go from winery to winery. Here are two options I used and can highly recommend:

Designated Wine Driver
If you have a car that can accommodate your group, then you can hire a driver for the day. On my first trip we used DesignatedWineDriver.com owned by Bob Barker (not the host of “Price Is Right”). The service cost $35/hour for a max of 6 passengers along with a gourmet basket of cheese, snacks, bottled water and a DVD of pictures from your tour. Bob’s crew is available Monday through Sunday 8:00am to 8:30pm and allow you to pick your own route — any wineries you want.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California designated driver aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

The Designated Wine Driver was affordable and gave us a friendly driver who was really informative about the best Paso Robles wineries during the drive, but stayed out of our way when we were at the wineries (besides getting paparazzi-like photos of the group). I would HIGHLY recommend using Bob!

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Tablas Creek aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

Travel TipIf it’s not provided with your service, make sure to pack a lunch, snacks and water for the day!

The Wine Line
During my second trip to Paso Robles we had a group of 8 and the best option we found was The Wine Line. For groups under 7, it’s more of a “hop on, hop off” type service. For larger groups like ours, we made reservations at the wineries and had specific pickup times throughout the day. The company provides a list of some of the best Paso Robles wineries that you can choose from, not ALL wineries in Paso Robles are available, but there are plenty of great options. The cost was $70 per person, we were given discounts on tasting fees at various wineries and our driver was on time for every pickup. The Wine Line was perfect for our needs!

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting wine line aroundtheworldwithjustin.com
Around the World with Justin
Over my two trips to Paso Robles this year I visited 9 different wineries and drank over 45 tastings. Here’s a list of some of the best Paso Robles wineries I visited, starting with my favorite for each trip based on overall experience including vibe, service, setting and tastings.

Trip #1
1. TABLAS CREEK
A gorgeous winery with an extremely friendly staff and great tasting wines. We started the day with a walking tour that was extremely educational about the process of growing the grapes to bottling the wine.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Tablas Creek aroundtheworldwithjustin.comBest Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Tablas Creek aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

2. JUSTIN
How could I not visit my own winery?!?! Justin’s wines are delicious and the winery has a high-class restaurant vibe. There’s a large outdoor seating area with a lot of tables and beautiful views.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Justin Winery aroundtheworldwithjustin.comBest Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Justin Winery aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

3. BOOKER
Known for attracting a younger crowd and having younger female employees. Booker has outdoor games and a nice picnic area. Service felt rushed at the end of the day and comparatively not as friendly.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Booker aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

4. TERRY HOAG
At the time of our visit it was under construction so we had our tasting in the back room on a makeshift table. Smaller compared to the other wineries, but the staff was very knowledgeable and accommodating.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Terry Hoag aroundtheworldwithjustin.comBest Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Terry Hoag aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

Trip #2
1. SUMMERWOOD
Loved this winery! The staff was extremely welcoming, fun and true experts. The setting offered views of the vineyards, a variety of seating areas and backyard games like cornhole.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Summerwood aroundtheworldwithjustin.comBest Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Summerwood aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

2. CASTORO
One of the best outdoor setups in Paso Robles. We snacked on cheese, crackers and grapes in the gazebo and played cornhole (I love games!). The staff was friendly but not as knowledgeable as other wineries.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Castoro aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

3. HOPE
The tasting room is very classy, upscale and trendy. Tables are pimped out with sets of Cards Against Humanity for guests and the staff is top notch. Felt like we were at a restaurant more than a winery.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Hope aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

4. CALIZA
A smaller winery with a very welcoming staff and good wines. A great spot to eat a meal outside.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Caliza aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

5. MIDNIGHT 
Set in an older house-like building, there wasn’t a great outdoor setup. We set up chairs ourselves under a tree and didn’t learn much about the wines. Our server talked about “The Bachelorette” which was fun.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Midnight aroundtheworldwithjustin.comBest Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Midnight aroundtheworldwithjustin.com
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VINEYARD VIEW
This is where I will stay every time I go back to Paso Robles if it’s available! Located in the middle of vineyards next to J. Lohr, this cute 3-bedroom house was PERFECT. We absolutely loved the privacy and the seclusion in the vineyards. The backyard is spacious with a fire pit and yard games. It’s further from downtown than other rentals, but so worth the escape.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Vineyard View aroundtheworldwithjustin.comBest Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Vineyard View aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

What makes it even more incredible are the views from both the house and from talking a walk through the vineyards. Definitely hike to the top of the hill for sunset!

