Growers have been tending vines in Paso Robles's fertile foothills since the turn of the century -- the 20th century, that is. For decades, wine aficionados overlooked the area, even though in 1983 it was granted its own "Paso Robles" appellation (the official government designation of a recognized wine-producing region; "Napa Valley" and "Sonoma County" are probably more familiar). Around 1992, wine grapes surpassed lettuce as San Luis Obispo County's primary cash crop, and the region now has at least 75 wineries and more than 100 vineyards (which grow grapes but do not produce their own wine from them).
Paso Robles is reminiscent of Napa Valley way back in the '70s before it became a major tourist destination. Because not all wine enthusiasts are wine experts, an advantage of the area is its friendly attitude and small crowds, which make it easy to learn more about the winemaking process as you go along. Enjoy the relaxed rural atmosphere along two-lane country roads, driving leisurely from winery to winery and, more often than not, chatting with winemakers while tasting their products.
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