It’s a Party in Your Glass at Tobin James Cellars
Name: Tobin James Cellars
Location: Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County
Owners: Tobin James; Lance and Claire Silver
Winemaker: Tobin James, Lance Silver
Opened Tasting Room: 1994
Annual Case Production: 50,000
CWC selections: 2008 Titan Hills Vineyards “Fiasco”; 2010 “Radiance” Chardonnay
“It Worked Out for Everybody”
Tobin James Cellars off hwy. 46 just east of Paso Robles, mid-way up the Golden State, has earned a reputation as one of the region’s most popular, fun wine destinations. When Tobin opened his tasting room in 1994, Bruce and Pam Boring had also just recently started the California Wine Club. “Back then nobody knew who Tobin James was or Paso Robles, and Bruce took a chance by featuring my wines,” says Tobin. “It worked out for everybody.”
It’s about to work out again with two fantastic Tobin James CWC selections …
There’s a Party In There!
Located at the site of an historic stagecoach stop, Tobin James Cellars offers down home ambiance, loud music and
louder crowds bellying up to the old 1860s mahogany bar (delivered all the way from Blue Eye, Missouri). Before you swing open the door, you can hear a party going on. Why is wine so fun at Tobin James Cellars? Look no further than the founder himself!
“Our winery is all about people enjoying every day, and a glass of wine makes the day better,” says Tobin James. “If you come home and don’t have a glass of wine, that is a boring day. I love that we make a product that people open with family and enjoy it with food and friends. That is an honor for us, and we never forget that.”
“When I play, we sell wine!”
Tobin’s first vintage was in 1987, and for several years he made his wines in other winery facilities. When he opened his own winery and tasting room in 1994, things took off. “I just wanted to wear rubber boots and get my hands red making wine. But it suddenly turned into a business,” Tobin smiles. “I couldn’t do it without my partners Lance and Claire Silver. I would be nowhere without those guys. They are the best. Lance makes everything run. It leaves me to do what I do best, and that is play. And when I play, we sell wine.”
The very friendly winery staff does its part too. “It doesn’t cost anything to be friendly,” Tobin says.
Early Start In Wine
Tobin may have learned that kind of neighborliness growing up in Indiana (he was born in California). By the age of eight, he was working for his brothers in their vineyard and wine shop. When he was 21, inspired by a visit from Paso Robles winemaker Gary Eberle, Tobin headed out to the region to work for him for nothing, ultimately joining Gary’s winery as assistant winemaker.
Eberle got more than he bargained for. The young man ended up making a Zinfandel from surplus grapes that earned Double Gold Medals and launched Tobin on his winemaking career.
Tobin James’ reputation rocketed skyward like a meteor. He became founding winemaker for Peachy Canyon in Paso Robles in 1989, and his first wine, a Zinfandel, earned 69th place in Wine Spectator’s 1992 “Top 100 Wines of the World.”
Tobin left Peachy Canyon to begin his own winery, purchasing 41 acres and an old stagecoach stop on Hwy. 46 east. He renovated the old house for guests, then built his rustic, Out West style winery. The party began! “People might think this western stuff is gimmicky, but it’s not. This is the way our bars were in Paso — they were saloons. I tell people, we wanted to make a snobby winery, but we didn’t know how to do it! We don’t have a violinist in the corner, we’ve got Merle Haggard on, that is the way it is. I’m just a country boy that makes pretty good wine.”
When this country boy started selling wine elsewhere, he ran into a little problem. “When I said I had a winery in Paso Robles, people in Los Angeles would say, ‘Oh, in Texas.’ Now everybody knows where Paso Robles is, and I love that. I saw the whole transformation here, going from seven wineries to 250.”
Tobin’s tireless promotion of the region earned him “Wine Person of the Year 2010” from the Paso Robles Wine Alliance and other awards. It has also made his winery a Paso Robles hot spot, where wine lovers from all over come to put their feet up on the bar’s brass rail and enjoy 20 or so different Tobin James wines. “We have a problem at our winery,” Tobin confesses. “If somebody comes up with a new grape, we want it, and then we go, oh my gosh, we made it, now we have to sell it. That’s where our wine club comes in.” Twenty-four thousand “James Gang” club members enjoy wines like Tempranillo and Refosco, because this country boy just can’t stop having fun. His son is right behind him, studying winemaking at Fresno State University, while his and his wife Ermie’s children man the pizza oven and serve the finger foods at the winery’s annual parties. Uncork your bottles of Tobin James wines and get ready for a party in the glass. Stop by the “saloon” next time you’re in Paso Robles at 8950 Union Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446, (805) 239-2204. Here’s a toast, to Tobin James Cellars and fun with wine!
2008 Titan Hills Vineyards “Fiasco”
• Tobin James Cellars does not submit its wines to competitions or for review. Word-of-mouth is this winery’s calling card. “’Fiasco’ is made from all our best wines, $20-$40 bottles,” says Tobin. “We want this wine back! It took off and everybody is going nuts for it. It’s your good fortune to get it.”
• Bright garnet in color, this Mediterranean style blend serves up aromas of dark fruit and spice, followed by juicy red fruit flavors and a yummy finish.
• Fruit was sourced from 20 hillside vineyards in Paso Robles (18 on the cooler Westside). Grapes were hand picked from September 21 to November 6, 2008. Fruit was gently crushed, then fermented for seven to 16 days depending on the grape lot.
• This red aged for 14 months in small French and American oak barrels. The final blend was Syrah (55%), Zinfandel (25%) and Barbera (20%). “We produced this wine specifically as a drinkable and fun wine, and it sold so well, we may bring it back,” says Tobin.
• This fabulous red blend is a star with Smoked Baby Back Ribs, Grilled Burgers, Portabello Mushrooms with Caramelized Onions or any spicy Italian dish.
• Enjoy now or hold up to five years.
• Alcohol: 14.9%
Total Acidity: 0.70g/100mL
Cases Produced: 6,000
Bottling Date: June 2010
Release Date: Summer 2010
2010 “Radiance” Chardonnay
• Like other Tobin James wines, Radiance sells out every year and is not submitted for awards or reviews.
• Gorgeous gold, this crisp white wows you with its fragrances of rich lemon, apple and tropical fruits. Pineapple, pear and banana flavors merge into a lingering finish. Another glass, please!
• Lockwood Vineyard in Monterey County supplied all of the fruit for this 100% Chardonnay.
• Grapes were harvested on October 13 -15, 2010. Harvest began at daybreak and was stopped when grape temperatures reached 68˚F.
• This wine’s crisp, tropical, well-balanced flavors were preserved by a cold, slow fermentation (45 days, 51˚F average) and the addition of 8% barrel-fermented Chardonnay.
• “This is my favorite wine!” says Tobin. “I love its luscious, tropical fruity flavors. You know, big guys are always coming here saying they just want to try the reds. I tell them, this my and my Chardonnay, it doesn’t cost anything to taste.’ He tastes it, says he doesn’t like it, but then says, ‘give me three cases.’ Happens all the time with this wine. If someone doesn’t like our Radiance Chardonnay, they need to see a psychologist!”
• This Chardonnay is the perfect choice with seafood of all kinds, lightly sauced chicken and veal.
• Enjoy now or hold up to three years.
• Alcohol: 13.8%
Total Acidity: 0.66g/100mL
Cases Produced: 4,000
Bottling Date: May 2011
Release Date: June 2011