· Custom private tours planned around what you want
General Wine Tour Information
Inside the Unique and Boutique: Knowledge Is Power
I’ve been at this over 17+ years and over 2,000 wine tours. We’ve steadily built great wine experiences by forging relationships with the people behind the wine. Yeah- been at this a while. Here’s a link to my exploits driving the rich and famous on the Central Coast: JZ’s Tales of a Limo Driver One thing we don’t do is milk runs- stamping out the same wine tour day after day. We listen to what you like, and build a fantastic day for you using our vast knowledge and winery relationships.
There are hundreds of tour possibilities. Here are the basics to putting together your perfect tour.
Experiences are defined by Diamond and Elite.
Simply said, Diamond is the regular seated tasting wineries offer post-CoVid (almost all tastings are seated these days). There’s a ton of diverse experiences under this umbrella- from lunch & taste to barrel tastings, winemaker one-on-ones with tastings costing $30 or less per person.
Elite tastings represent the top tier of winery experiences in this region. These kinds of experiences happen at higher end wineries, often based around reserve, library or club wines and include either paired epicurean bites or a charcuterie/cheese board. They cost more, and tend to run longer. Decidedly a bit more exclusive than regular tastings.
Luxury doesn’t have to cost more – groups two to eight
It’s like a living room on wheels complimented with JZ’s encyclopedic knowledge and unparalleled service.
Wine Tour Rates
Sliding Rates are based on group size.
• Tours are private and planned around your wine and experience preferences
• If airport pickup and drop-off, or an attraction excursion is part of your travel plan, we can help with that too
These prices are for the late model Mercedes Limo Sprinter pictured below.
3 people or less
All in for 5 hours-includes
planning & reservations, tip,
plus opt food pickup
After 5 hours: $70 per hour
with 20% gratuity
4 to 6 people
All in for 5 hours-includes
planning & reservations, tip,
plus opt food pickup
After 5 hours: $80 per hour
with 20% gratuity
7 to 8 people
All in for 5 hours-includes
planning & reservations, tip,
plus opt food pickup
After 5 hours: $95 per hour
with 20% gratuity
• Rate is for North SLO County and SLO City pickup/drop off
• Tour cost is calculated at the end, with partial last hour billed in 15 minute increments
• Happy to breakout the trip total among your group
I carry $1.5 million commercial insurance. I am CA Public Utilities TCP (Transportation Charter Party) compliant, subject to regular drug and alcohol testing. My TCP number is 35785, and is Active.
Look up any transportation company’s TCP number at this California Public Utilities Commission link: https://tcportal.cpuc.ca.gov/TCP/s/
· Simply type the 5-digit TCP number in the Search Box upper right, and click enter.
· Click on the operator’s name/live link, which will take you to their status page
· If the name of operator doesn’t appear, the number is fake (not unusual for illegals)
Wonder what being a legal operator in California entails? Click Here: About Transportation Insurance & Safety
Reserve your custom private wine tour today!
Diamond Experience or Elite Experience chosen below
Diamond Tour: Sets the standard for wine tasting
Here are the basics included in every tour. Use all my knowledge and services included in my tours to create a memorable day of wine enjoyment on the Central Coast:
- All tastings need to be secured by appointment– reservation support is part of my service
- You’ll be delighted with the special experiences some wineries include with a regular tasting
- An average seated tasting stop takes about an hour and 15 minutes. Tasting fees can range between $10 and $45. Many wineries offset tasting fees with bottle purchase, or wine club membership
- Food planning– I pick up your to-go order before your tour at no extra charge. Any wineries that allow outside food will be the perfect setting for a picnic. Commercial catering thermal bags are used to keep your to-go food either warm or cool. I set up your picnic with clean tablecloths while you taste. There are also stellar sit-down winery dining possibilities on your tour.
- Bottled water included
- Wine purchases are kept tasting room temp in my commercial catering thermal bags. Wine shipping can be arranged
- Full concierge and limo style service– wine and packages are carried to Sprinter. Add in all the perks that come with a seasoned limo driver: dinner reservations, logistics coordination, trips to the super market or drug store- you name it and I’m happy to do it
- Spit cups available– tasting room peeps think you’re pretty cool if you enjoy your wine that way. It’s a great way to avoid a hangover
- Tasting fees for all experiences you choose are paid directly to the winery. I do not receive kickbacks for hooking up clients with wineries- I’m quite happy with a thank you once in a while, and the strong professional relationship that I’ve built
- Tasting experiences chosen do not affect the hourly rate of the tour
Reserve your tour today!
