Paso Robles' Next Wine Wave

Central Coast city embraces winemaking and wine tasting growth, inside and outside city limits

by Jaime Lewis
The proposed market for downtown Paso Robles, Calif., (seen in this rendering from the city of Paso Robles) is described by the developer as similar to the popular Oxbow Public Market in Napa, Calif. 

Paso Robles, Calif.—On the heels of enormous growth in the past decade, Paso Robles is gearing up for a new wave of winemaking and wine tasting options, both inside and outside city limits.

In 2011, the Paso Robles City Council approved a plan to develop the area on the city’s west side, north of city’s central park that is the center of town and a hub of urban tasting rooms for many local wineries.

Earlier this year, the council unanimously approved an amendment to the plan to rezone a section of blocks to the northeast of the park to allow small-scale production, including boutique winemaking (as well as brewing and distilling).

Christopher Taranto, communications director for the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance said the wine industry development will help the city achieve its goal of revitalizing some downtown neighborhoods. “There’s this growth idea out there,” he said. “It’s an ongoing refurbishing that’s really trying to refresh a lot of the existing structures, spread the walkability of downtown away from the park and expand the footprint of what’s possible in the downtown area.”

By rezoning a section of blocks between 13th and 15th Streets, and Spring Street and the Union Pacific Railroad, the city has made wine, spirits and beer production permissible for a significant portion of the downtown district—a first for Paso Robles. The changes stem from the popularity of “other downtown districts” that include tasting rooms and taverns that “generate activity” and “add to a vibrant downtown atmosphere," according to the report by city staff.

As for policing the volume of wine manufactured in the newly rezoned areas, associate city planner Darren Nash said that existing layout serves as a primary limiting factor. “Anyone in the downtown is going into an existing building; there aren’t a lot of vacant lots that people are going to be building new facilities in downtown,” he said. “If someone’s going to make wine (at large volume) they’ll go outside of the downtown and possibly out into the county. (The rezoning) provides for somebody who wants to have some retail area but also to have the ability to make some (alcohol) as well.”

City staff have recommended any company wanting to set up a production facility downtown would have to secure a conditional use permit prior to doing so.

New food hall and public market
In two weeks, Deborah Longo of Montecito Choice LLC hopes to break ground on the new Paso Market Walk, a public market she describes as akin to Oxbow Public Market in Napa, Calif., which will include, among its retailers and purveyors, sales of predominantly local wine. Longo is the former co-owner and partner of Justin Vineyards & Winery, a pioneering producer on Paso Robles’ west side that sold to The Wonderful Company (home of Fiji Water and others) in 2010.

“I came here a long time ago when there was nothing in Paso,” Longo said. “At the time I thought, ‘Where are the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker?’ As the town grew and evolved, I saw we needed services from artisans and purveyors to accent the wine business.”

The planned market would offer nearly 16,000 square feet of mixed-use space that will occupy 1803 Spring St. While Longo has no specific plans to offer the space to winery tenants, she expects that nearly all of the retailers and restaurants housed within the market will sell local wine.

“We may have one [tasting room]—we don’t have anyone signed up yet—but every vendor will be selling wine of some sort,” she said, adding that the market will include a brewery, fast-casual restaurant, artisan shops and purveyors, and restaurants at either end. She expects that the project will open to the public next year, preferably coinciding with the Paso Robles Wine Festival held over Memorial Day weekend.

Industrial expansion outside of town
In southeast Paso Robles, a cluster of wineries have moved into an industrial zone in the 3300 block of Ramada Drive near wine industry suppliers Tapp Label, Scott Laboratories and ETS Laboratories. Though not associated with the nearby Tin City complex—which also offers a walkable area to visitors while combining production and tasting rooms for wine, beer, spirits and cider producers—the Ramada Drive tenants are certainly capitalizing and expanding upon the success of that model.

Cordant and Nelle wineries were the first wine-producing tenants to constitute the Ramada block properties about one year ago, followed by Seven Oxen, Anglim Winery, and Anarchy Wine Co., the latest project of Four Vines and Cypher Winery founder Christian Tietje. The block will also include a new brewery and distillery, both of which are slated to offer food.

“For us, it’s an opportunity,” said Steffanie Anglim, co-owner of Anglim Winery, whose tasting room and production areas lay separate for 16 years before the recent move to Ramada Drive. “We can combine winery and tasting room operations now, plus we’ll have both barrels and case goods storage here as well.”

She added that the guest experience and wine club perks will improve with the move as well, with expanded access to barrel tastings and dinners in the barrel room. “Everyone’s been very supportive of developing the area,” she said. “The city and county are very receptive to making small businesses like ours successful.”

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