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Exploring Paso Robles Emerging Wine Varietals

Nestled in the heart of California’s Central Coast, Paso Robles is celebrated for its climate, fostering bold red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Yet, this region holds more than Cabernets; it’s packed full of diverse and captivating wine varietals waiting to be explored.

Join us in this exciting journey into the world of Paso Robles wines. Beyond Cabernet Sauvignon, this small AVA cultivates over 60 distinctive wine varieties. Each bottle tells a tale of terroir, craftsmanship, and passion. Let’s embark on a tasting adventure, uncovering hidden gems that make Paso Robles an essential destination for wine enthusiasts.

Understanding the Paso Robles Wine Region

The Unique Terroir of Paso Robles

However, understanding the foundational element of Paso Robles’ terroir is essential before delving into the captivating world of its wines.

Paso Robles’ remarkable terroir plays a pivotal role in the region’s ability to produce an impressive array of different grape varieties. There are three main factors that contribute to Paso Robles’ terroir: wind and fog, diurnal range & the unique soils. 

Wind and Fog: Nurturing the Grapes

Wind and fog shape Paso Robles’ climate. Despite proximity to the Pacific, Santa Lucia mountains limit the coastal influence. Gaps like the Templeton Gap and Cuesta Grade allow Pacific breezes and fog to reach the vineyards. This allows maritime fog to blanket the vineyards during the early morning hours. This natural air conditioning helps maintain the grapes’ acidity, a crucial factor in producing balanced and vibrant wines.

Additionally, the winds that sweep through these gaps act as a natural stress-reducer for the grapevines. The gently blowing breezes not only cool the vines during hot days but also strengthen the grapevines, leading to more concentrated flavors in the resulting wines.

Diurnal Range: Nature’s Gift to the Grapes

Paso Robles experiences a significant diurnal temperature variation, with warm days and cool nights. You can see a 50°F (30°C) change between night and day here! This dramatic difference in temperatures is a blessing for the grapes, as it allows them to ripen slowly and evenly while preserving their natural acidity.

The warm days facilitate the accumulation of sugars and flavors in the grapes, while the cool nights prevent overripening and maintain the grapes’ essential freshness. This diurnal range is a hallmark of Paso Robles’ terroir and contributes to the finesse and complexity found in the wines.

Unique Soils: Nourishing the Roots

Paso Robles’ terroir is a tapestry of diverse soils that create an ideal foundation for grape cultivation. The region’s soils vary from limestone-rich calcareous soils on the west side to granitic and rocky soils on the east side.

The calcareous soils are particularly beneficial for grapevines, as they provide excellent drainage, encourage deep root growth, and impart distinctive mineral nuances to the wines. On the other hand, the granitic soils offer different mineral qualities, adding depth and complexity to the grape flavors.

The combination of wind, fog, diurnal range, and unique soils gives Paso Robles wines their distinct character and personality. Vintners in the region harness these terroir elements to craft an impressive and diverse selection of wines, from rich and robust reds to crisp and elegant whites.

What wine is Paso Robles known for?

California loves Cabernet, which is why Cabernet Sauvignon represents the largest vineyard area in Paso Robles.

Cabernet Sauvignon may be the most planted grape, but you’ll find that people who collect these wines are also fond of Syrah and GSM Blends (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre). For white wines, you should not miss Viognier.

Cabernet Sauvignon 

You’ll be surprised by the bold fruit flavors and intensity of color in a glass of quality Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon.


Some of Paso Robles’ highest-rated and most-collected wines include single-varietal Syrah.

GSM Blends

Paso Robles popularized the Rhône-inspired winemaker’s blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre in the United States.


Rich, peachy, floral, and citrus notes waft off a glass of Paso Robles Viognier. This region champions this rarer white variety – a chameleon, much like Chardonnay.

Emerging Paso Robles Wine Varietals to Try

Paso Robles makes an amazing diversity of wines, but which ones should you be seeking out? All told, you’ll find 60 wine varieties and over 40,000 acres planted–it’s nearly the same size as Napa Valley!

Here are seven varieties that should be on your radar.

Cabernet Franc

Cab Franc has never played a starring role in California. That’s too bad, as it can be beautiful in the right hands. Cabernet Franc is a red wine grape variety that is a parent to the more popular Cabernet Sauvignon. It is one of the oldest grape varieties in the world, with its origins dating back to the 17th century in the Bordeaux region of France. 