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Vineyard View aroundtheworldwithjustin.comBest Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Vineyard View aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

VINE STREET
This 2-bedroom rental is located a couple blocks from downtown and is sandwiched between other houses on all sides. It’s cute, compact and has a backyard equipped with a grill, fire pit and great seating. If you want to be walking distance from downtown it’s a good option for exploring some of the best Paso Robles wineries.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting aroundtheworldwithjustin.comBest Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting aroundtheworldwithjustin.com
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“The best wine is the one you drink with friends.”

When I think about my wine tasting trips to Paso Robles, the bonding I had with friends – both old and new – is what I remember the most. I’m not a wine snob, and to be honest, after a few tastings the wines pretty much taste the same to me anyways. The laughs we shared and memories we created over our many glasses of wine is what makes wine tasting so worth it.

Best Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Justin Winery aroundtheworldwithjustin.comBest Paso Robles Wineries California wine tasting Midnight aroundtheworldwithjustin.com

I also learned at some of the best Paso Robles wineries that “tasting notes” are NOT “ingredients” in the wines! Yes… I’ll admit it! I thought when they listed things like leather, cigars, pencil shavings or strawberries somehow those elements were incorporated into the winemaking process… thinking about it now, it’s pretty dumb, but it made for a good laugh! I was told that a lot of people actually think the same thing. So if you’re looking for a fun impromptu game while wine tasting, guess the “ingredients”!

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15 Comments

  • Reply Amanda July 22, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    First off, I love that you gave the server a shout-out for “Bachelorette” reppin. Second, the ONLY bottle of wine we have in the house right now (it’s super expensive here) is Justin! I LOVE it! And third, as always, your pictures are stunning – they capture the beauty of the landscape up there but also the fun energy and spirit of a “not Napa” style of wine country. Just wonderful!

    • Reply Justin Walter July 23, 2015 at 6:33 pm

      It all started when I asked the server if she’d ever thought about going on “The Bachelor”! Every pour after that then became “Bachelorette” talk and I’m honored that you’re drinking my wine all the way in Singapore. Thanks for the feedback!! I haven’t been to Napa yet, but Paso definitely has a fun energy and it helps when you go with a crew that wants to have fun.

  • Reply Dyson August 9, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Uncorked Wine Tours is the perfect solution for a great wine tasting experience in Paso Robles Wine Country or San Luis Obispo’s Edna Valley.

    • Reply Justin Walter August 10, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      I’ll definitely look into Uncorked Wine Tours next time, thanks!

  • Reply John K September 10, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Just went to Paso and used this blog extensively to plan. LOVED “Vineyard View” — really a perfect VRBO. SO glad we booked a driver through Bob Barker, too. Just make sure your car is big enough to hold everyone comfortably! Thanks Justin!

    • Reply Justin Walter September 11, 2015 at 10:30 am

      Thanks John! So glad you loved “Vineyard View” and The Designated Wine Driver. Both are top notch!

  • Reply Patrick September 10, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Just spent an incredible long weekend in Paso Robles and literally used your blog post to plan the whole trip! Thank you!!

    We stayed in the house in the J. Lohr vineyard and it was the most beautiful and peaceful spot – literally had 360 degree vineyard views! I loved waking up every morning, sitting on the front patio, and enjoying my morning coffee. I’ve stayed at lots of VRBO/airbnb spots and this was hands down one of the best.

