Our first stop on our small-scale wine tour of the Paso Robles region was J. Lohr Vineyards. We were already familiar with J. Lohr wines — they’re always a good, moderately-priced option at restaurants and supermarkets — and we wanted to see where these wines came from. The J. Lohr tasting room and winery are located to the east of the 101 (read more about Paso Robles), but their grapes are grown throughout California — they have 2,000+ acres in Paso, 900+ acres in the Monterey County AVA, and a few acres in Napa. One of my favorites is their Monterey County Riesling; it’s very similar to my favorite Finger Lakes Rieslings and much easier to get. And don’t forget…the J. Lohr Cab handily won our goofy California $5 wine challenge.
J. Lohr offers free tastings of six wines, and they are six generous pours (Paul got seven; he’s bigger). You can taste any wine they currently have in stock, and there are a lot of options to choose from — they have a full range of wines, from affordable, multi-vineyard blends to pricier, single-vineyard, vintage wines. To avoid temptation, we stuck with the more affordable wines. We were impressed with their Syrah, which was rich, dark, and deep — a major tooth-stainer. The late harvest Riesling was a perfectly balanced, liquid dessert. Also interesting was the Valdiguié, a light, Beaujolais-style wine that was more complex than its French counterpart.
Our server, David, was friendly and informative. We learned that J. Lohr was one of the pioneers in the Paso Robles region, planting its first vineyards just a few years after the AVA was established in 1983. Paso tasting rooms could be as extravagant as the Temecula rooms, but they aren’t. They don’t need to impress with their facilities: they impress with their wines. The J. Lohr tasting room looks like a comfy little farmhouse…which just happens to be located in front of a giant production facility.
Since J. Lohr wines are pretty easy to find across the country, try one the next time you see one and let us know what you think in the comments!