Elite winery visits are about expanding your wine enjoyment opportunities
Consider adding an Elite experience to the 250 excellent Diamond experiences available (regular tastings) to put a crowning event on your day, usually for just a few more dollars- sometimes none
Elite experiences are defined by:
- Appointments with the winemaker, owner or key employee of the winery
- Private or limited mixed group tastings
- Library wines, reserve wines
- Barrel tastings
- Winemaker one-on-one’s
- Vineyard tour and tasting, etc.
- Without qualifying wine purchase or wine club membership signup, cost can run from $30 to $75 per person, depending on what kind of experience you choose- excellent one-on-one wine education that’s worth every penny
- If you’re serious about your wine or are an ardent enthusiast, these tastings are for you
- My rate is by the hour and has nothing to do with tasting experiences chosen
Some Elite Wine Experiences to Consider
If you’ve attended Garagiste you know what I’m talking about. These are sprouting boutique wineries in our region, where the production is small and the wine cared for like a new born babe every day of its life. Typically these will be private one-on-ones with up and coming winemakers, whose wines I’ve had the pleasure of sampling at the Garagiste Festival. You never know where these tastings might take place- in their garage, kitchen, a custom crush facility, or maybe a secluded outdoor venue. Wherever it is, you’ll be in on the ground floor of something special. GaragisteFestival.com/
Justin Winery & Cave Tour
Vineyard to glass winemaking the Justin way: Justin Baldwin’s vision, estate history and terroir, farming practices, proprietary handcrafted production techniques, and barrel aging are explained in detail by a knowledgeable guide as you stroll through the vineyard, production area and cave complex, while tasting through the full lineup. Tours daily. JustinWine.com
Adelaida Hilltop Signature Tasting
The Hilltop Tasting happens at 2,320 feet elevation on Paso’s tallest hill not far from the winery, overlooking the valley and towards the Santa Lucia Range to the west. This experience mirrors the Signature Tasting both in wine and paired artisanal food, only with the amazing view as centerpiece. Ninety minutes duration, 48 hours advanced booking, subject to weather and staff availability. Adelaida.com
Adelaida Signature Tasting
Enjoy a generous representation of Adelaida’s premier wines in a private, seated setting with close up view of activity in the production cellar, complemented with artisan charcuterie/cheese board enhanced with fresh baguette, estate walnuts, olives and olive oil. Don’t be surprised when Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub stops by to provide an update of the growing season and answer your questions about all things wine. Adelaida.com
White Wine Lovers Heaven: Monochrome Wines
This is a seated tasting of all white wines: some of the most interesting whites, so much so that many red drinkers have become swayed by the unfurling layers of flavor that come to the fore with these very unique and savory straight whites and blends. From the onset, Monochrome has garnered lots and lots of 90+ scores from an array of prestigious wine reviewers and notable publications. Make no mistake about it- these whites are truly world class. Tastings are private with the winemaker, by appointment. MonochromeWines.com
Ecluse Seated Cellar Tasting
Long one of my favorite wine tour stops for quality of wine, overall experience, bang for the buck, and great people, Ecluse has added a Seated Cellar Tasting, led by Winemaker Anthony LaDuca, to broaden guests’ enjoyment of their Reserve Wines, small production-limited quantity wines, and Library Wines. Ecluse was listed in the top 25 Domestic Wine Experiences by Travel and Leisure Magazine in 2017. As a perennial participant, Owner/Winemaker Steve Lock brings lots of gold medals back to Paso from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition every year. The barrel room creates an intimate back drop for flight style tasting. EcluseWines.com
Willow Creek Wine Collective
Brian and Natalie Brown are both great winemakers in their own right- Brian being the founding winemaker at ONX, with stints at well-established Napa wineries on his resume, and wife Natalie, who’s been a consulting winemaker locally plus producing her own label using regional sourced fruit for some time- Rococo. Now their combined energies also go into their Soña Estate Wines, which are primarily Rhones. Brian also produces a Napa Cab: Emerson Brown. Along with great wines poured by the winemakers themselves, they also feature fruit from their orchards and whatever farmcraft the estate soil is willing to yield, for you to enjoy with your seated tasting in their red barn. WillowCreekWineCo.com
Taste the Terroir (ter’-wahr) – ONX Estate Vineyard
This is a unique opportunity to taste the true essence of wine-growing first hand on ONX Estate in Templeton Gap. Focusing on the wines that were produced from the individual vineyard blocks, you’ll travel and taste via their Kawasaki 4X4 (holds six) with your mega knowledgeable Estate Host at the wheel. This is a super fun way to gather knowledge about viticulture, and get all your questions answered right where it happens.
