Welcome back for part 2 of 3 of my exploration of the wine tasting rooms in Tin City, an eclectic little village situated in an industrial area of Paso Robles. If you missed part 1, head back to the main page and get caught up…we’ll wait for you. With all the wineries within walking distance of each other, you get to enjoy some fresh air and “earn your wine”—you know I’m all about that—as you walk from tasting room to tasting room. I love that each winery has different specialties and a style all their own within their al fresco tasting room. The same holds true for the six wineries in this post. So, put on those walking shoes, let’s hit the trail. If you're not able to visit in person, I highly recommend you support these wineries with some online wine shopping and expand your Paso wine horizons.
Brian Benson Cellars
What they specialize in: Brian Benson Cellars creates intense, complex and concentrated wines that are made mostly from Rhône varietals. Brian loves making unconventional blends with his wines. You can expect his wines to be a bit against the grain, while still respecting the traditions of winemaking. Also featured in the tasting room are wines from Level 3. Level 3 is the latest wine endeavor for Norm and Susan Benson, who created Dark Star Cellars 20 years ago. Dark Star was the 32nd winery in Paso and quickly became a benchmark for the quality of wines produced in the region. In August of 2015 they decided it was time for a change of pace so they sold Dark Star and moved over into the “slow lane.” Level 3 was the solution, which symbolizes the third chapter in their professional lives. Level 1, if you will, was the motion picture and medical industries, Level 2 was Dark Star Cellars, and of course the third is Level 3. The vision of Level 3 is to produce very limited amounts of red blends from grapes from their own estate vineyard. Less than 200 cases of each blend is produced each year.
COVID Adaptations: The tasting room is following the required guidelines to keep everyone safe. They are seating customers outside, socially distant, and each staff member wears a mask.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickups have been, and still are available for customers. They ask that you give them a call and they are happy to oblige.
Where they Ship: They ship to 35 states within the U.S. If you are unsure if wine can be shipped to your state, give them a call.
Sales and Promotions: Their normal tasting room discount is 10% off any three-bottle purchase, 15% off any six-bottle purchase, and 20% off any case purchase. Wine club members receive 15-30% off wine purchases and tasting fees are waived. Their tasting fee is one of the lowest around, at only $10 per person, and is refundable per person with a wine purchase.
*Photo curtesy of Clever Concepts
What they Specialize in: ONX specializes in non-traditional red blends from their estate in the west side of the Templeton Gap.
COVID Adaptations: All tastings have been moved outdoors, and now have double the seating. Tasting are offered seven days a week and guests are led through a flight of six wines, including a white blend, rosé, and four reds. Charcuterie plates are available upon request to enjoy with the tasting flight. Tables are spread out, giving ample space for all of their guests. Tasting are conducted using 1-oz tasting bottles that are freshly bottled each weekend. Guests pour into their own glass, thereby eliminating the potential for cross-contamination off the mouth of the full-size bottle. All employees have been trained on COVID hazards and wear masks while practicing safe spacing among guests. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.
Tours of their ONX Estate Vineyard are available Friday through Sunday. Tours are by appointment only, and they do these all year round (even in the winter for those customers who want to rough it in 30-degree temperatures!). The tour and tasting is $25 per person. Tours are about one hour long and guests get to view the property in an ATV while sipping the wines. This is the original ONX experience—they started doing these tours even before they moved into their tasting room in Tin City. These tours are extremely educational for all types of wine drinkers.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickups are welcome.
Where they Ship: They currently ship to AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, GA, ID, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NH, NM, NV, NY, OR, PA, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WI.
Sales and Promotions: As far as promotions, ONX changes it up regularly, every 2 weeks or so. Sign up for their email to stay up to date on new wine releases and receive their monthly newsletter. For the holidays, ONX is offering a virtual wine tasting experience. With tasting kits perfectly designed for one person, you can send them off to several different households and have everyone tune in for an hour of wine tasting and “edu-tainment.” They also have upgraded wine gifts available. Along with the tasting kit, you can send a full-size ONX wine bottle, custom-printed notes from the host, or a customed-etched glass with a company logo, all packaged in an elegant black box to make each recipient feel truly appreciated. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and to book your virtual holiday gathering.
What they Specialize in: Field Recordings (Winemaker Andrew Jones) specializes in classic but fun wines. They have a huge variety at any given time—usually 20+ varietals—and focus on trusting the vineyards, minimal intervention and creating interesting wines without pretension.