    We spent one day just hanging out in the yard with our dogs and playing yard games. On the next day we had Todd from designatedwinedriver.com drive us to vineyards around town. Todd was the nicest guy and brought us to beautiful vineyards (with delicious wine). Such a blast.

    I’ll definitely be visiting Paso Robles again! Incredible place. Thanks for all of the amazing recommendations!

    • Reply Justin Walter September 11, 2015 at 10:32 am

      The 360 degree vineyard views are incredible! Pictures don’t do this VRBO rental justice. Happy you loved Paso Robles and that my recommendations worked out.

  • Reply Michael September 10, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    We used all of Justin’s recommendations for our recent trip to Paso Robles. From the Vineyard View house to the Bob Barker drivers and many of wineries described above, Justin’s blog was the perfect blueprint for our weekend in Paso. Castro was our favorite spot. Be sure to ask about that Frisbee Golf and wine tasting deal – only $5 for a round and a tasting! Thanks, Justin. Looking forward to planning our next adventure with ATWJustin.

    • Reply Justin Walter September 11, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Next time I’m in Paso Robles I am definitely going to ask about the $5 Frisbee Golf and wine tasting deal, that sounds amazing!! Thanks for your feedback and I’m really happy my post helped you guys plan a fun weekend getaway to Paso Robles.

  • Reply Oakley September 22, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    Hello, I enjoy reading all of your article.

  • Reply Jill October 9, 2015 at 11:59 am

    So many interesting articles here!

  • Reply Designated Wine Driver – (805) 674-7809 – The Perfect Wine-Tasting Guide for Paso Robles, California October 26, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    […] Read full article here If you have a car that can accommodate your group, then you can hire a driver for the day. On my first trip we used DESIGNATEDWINEDRIVER.COM owned by Bob Barker (not the host of “Price Is Right”). The service cost $35/hour for a max of 6 passengers along with a gourmet basket of cheese, snacks, bottled water and a DVD of pictures from your tour. Bob’s crew is available Monday through Sunday 8:00am to 8:30pm and allow you to pick your own route — any wineries you want. […]

  • Reply Sherry May 22, 2016 at 5:58 am

    I was excited to have Bob Barker drive me and a friend to a couple of wineries. He seemed like such a nice man, knowledgeable, and professional. I’m sure he is, but I didn’t have that experience, unfortunately. I made plans three months in advance. THREE MONTHS. Bob made me feel at ease, letting me know he would conduct the entire event, providing his knowledge of the wineries, as we drove around. It just sounded superb! I told Bob I wanted to pay in advance, and he was all for that. (What business owner wouldn’t want to be paid in advance )? Ten minutes before our meeting, he canceled…through text. We finally met two days later, and I paid him. Apparently, after meeting me, he decided he wouldn’t drive me. He asked a young man to drive me instead. Of course, Bob waited until the night before to spring this on me…via email, of course. When I expressed my dissapointment, he never responded. Not professional at all.

    The young man who drove us knew nothing about wine or the wineries. He admitted he’s a beer drinker. But, he was fine. Nice guy, took great photos. For that, I decided to give Bob Barker another chance. I had three tours lined up and decided to use him for all three. One group of ten were still getting their RSVP sent in. In the meantime, I was relating questions, to Bob, that they had. Bob’s responses were, “One last time, I will tell you…” OR, “With your ever changing schedule, I will tell you again…” This was over the course of three emails. “Ever changing” and “One last time.” Kind of ironic for someone who canceled on me, TWICE, at the last minute.

    I will share my opinions of Bob Barker’s service going forward. Really unfortunate. His company has a great idea, but the service skills are hugely lacking. And, they changed the moment he saw me. : ) Makes you wonder.

    • Reply Justin Walter May 24, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Sherry. I am very sorry about your experience! I’ve honestly had such positive feedback regarding Bob’s service. I hope that you’ve been in touch with Bob and were able to enjoy beautiful Paso Robles.

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