Paso Robles, about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is producing great wine, proving it’s not all about Napa and Sonoma in California.

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WHEN WE THINK of classic California wine regions, our minds immediately drift to Northern California. But wine lovers should think beyond Napa and Sonoma.

Indeed, about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles is an area producing some of the most beautiful and distinctive wines in America: Paso Robles.

With more than 30,000 acres of premium wine grapes, Paso Robles is along California’s Central Coast. It’s only about a 45-minute drive to Highway 1, which follows the stunning California coast either to San Simeon and Hearst Castle to the north or Pismo Beach to the south.

Three Paso reds to try

Eberle Winery 2013 zinfandel, Paso Robles, $28: This full-bodied, rich, red zin is loaded with flavors of ripe raspberry, red plum and Rainier cherry. It’s all backed by velvety tannins and bright acidity.

Clayhouse Wines 2012 Red Cedar Vineyard Show Pony petite sirah, Paso Robles, $40: One secret to a delicious petite sirah is balancing muscular tannins that don’t overwhelm the fruit, and this example does that perfectly. Aromas of chocolate-covered cherry leads to penetrating flavors of boysenberry and molasses.

Halter Ranch Vineyard 2012 syrah, Paso Robles, $35: Intriguing aromas of sweet oak spice, dusty cherry and moist earthiness give way to smooth flavors of ripe, dark fruit and dark chocolate. It’s all backed by firm acidity and balanced tannins.

This is a warm region, home to such varieties as cabernet sauvignon, syrah and petite sirah. Perhaps its most famous variety is zinfandel, at least that is what the good folks of Paso will tell you (search YouTube for “Paso Man” and watch a few videos).

Paso is home to more than 200 wineries, so visitors to the region will have myriad choices for places to visit on both sides of Highway 101.

A trip to Paso would be incomplete without a tour and tasting at Eberle Winery. Gary Eberle is known as “the godfather of Paso Robles” and is the region’s most famous winemaker. He launched his eponymous brand some 35 years ago, and today he continues to craft some of the region’s best.

Eberle is a giant of a man who went to Penn State on a football scholarship. After founding Eberle Winery, he became the first winemaker in California to produce a 100 percent syrah.

Today, the winery is a beautiful place to visit, not only for the delicious wines, but also for the outdoor seating that offers gorgeous views of the surrounding vineyards.

About 15 miles west of Eberle is Tablas Creek, easily one of the most famous wineries in California without a Napa Valley address. Known for its Rhône varieties and experimentations with many grapes, Tablas Creek is one of those wineries that deserves a pilgrimage if you’re in the region.

A visit to Paso Robles is not unlike going to the Columbia Valley, particularly the climate and grape styles, so Washington visitors will feel right at home.