Wine travel never gets old. Your experience can vary from place to place; from vintage to vintage. By now you’ve seen or heard of many wine destinations, and you’re probably wondering what’s next. Good news: There’s a new generation of winemakers quietly working together while the next big wine destination evolves at their doorsteps. The camaraderie among these winemakers is evident. They’re sharing small spaces, borrowing each other’s equipment, and swapping wine stories. At the end of long, hard, winemaking days, you may find them having beers together at the nearby brewery. This is a secret enclave of boutique winemakers. Okay, maybe it’s not such a secret any more. The next hip wine lover’s outpost has arrived. And it’s called Tin City.
Tin City is located in Paso Robles wine country, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco in California. One of Paso’s main draws is its historic downtown. That’s where you’ll find fine dining and tasting rooms galore. Now there’s Tin City, a wine lover’s paradise with a completely different agenda in mind. Picture twenty box-shaped metal structures, lined up around a collection of roads and cul-de-sacs (like a housing development), right off the highway in Paso Robles. You’d probably miss it if you didn’t know it was there.

The eponymously named Tin City (all of the buildings are made of tin) began with Barrelhouse Brewing Company in 2012. The brewery created a steady stream of visitors which made the surrounding area even more attractive to boutique winemakers. This is rustic, down-and-dirty winemaking at its finest. Here you’ll find no frills, perhaps some spills, and plenty of passion.

Carl Bowker of Caliza Winery was kind enough to bring me through his little section of Tin City. Carl is a perfect candidate for winemaking in Paso; unassuming yet confident, he strode into the business with his wife after leaving a career in indoor conference plantscaping. Carl’s wine passion grew steadily over a number of years, culminating in a wine country trip to Tuscany in 2001. After that journey, a lightbulb went off in Carl’s head. He wanted to become a farmer, grow his own grapes, and use them to make wine. He has successfully pursued this dream with every fiber of his being ever since.

Carl just moved into an upgraded space in Tin City. He will be sharing the space and some equipment with another winemaker. Collaboration is an important piece of the Tin City puzzle. If one winemaker has a press and another has a destemmer, why not join forces? It just makes sense to help each other in Tin City.

As for Caliza wines, Carl is a fastidious winemaker with a love of Rhône varietals and a keen attention to detail. He’s both a grape farmer and a winemaker, and that’s the way he likes it. From babying the Grenache grapes (they are the hardest to handle, Carl says) to considering different strains of yeast, Carl’s wines help establish Paso as the Chateauneuf du Pape of California. Just try the Caliza Syrah and you’ll understand.

Carl isn’t the only one in Tin City. I also had a chance to sit down with Andrew Jones from Field Recordings. As one of the first to establish a tasting room in Tin City, Andrew’s funky, accessible, FM radio style has helped set the area’s tone. According to Andrew, there’s no magic in winemaking. It’s all about the fruit sources, and Andrew has some pretty excellent ones. He is a vine nursery field man by day and a winemaker by night. Thanks to his day job, Andrew has stood in just about every last vineyard on California’s Central Coast. His knowledge of the land is unparalleled. Hands down, this guy knows where to find the very best grapes. But after tasting his wines, I can’t help but think there is a bit of winemaking magic happening here too. Andrew is just about the most down-to-earth person you’ll ever meet, so it’s no wonder he mitigates the importance of his role in the winemaking process.

Tin City is still fairly quiet, but that’s starting to change. I heard rumblings about street fairs, food trucks, and new tasting rooms that will appear in the very near future. There’s still time to get in on the ground floor of Tin City. Always book your appointments in advance. You can make a day of chatting with Tin City winemakers and really get to know what goes in to crafting excellent Paso wine. These are the experiences that enhance our wine love even further. And when you think you’ve had enough, stop by the brewery for some live music and craft beer.  Tin City wineries include: Powell Mountain Cellars, Clos Solène, Aaron Wines, MCV, First Crush, Giornata, Nicora, Torrin, Desperada, Caliza Winery, and Field Recordings. (Please remember to call ahead for appointments!)

See the list below for our favorite Tin City wines.