How To Check Out My “Judgment of Paso” article on Jancis Robinson + Details on Paso Wines from Law, Niner, Robert Hall, Turley with Pairings

Judgment of Paso line up

When I learned that David Glancy of the San Francisco Wine School was organizing a blind comparative tasting he called “Paso Robles vs The World,” my mind immediately jumped to the 1976 Judgment of Paris that put California’s wines on the world map (including Ridge where I once worked), and from there to the idea of a Judgment of Paso. While the Judgment of Paris has been recreated ad nauseam around the world, the concept still captures the imagination: how would wines from one area tasted blind compare with another? I set my sights on attending — and I pitched the idea to the team at Jancis Robinson which is tasked with mentoring me this year as the grand prize for winning their wine writing competition in 2022. 

We ZOOMed a few months ago, and Jancis learned I live just north of Los Angeles; she said she was really interested in getting more coverage of the central coast, especially of the Paso Robles AVA. When the team said they liked a “Judgment of Paso” story, and David Glancy agreed to have me along for the ride as well, on a chilly sunny Sunday morning, I headed north through Santa Barbara’s wine country– marveling at the water in Lake Cachuma and the hillside cascades of baby blue mountain lilac. 

As I drove, I pondered the upcoming event. Here on Wine Predator, we compare wines of the same composition from different regions all the time; in fact, that’s why I think Sue Hill and I did so well in the competition to represent the US at the World Blind Wine Tasting Championships in the Loire in 2019.  But what if the pairs of wines were chosen to be truly competitive? Would I be able to determine which wines came from where? Which wines would “win”? 

My first stop in Central California was the Paso Robles event center where I attended the Rhone Rangers seminar which included wines from Paso and elsewhere in the western US. If you’re a fan of wines made from grapes originating from the Rhone region of France, I highly recommend it!

After the seminar, I sat at a table with for lunch with Kathy O’Leary of Long Walk Vineyard from Ashland Oregon (pictured above), then attempted to taste (and spit out!) as many wines as possible in the time allotted including the latest releases from Troon and Tablas Creek, two leaders in Regenerative Organic Agriculture Certifications, plus newer, smaller, natural wineries like Ojai’s Doctor’s Orders and new releases from Dusty Nabor’s Rhone line-up. I tasted wines from all over California and Oregon but I focused on getting to know the wines of Paso Robles, seeking those with sustainable credentials. 

I planned to camp in my VW van somewhere, but as Robert Hall’s Caine Thompson’s BnB was vacant, he offered it to me. He and his kids showed me around their small organic and biodynamic farm– small but with big plans– and we sat by the fire enjoying biodynamic Robert Hall wine while watching the sun set and the kids roast marshmallows. 

The following day, I stayed with the Rhone Rangers theme meeting up with long time winemaker and vineyard manager Neil Collins at Tablas Creek for a grand tour and tasting. So much beauty there, as well as stewardship, and fascinating to see certain the skeleton of the earth revealed after the extreme rains earlier in the season (see photo series above). With a focus on Rhone wines, Tablas Creek quickly moved to being leaders in sustainable, then organic, then biodynamic and now Regenerative Organic Agriculture. (I have a lot more to share about that soon!)

After a picnic at Tablas Creek with a small glass of their Mourvedre, I visited the new Lone Madrone tasting room which is Neil’s family business and where he started making wine.

Finally it was THE DAY to head to Niner for the comparative blind tasting of Paso Wines against the world’s! We met up outside with Andy Niner of Niner Estate and he told us a bit about the property. Heart Hill is very Instagram famous but I got a kick out of how the heart looks like Mickey Mouse ears…I was very tempted to draw in the cap, and to try to make it look even more like Disney ears but I was trying to capture a fleeting moment while I could! 

When about 50 of us entered the large room, it was already set with the mat with wines poured (see picture at the top of this post). David Glancy introduced us to the grapes and to the Paso Robles region,  setting the stage for the wines we were about to taste– and providing me with lots of great material and stats. 

To learn more about Paso Robles AVA and its eleven sub-districts, and to find out the results of “The Judgment of Paso,” check out my article at 

While there is a paywall, there should be a way to be a guest.

To learn more about the Paso Robles wines at the tasting, and what we paired with them and why, keep reading! 


