Paso vs. Napa – Is Paso Robles the next Napa Valley?

Paso Robles seems like it’s becoming more popular by the day, heck Wine Spectator’s #1 wine of 2010 came from Paso. Now as more people come to visit California’s central coast many are wondering, is Paso Robles the next Napa. This would of course imply that there was something about Paso Robles that is more attractive than Napa, I think there is.

First, let’s get the obvious points out of the way. Napa has incredible wines, some of the best Cabernets on the planet come from Napa. Napa is an absolutely beautiful place, there are great restaurants and wonderful people. There – just wanted to make it crystal clear that I still love Napa, but I do understand how Paso Robles could become the next Napa…there is a dark side to Napa’s success, and it is that quality that may be responsible for it’s decline.

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There are a growing number of people who feel like Napa has become snobby and their wines overpriced. Of course this is an incredible generalization and with so many wineries it’s hard to point the finger at all of them. However, when comparing to a typical tasting trip to Paso Robles there is a distinct difference. The first thing you’ll notice about Paso is, no crowds. It’s pretty rare to walk-into a tasting room jam-packed with people. We usually have time to chat with the winemaker and learn more about them. In Napa we’ve found very crowded tasting rooms often led to little experience beyond just tasting the wine itself.

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There are absolutely plenty of wineries in Napa that aren’t jam-packed but just put yourself in the shoes of someone going to the region for the first time, how would you know? In Paso Robles you can be almost certain that every winery you stop at will have plenty of room for you and friendly people.

Up above I said that Napa has great wine, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. That being said, Paso Robles also has great wine. Saxum, a winery from Paso Robles won the coveted Wine Spectator Top Wine of 2010. Remember, if you go back in time to the late 90’s Paso Robles wasn’t even on the map in the wine world, now world class wines are coming out Paso. The Orange County Register wrote an interesting story about the shift from Napa to Paso, in it they say:

And I’ve never once been turned away from a tasting in Paso, a place with some of the liveliest and least pretentious tasting rooms I’ve ever encountered. (As fans of Tobin James can attest, you feel more like an extra in a rowdy Western than a wine taster when you walk through its swinging doors.) (OC

This sentiment is being heard more and more, a laid-back, relaxed, and welcoming attitude that is being found less and less in Napa. It’s not that Napa has lost it’s charm, but it may be losing it just a bit. The question is, will Paso be charming enough to become California’s top wine region? For now, only time will tell, but one thing that we know from our experience is, while we love Napa we’ll take Paso over it any day!


  1. LM August 31, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    What a lot of people don’t realize about Paso is that a large portion of “Napa winery” grapes had been grown Paso… Although Paso is a relatively young winery region, grapes have been grown here a loonngg time (dating all the way back to the California missions).

    I agree with you—many Napa wineries produce excellent wines. But I’d point out that they do so at a different scale than many Paso wineries (which, you seem to say yourself) are smaller and more family-oriented. The great thing about being a small winery is that the smaller production numbers mean much more concentration on the details and the entire lifecycle of the grapes… Heck, I know our winemaker Josh is out there on the tractor most days (and he’s not the only winemaker I can think of who does that)!

    • Daina and Morgan September 2, 2011 at 12:24 am #

      Thanks for the comment @LM and really excellent points. I think you are spot on, Paso and Napa definitely work at different scales. Also interesting point about Napa grapes coming from Paso, I didn’t know about that but it sure makes a lot of sense!

      P.S. We absolutely love your wine, visited Peachy Canyon last year and brought a few bottles back to LA with us! 🙂


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