You’ll start under the shade of the Tractor Shed right next to historic Santa Rita Creek- once a transportation corridor that followed the route of the creek inland from Cayucos in the pioneer days. Parts of the roadbed are still visible. This experience happens at their estate vineyard location close to the intersection of Bethel Road and Vineyard Drive- not the production facility in Tin City. Amazing bang for the buck! Onxwine.com
Just the Tip of the Iceberg
These unique happenings are not advertised to the general public. This is just a handful of the under-the-radar experiences I am able to offer.
Mystic Hills Vineyard
With their eight acres of grapes out in the wilds of Ranchita Canyon, just outside San Miguel, Mystic Hills Vineyard is about as boutique-y as it gets. It was as security custodian for a copy of Clint Eastwood’s latest film Mystic River that Joel Cox traveled to the Cannes Film Festival in France in 2003. Who better than Mr. Eastwood’s go-to film editor since 1975 to represent Mystic River on the world stage? A side trip to the Bordeaux wine region spawned a dream that occupied an ever growing “what if” space in the back of Joel’s mind. A couple decades, and almost two dozen Clint Eastwood movies later, Joel continues to follow his heart into wine-growing. Recognition of Joel’s work reached its height when he was awarded the Oscar for editing Unforgiven, which also happens to be the name of his flagship Bordeaux blend. Joel has received numerous awards during his career, but let’s get to the wine.
Joel had the serendipitous good fortune to be introduced to Keith Roberts in a tractor booth at the Mid-State Fair a few years back. Keith’s day job is managing over 3,000 acres of grapes for Wente Vineyards statewide. He knows a thing or two about farming, and as it turns out, winemaking. Since the first vintage their wines have produced lots of medals, and MHV has also been named Monterey County Winery of the Year for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 (don’t freak out- they’re just a couple miles down the road from Ranchita Canyon Winery and Villa San Juliette, less than a mile inside Monterey County). Despite the very high quality, Joel is adamant about keeping his prices in the affordable column, because his main interest at this point is building a legacy for his family. Speaking of family, you’ll never meet a more grounded, genuine and friendly bunch in your whole life. This is one of the experiences my clients talk about every time we get to together for another wine adventure…and yes, that’s Joel’s Oscar my client is holding- rewarded by a photo op holding the Oscar with Joel for joining their wine club. 72 hours advanced booking required.
Guyomar Wine Cellars
Ishka Stanislaus has been dry-farming his hilly 35 acre vineyard for over 25 years, originally under the direction of local grape growing legend Richard Sauret. Naturally such high quality fruit begged a request from widely acclaimed winemaker and neighbor Steve Glosner, to buy Ishka’s fruit for his own wines, Ports, and spirits. Steve made his name at Justin in the mid ‘90’s with the wines he created that became part of the iconic Isosceles Reserve, which was awarded 98 points by Wine Spectator, plus quite a number of startups that have become well-known names on the Central Coast wine scene.
Ishka specializes in Rhone varietals and Zin, and delicious, interesting blends made thereof, plus straight Zin- all made by the master Steve Glosner. Tasting includes charcuterie/cheese board with tapenade and artisan sour dough bread. 72 hours advanced booking required. GuyomarWine.com
D’Alphonso Curran Wines
Kris Curran and Bruno D’Alphonso are one of the most celebrated partnerships in the Central Coast wine region- partners in winemaking, and partners in life. Kris was the founding winemaker at Koehler and became Santa Barbara County’s first rock star winemaker by the acclaim she received from the movie Sideways as the brains behind Sea Smoke’s Pinot Noir. Bruno was Richard Sanford’s winemaker for over 20 years, eventually owning part of the business. Both have bachelors degrees in winemaking. Not only will the amount of winemaking information imparted by these two blow your mind, but you will be totally entertained by their larger than life personalities and colorful repartee’. When Bruno takes you on a vertical tasting barrel romp with his wine thief, be prepared to be amazed and hold on to your glass!
Jonata flies quietly low, and leaves a subtle yet lasting impression on wine world radar in its contrail, but these wines loom big: big flavors and big scores. The entire operation is top shelf from its polyface sustainable farming practices to elegantly appointed estate hospitality center. Matt Dees has been the principle architect of all things Jonata since 2004, making careful choices about varietals planted on their 84 acre vineyard, to crafting the wines’ unique and amazing tannin structure and flavor profile. It takes the talents of both Matt and vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano to coax great fruit possibilities out of the obstinate Careaga Sandstone that layers this 586 acre chunk of 1845 Spanish land grant in Ballard Canyon, once known as Rancho San Carlos de Jonata. Truly this is one of the most memorable and exciting pinnacles of wine enjoyment and eno-education on the Central Coast.