Paso Wines from “Paso Robles vs The World” Tasting 2/21/23

  • Robert Hall, Vermentino, Paso Robles 2021
  • Niner, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles 2019
  • Law, “Sagacious”, Paso Robles 2019
  • Turley, Zinfandel, Ueberoth Vineyard, Paso Robles 2020
  • samples provided for my review with no other compensation
  • who won? Find out here! 


Judgment of Paso red wines


Since we had a range of four very different wines, we knew we wanted foods with complex flavors and textures. The oysters were a no-brainer with the Vermentino, but Sue really hit it out of the ball park with the fresh pesto pasta salad which had enough going on to actually work with the red wines. 

As Sue likes to say, don’t be afraid of making what some consider a lowly hamburger into an upscale meal which we accomplished with high quality bacon, an heirloom tomato, a perfectly ripe avocado, and a burger patty made from 1/3 ground lamb with 2/3 blended chuck, brisket, and sirloin from Main Street Meat with Stilton cheese in the mix. 

  • fresh raw oysters
  • fresh nasturtium and basil pesto pasta salad with artichokes, slivered sun-dried tomato, and olives
  • BLTA (bacon, lettuce. tomato, avocado) lamb and beef burgers with stilton cheese on pretzel buns  

Robert Hall’s Vermentino competed at the Judgment of Paso Feb. 2022

2021 Robert Hall “Cavern Select Vermentino,” El Pomar District, Paso Robles AVA

ABV: 13.0%
SRP: $35
Grapes: 100% organic Vermentino

Robert Hall’s 100% estate Vermentino was grown biodynamically then fermented in a mix of concrete tanks and acacia barrels and aged sur lie 6 months. After converting to organic and biodynamic viticulture, complete with rotations of animals and piles of compost, Robert Hall is pursuing Regenerative Organic Certification. I visited on my recent trip and have lots more to share about the winery and its people coming up in April. This wine went up against one from Sardegna in Italy; read the results over on 

From 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM on  Fri, Mar 10, 2023, the Robert Hall Winery located at 3443 Mill Road Paso Robles will hold a Regenerative Viticulture Field Day featuring Caine Thompson, Managing Director at Robert Hall and Phillippe Armenier, Consultant for Domaine Marcoux. The agenda includes the presentation of Year 2 results and a tasting of wine from Year 1 and Year 2. This is a super fascinating opportunity, one I participated in at a lunch in LA, and I highly recommend it. To join, call the Tasting Room 805.239.1616, or email  I’d intended to attend but there’s an atmospheric river event — another one!– and a drive there did not seem like the best idea!  Find Robert Hall events and more here.

Appearance:  Pale yellow, pale straw

Aroma: Lemon, kiwi, minerals, meadow, lemon rind, 

Palate: Tart lemon, great acidity, mouthwatering, lemon drop, oxalis, light and bright, zippy and fun, clean kiwi finish, lemon drop without the sweetness, this wine grew on me the more I sipped on it. Does not need to be served super cold. The grape is nicely experienced in this wine. 

Pairing: Oysters are so perfect with the wine, like fresh ripe nectarines in your mouth. With a drop of smelt egg on the top would totally be over the top with this wine. So great with oysters, The wine loves the garlic and the fresh green of the pesto. The combination of the basil and nasturtium made for an herbaceous spicy pesto. The wine is perfect with the textural experience of the pasta as well. 

2019 Niner Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles AVA

2019 Niner Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles AVA

ABV: 13.9%
SRP: $50
Grapes: 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot

Sustainably grown and certified as such, the blend of grapes come from a combination of vineyards including their famous “Heart Hill” located just behind their tasting room off Highway 46. The Niner Cabernet Sauvignon wine faced off against a commercially farmed Hall Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa;  results here.

Appearance:  Ruby, plum ruby rim, very youthful, dense and dark, not cloudy

Aroma: Cherry, cherry pipe tobacco, sandelwood, cedar, tomato leaf, black current tea, chapparel, oak woodland, sage, vanilla, very intriguing, bringing the nose back for more, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, 

Palate: Cherry, cherry tobacco, twiggy, black current tea, big tannins, cherry phosphate, plum, plum skin, a bit overly oaked for Sue’s liking, but it does keep the big fruit in check, neither one of felt we wanted this wine as a cocktail wine. It yearns for food, this is a very nice wine and not what can be expected in a Paso Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Pairing: The wine is fine with the pasta salad. It is great with the sun dried tomatoes and garlic. It loves the toothiness of the pasta and does fine with the herbaceous qualities of the dish. The wine loves the richness of the burger and the crisp salty bacon. Nice with the peppery spice on the outside of the burger and the grill marks in the meat. The rich complex flavors of the burger go so nicely with the rich complex flavors of the wine. The meal brings out the fruit and the herbal qualities of the wine. 

