Pleasant Valley Wine Trail
Savor the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail
|Mileage||19 miles (31 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||43 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||All Seasons|
|Roadways||Cross Canyon Road, Estrella Road, Independence Ranch Place, Pleasant Road, Ranchita Canyon Road, and Von Dollen Road|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.||Paso Robles, CA▼, and San Miguel, CA▼|
3.1 average from 9 votes
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The section of California Freeway 101 from San Miguel to Paso Robles, marks the boundary of the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail, a network of small back-country roads that are home to the third most popular wine region in California. Each of the 10 vineyards reside within the northern Paso Robles American Viticulture Appellation (AVA) and are owned by a dynamic group of entrepreneurs and families. Experience award-winning wines, and meet unique people with a deep passion for wine-making and the local terroir.
This scenic drive begins in San Miguel, centrally located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, making this an easy overnight or weekend destination (which is when most of the wineries are open). And it’s only 15 minutes from Paso Robles. If you plan to do a lot of tasting, be sure you have a designated driver, or consider a guided tour. Whether you’re a wine drinker or not, the bucolic countryside and mesmerizing rows of grapes growing on gently rolling hillsides are spectacular sights.
Take exit 239A from Highway 101. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Mission San Miguel Arcangel (A8), a National Historical Landmark, and the 16th California mission in the chain founded by Franciscan friars on July 25, 1797 to convert the local Native American Salinan peoples. It remains a parish church to present day. Known as the Jewel of the California Missions, explore the only mission with original fresco paintings and artifacts on a self-guided tour. A small fee is charged which helps to restore damage from an earthquake in 2003.
Adjacent to the mission is another historical landmark, the Rios-Caledonia Adobe Historical Site (A10). Built in 1835 by local Indians, it was initially part of the Mission San Miguel de Archangel. Over the years, the property changed hands many times. In 1868 George Butchard operated a stagecoach stop, tavern, and inn, naming the adobe Caledonia. It is said that Jesse James and his gang once stopped at the inn. The Southern Pacific railroad line reached San Miguel in 1886 and the adobe became a residence again, as well as a school, post office, dressmaking shop and mattress and upholstery shop. In 1895 the Fred Telford family lived in the adobe and operated a dairy farm on the property. During the early 1900s, owner Charles Dorries built the outer walls and and added a garden court planted with cacti and shrubs. By 1915 the stagecoach road became Highway 101 and in 1964 the adobe became part of San Luis Obispo County Parks. Visit and learn about life in the early pioneer days. The Adobe is open Friday through Sunday, and is free to enter.
Our drive explores all 10 wineries along the 12-mile Pleasant Valley Wine Trail. Of course you can visit the wineries in any order, and you don’t have to visit them all, but choosing will be very hard to do. Visiting hours vary, and a few vineyards are open by appointment only. Check the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail website for special event dates when all wineries are open.
Embark on you wine tasting adventure by taking Mission Street north and turning right to North River Road, pass the railroad tracks and turn left onto Cross Canyon Road. Locatelli Vineyards and Winery (A7) is the first winery you will come to. Louis and Raynette Gregory purchased this 100-acre property in 1996 to fulfill a dream that began with Louis’ great-grandfather Cesare Locatelli who brought the art of wine-making when he immigrated from Italy. The winery features an intimate, cozy tasting room brightened with tile murals of scenes of Italy, and is very much family-owned and operated. Locatelli specializes in limited production of estate grown red wines such as Cabernet Blanc, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Of interest, is their Aglianico, a rustic Italian varietal made from grapes sourced from a nearby vineyard, with notes of Amaretto, strawberries and ripe cranberries, and pairs well with aged cheeses. They also offer Zinfandel, Merlot and Sangiovese, as well as red blends. Of white wines, they offer Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscat Canelli. Locatelli Winery partners with Mission San Miguel, hosting a wine experience with a portion of the proceeds dedicated to assisting Mission renovation efforts. Tasting Room: Open Friday through Sunday from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM or by appointment. Small tasting charge, waived with wine purchase.
The Villa San-Juliette Vineyard and Winery (A15) would be special with its outstanding 168-acre setting and decor, even if it hadn’t been created by two of Britain’s most popular television producers. Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick teamed up to bring a world-class winery to this hilly rural area of the central coast of California. Lthygoe became famous for producing and directing American Gladiators and went on to develop Pop Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. Warwick also has an impressive resume as executive producer of American Idol and America’s Got Talent. Winemaker, Dan Smith oversees all of this production of this SIP Certified vineyard and winery. Signature wines include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc. These wines bring out the best of the qualities in the region’s calcareous soil. There are several ways to experience wine tasting at Villa San-Juliette. You can sample a flight of current Reserve wines or partake in a wine and cheese pairing. VSJ also offers a variety of small bites which can be enjoyed on the patio. Tasting Room: Open Thursday through Monday from 11 AM to 5 PM, Tuesday and Wednesday by appointment. The winery is closed July 4th, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Tasting charge — waived with wine purchase.
