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Paso Robles vineyard
A typical vineyard scene in Paso Robles consists of rolling hills and an occasional mighty landmark oak tree. Paso Robles means “pass of the oaks” in Spanish. Courtesy photo
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Paso Robles – An unbroken circle of world class wines

Paso Robles reaches far and wide along the Central Coast, perfectly located between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Its beautiful hillsides and lush valleys reveal more than 200 wineries along easy-access roads and around the town square park.

Your first decision in Paso will be where to stay. It will be your easiest. The only true wine country resort is Allegretto, nestled in 20 acres that include a working vineyard, olive and fruit trees, 171 guest rooms and suites, a restaurant with a chef’s garden, wine bar and rooms and hallways of collectible art and lush gardens.

The Allegretto Wine Tasting Room presents a unique opportunity to sample some of the region’s best award-winning wines, both estate and single vineyard.

An outdoor table was prepared in a lacy pavilion upon our arrival, looking out on a 12,000 square foot piazza with inviting seating and nearby whispering fountains. A resort fee is waived with the purchase of a bottle.

Our tasting lineup included: the 2019 Cello White, named after the resort’s Cello restaurant that follows the Allegretto culture of joy, discovery and the good life. This wine is a sultry blend of chardonnay and Roussanne.

Other wines were the 2018 Trio Paso Robles with Viognier, Vermentino and Roussanne; the 2016 Tannat red Allegretto Vineyards, a favorite of ours with smokey butterscotch on the nose and cherries, tobacco and plum on the palate; the 2017 cabernet sauvignon, Allegretto Vineyards and the 2016 cab sauv Willow Creek Vineyards (owner Doug Ayres home). The soft tannins contribute to a blackberry chocolate nose, fruity, spicy currant on the palate and a cedar box finish.

The Italian word Allegretto in English means “with joy,” a feeling you’ll find with every moment of your stay.

In last week’s Taste of Wine and Food, Rico wrote of the memorable moments we spent with Daou Family Estates, perhaps the most widely known and respected of the premium wineries helping to gain notoriety for Paso in its quest for worldwide recognition.

This column will now take you on a kind of circle day trip around Paso’s Westside wine country, with a few stops along the way.

Starting out from the Allegretto Resort, Paso’s Town Square is worth a visit with its quaint restaurants, shops and more than 20 wine bars that surround walking green belts.

Just 10 minutes south, you’ll find Highway 46 West on the south side of the Paso circle of wineries, where we visited Denner.

Allegretto Vineyard Resort
Allegretto Vineyard Resort, created by hotel developer Douglas Ayres, blends old-world charm and beauty with a premium cabernet sauvignon vineyard in Paso Robles’ famed Willow Creek District. Courtesy photo

It was awarded one of the Wine Spectator’s top 20 wines in the world in 2019 for its Dirt Worshipper, a French Rhone Valley style blend of 98% syrah, with 1% Viognier and 1% Roussanne, two white wines that actually make the wine mix darker. The current vintage is 2018 ( $80).

We met with Ryker Wall, an Assistant Winemaker who was a wine sommelier at a nearby restaurant but wanted more and is now fulfilling his dream of making wine. You also want to see Denner for the architecture which resembles a spaceship emerging from an underground hangar.

The impressive tasting list also included Flagship wine Ditch Digger with 45% grenache, 20% mourvèdre, 20% syrah and 5% each of Cinsaut, Counoise and Graciano ($80). At Denner Vineyards, all red wines are foot-stomped, so if the time of the year is right, there may be a job for you.

Alta Colina, Spanish for “high hill,” is a high country winery, close to the heights of Daou Mountain off Adelaida Rd. on the Northwest side of Paso. Operated by Bob Tillman and Daughter Maggie Tillman, they’ve made superior Rhone-style wines since 2003.

The high elevation, hard to get too steep hillsides, present unlimited possibilities for quality. We tasted the Alta Colina wines at their “Summit Tasting,” under a gazebo, in a bone-chilling wind. The 2 reds were scintillating! Both wines with a 2017 vintage, the Sun Worshipper was 88% mourvèdre and 12% syrah ($56), and the Old 900 syrah was 100% syrah ($56).

We ended the memorable day with a Daou family and friends dinner at Daniel Daou’s favorite Italian restaurant in downtown Paso Robles, Buona Tavola, featuring Northern Italian cuisine. While the owner chatted by phone inviting us back soon, Anthony Versochi, a Daou employee since 2013 and currently the DAOU Lab Manager, unveiled and signed for Rico and I, his new personally made wine, the 2018 PIUS.

This wine is 100% cab sauv, sourced from Paso’s Adelaida District, and has already been awarded 95 points by Wine Enthusiast.

Other wineries to choose from in the West Paso circle of winners include:

Austin Hope Tasting Cellar, Halter Ranch, Niner Wine Estates, San Antonio Winery and Marketplace, Tablas Creek Vineyard and Turley Wine Cellars.

Wine Bytes

— FLORA Bar & Kitchen in the Carmel Valley District of San Diego presents a dinner with Antica Winery of Napa Valley & the Antinori Family Wine Estate, Thurs. Apr. 22 and Fri. April 23 at 6 p.m. Winemaker Glenn Salva will moderate the program. The cost is $70 + tax and gratuity. The FLORA menu will pair perfectly with the Antica wines including a Cabernet Sauvignon Mountain Select. Reserve a table at 858-461-0622.

— Meritage Wine Market of Encinitas has opened a new location inside Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, located at Field Level Section 104 in the Mercado. Check it out at

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading commentators on the web. View his columns at Reach him at [email protected]