Best Wineries

Calcareous Vineyard in Paso Robles

By Published On: June 20th, 2023

Enjoy their wines as you soak in awe-inspiring 180-degree views.

Paso Robles, or officially, El Paso de Robles, is in California’s Central Coast region. Translated it means “The Pass of the Oaks.” The City’s elevation averages 740 feet above sea level (between 675’ and 1,100’) but the proximity to the Pacific Ocean (a 20-minute drive west) adds to the interesting climate and terroir of the area.

Aerial view of Calcareous Vineyard. Photo courtesy: acacia production.

Although my wife Linda and I have visited several times to explore and wine taste, we always find new and pleasant surprises. This time, we wanted to highlight Calcareous Vineyard in Paso Robles.

The Point Table. Photo courtesy: Calcareous Vineyard.

The Tasting Experience

Calcareous added the winery/cellar in 2006 and the beautiful tasting room in 2008. We were guided in our tasting by a knowledgeable and friendly hospitality specialist. The tasting room offers a wide range of wine and food pairings both outside with their stunning views as well as inside (reservations are required for all experiences and vary in price).

Wine and Food Pairing. Photo courtesy: Calcareous Vineyard.

In recent years the winery has added a kitchen and an estate chef who prepares a seasonal selection of artisan lunch items that are thoughtfully crafted to complement the wines. The tasting room is open from 10am to 5pm daily and reservations are recommended.

Calcareous signature cabernet sauvignon. Photo courtesy: Calcareous Vineyard.

Winemaking at Calcareous

We were very fortunate to get a winery tour from winemaker Jason Joyce. Jason, a dashing Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo grad, worked as an organic pharmaceutical chemist in San Francisco after graduating. He entered the wine industry with an internship at Calcareous in 2007 seeking a more holistic lifestyle.

He never looked back.

Working his way up the ladder, Joyce moved from intern to cellar had until becoming head winemaker in 2010. Jason expressed the challenges of making high elevation wines (just don’t mess it up) but it is just that challenge that keeps him juiced.  “Come for the wine ~ Stay for the view! “

Jason Joyce, Winemaker. Photo courtesy: Calcareous Vineyard.

The Wines

Calcareous produces a wide range of wines emphasizing Rhône and Bordeaux-style reds with Zinfandel and Pinot Noir included in the mix. They also produce Chardonnay, Rhône-style whites and a different Rosé each vintage.

Wine and food pairing. Photo courtesy: Calcareous Vineyard.

Total production hovers around 9,000 cases depending upon the vintage.

2021 Estate Chardonnay – This versatile Burgundian wine presents wonderful flavors of hazelnut and subtle oak tannin. This Chardonnay can be paired with a broad range of foods. ($38 per 750ml)

2020 Lloyd of Calcareous – This classically styled Bordeaux Blend features the estates Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot as well as Cabernet Sauvignon. The currants, blackberry earthy spice combined with the dense tannins and acidity make this wine delightful now but worthy of aging. ($65 per 750ml)

Calcareous Vineyards Wine Making Facility. Photo courtesy: Linda Compisi.

2021 Reserve Grenache – This Estate wine is classic Grenache with delicious flavors of strawberry, rhubarb, crushed rock and white pepper. Beautiful tannins and spiciness make this wine bright and mouth pleasing. (Club member exclusive at $70 per 750ml)

2020 Devil’s Canyon Syrah – The 2018 Devil’s Canyon Syrah was named #16 in the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of the World. The 2020 vintage shows rich purple color with dark blue fruits and bright acidity. A great balance of delicacy and intensity. ($70 per 750ml)

A fun Zinfandel blend. Photo courtesy: Linda Compisi.

History of Calcareous Vineyards

Calcareous Vineyards is a stunningly well-situated winery located in the western hills of Paso Robles, where the highest elevations (2,200’) occur. Founded by father and daughter, Lloyd Messer and Dana Brown, in 2000, when they realized their dream of finding a place to express their passion for wine.

Proprietor Dana Brown. Photo courtesy: Calcareous Vineyard.

Originally from Iowa, this father and daughter recognized the westside of Paso Robles had potential to produce world class wines. Although Lloyd passed away in 2006, Dana has pursued their mutual vision of making exceptional wines.

Tribute to Co-founder, Lloyd Messer. Photo courtesy: Linda Compisi.

Calcareous Vineyards is one of the highest limestone plateaus on Paso Robles’ westside just 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The property includes 442 acres of calcareous rock reaching 1,800 feet above sea level with about 28 planted acres. Calcareous, an adjective meaning “mostly or partly composed of calcium carbonate”, in other words, containing lime or being chalky.

Vineyard view. Photo courtesy: Calcareous Vineyard.

Where I Enjoy Staying

We have stayed in several places in Paso Robles. Some right on the city Plaza and some south of downtown but our go to place for price and quality remains The Oaks Hotel. The Oaks has large suites and significant amenities (robes, slippers, a pool, happy hour and complimentary breakfast).

The Oaks Hotel, Paso Robles. Photo courtesy: Linda Compisi.

We have always been impressed with the personal service and kindness of the Oaks team. Located about 1.5 miles north of the central Paso Robles Park, you wouldn’t want to walk into town but with free parking in the area, that should not be an issue.

Additionally, there are several restaurants (and a Starbucks) within walking distance if you would rather walk.

Where I Dine

Il Cortile Ristorante. Chef/Owner (with wife Carole, sommelier and restauranteur) Santos MacDonal uses only the freshest ingredients, locally sourced whenever available, to create interesting and delicious dishes.

Restaurant entrance. Photo courtesy: Il Cortile Ristorante.

I must say my favorite starter and entrée are Grilled octopus (with fresh vegetables marinati in a spicy vinaigrette) and the Pappardelle al cinghiale (homemade pappardelle with wild boar ragu). Think I have enjoyed those the last 2 times I was there.

BL Brasserie. Chef/Owner Laurent Grangien produces traditional brasserie style fare in an elegant setting with a casual feel. Formerly named Bistro Laurent, Chef Grangien sources local ingredients to prepare wonderful cuisine to pair with local wines. Here my favorites include the Escargot in the shell (just love the garlic butter and parsley) and the Steak Frites (I prefer the hanger steak).

Escargot. Photo courtesy: BL Brasserie.

Any season is an absolutely wonderful time to visit California’s Central Coast and Paso Robles. Spring is my favorite time. For me, it’s simply the perfect wine country to visit between the peak and offseason. Get out there and explore!

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