Just north of Villa San-Juliette is Ranchita Canyon Vineyard (A9). Bill and Teresa Hinrichs both previously had excellent careers with IBM in the Bay area, before deciding to change their lifestyle while raising twins. The vineyard was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, and Merlot vines, and has since expanded, growing 10 different varietals on 74 acres. Originally the grapes were sold to other wineries, but in 2003 the Hinrichs decided to develop their own brand, focused on capturing big, fruit flavors. They received bonding on 2005 and on March 14, 2008 opened their tasting room. Hinrich practices sustainable farming according to SIP certification standards. Vines are hand pruned, hand-picked, de-stemmed and fermented in open containers. Then they are basket crushed and aged in French oak barrels. Enjoy tasting selections of Albarino, a Spanish varietal, along with estate grown Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Grenache, as well as Hinrich’s Serenata Super Tuscan, a blend of 65% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc. There is also the popular house blend Ranchita Red. Bring a picnic and welcome the hillside breezes sitting under the veranda while you taste. Or step up to the bar inside the tasting room and let Bill and Teresa pour for you. There are 160 Mission and Arbequino olive trees growing here, and Ranchita Canyon Vineyard Olive Oil is available for tasting and purchase. Tasting Room: Open Thursday through Monday from 11 AM to 5 PM
Four Sisters Ranch Vineyards and Winery (A3) boasts 450 acres of vineyards planted on 710 acres of land, created from a blank slate with hard work and determination by owners Serena Friedman, M.D. and Michael Drucker, M.D. Named for the four daughters of owners, the ranch originally focused on growing quality fruit for wineries as far away as Texas, Napa and Sonoma Valleys, as well as wineries in Paso Robles. In 2008 they began producing their own label releasing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. Other wines available for tasting are Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Methode Champenoise California Sparkling Wines. If sparkling wine is one of your favorites, this is the place to visit. Built in 2015, the beautiful hacienda-style tasting room takes advantage of stunning, expansive views from its hilltop location. Visitors can enjoy tasting and relaxing in comfortable seating near the wood burning fireplace, or on the outdoor patio where you can play a game of horseshoes or try out your bocce ball technique. Four Sisters also offers fresh cheeses, nuts and crackers, local salami, and other snacks. Paired with their wine, are the makings of the perfect picnic on their patio. Tasting Room: Open Thursday through Sunday from 11 AM to 5 PM
RiverStar Vineyards (A11) is owned by Ed and Muriel Dutton, who purchased the vineyard in1986. They now grow Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on 75 acres of fertile loamy sand and gravel soil. The Duttons sell most of their fruit to area wineries, retaining about 10% for their own wine production which turns out approximately 1500 cases annually. The winery was established in 2001, and released their first wine in 2003. Taste their award-winning Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Red Rocket Chardonnay created from Santa Barbara County grapes. The only white varietal is a fragrant and lush Viognier. They also have several blends utilizing Zinfandel from vineyards in Paso Robles as well as dessert wines. Of the latter, the chocolate infused Twilight is made from a Portuguese varietal called Touriga Nacional. Bring a picnic lunch and relax with your wine amid vineyard views. The expansive grounds host a range of summer concerts. Check the website for schedule. Tasting Room: Open Thursday through Sunday from 11 AM to 5 PM or by appointment. There is no tasting fee.
