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How Paso Robles’ Tin City Became a Wine Hotspot

Come for the wines, stay for the community vibe

Janice Williams By October 29, 2021
photo of Tin City sign in Paso Robles
Tin City sign in Paso Robles. Photo courtesy of Tin City.

Brian Terrizzi can recall a time, some 15 years ago, when he would drive his twin daughters around a seemingly desolate cul-de-sac in Paso Robles, California. It was a nice area with looping streets, quiet, with a few buildings made out of tin — the perfect remedy for putting his infant girls to sleep.

Years later, that cul-de-sac became the base for another love he and his wife Stephanie Terrizzi share. Now recognized by Paso Robles residents as Tin City, that area is home to their winery, Giornata Wines.

“I remember hearing about the guy from Field Recordings. Somebody told me how he found this place up in Templeton — what the area was called at the time. I needed a winery, and I thought, oh my God, this is the place where we used to drive our daughters around! A lot of the buildings that are here now weren’t built yet, but there was one empty building, and I said I’ll take it,” Terrizzi recalls. 

He adds, “There was nothing back here, but I immediately saw the potential.”

Not long after Terrizzi signed the lease on the building where he now makes wine, more winemakers started moving into the neighborhood.

Building Tin City

On the southern edge of Paso Robles, right outside of downtown, lies the commercial warehouse district known as Tin City — a name that was essentially unheard of before wine arrived in the area. Aside from a building or two and a service drive tucked behind Highway 101, there wasn’t much to see in the area.

Things changed in 2011, when Andrew Jones saw one of the empty tin, garage-like buildings as the perfect place to launch his winery, Field Recordings. All the available space in the area seemed like prime real estate for wine production. And it was cheap, making it all the more appealing for an up-and-coming winemaker.

aerial view of Tin City

Aerial view of Tin City. Photo courtesy of Tin City.

“I was looking for something affordable and quiet. It was a good place for an upstart winery,” recalls Jones, who worked as a vine nursery fieldman across California before settling in Paso Robles to launch his passion project.

Not long after Jones arrived in the area, Brian and Stephanie Terrizzi leased a nearby building for Giornata. Shortly after them, BarrelHouse Brewing Co. showed up. 

Mike English, Tin City’s developer, saw the area’s potential to become a community for small wineries and craft beverages, and construction began. Warehouses popped up, all in designs similar to the existing buildings. More winemakers signed leases and increased production to accommodate more direct-to-consumer sales and private wine clubs. Locals across Paso began referring to the area as Tin City, since everything built there was made out of tin. The name stuck. 

“In the beginning, everybody who started here was really nervous because we were small winemakers without much money, and we were all pretty young. But things took off pretty quickly,” says Terrizzi. 

It’s all about community

Tin City has grown since. Today, more than 30 businesses are webbed within the industrial park, 25 of which are wineries with on-site production. And yet, amid all the growth, the area has maintained its youthful energy. It remains a place where young winemakers can come and cut their teeth thanks to its affordability and the welcoming community. 

“When you’re young and trying to make it in the industry, the best thing to do is immerse yourself in as many styles and winemaking approaches as possible. In Tin City, you get to know your neighbor’s programs pretty intimately, and you get to experience a breadth of different styles around you,” says Drew Nenow, winemaker and production manager at ONX Wines.

Nenow was a student at the nearby California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo when he first fell in love with Paso Robles, right around the time Paso was gaining recognition as California’s bourgeoning winemaking region. As a young person with a thirst for good wine, the great outdoors, and a tight-knit community to be a part of, Paso seemed like a perfect fit to lay roots. When Nenow landed a role at ONX wines in 2015, just as the winery was moving into its Tin City location, the close community he dreamed of engaging with was fully realized.

“Construction of new buildings had just finished, and there were many newcomers to the neighborhood. Jacob Toft, Brian Benson Cellars, and Caliza Winery [which later moved to the Willow Creek district] were all brand new to the block, just like us. I remember my first harvest being a very chaotic one on the cul-de-sac as we all attempted to get situated in new facilities and troubleshoot the challenges of urban winemaking,” Nenow says. “The upshot of all that is also what makes Tin City so unique: Tin City is all about neighbors helping neighbors, and what is good for one is good for all.”

The fellowship among the people in Tin City is the secret to its success. Curiosity is contagious, and the unity runs deep.

“The camaraderie of the area is unmatched. Do you have a broken-down piece of equipment? Your neighbor has your back. Ran out of yeast? Your neighbor has your back. It’s honestly very touching to see everyone band together and help people out in times of need,” Nenow says.

