The Blending Lab brings new wine experience to Paso Robles

Wednesday, March 20th, 2024

wine blending Paso Robles

Discover your wine preferences through blind tastings and blending classes

The Blending Lab has relocated to a new spot within the Paso Market Walk at 1803 Spring St. The new location, called The Lab Loft (Mezzanine), will host a grand re-opening event on July 13 from noon to 6 p.m., offering free wine to attendees. Read more about the new location and the grand opening here.

—For a personalized, unique, and exciting wine experience, look no further than The Blending Lab in downtown Paso Robles. Owners Michael Keller, Magdalena Wojcik, and Chris Payne encourage locals and visitors to stop by and discover their wine preferences through blind tastings and classes.

“This is a safe space to be whether you know very little about wine or you know a lot,” Wojcik says. “Everyone starts off at the same level with a blind tasting. You will be learning from us, yes, but we are all about learning from one another while enjoying wine with an open mind.”

The concept for The Blending Lab came about through conversations the three friends had during a travel break from their corporate marketing jobs. That led to the 2016 opening of their first location in Los Angeles. The “wine-matching service” where they help people discover their personal wine preferences through classes and sampling of wine flights, proved to be a hit.

Grapes sourced from Westside AVAs

From day one, 90% of the grapes they use are sourced from vineyards in the Templeton Gap, Adelaida, and Willow Creek. In the summer of 2023, their dream of opening a second location in Paso Robles became a reality.

“In addition to the grapes, what has always piqued our interest about the community of Paso and the wine market here is how the people are more open-minded,” Keller says. “That works well with our business concept which is to bring an open mind to wine in order to better understand it. We want to break down any barriers in regard to presumptuousness about wine that can sometimes turn people away. In Paso, we can be far more experimental, and the people here embrace that idea as well.”

The trio likes to source interesting varietals and say the local vineyards are accommodating in this way.

“We can then bring these varietals into a blending class without having to worry about the stigma of rules that are often associated with bringing certain types of wine together,” Keller explains. “We encourage people in our classes and our tasting areas to be experimental, explore their preferences, and ask questions.”

wine blending Paso Robles

Bending the rules

Being experimental and blending wines to one’s personal preference came about in the early days of The Blending Lab. Keller and Wojcik, partners in life and business, and Payne like to break traditional barriers and bend the rules a bit.

“If you don’t have rules, and your goal is creativity and trying to understand wine better, you can do things differently,” Keller says. “Somehow, it just works. We are always trying to push the envelope, source new grapes, and try new things like making an orange wine out of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc grapes.”

Oftentimes, people have misconceptions about the activity of blending wines being somewhat of a gimmick, according to Keller. At The Blending Lab, the experience breaks wine down into more simple terms everyone can relate to. Aiming to demystify wine and use words and processes the average person relates to, the team has been known to convert non-wine drinkers as well.

“That’s what we’ve always been about,” Keller says. “If you’re going to blend your own bottle to take home, you need to have an idea of what you’re doing. Otherwise, you are not going to get the result you want and think, ‘well, that was a fun gimmick’ and never come back.”

At The Blending Lab, though, people do come back.

Wojcik says, “That’s when we know this is more than just coming in to drink wine and have a good time. It’s a lot of fun to do the blind tasting, come up with your own unique and completely personalized blend, and not be judged for your knowledge or lack of knowledge when it comes to wine.”

Discover your wine preferences

With a motto of “Don’t blame the wine!” the team helps people narrow down their likes and dislikes. In every winemaking region, Wojcik explains, winemakers are telling a story through their wine, with the wine drinkers coming along on a journey of that winemaker’s story.

“You may not like the taste, and that’s fine, but it’s not because the wine isn’t good,” she says. “It’s because that particular wine or vintage is just not your preference. We help you figure out what you like and then you can go out to tasting rooms in the area and continue that journey elsewhere.”

wine blending Paso Robles

Knowledgeable staff and educational vibe

The vibe and décor of The Blending Lab in Paso Robles parallels the Los Angeles location, making it easy for wine club members and visitors to either location to recognize the setting. Comfy lounge seats lend a warm and cozy vibe to the tasting room, with shelves of all colors imported from Germany stacked to recreate the periodic table of elements. Entering the lab, where classes are held, a wall of bottles, a corker, and silver, black, and white colors, reflect the feel of a laboratory.

It’s obvious the staff and owners are all wine lovers and want to share that love of wine with others. Whether interacting with guests in the tasting room or teaching classes, they follow a consistent pattern of educating and listening to guests while bringing their own flare to the mix.

“The common denominator between everyone that’s ever worked for us is a genuine curiosity and willingness to learn,” Wojcik says. “We all love talking with people, exploring one another’s journey, and bringing that into the tasting room and classes to sharing with others.”

Keller adds, “Our hope is you’re going to come into the tasting room, you’re going to be listened to, get what you need and want, and learn why you want that particular wine; that’s the educational piece. And, the classes are interactive and amazing. Whether for a group of two or 24, everybody brings their own perspective to the table.”

Currently, classes are focused on red grape varietals, with white wine blending coming in the summer of 2024. For those wanting to take a class from home for a special occasion, or during a corporate retreat or team-building session, The Blending Lab offers a package that includes wine, a kit including bottles, corks, labels, and a booklet. The team will take you through the experience of making your own bottles of wine virtually.

The Blending Lab, located at 1803 Spring Street in the Paso Market Walk, Paso Robles, is open Fridays and Saturdays, noon-6 p.m., and Sundays from noon-4 p.m., and Monday and Thursday by appointment. For more information visit or call (805) 369-2026.

 — Meagan Friberg

About the Author