Being a wine and food columnist, I am frequently asked about good wineries to visit in Paso Robles. I have a few favorites, and one of them is Niner Wine Estates. Niner is a family-owned winery in Paso Robles’ Willow Creek District that combines exceptional wine and food for unforgettable experiences.
The winery is open daily, serving seated tasting flights and a seasonal lunch menu sourced from local farms and their on-site chef’s garden.
Richard Niner, a farm-raised West Virginian, graduated from Princeton and, later, Harvard Business School. He developed successful small businesses in various sectors. While in New York City, he met Pam, a magazine editor. They married and had two children, Andy and Katy.
In the early 1990s, Richard’s business ventures introduced him to the beauty of the Central Coast. Recognizing Paso’s potential to rival renowned wine regions like Napa, he acquired a vineyard in 2001, reconnecting with his farming roots. The winery and tasting room opened in the spring of 2010, serving as the estate’s heart.
Following in his father’s business footsteps, Andy began his career at Cambridge Associates in Boston. He later relocated to California, where he worked in various business roles, including strategic planning for Levi Strauss. Andy’s MBA from UC Berkeley further enriched his expertise. Eventually, his affection for the central coast and the family business inspired him to join the team.
Andy is assisted by Tucker Spear, Niner’s director of sales, who inherited his passion for the wine industry from his mother, who worked in international wine sales. Before Niner, Spear served in regional and national sales management positions at Chalk Hill Estate and Fantesca Estate Vineyards.
Spear narrated the Niner Wine Dinner at Victor Magalhaes’ Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria with a sold-out 130 guests. Spear was assisted by Republic National Distribution Company (RNDC) Emily Moody, account manager, and Maddie Bloom, sales representative.
Andy’s winemaking team includes Patrick Muran, responsible for Heart Hill Vineyard in Paso’s Willow Creek District and the recently sold Bootjack Ranch Vineyard. The last Niner vintage from Bootjack was in 2021.
Shaped like a heart, Heart Hill Vineyard grows a variety of cabernet sauvignon clones, along with malbec, cabernet franc, petit verdot, syrah, mourvèdre, carménère, head-trained zinfandel, and grenache blanc.
Molly Bohlman leads winemaking for Niner’s Jesperson Ranch vineyard in the Edna Valley near San Luis Obispo. Jesperson Ranch has diverse plantings of pinot noir, chardonnay, albariño, sauvignon blanc, syrah, grenache, and pinot meunier.
Located just four miles from the ocean, the Jesperson Ranch vineyard benefits from its unique west-to-east orientation that brings in the morning fog, ensuring slow ripening that results in complex flavors and lively acidity.
Niner has been 100% estate grown since the beginning. The integration of farming and winemaking is the foundation of their success. A key component of their operations is sustainability.
During his narration, Spear shared, “Solar-powered, energy-efficient buildings, water reduction via rainwater capture and wastewater recycling, a composting program, wildlife corridors, and bees for pollination were key for their third party Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Sustainability in Practice (SIP) certifications.
As usual, Vittorio’s executive chef, Jesus, dazzled guests with pairings. Dinner started with a shrimp stuffed avocado topped with cherry tomato, dill, and a remoulade sauce. This was served with the 2021 Chardonnay.
The second-course pairing was my favorite — baked rigatoni with fontina cheese and prosciutto in a creamy bechamel sauce served with 2021 Pinot Noir. Per the aforementioned, both the Chardonnay and Pinot benefitted from Jesperson Ranch’s distinct climate. The long hang time developed ripe, complex flavors and acidity.
For the third course, guests savored braised short ribs, garlic mashed potatoes, and asparagus covered in a tangy Bearnaise sauce. The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon blended with splashes of cab franc, malbec, and petit verdot well complemented the short rib entrée.
Muran’s free-run juice cab sauv blend with 42% new French oak for 20 months produced a nose with dark cherry and hints of herb and a palate with dark fruit flavors and plush tannins. Dinner concluded with chocolate crème pie.
For those traveling to Paso, I would make room on your itinerary for a Niner Winery visit, especially over lunch. You will fall in love with Heart Hill while savoring delicious culinary entrees produced by Exec Chef Jacob Burrell and estates wines produced by Muran and Bohlman. See more information at ninerwine.com.
— Story by Rico Cassoni
Next up for Victor Magalhaes’ Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria is a Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) Wine Dinner featuring Hannah O’Donnell from the winery at 6 p.m. on July 27. The four-course dinner features Grilled NY steak, sauteed spinach, and cauliflower puree paired with 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Cost is $75 per person + tax/gratuity. RSVP at 858-538-5884.