Tin City, Paso Robles

 Laid-back Central Coast tasting at its finest

Story and photos by Katherine McMahon

Just a few miles south of downtown Paso Robles, Tin City is a community of creative wine, spirits, and food producers that represents everything the Central Coast is about. Tin City began 10 years ago when BarrelHouse Brewing Co. was looking for a new home, and local businessman Mike English saw an opportunity to utilize land he owned near his pool and landscaping business.

Since then, it has grown to include more than two dozen wineries, a cidery, a distillery, and several types of food options. By 2019, Tin City had made a big name for itself; it was featured in a documentary (available on YouTube) and in magazines like Forbes and National Geographic. When Travel + Leisure wrote that the Central Coast was one of the “50 best places to visit in 2020,” the magazine mentioned Tin City as a reason why. Although traveling took a hit from the pandemic, Tin City is still full of life.

For passers-by it can be difficult to even notice it, and several times I have missed the turn while driving there. But once you find it, tucked less than a half-mile from the highway, Tin City has an unmistakable look: A compact district of metal buildings, with lush landscaping, and a gorgeous waterfall at the entrance. The warehouse-like buildings give wineries a place to produce their wares; the sorting and crushing of grapes, and fermenting, aging, and blending of wines happens right here. These are working spaces which give visitors a glimpse behind the scenes, and maybe even the chance to hang out with the winemaker while tasting.

A great example is Monochrome Wines, owned by winemaker Dave McGee. The name refers to the fact that he produces exclusively white wines. Dave stands strongly against the statement that white wines are simple. His goal is to coax a full range of flavors out of white wine grapes, crafting whites that even red wine lovers will rejoice over. Dave also makes tasting at Monochrome an intimate experience. I sat at a dining table with him, some of his framed photographs on the walls, and Sinatra playing on the record player.

Next door is Turtle Rock Vineyards, owned by Claudia and Don Burns. Don is a native of Paso Robles who grew up working with his uncle Tom Westberg, a pioneering Paso winemaker during the 1980s. Don then spent time sailing and working in the restaurant business in Florida where he met and married Claudia. Together they decided to return to Paso Robles and start their own winery. For the past decade, they have received critical acclaim for their wines and now have the fascinating problem of being almost sold out each year. After tasting their wines I can see why, as these are some of the best wines I have experienced in Paso. Not only is the wine delicious, but the labels are beautiful artistic representations of their inspirations: the bottles of their 2021 rosé, Willow’s Tickled Pink, features a painting of their daughter wandering through cherry blossoms.

Across the road I stopped in at the stylish tasting room of ONX, which has built a reputation for blends that are exciting and innovative. The artistry of labels was again on display here. Each bottle featured a colorful collage revealing a detailed, cohesive vision connected to the wine inside. A favorite was Field Day, a blend of sauvignon blanc and viognier that is unlike any sauvignon blanc I have had before. The name and the label are a perfect match to the wine, which tastes like a cool early summer day in the country, starting with the sweetness of pineapple and ending with a soft tart note of grapefruit.

Down the block, I found Sans Liege Wines – French for “without allegiance,” a statement about the philosophy of the owner and winemaker, Curt Schalchlin. Curt set out to pursue winemaking that would be unhindered by convention. He has produced standout Rhone blends like Cotes du Coast, which blends premier white varietals sourced from up and down the Central Coast; and The Offering, which is a true Paso GSM (grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre blend) bursting with flavor. A short walk across the wooden deck is Tin City Cider Co., a collaboration between winemakers Curt Schalchlin of Sans Liege, Mikey Giugni (Star of the Sea), and Andrew Jones (Field Recordings.). The star of the show for me was the Poly Royal, a 50-50 blend of cider and rosé. The rosé lover in me did a happy dance! I could spend an entire day next to the pool drinking this. Its flavor is bursting with raspberry, strawberry sherbet, and a touch of citrus. So delicious!

While walking between the wineries, I stopped in at Olivas De Oro, owned by Frank and Marti Menacho. They founded the company in 1999 when they purchased a 160-acre orchard in the northern Sierra Nevada foothills. In 2007 they moved the century-old olive trees to Creston, outside of Paso Robles, and in 2018, they moved into Tin City. They produce award-winning, estate grown olive oils that are unique because the herbs, peppers, and fruits are incorporated in the cold-press process — no artificial flavors are ever added. The same is true of their award-winning vinegars, flavored by fermenting herbs, fruits, or peppers together in the balsamic mother. In recent years, Marti has added homemade artisan ranch products to the store. They change seasonally, but fan-favorites are always on display. Come for the olive oils and vinegars, but leave with the Bacon Chipotle Jam and the orange brownies (Marti’s specialty).

In the center of Tin City sits Tin City Distillery. It has a speakeasy vibe and a warehouse with copper stills and stacked oak barrels. On the weekend it gets packed with both visitors and winemakers looking to unwind. Patrick Brooks, the master distiller, embodies the creative spirit of Tin City. His brandies include orange, mango, fig, walnut, and ghost pepper flavors that have been perfectly integrated into the distilling process.

BarrelHouse Brewing Co. remains the anchor of Tin City, as it has been from the beginning. Here you’ll find a multi-acre outdoor beer garden with picnic tables, a stunning waterfall, and live music happening on one of two stages. In addition to a selection of craft beers, the DeBilz & Family food truck — serving street tacos and pulled pork barbecue — is always parked out front.

Across the street is Etto Pastificio, an Italian specialty shop that makes fresh pastas and sauces as well as offering an amazing selection of local cheese, cured meats, and imported Italian items. Etto has the perfect complement to any bottle of wine!

After a hot afternoon of wine tasting, pop into Negranti Creamery. What makes their ice cream different is that it is made from sheep’s milk. Compared to cow’s milk, sheep’s milk is richer in vitamins A, B, and E as well as calcium, potassium, and protein. Negranti takes pride in using real, fresh ingredients to make unique, delicious ice cream like Cinnamon Honey and Strawberry Basil. The Black Coffee Chip is a must-try!

It’s impossible to pack the entirety of Tin City into one article, so hop off the 101 and explore it yourself! Set aside a day (or two!) to soak in this special Central Coast spot.

To view all of the Tin City providers, information, hours, and events, visit tincitypasorobles.com