Robert Hall Winery was our first stop in Paso Robles, and Christina Clayburg gave us a wonderful tasting experience and a tour of the Cavern. Robert Hall founded the winery in 1999 with his wife and grew it to become the fifth-largest in the region, winning numerous accolades including Golden State Winery of the Year by the California State Fair in 2010. In 2016 it was purchased by O’Neil Vintners and Distillers. Robert L. Hall, the owner of Robert Hall Winery, passed at the age of 85 from complications related to an extended illness.

The Tasting room is a beautiful venue and spacious room. The staff are all very friendly and knowledgeable about the wines and will give you the history of the Winery and Cavern. The tasting list is extensive so allow plenty of time to enjoy.

Guided educational tours are available daily and are approximately 30 minutes in length. You’ll get to tour the state-of-the-art winemaking facility and underground wine caverns which are some of the larger on the Central Coast. Enjoy a barrel tasting as you learn about the winemaking process from the vine to the glass.

You can also have fun at Robert Hall. You can bring your glass outside and play a little Bocce Ball. They have created two spectacular regulation Bocce courts in the old world style, with crushed oyster shells and a layer of oyster shell “flour.” The great thing about Bocce Ball is that everyone can join in.  

“Did you know Bocce is the third most played sport in the world?” It sharpens both reflexes and judgment and fosters good fellowship among competitors.

This is both an educational and fun experience!

We started with a tour of the caverns.

Inside the caverns

Inside the caverns

Wine Cavern

The original cavern design concept was developed by Robert L. Hall and took 20 months to complete. It is spectacular when you first enter and is a major facility for special events and private tastings. The cavern was built to withstand an 8.5 earthquake.

Some stats:

  • 19,000 square feet of usable space in the cavern.
  • Thickness of ceiling is 16″ solid cement.
  • Thickness of center supporting wall 32″.
  • Method used in building caves is known as the “Cut & Fill” method. Forms were built in the proper shape then placed in the hole. Then cement was then poured into the forms.
  • 700 tons of rebar were used in the formation of the cavern.
  • Temperature in the cavern is an average of 55 – 60 degrees.
  • Barrels in the cavern are stacked 3 high.
  • Barrels along the center of the cavern are stacked 4 high.

The operation is a collection of unique, estate vineyards, and terroir merged to showcase the best of Paso Robles. Hall Ranch is made up of five different estate vineyards totaling 300 acres, all farmed with sustainable practices. Twenty-one different grape varietals grow on Hall Ranch. Several of the varietals are sourced to other wineries in the area.

Orchard Vineyard

The Orchard Vineyard is located due east of the winery in the rolling hills of the Estrella Plain. These hillside soils are made up of the highest and oldest terraces and soils of the Estrella and Huerohuero River confluence. The vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. This 65-acre planting is one of their newest vineyards and is home to the Hall Ranch Orchard Cottage.

Terrace Vineyard

The Terrace Vineyard is found on the rolling terrace situated above the southern bank of the Estrella River. Here the vines are rooted in porous sandy loam soils laid down by the Estrella moving in its course. The vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah Noir, Grenache Noir, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Cinsaut, Malbec, Mourvèdre, Counoise, Piquepol Blanc, Roussanne, Orange Muscat, and their Port varieties – Souzão, Alvarelhão, Touriga and Tinta Cão.

Robert Hall Winery Building

Robert Hall Winery Building

Bench Vineyard

The Bench Vineyard wraps around the Robert Hall Winery and Hospitality Center, on the bench overlooking Huerhuero Creek. The soil here is an alluvial, stony, decomposed granite soil deposited by the Huerhuero as it cut its way through the area to drain into the Estrella River. This well-drained soil is the home to clone 8 Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah Noir vines that are inherently low yielding due to the rigors of the site. This 12-acre vineyard consistently produces some of their most intense and concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Brady Vineyard

Robert Hall Winemaker Don Brady’s family vineyard shares the rolling young river terrace south of the Estrella just east of the Terrace Vineyard. This vineyard’s soils are comprised of sandy clay loam alluvial terrace soils. This 18-acre vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which serve to complement other plantings of these varietals, and to Petite Sirah that further broadens the palette of varieties they have to work with.

Yum!

Yum!

We briefly walked around outside the tasting room and stopped by to meet the winemaker, Don Brady.

Don has been the lead winemaker at Robert Hall Winery in Paso Robles since 2001. Don graduated from Texas Tech University, during which time he worked in the Pheasant Ridge Vineyard and University of Texas experimental wine and grape program.

After college, Don worked for Llano Estacado Winery and helped put the Texas wine industry on the map. While there, Don’s wines were served at several White House functions for Presidents Reagan and Bush. After moving to California, Don earned worldwide acclaim as the recipient of the International Wine & Spirits “Wine of America” Award, and in 2006 was recognized as the “Winemaker of the Year.” Don sat on the board of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance from 2005-2007 and has been a very prominent figure in growing Paso Robles wine to what it is today.

