Paso Robles Wine Tasting-Three Unique Experiences In The Templeton Gap

Source: A Different Kind of Travel, Brooke Herron

What and Where is the Templeton Gap?

Templeton gap is a series of passes through which cooler air (from the ocean) flows South through a gap in the ridgeline. As one of Paso Robles’ AVA’s or American Viticultural Areas, the Templeton Gap District is known for its cooler day and night temperatures (cooler longer in the mornings and earlier in the evenings than elsewhere in Paso). Within the larger region of Paso Robles, the Templeton Gap is located South of the town of Paso Robles.

Though you will still see a lot of Rhone varietals being grown in the Templeton Gap, there are fewer people growing varietals such as Mourvedre or Grenache that tend to like the long warm ripening days and are so popular elsewhere in the region.

The following three wineries don’t necessarily plant the most ‘common’ grapes or follow any hard or fast rules that make their wines ‘typical’ Templeton Gap style wines but they all have lovely wines and offer unique tasting or tour experiences. They are also all independently or family owned wineries and estates, which is what I tend to seek out when I visit wine regions.

These were three of my favorite stops during my recent Paso Robles wine road trip.

Clesi Wines

What is most unique about the tasting experience at Clesi is that they make 100% Italian varietal wines. In Paso Robles!

Oh, and they just happen to experiment with fermenting wines in amphorae too. No big deal. You know… amphorae, the ancient terra cotta vessels used since the beginning of the dawn of history to carry everything from food to water to wine and experimented with in many old world wine regions, most notably (for those of us today) in countries such as Georgia and Slovenia who aged their famous orange wines in underground amphorae.

Yeah, these guys are not your ‘typical’ winery. At the same time, they aren’t different just for the sake of being different.

Chris Ferrara, owner and winemaker, grows varietals and makes wines that inspire him. That he is passionate about. He’s not making a wine because it’s what everyone else is doing, or to chase a Parker score. He’s simply chasing his passions as far as he can take them and creating some pretty unique and awesome wines along the way.

His opinion on Italian varietals in California? ‘Italian varietals bearing California’s stamp of terroir are elegant and balanced.’ If referring to Clesi wines, I’d agree.

I don’t think I’ve been to any other winery in California that grows and makes this many Italian varietals (though we’ve got a few contenders in Sonoma County): Malvasia Bianca, Dolcetto, Aglianico, Sangiovese, Negro Amaro, Barbera, Greco and Montepulciano…

Clos Solene

If I had to describe the experience at Clos Selene in two words they would be ‘consummate hospitality’. I say this coming from a long background in the wine industry. From the days when hospitality wasn’t just pouring wines and trying to sell people on your wine club-it was knowing visitors’ names before they arrived and greeting them before they had to look around for someone.

It was adding small touches such as specially printed menus or a few bites of cheese or arranging a quick introduction to the winemaker…

Not only are you welcomed immediately upon arrival (something a lot of wineries miss the mark on these days) inside their gates but they also print a welcome message with your name on your tasting menu!

You can choose to taste in Clos Solene’s newly built tasting room or, weather permitting (and who are we kidding the weather is great 98% of the year in California) outside on their veranda with a view of their vineyards.

For your tasting, you will be served a flight of wines beginning with Clos Selene’s bright, lush and pretty Hommage Blanc, a Roussanne-Viognier blend and then moving on through their full bodied (high Parker rated), voluptuous and viscous reds.

Onx Wines

The Onx vineyard tour experience takes the cake when it comes to getting out in the vineyard and tasting wines in the Templeton Gap.  From an off-road tour through the vineyard to a tasting under the trees or a hike on the property you have a few different options for experiencing Onx wines in the place they were grown. There is no better way to gain a meaningful understanding of terroir.

Wines tasted while surrounded by nature always taste even better. And the extra time and contact with the earth and education from your guide will make the day that much more memorable.

Personally, I wish all vineyards had these types of experiences. But if they did, I guess it wouldn’t be as special.

I highly recommend booking a vineyard tour experience at Onx if you are visiting Paso Robles. If you don’t have time to do the whole vineyard and winery experience, you can also opt to visit (and taste) Onx Wines at their Tin City tasting room.

My Recommendation for a One Day Paso Robles Wine Tasting Itinerary

Visiting only two-three wineries a day, and spending a significant length of time at each with a nice relaxing lunch between is just about the perfect way to spend a day in wine country. I don’t think it’s worth trying to cram in more.

Local Food

If you are looking for a great lunch or dinner spot in downtown Paso try La Cosecha for great small plates and a fun wine by the glass list or Thomas Hill Organics for a lovely farm to table and organic focused meal.

*downtown Paso is just 15 minutes from any of these Templeton Gap wineries

For a local farm visit, head to Mt. Olive organic farm where you can buy locally grown produce and other hand-crafted goodies or enjoy lunch.

For local cheese, take a trip to Central Coast Creamery.


Kassidy Clark