When we started planning our trip to California for the Wine Bloggers Conference, I knew I wanted to visit Hope Family Wines in Paso Robles. I had tried their Troublemaker red blend at the California Wine Show and I was impressed (it ended up being one of my favourite wines of 2014) and the team at Trialto (who represent Hope Family Wines in Ontario) said this was a winery not to be missed.

The winery itself is not as big and fancy as some of the sprawling California wine estates I saw during my time in the state. It reminded me a lot of the wineries in Niagara, which may be another reason this place stole my heart. It’s a lovely building set on a beautiful vineyard and feels warm and inviting. This is a comfortable place for a tasting and you feel right at home.

Having been farming in Paso Robles for more than 30 years, the Hope family started out growing apples and grapes, but now the land is exclusively vineyards. They grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Mourvedre and Grenache grapes. They were certified sustainable by the Central Coast Vineyard Team in 2009, as part of the Sustainability in Practice (SIP) program. Sustainability is important to the winery and it came up numerous times during our visit – they are committed to growing grapes in a way that benefits the wine and the environment.

Our tour and tasting had been arranged in advance and we arrived early in the day so I could do a tasting before Shawn drove us along the Pacific Coast Highway to Monterey. Our host was so generous with her time and her explanations of each of the wines. I sampled through their catalogue and discovered that Troublemaker is only just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Hope Family line of wines.

I started with the Liberty School 2013 Central Coast Chardonnay, which has lots of peach and melon on the nose and is creamy, light and refreshing. I would love to try this wine with some of the delicious California cuisine we sampled during our vacation.

The Paso Robles 125 commemorative white wine blend was a real treat – it was created to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Paso Robles and its release coincided with the city’s fourth of July celebrations. It was made predominantly of Rhone varietals and was very balanced with nice acidity. This wine was available only through the winery tasting room and is a very limited edition.

The Liberty School Rosé had lots of sour cherry and grapefruit on the nose with quite a bit of citrus on the palate. This is a wine we bought during our visit and enjoyed on the patio of our hotel in Napa – it was absolutely perfect for a sunny California afternoon.

The Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon has cherry, spice and smoke on the nose. It has good grip with a long finish and fresh, vibrant fruit on the palate.

The 2011 Austin Hope Grenache has raspberry and dried fruit on the nose. This is a super small production wine with a focus on being a special occasion wine. It was really just a gorgeous, full-bodied sipper that I would love to have again.

The 2012 Austin Hope Grenache was a little heavier on the nose – likely due to being just a bit younger, but still had a lot of raspberry and smoky notes.

Candor is a mult-vintage and multi-region Zinfandel with a vibrant nose featuring green grapes, cherry and strawberry. It’s very fruit-forward and refreshing and not a heavy-feeling wine. This is a great option for warm weather sipping.

I so enjoyed our visit to Hope Valley Wines and I wish they were readily available at the LCBO – I’m sure that their Troublemaker and Liberty School wines would be very successful, especially if the price-point was similar to what they cost at the winery. Trialto does have some of their bottles available for order by the case – contact them for availability.

If you get the chance to visit Paso Robles (and I hope you do), be sure to book time to stop in at Hope Family Wines – it’s well-worth a visit.