According to Terrizzi, the friendly neighbor aspect of Tin City is how the winemaking hub keeps its laid-back edge. 

“Sometimes, the wine business can be a little intimidating, especially for new people. I think we’ve all experienced that. When I first got into wine, I was nervous about going to some wineries, but here it’s very welcoming,” he says.

“Tin City is all about neighbors helping neighbors, and what is good for one is good for all.”

A place for everyone

Over the years, Tin City has blossomed into something much bigger than just a place to make wine. 

“When I moved down here, I didn’t expect it to become a tourist attraction. I was just trying to find my own place that I could afford,” Jones says. 

But Tin City is now a destination for tourism. People can chill out and drink on the patio at ONX Wines, enjoy brunch with bottles in the cellar at Desparada, or sip through the catalog at Emercy Wines’ tasting room and several others. 

Not in the mood for wine? No problem. Tin City Cider has draft hard apple cider on tap to drink in their hall, or visitors can take a six-pack of the cider cans to go. Have a burger or a fire-grilled pizza at McPhee’s Canteen, or pop into the Terrizzi family-owned Etto Pastificio for fresh-cut pasta, jugs of olive oil, and other pantry delights. Unlike at the grand, hillside wineries dotting the rolling hills of Paso Robles, reservations are rarely required at Tin City.

“There are wineries that tell people if they’re five minutes late, they can’t have a tasting. That’s just not how things work in Tin City. It’s very relaxed, and we want people to feel comfortable coming here. Some guests visit town and spend two full days hanging out here,” Terrizzi says. 

It’s never a big surprise to catch winemakers and their families soaking up everything Tin City has to offer, either. “People hang out here after work. I’ll go to the brewery and get a beer or go to the cider place if there’s music playing. I have two kids, so I don’t hang out as much, but a lot of the people that work back here, they hang out,” Terrizzi adds. 

The future of Tin City

Tin City has become a hot commodity in Paso, but at its core, it’s still just a quiet little area for people to make wine among their peers. 

“Tin City has already acted as a very effective incubator of successful boutique wine brands, and I think that will continue,” Nenow says. “We have all benefited from our community and awesome exposure as Tin City floods with new people year-round, bringing in scores of people who would not have known about these small brands otherwise.”

5 Tin City wines to try:

bottle of Field Recordings Freddo Paso Robles Sangiovese 2019

Field Recordings Freddo Paso Robles Sangiovese 2019 ($25)

It’s all about laid-back wines that are full of flavor at Field Recordings, and this bottle of 100% Sangiovese is bursting with it. Aromas of ripe fruit and spice tickle the nose while crushed cranberry, juicy cherry, and nuances of strawberry jello light up the palate. Pro tip: Chill this bottle in the fridge until the label turns blue. That’s how you know it’s ready.

bottle of ONX Wines Field Day Paso Robles White Blend 2019

ONX Wines Field Day Paso Robles White Blend 2019 ($28)

Aromatic and lively, this playful bottle by ONX Wines is made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier. As fragrant as freshly-peeled lychee, this wine is racing with acidity and tropical fruit flavors, while citrus lime and a dash of salinity shine through mid-palate. The finish is short but memorable, with a blast of acidity and nuances of grapefruit.

bottle of Desparada Shell Creek Paso Robles Chenin Blanc 2019

Desparada Shell Creek Paso Robles Chenin Blanc 2019 ($34)

Like the smell of fresh-cut jasmine? This Desparada bottling is blooming with it. Comprised of 100% Chenin Blanc, this refreshingly soft wine is made from grapes grown in the Paso Robles Highlands — the second-largest district in the Paso Robles AVA.

bottle of Giornata Wines Paso Robles Falanghina 2020

Giornata Wines Paso Robles Falanghina 2020 ($35)

This wine is like a Creamsicle in a bottle, though it is dry with notes of pear and orange sherbert. Orange in color, thanks to full skin contact fermentation, this Giornata gem is made with Falanghina, an ancient Italian white wine grape predominantly grown in Campania. A bit of history: The Falanghina grape is also believed to be the base grape for the classical Falernian wine, which was one of the most acclaimed wines of ancient Rome.

bottle of Emercy Wines Fulldraw Paso Robles Red Blend 2019

Emercy Wines Fulldraw Paso Robles Red Blend 2019 ($85)

A blend of Graciano and Syrah, the dark fruit, dried earth flavors, and peppery nuances on this wine are noticeable on both the nose and palate. And yet, understated slate notes and a sleek fluidity give the wine a refined elegance and balance throughout each sip.