Vina Robles, located on the east side of Highway 101 is the realized dream of Swiss civil engineer, wine importer and entrepreneur Hans Nef. Nef’s dream was to wed the virtues of his Swiss background with the American dream.
In his own words, “I want Vina Robles to express a unique balance of Swiss heritage and American opportunity. As individuals, we are rooted in the Old World. As viticulturists and winemakers, we are empowered by the New World.” We think that Nef has achieved his dream!
Tasting the Wines at Vina Robles
The Vina Robles Hospitality Center is open daily from 11am to 5pm. The space brings together classic California Mission-style design and modern European elegance. The venue is spacious and can accommodate events of all sizes, including parties and business functions.
Vina Robles offers two different tasting flights: The Estate Series and the Limited Estate Collection.
These selections highlight the diversity of grape varietals that Vina Robles grows and features the distinct talents of winemaker Kevin Willenborg. ($30 per person, waived with a two-bottle purchase and complimentary for Signature Club Members)
“We strive for amazing quality, integrity and value in the bottle – purely delicious varietal character wines that showcase rich, expressive fruit of Paso terroir.”, opines Willenborg. “All our wines are grown from our sustainably farmed estate vineyards with all picking decisions based on taste, not on numbers.”
The Wines of Vina Robles
Winemaker Kevin Willenborg believes that, “Paso Robles has always had great terroir for producing distinctively bold, varietally expressive, rich wines worthy of being on the table with the world’s best.”
The 2022 Sauvignon Blanc is 100% Sauvignon Blanc grown on the Jardine Vineyard.
It is crisp, refreshing and varietally fruit forward for a summer sip or with fish and lighter fare such as Asian cuisine. It is aged in stainless steel with a delightful straw color and aromas of passion fruit and guava with flavors of stone fruit and a crisp citrus acidity. Light bodied and sells for $26 a bottle.
The 2019 and the 2020 Mountain Road Reserve Cabernets are showing great. They are deep ruby in color with flavors of dark berries and licorice. Full bodied with good acidity and rich tannins.
They come from the higher elevation Bear Valley and White Cliffs Vineyards in the Adelaida District whose calcareous soils are very limiting. Willenborg says, “These are truly wines with phenomenal aging potential yet balanced enough to drink even early on.” Aged 20 months in French Oak, these wines are priced at $66 per bottle.
The 2020 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is dark in color with brambly aromas with leathery flavors. It is full-bodied with balanced acid and tannins. Willenborg says, “I tend to get more cassis and licorice flavors with softer textures expressed from the Huerhuero vineyard, while getting more dark cherry flavors and a bit more structure and cream from the Creston Valley vineyard.
The combination is both complex and delicious.” The small amount of Petit Verdot adds color and richness to this delicious Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 20 months in French, Hungarian and American oak barrels. $32 per bottle.
The 2016 Tannat is my personal favorite although they do not produce it every year. The 2016 is 100% Tannat with a very dark garnet color. Grown in the Huerhuero Vineyard, it presents the aromas of cherries, plums and dates.
The flavors of dark olive and caramel. This wine is full of acidity and tannins making it a good candidate for pairing with hearty foods. Aged 20 months in French and Hungarian oak. $25 per bottle.
The Bistro is open Thursday through Monday from 11am until 3pm and offers the perfect selections of locally sourced items to compliment your tasting at Vina Robles. Chef Joshua Jones has been at the helm since 2019 and recommends his Vina Robles Burger.
“Our burger is pretty amazing,” he says. “What makes it stand out is that each ingredient is thoughtfully prepared. For example, the sautéed onions take three hours to make.
The Wine & Food Experience features 5 wines paired with delightful dishes from the Bistro. ($60 for members and $75 for non-members).
Visiting Vina Robles
My experiences visiting Vina Robles, more than a few times, have been quite satisfying. Regardless, CEO Kurt Ammann tells me, “We are currently working on expanding our hospitality offerings and experiences, including a Winery and Vineyard Tour, Library Releases and elevated Food and Wine Pairings”.
Plan for at least an hour and a half to thoroughly enjoy what Vina Robles has to offer.
In the summer of 2013, the Vina Robles Amphitheatre held its grand opening and hosts several dozen world-class artists April through October each year.
Since its opening the 3,000 plus amphitheater has hosted renowned artists from around the world including such names as Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and so many more.
Two Swiss Men Named Hans, One American Dream
The history of Vina Robles starts with Swiss entrepreneur and civil engineer Hans Nef who had a passion for wine, so much so that he started his own wine import business in Zurich in the early 1990s. Nef grew to love California wines and during one of his visits to California he discovered Paso Robles in the mid-1990s.
Seeing the potential for outstanding winemaking he teamed with longtime friend and business associate, Hans-R Michel, to begin planting the seeds for new vineyards and a winery. They began planting the first of six vineyards in 1997 and opened the winery in 1998.
Michel was the managing partner of Vina Robles for over 20 years and over-saw the magnificent development of the winery, hospitality center and bistro (2017), vineyards and the Amphitheater (2013).
Fast forward a mere 10 years and Vina Robles has become a wine country destination and cultural hub in Paso Robles while still producing delightful wines that express the terroir and character of the burgeoning wine community.
The ownership of Vina Robles has passed on to Hans Nef’s children who have brought on a team of professionals like CEO Ammann, Winemaker Willenborg and Director of Vineyards, Carter Collins and several others, to take Vina Robles to the next level.
One of the calling cards of Vina Robles wines is best expressed in this comment by Willenborg, “We strive for amazing quality, integrity and value in the bottle – purely delicious varietal character wines that showcase rich, expressive fruit of Paso terroir”.
Hans Nef’s dream has come true in magnificent fashion and perhaps beyond his most extravagant wishes. “It is inspiring to realize Hans Nef’s vision and confidence in what Paso Robles and Vina Robles would become.
Although he was not from Paso Robles, Ammann says, “he understood that wine, food, and entertainment are a lifestyle that would attract people from all over California and the world. His passion and entrepreneurial spirit helped establish what Paso Robles is today.”
I heartily agree with both of these gentlemen and invite you to plan your next wine and food road trip to Vina Robles in Paso Robles.
El Paso de Robles
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. The highest elevations are on the west side of the city with the heat focused on the East side of Highway 101.
The drive from San Francisco to Paso Robles (Paso) is about 3 hours (~200 miles). Coincidentally, Paso is about the same travel time (3 hours/~200 miles) from Los Angeles making it a real gathering spot for northern and southern California.
Although we have visited several times to explore and wine taste, we always find new and pleasant surprises.