COVID Adaptations: Staff wear a mask at all times and guests are required to keep their face covering on until they are seated at their table. Sanitization happens before each tasting. They have changed their tasting format as an added safety measure. To eliminate potential cross contact between bottle and glass, the wine is poured into beakers and the group self pours into their glass. Currently, as per regulations, tasting are offered on the patio only.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickups can be arranged by calling the tasting room.
Where they Ship: They ship across the U.S., where permitted by state law. Call if you are unsure if your state allows wine shipments.
Sales and Promotions: From now until the end of October, your order ships free when you use code “FREESHIP.” Head to their website to take advantage of this before it’s too late.
What they Specialize in: Concur is a small, family-owned winery specializing in Rhône varietal wines and blends from Paso Robles. This region lends itself to the creation of big, bold reds, yet as a mainly female operation, they create wines with a distinctly feminine touch. Their Dainty Diva Syrah/Grenache blend is definitely a favorite.
COVID Adaptations: Right before the shutdown, they updated their website to make online ordering and signing up for their CONCUR Club easier. They had also been working on creating a patio space for customers to enjoy tastings outside. The ABC and the City of Paso Robles were very helpful in getting their patio approved by the time they could reopen. They continue to have extremely strict cleaning standards for their facility. All employees are required to wear face coverings and wash their hands frequently. They ask customers to also wear face coverings until seated, as per local recommendations.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickups are available, as well as free local delivery within SLO County. They want to make it as easy as possible to get wine to their customers! You can order online or pay at the winery. Simply give them a call or send them an email to make the arrangements.
Where they Ship: They ship to every state except where prohibited by law.
Sales and Promotions: By joining the CONCUR Club, members receive 20% off all orders, early access to release wines twice per year in the spring and fall, free tastings, and access to events. Their Dreamwalker line of wines for retail stores, which includes a Paso Cab and Chardonnay, is currently on special on their website for only $144 per case.
What they Specialize in: BENOM focuses on Cabernet and blends. With family ancestry in Languedoc and Bordeaux, brothers Arnaud and Guillaume wanted to use their heritage and make wines more on the softer side while creating some unique New World blends.
COVID Adaptations: They have very strict measures in place. Tastings are run outside, all groups are properly distanced, and sanitization is performed after each tasting. Virtual tastings are also available. Since implementing the virtual tastings two weeks after the COVID shut down in March, they have found this to be a new way of connecting with their customers.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickups are welcome.
Where they Ship: They ship to almost every state, including AL, AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DL, DC, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VI, WA, WI.
Sales and Promotions: Due to their small production size, their wine club is currently the only guaranteed way to acquire their wines. Members receive premiere access to all new releases and sole access to their members-only releases. They offer a yearly 4-bottle allocation in the fall that includes their Origin (Cabernet Sauvignon), Les Deux Frères (Grenache, Cabernet S. & Tempranillo) and Lapsus (Graciano, Mourvèdre, Grenache & Cabernet S.). They also offer a bi-annual 4-bottle allocation in the spring and fall which includes the same bottles as the annual club plus the Muze (Cabernet S. & Mourvèdre) and Hoc (Cabernet S., Syrah & Carignan). Both clubs have benefits of complimentary tastings for two at each visit, private home or virtual tasting with Arnaud or Katie, priority access to newly released wines, access to their library and wine-club-only wines, complimentary invitations for two for each release party, and invitation to Winemaker Dinners.
What they Specialize in: Caelesta specializes in red Rhône varietals, as well as red blends.
COVID Adaptations: Brian is currently offering vineyard tour tastings as well as outside seated flight tastings on their patio. Safety regulations are followed with proper sanitization between tastings, and staff wears a mask at all times.
Curbside Pickups: Curbside pickups are being offered.
Where they Ship: Shipping is currently available within CA.
Sales and Promotions: Wine club members get first access to all of their wines. There are shipments twice per year that are fully customizable with six bottles. If you can’t decide, you will be sent a variety of Brian’s new releases. Each shipment is approximately $300 plus shipping, or you can pick up in person. Club member benefits include 15% off wine purchases, complimentary tastings, access to limited production, special format, and library wines, discounts on vineyard tasting tours, and access to exclusive events including pick-up parties and in-home tastings with the winemaker.
*Photo curtesy of Clever Concepts
Next week will be the final leg of our journey through the wineries at Tin City. Until then, be sure to check out these wineries and broaden your Paso palate.