Last Updated on June 6, 2017 by Janet Frost
Paso Robles Charm
We love traveling California’s wine world. The state is full of wine regions and we especially enjoy the charm of the smaller, off the beaten path areas. We like to taste at a leisurely pace and find that small family farm feel. The perfect winery will have a lovely table in the cool shade overlooking the rolling hills of the vineyard. Some snacks are a plus. If you are really lucky the actual owner/winemaker will sit and chat about wine and life.
We found a perfect experience of Paso Robles charm at the Grey Wolf/Barton Family Winery.
Everyone knows the powerhouses of
Napa and Sonoma counties but there are so many more.
The state of California has 107 American Viticultural Areas (AVA) recognized in 5 main regions, North Coast, Central Coast, South Coast, Central Valley, and Sierra Foothills.
In years past we have explored the North Coast region extensively so it was time for us to move south to the Central Coast.
Central Coast California
The Central Coast of California runs from Monterey Bay (2 hours south of San Francisco) to Ventura (1.5 hours north of Los Angeles). The region is predominantly agricultural in the interior valleys and rugged cliffs along the Pacific coast. The options for activities in this region seem limitless. Hiking, climbing, boating, surfing, and biking keep the outdoor lovers moving. There are historical sights such as Hearst Castle, several lighthouses, and portions of the Mission Trail. The wildlife along this coast is amazingly unique for a couple from the Midwest.
Because of the vast agricultural roots here, the food and drink alone is worth the trip. The original idea for traveling to the Central Coast of California was to explore the Paso Robles wine region. This area has been producing wine for decades but recently it has started to outshine its flashy siblings, Napa and Sonoma.
We chose to stay in the little fishing town of Morro Bay,CA about 40 minutes southwest of Paso Robles. After the first day of hiking and flying the drone in Morro Bay I knew it was going to be hard to leave the Bay and head east to the wineries. The coastline was just too great for exploring. I would have to find an extraordinary winery.
Search for Paso Robles Charm
In order to find a perfect Paso Robles charm I needed to do some research. The Paso Robles Wine Country Association has a wonderful interactive website to search the wineries in the region. This site helped select all family run wineries for my search. I also found great resources on the website Practical Wanderlust in their article The Boozy Guide to Paso Robles. It was in this article that I discovered that Grey Wolf/Barton Family Wines also had a craft distillery on site. Now that is a plus I hadn’t thought of…
The same winery kept coming up in my searches. The more I read about Grey Wolf/Barton Family Wines the more certain I was that this was our destination. Grey Wolf Cellars was the creation of the Barton Family, Joe Sr, Shirlene and Joe Jr. in 1994. They share the family story and dreams on the website Grey Wolf Cellars. Joe Barton Jr has been running the family business for the last 20 years.
“Every bottle of Grey Wolf wine is our signature of a fine, hand-crafted product for our family and yours.
Joseph handles 100% of the wine operation insuring that every step in the process is done to its fullest potential.”
Joe Barton Jr graciously met us at the winery early for a private tour. It was a serene Sunday morning, the family dogs sauntered up to meet us, Joe drove in with coffee cup in hand. For the next 2 hours we were mesmerized by Joe and his passion. I am torn whether I should call him a Superhero or Renaissance Man. After all, anyone who produces wine seems like a Superhero to me. 🙂 But I have always been drawn to the concept of a Renaissance Man and Joe hits the mark.
“ a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to create solutions ”
Renaissance Man from Wikipedia
Joe shared his knowledge of viticulture, geology, history, meteorology,botany, economics, business management,
and some philosophy thrown in. He is full of curiosity and passion. Everything he produces reveals a deep commitment to and sentimentality for family.
Barton Family Wines
From the moment you pull into the drive you feel home. The modest homestead stands proud and strong against the neighboring monolithic facility. No one is going to usher you through an assembly line tour/tasting here.
“Come on in….have a seat…sip a little, snack a little…take a load off.”
There are comfortable seating arrangements scattered around the property inside and out. The tasting room has a soothing decor with a perfect blend of vintage and contemporary.
The wines are equally welcoming. The Soulmate Rose, ( Joe claims Rose is a misunderstood treat) was clean, crisp and refreshing and perfect for the sunny patio. We also came home with a bottle of the Instinctual Grenache and the Alpha Cab Blend. It was a very sad moment when Tom reminded me that I was limited in suitcase space for bottles.
Everything we tasted was rich and smooth and true to style. The winery offers two lines of wine. Grey Wolf is their original brand with classic small lot full-bodied reds. A more recent addition has been the Barton brand which is a line of clean and fresh Whites and a line of Reserve Reds.
Paso Robles Charm Multiplied
The delicious wines and homey setting makes Grey Wolf Cellars a perfect dose of charm. But there is more. This is where the “Renaissance” comes in. I immediately had the sense that their business model was infused with creativity, curiosity and perfection. Joe embraces the idea of reuse and re-purpose, so it wasn’t long before he was expanding into craft distilling. There was a lot of wine by-product that could be used somehow and he and his neighbor Steve Kroener started Krobar Craft Distilling. Of course distilling draws you to growing some interesting grains in that low spot that the grapes don’t like. In the spirit of fine spirits and craft cocktails they are also producing a line of Bitters.
Oh man! My Old Fashioned will never be the same again….
I am not a Gin fan but the KROBAR line of Gins were smooth and beautiful. The Rye’s were deep and rich and the White Brandy….like liquid Creme Brulee!!!
One Last Treat
True to his philosophy of re-purposing, Joe realized that he had an unused kitchen and a friend, Chef Jeffry, with a catering business that needed a kitchen. They have combined forces and Chef Jeffry offers a yummy menu for rounding out your day spent at Barton Family wines. A glass of Zin, a Tri-tip sandwich and a chaser of Bourbon neat sounds like all anyone could ask for.
Paso Robles charm can be found throughout the region. Compared to the craziness of Napa, Paso Robles is a step back in time. Grey Wolf Cellars/Barton Family Wines is an extraordinary example of the Paso Robles charm. There are so many wineries across California and even within the Paso Robles region that is can be tough to know where to start. I suggest you make Grey Wolf Cellars you first, last and in between choices when visiting California’s Central Coast.
*This review is strictly my opinion I was not compensated in anyway by Barton Family Wines.*