Beneath Paso Robles Wine Country
Tablet set for wine tasting in the winery cave of Eberly Winery in Paso Robles, CA

Wine caves.  If I hear about one, I want to explore it.  Is it a caveman thing?  Once down below, I imagine myself secure from roving saber-toothed tigers, sipping a jammy Paso Zin, careful not to spill on my Woolly Mammoth accent rug.  

Whatever the cause, my fascination with wine caves is undeniable and enduring.  I will always remember my first (Kunde in Sonoma Valley).  I fondly recall my most recent (Oak Mountain in Temecula Valley).  And I eagerly anticipate my next (where? when? dunno).  

In Paso Robles Wine Country, I have gone subterranean at three wineries:  Eberle, Robert Hall, and Justin.  

Gary Eberle is frequently exalted as one of the founding fathers of modern day Paso Wine Country, so it makes sense that his cave is the first and best known of Paso's wine caves.  In 1996, Eberle Winery opened the doors to 8,000 square feet of underground wine storage, then tunneled an 8,000 square-foot expansion in 1999.  Complimentary daily tours give visitors a thorough look at the expansive caverns.  The cave's Wild Boar Room seats up to 100 guests for gourmet meals presented by guest chefs.  

Inside Robert Hall's 19,000 square-foot cave, 4,000 oak barrels quietly do their job, cradling juice as it transforms into something more sublime.  So sublime, it earned this Paso institution the "Golden Bear" award in 2010, acknowledging Robert Hall as the California Winery of the Year.  Enter from the stairway beneath the tasting room, and you pass an imposing row of massive 5,000-gallon oak tanks standing like guardians of the liquid treasures within.

Justin Winery completed their wine cave just in time to test its integrity.  Soon after excavating concluded, the 6.5 magnitude San Simeon earthquake rattled the region, causing substantial damage to many Paso Robles structures, including a fatal building collapse in historic Town Center.  But besides some toppled stacks of barrels, the Justin wine cave suffered no ill.  The crown jewel down below is the Isosceles Room, where you can quaff vintages of Justin's flagship Bordeaux-style blend from 1999 to present while seated in a spectacular cavern, 120 feet beneath the surface.

~ Kay Syrah

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