You’re probably wondering what a place called Tin City has to do with wine. The answer, everything! Tin City, while technically not a city as one would normally think, is located in Central California’s Paso Robles, just off Highway 101, nestled in an industrial area. Situated in the “city” is an unconventional wine trail where you can walk from tasting room to tasting room, with a little over 20 wineries to visit. The wineries here are small production, the tasting rooms have an intimate vibe, and the atmosphere throughout is very relaxed and personal. It is not uncommon for the artisan behind the wine to be the one pouring your tasting.
For these reasons I have been wanting to do a blog post on all the great spots in Tin City for quite a while. My original intent was to make this a "Weekend Getaway" series, but with the ever-evolving pandemic and people not traveling like they used to, I decided to make this into more than what to expect when you visit the tasting room. These wineries have done an amazing job of adapting so they can continue to safely serve the wine they call their own. So, whether you live local, are planning a trip, or want to do an in-home tasting, you have options.
As a side note, if you’re looking for more than wine, Tin City offers that too. While the wineries make up the lion’s share of establishments, there are several other businesses like a craft beer brewery, a creamery, a cidery, and a pasta shop.
In this three-part series, I will introduce you to the wineries, what they specialize in, how they have adapted to meet COVID-safe operations, curbside pickup and shipping options, and sales or promotions they may be offering. I highly recommend you try at least one winery from each post in this series. We need to support our Paso winemakers, from those who are just starting off and/or have a very small team—the pandemic has hit them hard too. As the saying goes, we’re all in this together. Why not make that a reason to try a new wine and know you're supporting Paso winemakers!
That being said, put on your walking shoes, we have seven tasting rooms to visit. The others will follow in parts 2 and 3.
What they Specialize in: Monochrome focuses exclusively on white wines. Their goal is to create a broad line of complex, layered white wines made using the same level of effort and attention to detail that most wineries reserve for their best reds. Their wines tend to be unique, unconventional blends, and they rarely make the same wine twice. Each barrel is intentionally made different, from fermentation temperature, yeast, barrel type, skin-fermentation, etc. This maximizes the range of flavors prior to blending. Varietals they typically use are Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Picpoul, Gewurztraminer and Grenache Gris. Their fruit is sourced from premier vineyards all along the Central Coast.
COVID Adaptations: Seated tastings by appointment with the winemaker remain the same. However, with COVID restrictions, all tastings are outdoors on their new patio. Appointments can be made via the Monochrome website or by phone. They have also recently introduced virtual tasting kits. Each kit contains tasting-sized samples of five of their wines, each having scored 90+ points from major critics. As an added bonus, the kit can be paired with a live virtual tasting with the winemaker via Zoom.
Curbside Pickups: Customers may order wine online or by phone and arrange for a time to pick up their wine at the tasting room.
Where they Ship: Customers may order wine or virtual tasting kits to be shipped to their home or business. Shipping is currently limited to the following states: AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, IL, MN, MO, NV, NY, OR, TX, WA, WI.
Sales and Promotions: They offer two levels of their wine club, eight or 16 bottles per year. Club members also receive discounts on all purchases.
Contact Info: https://monochromewines.com/ Phone: (805) 674-2160
What they Specialize in: Winemaker Riley Hubbard sources fruit from all over the Central Coast, typically from family-owned and operated and sustainable vineyards that are organic, dry farmed, and bio dynamic. All of her wines are unfined and unfiltered. Nothing is added before bottling except a small amount of sulfur, thus the wine is fermented with "wild" or "native" yeasts.
COVID Adaptations: She just moved into her new winery spot in Tin City and is holding tastings outside. Tastings are by appointment—or luck—for the time being. To minimize exposure, all wine and water is delivered to your outdoor table on a tray, with plenty of hand sanitizer available.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickup is available.
Where they Ship: During the warm months, overnight shipping within California only. For shipments to other states, contact email@example.com for information.
Sales and Promotions: She just launched her wine club which offers 20% off six bottles once per year in the spring.
Contact Info: https://www.hubbawines.com/ Phone: (805) 550-9920
*Photo curtesy of Riley
What they Specialize in: Nicora specializes in Rhône varietals, specifically Syrah, which is Nick’s, the winemaker, favorite and go-to grape. They also create traditional and non-traditional blends with Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. The two wines that Nick feels best represent Nicora are Euphoric, which is almost pure Grenache; and Buxom, which is a blend of Syrah from their favorite vineyards.
COVID Adaptations: They are handling COVID in ways that represent a continuation of the response from the industry in Paso Robles. In addition to the appointment system they have always used, they now have a real-time booking system through their website. This system works a lot like Open Table for restaurants, which makes booking easier for customers because they can see availability. Tastings have been transitioned outdoors to their spacious patio in front of the winery. Even with the extra space, they try to book one appointment at a time to limit possible exposure to other groups. Tasting staff follow cleaning and sanitation protocols handed down by the county, including wearing a face covering at all times.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickup is available and can be coordinated by contacting the winery at their general email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the office.
