Get to Know the Paso Robles AVA Through Its Diversity
January 21, 2020
The Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA) is often celebrated for its diversity. Diversity of topography, meso-climates, soils, styles of winemaking, and of course, grape varieties. The growing conditions within the AVA are directly responsible for this collection of more than 60 different vinifera grapes.
The steep western hills of the Paso Robles wine region accentuate why Paso Robles is so diverse. From warm south-facing slopes, to cool valleys, and breezy mountain tops. This area’s different meso-climates offer wine grape growers the ability to grow cooler climate liking varieties as well as those that need a little extra warmth to ripen. At Adelaida’s HMR vineyard, 50-year-old Pinot Noir vines enjoy a micro-climate at the bottom of a canyon that is 10 -15 degrees cooler than other vineyards. Travel west just a few miles, and Mourvèdre, a later ripening variety, finds its way into the cellar in mid-October at Tablas Creek Vineyard.
The common paradigm in wine typically looks to define a region by a style, a blend, or a grape. Paso, often identified with its cowboy past, sets itself apart from this ideal as a maverick. This opens the door for creativity, giving winemakers a chance to experiment with different wine grapes within varying blends. Coined a “Paso Blend”, L’ Aventure Vigneron Stephan Asseo, blends Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah and Petit Verdot, a blend that he was not able to do in Bordeaux due to AOC regulations. Which was his motivation to establish a winery in Paso Robles, underscoring Paso’s attraction for creative spirits that want to think outside the box.
Diversity also comes in the form of the experience. Tin City and its surrounding neighbors of urban wineries and other craft producers are a micro-chasm of what the Paso Robles wine region is all about. Within a four-block industrial park, you find bold expressions, unorthodox blends, eclectic varietals, and wines of unique character, in walking distance. The urban wine experience is also a popular breeding ground for innovation and creativity. When you put 20+ craft producers together, all with different philosophies and styles, you create the opportunity to learn and glean best practices from one another. As well as borrow the occasional forklift. The urban wineries add a new layer to the Paso Robles experience and timeline of its progression as a world-class wine region.
The Paso Robles AVA was established in 1983 and since then producers have been creating wines that express a sense of place that reflects Paso’s roots as a wine region. These expressions of Terroir come from historic vineyards and special sites from all around the region. Some of the essence of Paso, be it minerality, freshness, or fruit, can be found by exploring the far reaches of this AVA. In 2014, 11 new AVA’s were established in Paso Robles to help better define this broad sense of place. Using science as a standard, these AVAs are characterized by their soil, climate, topography, rainfall, and aspect. Only five years old, but with many more years of growing history, these AVAs are setting a new standard for understanding how to best embody that sense of place.
Paso’s unique growing environment has much to do with its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The main conduit is the Templeton Gap, which allows the cooling influences of the ocean to filter into Paso Robles each afternoon in the summer and through fall. Its a natural air conditioner that turns warm days into cool nights, the secret climactic ingredient to balanced wines. Ocean airflow, as well as downslope winds, help cool the entirety of the Paso Robles AVA. Winemakers acknowledge that this diurnal temperature change helps contain sugar production and elevate tannins as well as maintain acid in wine grapes. Once again, broadening the palette of wine grapes grown in the region.
As diversity is well illustrated as a strength, it is the sum of its parts that truly defines the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area. To say Paso is one thing is to not know the region. Discovery is often the motivation for those into wine and the Paso Robles region offers much to be explored. To think outside the box of one’s personal tendencies and seek out what makes each corner of the AVA unique with an open palate to something new. Paso Robles is growing, attracting new interpretations of its sense of place that will continue to add to its diversity.