A plan for exploring East Union Road and Templeton
By Laura Ness
Visiting Paso Robles these days requires a plan. There’s just too much ground to cover, with more than 300 wineries and all manner of attractions spread all over the mammoth AVA. It can feel overwhelming: there are just too many places to get your arms around. So, here’s a plan. Focus on specific segments of a region.
This adventure is all about the east Union Road and Templeton areas, where you can spend two wonderful days soaking up this less traveled and less hectic part of Paso. Day one includes stops at Hug, Bianchi, Cass and Clautiere, with an overnight at The WineMakers Porch, also home of Francis James wines.
Day two includes visits to Still Waters, Victor Hugo (by appointment only), Bella Luna, Wild Horse and Olea Olive Oil Farm, spending the night at The WineMakers Porch again, or at very nearby Carriage Vineyard’s B & B. Alternatively, you can always be assured of a good clean room at the Paso Robles Inn (or choose from many other motels) in downtown Paso, especially if you’re planning to do more winetasting in the area the following day.
Day One: Taste East Side Paso in Four Wineries
Believe me, there are wineries galore but they’re not all worthy of your precious time, so we’ve chosen some of the best to guarantee you a good visit. Begin at Hug Cellars, in an industrial looking warehouse, just off highway 46 East, at the beginning of what’s called The Union Road Wine Trail. Run by the affable and eminently huggable Augie and Raquel Hug, this place will delight from start to finish with their unpretentious warmth and endearing selection of well-made wines. You’ll be sure to find something for everyone in your posse, unless they’re all white wine drinkers – Augie has one white and a rose
A master of reds, Augie turns out wonderful Rhone and Bordeaux blends and varietal expressions, with names like el Pape, el Maestro, el Conquistador and el Magnifico. His Cedar Lane Pinot, Merlot and Syrah from Arroyo Seco give your taste buds a break from the more intensely fruitier Paso Robles sourced wines. Augie gets fruit from some killer Paso vineyards, including Booker, La Vista and Starr Ranch, as well as some fruit from Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. The corks say “Give Your Tongue a Hug,” and you’ll smile every time you pop a bottle.
Brochelle Vineyards is next door to Hug, if you like big ripe zins, syrahs and port, this place will make your mouth happy. (See Laura’s story on Brochelle Vineyards.)
Then it’s on to Bianchi: you can go the long way over Union Road, enjoying the back road scenery or the quick way via 46 East, where you’ll turn right onto Branch Road.
At this magnificent edifice with its plentiful outdoor seating options, you can relax and picnic to the sound of the water feature that dances in the middle of their pond. You might even see kids of all ages playing with toy boats. Here, winemaker Tom Lane turns out a good selection of whites, including Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Moscato, as well as a sparkling. He makes lovely Santa Maria Pinot Noir, estate Zinfandel, as well as Paso Syrah and Petite Sirah, a variety he specialized in while working at Concannon. Be sure to take a bottle of late harvest Sauvignon Blanc home to accompany a special dessert, perhaps cheesecake or pear tart.
Then head down Branch to Geneseo Road, where you’ll come to Cass Winery, a tranquil, western-feeling setting, where you can sit at picnic tables under old oak trees while you look up at the steep vineyards above you. They have a full kitchen here, where you can order off the lunch menu, which includes yummy items like crab cakes with remoulade, smoked chicken salad and pulled pork or steak sandwiches. Cheese and meat plates are available as well, along with ciabatta and EVOO for dipping. Do call ahead for reservations if there are more than six in your party.
The wines here are all amazing, with the emphasis on Rhones. The Rockin’ One Blanc is consistently a favorite, although the individual Rhone whites, often called the Three Sisters — Viognier, Rousanne and Marsanne — are extremely well made here. The 100-percent Mourvèdre is a cult fave here, and the Rockin’ One red, a consistent sensation made from Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Mourvèdre. Their other cult classic, the 2009 reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, is killer good, with its intense black currant and cassis and fine grained tannins. This truly is a great place to hang out and enjoy the views.
Now it’s time to head over Linne Road to your final winetasting adventure of the day at Clautiere. You’ll actually pass The WineMakers Porch on your left as you make the right hand turn up Penman Springs, through a path of pure white limestone (the road is unpaved for a brief distance – no big deal unless it’s raining), climbing til you reach the festively adorned Clautiere on your right.
You’ll be instantly drawn in by its air of whimsy and artistic flair. No doubt there’s someone with an extreme sense of fashion and design behind the mosaics and the fancifully wrought metal sculptures that beckon you into the world of Clautiere. Proprietors, Claudine Blackwell and Terry Brady, are fashion designers, welders, landscape architects, restaurant owners (The Lobster, Santa Monica) and winemakers.
The very purple tasting room puts you in the mood for some Rosé, and the bright paper flowers everywhere, along with colorful masks, creates a festive party atmosphere. Step into the back room and you’ll find an array of costumery, including wigs, masks and really fun hats. The place is famous for its drag parties and encourages visitors to be who they feel like being in the moment.
Enjoy the great selection of estate grown wines inside or outside on the patio. The white Rhones are excellent, and the BDX Bordeaux blend – as well as the Mon Beau Rouge blend – are solid values. You’ll get a kick out of the “2 Cocky Sisters” red and white blends, too.
Dinner and Slumber
Now it’s time to retire to The WineMaker’s Porch, where proprietors Corinne and Marlowe Evanson will amaze you with their hospitality, their appetizers, their spectacularly beautiful vineyard views and their wines. They’ll prepare a nice spread for you to enjoy outdoors on their porch in the late afternoon, while you watch their cat playing in the fountain or chasing butterflies. The place is exquisitely landscaped and tastefully decorated, and the bed linens are beyond luxurious. You’ll want to spend more than one night here. The breakfasts are divine, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Make dinner reservations at Il Cortile in downtown Paso Robles, where you’ll enjoy truly divine gourmet cuisine with a Mediterranean twist.
The next morning, the sun will part the usual Paso fog, turning the vine-studded hillsides rosy gold, as you pour a cup of coffee (or tea) from the tray outside your door. Breakfast will be served either in the impressive dining room or outside on the terrace, and you’ll be mesmerized by the country air and home-cooked fare, served up on beautiful china.
Suggestions for Wine Tasting in Warm Weather
Always bring a cooler with icepacks or a plug-in travel fridge (Igloo makes them) for storing your wine purchases. (Never leave wine in a hot car.) Try to park in the shade at each location, and crack the windows to prevent excessive heat buildup. Bring plenty of water with you also, as not all tasting rooms will have cold water on the bar. Some will offer it to purchase, along with soft drinks. But it’s always better to be prepared.
Visit WineFoodExplorer next Thursday, 4/24 for day two of our East Side Tour in Paso Robles.
2323 Tuley Road, Paso Robles
Tasting room open daily, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
3380 Branch Road, Paso Robles
Tasting Room open daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
1350 Linne Road, Paso Robles
Tasting Room open daily, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
1340 Penman Springs Road, Paso Robles
Tasting Room open Thursday – Monday, Noon – 5 p.m.
The WineMakers Porch at Francis James Vineyard
4665 Linne Road, Paso Robles
608 12th Street, Paso Robles
Open Sunday – Thursday 5 – 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5 – 11 p.m.
Featured image above courtesy of Bianchi Vineyards