Where they Ship: Nicora ships to all states except AR, KY, MS, and UT.
Sales and Promotions: Their wine club is offered in two tiers. Due to its limited production, their black label Vineyard Designate series is typically only available to wine club members. These wines are almost always pure Syrah or close to it, and come from a single vineyard source. They represent the epitome of that specific vineyard site and all of its aspects including weather patterns, soil structure, and other influences of terrior.
Contact Info: https://www.nicorawine.com/ Phone: (805) 400-0039
What they Specialize in: Sans Liege specializes in Rhône varietals with some wines being single varietals and other blends. Sans Leige means without allegiance or without a leader. The idea being that many Central Coast winemakers are first generation, like Curt, who is charting his own path. Their flagship wine is their GSM, The Offerings, which has been on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list twice, and has been scored 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate or both for the last 10 years. Their second label, Groundwork Wine Co., is all single varietals with less winemaker influence than Sans Liege. This means there is minimal oak and shorter aging cycles. Their third label, Richvale Wine Co., is their canned wine featuring rosé, a white blend and Pinot Noir. Each can is 250mL, which is a third of a bottle of wine.
COVID Adaptations: They are currently hosting tastings outside to groups no larger than six. Everything is socially distanced, and masks are required for guests when they are not seated. Staff wear a mask at all times and everything gets sanitized regularly. They have moved to QR code menus so people can access their tasting menu and tech sheets on their phone.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickup is available for online orders. Call when you arrive and they will bring the wine out to your car.
Where they Ship: Sans Liege ships to most states and use temperature-controlled trucks, ice packs or a combo of the two during the warmer months. For shipping questions and orders, call the tasting room or email email@example.com.
Sales and Promotions: To stay up to date on new releases and promotions, they recommend joining their mailing list. Their wine club, offered in two tiers, includes wines exclusively for their club members each season. Each shipment includes six or 12 bottles two times per year—in the spring and fall—with a 20% discount. The 12-bottle membership has added benefits of $5 shipping on wine club allocations, a 10% off coupon code to be used outside the wine club allocation, as well as a member gift. They normally have free pick-up parties for club members and are working on an alternative due to COVID regulations.
Contact Info: https://www.sansliege.com/ Phone: (805) 773-2770
What they Specialize in: Desparada focuses on their white wines just as much as their reds, with half their production being white. They always make quite a few different styles of Sauvignon Blanc with each vintage. They are known for working with Italian and Bordeaux varietals from vineyards as north as Paso and as south as the Happy Canyon area of Santa Barbara.
COVID Adaptations: Tastings are being done outside on their deck area in small groups. They have a mister to keep guests cool on hot days.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickup is available. They ask that you call to coordinate your pick up or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where they Ship: Desparada ships across the U.S. except during hot weather.
Sales and Promotions: Their wine club includes six wines, each hand selected by the winemaker, delivered twice a year. Perks of this membership include access to special wines made in extremely small quantities, first dibs on everything they make, 20% off all wines and merchandise, free shipping for wine club members in California on the purchase of six+ bottles, exclusive invites to events, dinners and other fun events, and complimentary tastings for the member and a guest per each tasting room visit.
Contact Info: https://www.desparada.com/ Phone: (805) 434-9611
What they Specialize in: Turtle Rock specializes in Rhône varietals, especially their reds. Most of their wines are blends, with the exception of a few single-varietal bottles.
COVID Adaptations: COVID has been challenging, but they have been rising to the occasion and following the current regulations. They are happy to be open and safely pouring outside for tastings at this time.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickup is available and can be ordered online.
Where they Ship: Turtle Rock currently ships to AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, GA, IL, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, NY, OR, PA,TX, WA.
Sales and Promotions: Their wine club offers either a four-pack or a six-pack club twice a year, in the spring and fall. Member benefits include access to their JBV Maturin, winemaker notes with your shipment, updates on special events, complimentary tasting at the tasting room, invitation to “wine pick-up” parties, new release parties and other special events. For those who opt for the six-bottle wine club, they receive a 10% discount on the wine each shipment, as well as on any wine purchased in the tasting room.
Contact Info: http://www.turtlerockvineyards.com/ Phone: (805) 674-1889
What they Specialize in: Kaleidos specializes in red Rhône blends and Syrah. He occasionally makes a rosé and a white wine. His most recent of these is an Albariño.
COVID Adaptations: They currently have space outside on their patio for six to eight people with the proper distancing, and follow all the recommendations for sanitizing between groups.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickup is available Friday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with advance notification.
Where they Ship: They ship to every state that it is legal to ship to either direct or through a third party.
Sales and Promotions: Their wine club is available for six and 12 bottles, with options to do red wines only. Perks include a 20% discount for six-bottle members, and 30% discount for 12-bottle members on all retail prices on any purchase, first priority when reserving a place at winemaker dinners and other special events, free private tours and tasting of their winery and vineyard, and VIP access to wine available only through our wine club.
Contact: https://www.kaleidoswine.com/ Phone: (805) 226-0828