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Paso Robles winemakers and wine grape growers are in accord when they say "Quality wine begins in the vineyard." Paso Robles wines tend to be deeply colored and rich due to the intensity of the sun, with fairly bright acidity due to the cool nights. However, beyond these generalizations, the region's diversity prevents easy characterization of its wines.

Distinctive Characteristics of Paso Robles Varietal Wines

Paso Robles wine grapes display intense varietal character due in part to the large swing between warm days and cool nights. With a longer growing season, the AVA's wine grapes have more hang time compared to other wine regions, resulting in mature fruit with balanced acid chemistry.

As described in his book Matt Kramer's New California Wine: Making Sense of Napa Valley, Sonoma, Central Coast and Beyond (2004), "You can pick just about any Paso Robles red, whether Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot or Pinot Noir, and you will find the following:

  • Soft, sometimes seemingly nonexistent, tannins.
  • Intense, deep color verging on the opaque.
  • An unmistakable scent and taste of dark chocolate.
  • A soft lushness with a velvety "mouth feel."
  • Above all, a rich, opulent, voluptuous fruitiness, often with a whiff of violets."

These distinct characteristics are found throughout the region's most widely planted grapes. Aromas typically associated with these varietals include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon - black raspberry, black cherry, cassis, tobacco/cedar and cocoa.
  • Merlot - cherries, sweet spice, fresh/dried herbs, olives, red and black berries, cocoa and a rich texture.
  • Syrah - blackberry, white pepper, black pepper, smoky, tar, blueberry, violets, roasted game, leather and dried herbs.
  • Zinfandel - black pepper, sweet "zin" spice, red/black berries, jammy, fruit bomb, raisins and pruny.

Paso Robles whites can be distinguished with the following flavors.

  • Chardonnay - floral, peach, apricot, nectarine, lightly spiced pear and light minerality.
  • Viognier - peach, apricot, citrus blossom, floral, wet stone, honeysuckle and sweet spice.
  • Roussanne - honey, lemon-lime, floral, apricot, corn, pear, allspice and lanolin.