The grounds at Paso Robles Inn

It was 11 years ago when I first visited Paso Robles.  At the time, it was still small, intimate, and the people were very friendly. I immediately felt at home and fell in love with it. Over the course of the years, I have met people whom I still consider close friends and whose wineries I visit every time I’m there.

Whenever I’d tell people I was going to “wine country,” they’d always assume Napa or Sonoma, which was to be expected. Whenever I said “Paso Robles,” they’d give me a quizzical look and say “where?”

Over the years, others have discovered Paso. Here in Vegas, there is a large cadre of fans who visit regularly, and not always during festivals.

Castoro Cellars

I’ve loved Paso’s wines from the very beginning. At first, it was because I was still a relative newbie. I’d been single again only a couple of years on my first visit and was doing lots to build up my palate and wine knowledge. Paso’s wines were user-friendly and very approachable, and I enjoyed learning about the region as well as experiencing their wonderful wines. Over the years their wines have evolved – “grown up” so to speak – and so have I.

The good and bad part about all of this is that others have now discovered Paso Robles as well. Robert Parker commented on the quality of their Cabernets, and others have more or less moved in to experience what Paso has to offer. The bad part is that – at least in my opinion – the small-town, intimate feel may be teetering on the edge of fame. Yes, I’m selfish because I wanted it all for myself and a very few special people. Thank goodness they don’t have to depend on my budget!

A recent article in the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported on this increased interest in Paso Robles and some of the benefits and consequences of such interest which may include mergers and buyouts.

Dammit.

The report, published by Silicon Valley Bank in their annual State of the Wine Industry report (links on the article site) is a result from a survey of more than 500 wineries (not all in Paso Robles, obviously!)

One statement really caught my eye which makes me feel great about Paso’s future, even though it may become a cause of discontent to those of us who love it:

“It’s a desirable growing area that’s every bit as much in demand as Napa and Sonoma, especially because of the good value for the quality of grapes and wine,” said Rob McMillan, who founded the bank’s wine division and authored the report.

McMillan said he expects to see more deals like O’Neill Vintners and Distillers’ 2016 purchase of Robert Hall Winery as interest rates remain favorable and baby boomers look to retire.

Sigh. I didn’t even know that Robert Hall had been sold. Such a slacker!

The caves at Eberle

The next few years are going to be interesting. The increased interest in Paso Robles, the locals’ support and care for their wineries, and the quality of the wines themselves say a lot about the quality of the region.  Even though I’ve been to “wine countries” throughout California, I’m happy to admit that Paso Robles is – and probably will always be – my favorite wine country. I encourage you to read the entire article and watch the panel discussion video. Remember, this report is about the state of domestic and Canadian wines, and foreign wines aren’t considered in the report.