Now for the tasting. We sampled 10 of the wines and in one word; WOW!

The Wines

2016 Cavern Select Chardonnay

We tasted this one during our tour of the Cavern. 100% French Oak (65% New 35% one-year-old barrels). Aged for one year with periodic stirring. This wine has notes of spiced apples and apricots. On the palate, it is a medium bodied wine with a hint of smoke, pastry cream, slightly acidic with a nice long finish. While Chardonnay is not one of my favorite wines, this was one I would buy.

2017 Cavern Select Grenache Blanc

Aged in a combination of 50% French Oak puncheons and Stainless steel tanks, it is a very refreshing wine. On the nose, there are hints of citrus zest and mango. It has a crisp finish and notes of green apple and lychee.

2017 Cavern Select Vermentino

This is a new varietal for Robert Hall and it is easily as good as any from Italy or the French Languedoc-Roussillon regions. Aged in one small Stainless Steel tank and one neutral Puncheon, fermented cool and after stabilization, they were blended together.

On the nose, you get citrus and magnolia and on the palate, white peaches, almonds, and flint. A very crisp finish. I bought one and plan to do a side by side blind taste with an Italian to see how it fares.

2016 Cavern Select GSM

Robert Hall Winery Courtyard

Robert Hall Winery Courtyard

This one is a true GSM with just three varietals. Grenache (34%) is aged in French Oak puncheons, Syrah (34%) aged in 100% French Oak barrels and Mourvedre (32%) in European Oak. They were then blended and returned to French Oak Puncheons.

Aromas of black cherry, anise, and a hint of clove. Flavors of spice, red plum, orange peel, chocolate. Very fine tannins and a long smooth finish make this a tribute to the Rhône classic.

2016 Cavern Select Grenache

The grapes were hand harvested into bins in late September 2016. The wine aged for 14 months in 100% French oak puncheons (50% new, 50% neutral.)

This is medium bodied with aromas of cranberries and ripe raspberries. Flavors of sweet herbs, Bing cherries, and chocolate round out the mid-palate. This wine has soft tannins with long finish. 

2016 Cavern Select Mourvedre

One of my favorite varietals, this did not disappoint. Earthy notes on the nose with hints of mushroom and lavender. The flavors had coffee, tobacco, cassis and a long velvety finish. This wine will age well. Highly recommended if you like this varietal!

2015 Cavern Select Petite Sirah

This is a big, rich, bold and full-bodied wine. It is a combination of two vineyards, aged in French Oak and then blended.

On the nose, there are ripe blackberries, herbs, and flavors of ripe blackberries and dried herbs.  The finish is very soft and velvety tannins add a spicy finish.

This wine needs lamb or wild game.

2015 Cavern Select Petite Verdot

Another varietal on my favorites list, this is a full-bodied wine. Aged 18 months in a blend of new French oak and European oak. On the nose, you get forest floor, black fruits, leather, plum, and a floral component of violets. On the palate, blueberry, blackberry, vanilla, and a dusty overtone. It is highly tannic with a long finish. This is a big wine that needs food and screams barbeque!

2016 Cavern Select-Dusi Vineyard

For those who know the Dusi Vineyard reputation, this wine is another example of a creative Zinfandel created from these special grapes. Many people source from Dusi and each has a distinct profile. Hall harvested the vines early in the morning and by hand. It was fermented in one small tank and completed malolactic fermentation in 100% new Oak.  (75% Europan, 18% American and 7% French)

Medium to full-bodied wine with aromas and flavors of white pepper, blackberries, baking spice, and dried herbs. The wine has a rich mouthfeel and has hints of cedar and red berries. A balanced acidity followed by dusty tannins on the finish.

This is a very small production and will sell out fast. The $42.00 price point is a bargain!

2015 Cavern Select Cabernet Sauvignon

View of the caverns. Note how barrels are stacked.

We finished with the Cabernet. Grapes were brought in and fermented separately by each vineyard. This wine saw malolactic fermentation in 100% French oak (63% new). It was racked and blended in February 2016 and went back down to barrels until its bottling in November 2017 (24 months).

The wine has aromas of black currant, sweet tobacco, and spice. Flavors of dried blueberries, cedar, and forest floor complement this wine’s fine-grained tannins and balanced acidity. This is a big Cabernet and will pair with any red meat. It will clearly improve with age, and it’s worth tucking away in your cellar.

Robert Hall Winery should not be passed by. Wines are all reasonably priced and because of their unique profiles, well worth trying. They have a very competitive wine club as well. Robert Hall wines are truly the “Essence of Paso Robles.”