Mystic Hills Vineyard (A16) is open by appointment only so be sure to call ahead if you want to do a tasting. It seems that creative people in TV production and film find the Pleasant Valley of San Miguel the perfect spot for their adventures into wine making. Joel Cox and his wife Judy fulfilled a desire to live in the Paso Robles wine region upon retiring from a lengthy Academy Award winning career in film editing for Warner Brothers studios. In 2004 they purchased 14 acres of land and named the vineyard Mystic Hills to describe the landscape when enveloped by early morning fog. In 2013, they purchased nine additional acres. The Coxes met Keith Roberts, manager of Wente Vineyards who agreed to become their winemaker, and turns out a small batch of award-winning red blends and a fine Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as a Rose called H.E.A.R.T.S. The letters stand for the names of their six grandchildren. Tasting Room: By appointment or on event weekends
Wine and and beautiful hilltop views await at Graveyard Vineyards (A4). A subscription to Wine Spectator for her husband as a gift, is what started Paula and Rob Campbell-Taylor on the journey to becoming winemakers. Rob, who had a thriving career as a petroleum engineer in Bakersfield, California wasn’t necessarily looking for a new career, but a move to Santa Barbara with their two boys got them to thinking about changing their lifestyle. In 2003, the Campbell-Taylors purchased 81 acres of vineyard already established with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah vines, and sold the grapes to area wineries while they resided in a mobile home on the property. It was in coming up with a name for the business that they decided to capitalize on the small, historic graveyard dating back to the 1860s at the entrance to their property. Graveyard Vineyards bottled their first wine in 2006 and opened a tasting room in 2011 decorated with a graveyard theme. The tasting room overlooks a large pond inhabited by ducks, geese and herons enjoying the shade of weeping willows. Or, sip and savor your wine on the patio. Winemaker and family friend Jason Bushong turns out blends such as Paso Tombstone White, an aromatic blend of 50% Viognier, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Roussanne and 5% Muscat and Paso Tombstone Red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petite Sirah that was barrel aged in both French and American oak. Also delight in their estate Zinfandel, Syrah, and Tempranillo, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot. Don’t miss their dessert wine, Deliverance, a Syrah/Port wine infused with essence of chocolates. Truly a wine to die for! Tasting Room: Open Thursday — Monday from 11 AM to 5 PM Tasting charge — waived with wine purchase.
Tackitt Family Vineyards (A14) is a small family-owned winery producing exceptional wines. Beginning with his grandfather’s Gewürztraminer vines, Leon Tackitt, a retired United States Navy Lieutenant EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) decided along with his wife, Cindy in 1998 to get serious about wine-making. They started small, but gradually have grown to offer a host of varietals at their tasting room. Their Tackitt Family Vineyard label offers Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Petite Verdot. There is also a dessert wine called Dream Tyme. As supporters of the EOD Warrior Foundation, the Tackitts have specialty wines available under their EOD label, generating funds to aid EOD military personnel and retired with financial assistance. Tasting Room: Open Friday — Sunday from 12:00 — 5:00 PM There is no tasting fee.
Call ahead and make an appointment to visit Cinquain Cellars (A2), owned by David and Beth Nagengast. The property overlooks the scenic Hog Canyon and the vineyard is focused on estate grown reds of Bordeaux, Port and Rhône varieties. Nagengast has more than 30 years’ experience making wine professionally in California and Oregon, and the establishment of Cinquain Cellars is the culmination of his career. Cinquain’s flagship wine is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc that has won many awards. They offer three Port varieties, Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional, and Touriga Franca. Other 100% estate-grown reds include a varietal Merlot, a varietal Syrah, along with a Cabernet-Syrah blend, and a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend with Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc, called Independence Red. Cinquain Cellars offers Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from grapes sourced from Monterey County. Nagengast produces small lots of his red wines that are de-stemmed and fermented without crushing for three weeks. Then the grapes are gently pressed in a small wooden basket to reach only the best of the fermented juice. French, American and Hungarian oak barrels are used for aging for at least 16 months. The wines are bottled without fining or filtration. Tasting Room: By appointment or on event weekends
Bon Niche Cellars (A1) is a hidden gem, tucked away in the rolling hills amid pastoral views. Owners and vintners Wally and Joyce Murray will welcome you for a tasting of their quality boutique wines by appointment, and on event weekends. Established in 2007, Bon Niche offers Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot and combinations of same, crafted in small lots. They utilize their own grapes as well as grapes from area vineyards to produce Chardonnay, Viognier, Zinfandel, and Syrah. Tasting Room: By appointment or on event weekends
We have reached the end of the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail, but there are other excellent wineries nearby that are well worth the stop.
J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines (A5) is one of the oldest vintners in east Paso Robles. Savor their outstanding varietals including Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Merlot to name a few. The charming tasting room features a wrap-around veranda overlooking the Seven Oaks Cabernet vineyards or relax in the picnic area. Tasting room: Open daily from 11 AM to 5 PM Closed on New Year’s, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. No tasting fee except for J. Lohr Cuvée Series wines or limited wines.
Le Vigne Winery (A6) is well known for their wines as they are for their variety of international cheeses, charcuterie, and gourmet foods. Michael Barreto is the winemaker who specializes in grape varieties that are native to the Iberian Peninsula of Spain and Portugal with his own brand, Barreto Cellars. Le Vigne label wines including Tannat, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Kiara label wines include Moscato, Port, Sangiovese, and a California sparkling wine. Taste a wine flight or indulge your taste buds with a cheese or chocolate flight — perhaps a Kiara Barrel Select Viognier paired with a deep milk chocolate containing sweet Indian curry and coconut. Tasting room: Open Daily, Sunday through Thursday from 11AM to 5PM, Friday and Saturday 11AM to 6 PM.