2019 Law “Sagacious”, Adelaida District, Paso Robles

2019 Law “Sagacious”, Adelaida District, Paso Robles 

ABV: 15.2%
SRP: $85
Grapes: organic 39% Mouvedre, 31% Grenache, 30% Syrah

Law is located on steep slopes of limestone high in the Adelaida Hills in the north west of the AVA. This blend was grown organically at 1,600-1,940’ elevation, fermented in open concrete fermenters for 19 months in French Oak with 40% new. The Law GSM was tasted with a 2019 Saint Cosme from Chateauneuf-du-Pape;  results here.  

Appearance:  Ruby, bright fushia rim, sheer is a stickiness and brilliance to it. Deep and dense, looks to be unfined and unfiltered. 

Aroma: Roses, black tea, dried rose petals, carnation, cardamon, black pepper, violets, very heady, temple woodsy notes, intense, frankincense, myrh 

Palate: Big juicy blue fruit, bold tannins, very well structured, blueberries, boysenberries, tart fresh fruit, fresh ginger mid palate, woodsy cinnamon stick, the flavors envelope your entire mouth, the wine is everywhere all at once, a big tasty wine that could use the yin of food to go with its yang, 

Pairing: Very nice with the pasta salad going well with the herbs in the pesto. (NOTE: If you can, grow your own herbs and make your own pesto. It is not that difficult to do and so much better than anything you can get in the deli section or in a jar!) The pine nuts are also a hit with the wine. The green in the pesto brings out the lovely fruit in the wine. Good with the burger, but we both felt that the lamb in the burger was not as great as if the burger were much more just beef. It does however love the bacon on the burger.  With a bite that is integrated with all of the flavors in the burger it is quite nice, but the lamb in the burger can be a bit overwhelming. On a subsequent evening, paired with cassoulet, the wine is divine as the tart complex wine cut through and married well with the rich complex flavors of the dish, however, once again the lamb in the dish was a rather strident flavor with the wine.

Turley, Zinfandel, UeberothVineyard, Paso Robles 2020

2020 Turley, Zinfandel, Ueberoth Vineyard, Willow Creek District, Paso Roles 

ABV: 15.7%
SRP: $66
Grapes: 100% organic Zinfandel planted in 1885 (the second vineyard of zinfandel in the area)

Turley’s ungrafted 130-year-old vines from the Willow Creek Sub-AVA made into wine using  native yeast with 15 months in barrel (80% used oak, 20% new with 80% French oak and 20% American that was bottled unfined and unfiltered. This wine went toe to toe against Robert Craig’s Zinfandel from Black Sears Vineyard, Howell Mountain; results here.

Appearance:  Ruby, fushia rim, very youthful and bright

Aroma: There is nothing like the aroma of a Turley Zinfandel, baking spices, Dr. Pepper, raspberry licorice, wild strawberry,  iris, violet, redwood forest floor, redwood duff, Thai red curry. 

Palate: Very nice structure and tannins, tart cranberry, plum skin, fresh tart raspberry, there is no jammy aspect to this Zinfandel, rosemary, raspberry rosemary scone, this is such an enjoyable wine to sip on its own, the high alcohol was so integrated in the wine. 

Pairing: OMG with the burger, so much tart acidity to go with this rich juicy burger. Fabulous with the pesto pasta salad. This is the wine that is a perfect match for the meal. The richness and flavor filled burger is so fantastic with the wine. The rich crunchy bacon, rich fatty burger, and the umami of the tomato are just an explosion of texture and flavor in the mouth, and with the wine everything all comes together. This was the perfect pairing of the evening. 

Turley’s winemaker Karl Wicka in his office with his surfboard

Would you be able to determine which wines are which? 

Who do you think won? 

Find out here! 




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