Over-the-Top Reds at
Tobin James Cellars


VELVETY, BIG, BOLD red wines ... if that phrase catches your attention, Tobin James Cellars is for you.

Yes, yes, I know. This winery does bottle some white wines, and delightful wines they are. But this is a red-wine winery, first and foremost. And I don’t mean just your average, every-day, basic red-wine winery ...

It’s a brash, over-the-top red-wine winery. Put that in upper-case neon letters, underlined and in italics.

I will not soon forget my first taste of a Tobin James red.

It was at McLintock’s steak house years ago, off the park in Downtown Paso Robles. One of the wines on offer was the winery's zinfandel. It was labeled “Ballistic.”


Ballistic ...

How could any red-wine lover resist that word?

By the way, that’s an apt description of it.

It announced itself with a huge nose of blackberries.

... followed by a mouthfilling rush of fruit flavors supported by undercurrents of briar.

I paused after the first taste, and thought “WOW.” In fact, I’m sure I mouthed that word, gazing at the glass.

This was a winery I wanted to get to know. And as it turned out . . .

Yellow cottage

. . . less than three months later, on a fine spring day, I was zipping westbound toward Paso Robles on Highway 46. In the middle of the vineyards I spied a bright yellow bungalow next to what looked like a saloon. On a zinfandel-red sign, yellow letters – just as bright as the bungalow – spelled out the winery's name.

The tasting room is a saloon right out of the old west, with an 1860's mahogany bar from Blue Eye, Missouri. Beneath the antique tin ceiling, gold and silver award ribbons cover the crimson flocked wallpaper next to the antique back bar.

Tasting room

The tasting room offers a wide selection. On a normal Sunday, you could sample not only the Ballistic Zinfandel, but the Radiance Chardonnay, the Notorious Cabernet Sauvignon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Syrah and the Liquid Love Late Harvest Zinfandel.

My favorite is the Dusi Zinfandel. For me, it’s velvet in a glass.

Tobin James Cellars, located at 8950 Union Road, is just shy of nine miles east of Paso Robles. Follow Highway 46 east from town. Look for the bright gold cottage at the intersection with Union Road.


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