In the Paso Robles region, Cabernet Franc thrives in the warm climate and diverse soils, resulting in wines of great complexity and elegance. The climate of Paso Robles allows the grapes to fully ripen, producing wines with rich flavors and balanced acidity.

Aromas and Flavors:

Cabernet Franc is known for its aromatic qualities, which often include notes of blackberries, raspberries, and currants. Cabernet Franc tends to have softer tannins compared to its offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon, which enhances its approachability and drinkability. 

Perfect Food Pairings:

Due to its versatility, Cabernet Franc pairs well with a range of foods. Its medium-bodied nature and moderate tannins make it a great accompaniment to a variety of dishes. If you learn only one tip about pairing Cabernet Franc, it is to match it with real herbs in your dish.

  • Grilled or roasted meats
  • Herb-infused dishes 
  • Mushroom-based dishes
  • Aged cheeses

Find this varietal at:


Roussanne is a white grape variety that originated in the Rhône Valley of France. Its name is derived from the French word “roux,” meaning reddish-brown, which aptly describes the grape’s vibrant golden-brown skin when fully ripe. It is relatively rare, even in its homeland, but in recent years, it has gained recognition and sought-after status in the Paso Robles region. The warm and dry climate, coupled with the diverse soils of Paso Robles, provides an ideal environment for Roussanne to flourish.

The grape is known for its ability to retain acidity while achieving full ripeness, resulting in wines that are both refreshing and luscious.

Aromas and Flavors:

Roussanne wines are characterized by their aromatic qualities and a wide range of flavors. The wine often showcases notes of stone fruits such as apricot, peach, and pear. It can also exhibit floral aromas, including honeysuckle and white flowers. 

On the palate, Roussanne typically offers a rich and full-bodied mouthfeel with flavors of ripe fruit, and honey.

Perfect Food Pairings:

Roussanne’s complex and vibrant flavors make it an excellent choice for food pairings. Some perfect food pairings for Roussanne include:

  • Seafood
  • Spicy Asian cuisine
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Creamy sauces and cheeses

Find this varietal at:

Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc is a versatile white grape variety that traces its origins back to the Loire Valley in France. It has gained popularity in recent years in the Paso Robles region for its ability to produce a wide range of wine styles, from dry and crisp to lusciously sweet. Chenin Blanc is highly adaptable to different climates and soil types, making it well-suited to the diverse terroir of Paso Robles.

In the Paso Robles area, Chenin Blanc thrives in the warm, Mediterranean climate, benefiting from the region’s ample sunshine and cool ocean breezes. The grape produces wines of exceptional quality, displaying vibrant acidity, intense aromatics, and an expressive palate.

Aromas and Flavors:

Chenin Blanc wines are celebrated for their aromatic qualities and layered flavors. Depending on the winemaking style and age, Chenin Blanc can exhibit a wide range of flavors. But it’s recognizable by its distinctive apple skin or quince aromas. 

On the palate it’s always zesty, and the wine can range from bone dry to medium sweet or even fully sweet. This is one of the few grapes with expansive flavors, providing a diverse array of options for different taste preferences. 

Perfect Food Pairings:

In our opinion the acidity and subtle apple flavors allow this wine to pair with any food with sweet and sour elements 

  • Seafood and shellfish 
  • Spicy dishes
  • Soft cheeses and charcuterie

Find this varietal at:


Barbera is a red wine grape variety that originated in the Piedmont region of Italy. It has gained popularity in recent years in the Paso Robles region for its ability to produce wines with approachable, fruit-forward characteristics. While Barbera is not as widely planted as other red grape varieties in Paso Robles, Winemakers have found a groove with its high-acid and relatively light-bodied wines bursting with cherry and berry flavors. 

In Paso Robles, Barbera benefits from the long, sunny growing season and the region’s diverse soils, which contribute to the grape’s optimal ripening. The resulting wines are known for their vibrant acidity, medium body, and expressive fruit flavors.

Aromas and Flavors:

Barbera wines are typically characterized by their bright, fresh fruit aromas and flavors. On the nose, one can expect notes of ripe red cherry, raspberry, and blackberry. Some Barberas may also showcase hints of dried herbs, spice, and even chocolate.

On the palate, Barbera offers a delicious combination of juicy acidity and fruit-forward flavors. The wine is known for its lively tartness and medium to low tannin levels, making it highly drinkable and food-friendly. Its approachable characteristics make it an excellent choice for those seeking wines that are accessible, versatile, and enjoyable in a variety of settings.