Meet Cory Burke: Gelfand/Dresser Winery
Gelfand/Dresser Winery: if you love big reds, then this is the place. Founder Len Gelfand has passed off the label and vineyard to winemaker Cory Burke and family, who have rechristened the label Dresser, named after Dresser Ranch Road- its location. Very boutique-y with the dedicated, passionate nurturing hands of the owner involved 24/7. Excellent Cab, Zin, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and blends thereof, plus dessert wines. Cory shown pouring at the Garagiste Festival. GelfandVineyards.com
Introducing Paso Robles’ First Fully Dedicated Wine Tour Vehicle
Pictured here: seven of my two-case-capacity cold bags that keep your wine tasting-room temp, even on our hottest days! I’ve been using this cold bag system for many years now. Total case capacity without impinging on the passenger area is 21 cases…252 bottles of wine. Sky’s the limit if you want to put cases in the passenger area!
It’s been quite a few years since I decided I was too old, and it was way too much work to move clients’ wine purchases (sometimes several cases) out of the summer heat into tasting rooms and barrel rooms. A search for a simple, cheap solution led me to a restaurant supply company selling the foam insulated bags you see in the photo. Happy to share where I’ve purchased these bags. By the way, the blue container on the left side is a 33 gallon trash can that’s fed by a chute from the passenger area. Who ever heard of a limo with a trash can that size before? I love this ride!
Scoring a New Wine Tour Vehicle…the Hard Way: Creating the Perfect Ride for Paso Robles…read more
Doing your own thing when it comes to hooking up appointments?
Click here for downloadable PDF containing inside booking tips all tour companies use to create optimal itineraries for their clients.
More Cool Stuff to Dial in Your Day!
So Many Stellar Food Options
I’ve got numerous food options I’ve used dozens to hundreds of times with great success on my wine tours. After one or two stops it’s a good idea to enjoy some solid food as a foundation to temper the flow of one ounce pours happening throughout the day. Light nibbles just don’t cut it. A sit-down break to enjoy on-site food or an old fashioned picnic with good substantial food is the perfect buffer to balance your tour. The number of wineries offering full lunch menus from their own kitchens is amazing- so many choices now!
For picnicking, I set your meal up on clean tablecloths with plenty of bottled water, complemented with extra plates and utensils. The goal is to finish the tour with a happy, carefree glow, and be able to sail on, enjoying your evening.
Here’s what you need to know:
I’ve done a couple thousand orders with Red Scooter Deli to rave reviews: RedScooterDeli.com/. Call your orders in two days out (so your order doesn’t get stuck behind a big catering order, or a just plain busy Saturday)! Prepay and I’ll pick it up on my way to your location. Specify pickup time 45 minutes ahead of your pickup. This is the protocol owner Stephanie and I use week in and week out with great success.
Any place that allows outside food can be a picnic possibility.
Events and Seasonal Eats:
I stay on top of dates when wineries are putting on a happening food feat, food and wine pairings, or a unique event. Some wineries offer charcuterie/cheese platters to pair with your tasting. Ongoing weekday after hours happenings with wine by the glass and entertainment are very popular with locals on summer season evenings.
For the Beer Crowd:
There are many excellent wineries close to cool micro-breweries. Several wineries are distilling these days, as well- spirits and wine are served just steps away from each other. Drinking beer openly at a winery can be a very touchy situation, as it is a violation of their bond (federal), and also a violation of their liquor license (local)…as is opening product from another winery on the hosting winery’s premises. I’ve seen both wrath and embarrassment simultaneously a couple times.
I have many ways to handle beer at wineries, which can be pressed into play at the appropriate time. Just let me know what you’re thinking on this, and I’ll provide a solution so everyone’s happy. Other options include dining-in at a deli or restaurant with an extensive beer selection (Firestone Tap Rooms in Paso and Buellton are awesome!) or the many locations that have food trucks parked out front- Barrel House Brewing pictured, or heading to a scenic, secluded picnic spot on our route through wine country.
JZ’s Tasting Picks are Free
You can have the benefits of my more than 2,000 wine tours’ experience with the click of a button for free. After doing a couple thousand wine tours in the San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County wine regions, wineries made the list by extremely broad and un-scientific consensus. They have produced positive approval most of the time. It’s primarily about the wine, but setting, architecture or staff may also fall into the mix. Along with the best wines, I know where to get the best wine value too.
I started publishing my Tasting Guides for each wine region in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, including Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail and environs back in 2008. All wineries are laid out in a geographically logical format that makes navigation around the wine country easy, simple and precise. They’re the perfect traveling companion along with each area’s winery guide and map available at any winery.
The wineries listed consistently please. You have my sincere promise that I will not bombard you with junk emails. Appointments are required everywhere for tour company clients. If you’re venturing on your own, you can try a walk-in approach, but still, your time will be much better spent by pre-qualifying your visit by phoning ahead to see if they’ll take you.
Wine tasting is very subjective. Enjoy!