Perfect Food Pairings:

Barbera’s food-friendly nature makes it a versatile wine that pairs well with a variety of dishes. Some perfect food pairings for Barbera include:

  • Pasta dishes
  • Pizza
  • Roasted or grilled meats 
  • Hard cheeses

Find this varietal at:


Carignan, also known as Carignane or Mazuelo, is a red wine grape variety that has a long history in the wine world. Originating in the northeastern regions of Spain, Carignan has found a new home in the Paso Robles region of California.

Though not as widely planted as some other red varieties, Carignan is gaining attention for its ability to produce wines with depth, complexity, and age-worthiness. This red Mediterranean grape is a re-emergent chameleon: You never know what the next bottle will bring.

Aromas and Flavors:

Carignan wines are an exciting option for wine enthusiasts seeking something unique and unexpected. They are characterized by their dark fruit flavors and often exhibit intense aromatics. On the nose, one can expect notes of blackberry, black cherry, and plum, with hints of spice, earth, and herbs. The wine’s distinctive aromas can be enticing and intriguing.

On the palate, Carignan typically offers a medium to full-bodied experience with moderate tannins. The fruit flavors continue to shine, with added layers of complexity such as black pepper, licorice, and sometimes a touch of leather. Carignan retains good acidity even in warm climates, which contributes to its freshness and balance.

Perfect Food Pairings:

Carignan’s robust nature and distinct flavor profile make it an excellent pairing for a range of dishes. Some perfect food pairings for Carignan include:

  • Grilled meats
  • Hearty stews and braised dishes
  • Mediterranean cuisine
  • Aged cheeses

In conclusion, Carignan is an emerging wine varietal in the Paso Robles area, offering wines with depth, complexity, and intensity. Its dark fruit flavors, distinctive aromatics, and food compatibility make it 

Find this varietal at:


Albariño is a white wine grape variety that originated in the Rías Baixas region of Galicia, and has found a new home in Paso Robles. These wines are typically light-bodied and refreshing. It’s loved for its rich stone fruit flavors, a hint of salinity, and zippy acidity. It is known for producing crisp, aromatic white wines with high acidity and vibrant fruit flavors. 

Aromas and Flavors:

Albariño wines are known for their aromatic qualities and bright flavors. On the nose, one can expect aromas of citrus fruits such as lemon, lime, and grapefruit, along with floral notes of white flowers and honeysuckle. Some Albariños also showcase hints of stone fruits like peach and apricot, as well as a touch of minerality.

On the palate, Albariño offers a crisp and refreshing experience. It displays vibrant acidity, which provides a lively mouthfeel. Flavors of citrus fruits dominate, with zesty lemon and lime leading the way. There may also be hints of green apple, pear, and tropical fruits. Albariño typically finishes with a clean, mineral-driven character.

Perfect Food Pairings:

Albariño’s bright acidity and refreshing character make it an excellent companion for a variety of dishes. Some perfect food pairings for Albariño include:

  • Lighter, fresh salads
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Soft cheeses

Find this varietal at:


Paso Robles’ Arneis producers have embraced this unique varietal, showcasing its ability to thrive in the region’s diverse microclimates and soils. By experimenting with different winemaking techniques, Paso Robles winemakers highlight the grape’s inherent qualities and express its beautifully distinct characteristics.

Arneis, meaning “little rascal” in Piedmontese dialect, was traditionally planted alongside Nebbiolo vineyards as a way to ward off birds due to its complex aromas. It was on the verge of extinction in the 1970’s but, thanks to a handful of dedicated wineries, it has made an impressive recovery. Its relatively low acidity and unique expressive qualities have made it an appealing addition to the region’s viticultural landscape.

Aromas and Flavors:

Arneis is renowned for its aromatic charm and nuanced flavors. On the nose, it offers enticing floral notes of white flowers, honeysuckle, and chamomile, accompanied by delicate hints of citrus, pear, and green apple. 

As for its palate, Arneis exhibits a medium-bodied character with a crisp and refreshing acidity. The flavors are dominated by ripe pear, melon, and apricot, complemented by a zesty citrus undertone. 

Perfect Food Pairings:

Arneis’ versatility makes it an excellent choice to accompany a range of dishes. Its vibrant acidity and fruit-forward profile make it a refreshing choice on its own or as an aperitif. When it comes to food pairings, here are a few suggestions:

  • Seafood
  • Salads and Vegetables
  • Soft Cheeses
  • Light Poultry and Pasta Dishes

Find this wine at:

Photo by Maja Petric

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