Paso Robles may not have the name recognition of say, Napa or Sonoma, but with 200 wineries, 32,000 acres of vineyards and some of the best wines produced in U.S., it soon might. Despite it’s growth and rising profile, Paso remains a laid back town with a communal atmosphere that celebrates artisan or “garagistes” winemakers. It’s also less snooty and more affordable than Napa. Don’t get me wrong – I love Napa — but Paso has a whole different vibe that begs to be enjoyed as well.
Arrive midday at Hotel Cheval, a luxury boutique hotel in downtown Paso Robles. If you can’t check in yet, drop your bags, grab a map and chat with the friendly folks at the desk who will help you orient yourself in town.
Then head back to the car and drive to Tin City, the burgeoning craft beverage community located in a commercial warehouse district just out of downtown.
Here you will find over 20 tasting rooms showcasing small production, hand-crafted wine, beer, cider and spirits. Often times the people doing the pouring are the makers themselves. So take your time, enjoy your libations and learn all you can about the creation process.
Be sure to visit the BarrelHouse Brewing Company, Tin City Cider Co., Wine Shine – Artisan Spirits and our all-time favourite Paso winery, Clos Solene. Owner Guillaume Fabre, a young French winemaker originally from Languedoc, named the winery after his beautiful wife, Solene.
Late afternoon go back to the hotel to rest up for dinner. PasoRobles is a foodie paradise with a wide assortment of fantastic restaurants to try. Check out Il Cortile or Buona Tavola if you are hankering for Italian, Bistro Laurent for French cuisine or Artisan for Californian farm-to-fork fare. All four are within walking distance of the hotel.
Before you turn in for the night, enjoy a little sweet under the stars in Hotel Cheval’s courtyard. Find a spot in front of one of three fireplaces and cozy up with a blanket. Your “S’mores Butler” (actual title) will be by shortly to prepare your s’more to your exact specifications. Choose from 5 different chocolates, 16 different homemade marshmallows and 5 sauces to create your own masterpiece.
After breakfast at the hotel, check out and spend the morning strolling around downtown Paso. Start at Paso Robles Downtown City Park (just steps from the hotel). You will find boutiques, shops, restaurants and more tasting rooms for wine, beer and olive oil in the blocks around the park between 12th and 14th Streets to the north and south, and between Spring and Pine Streets from east to west.
If all the walking makes you hungry, stop into Latin flavoured La Cosecha or Thomas Hill Organics for lunch. But don’t overdo it; you want enough food in your belly for the wine tasting to come but not too much that you won’t enjoy the rest of the culinary treats that await.
After lunch it’s time to leave downtown to explore Paso’s vineyards. Your final destination today is the Just Inn at Justin Vineyards but the journey there is an experience in itself. Follow the winding country roads through rolling hills dotted with vineyards and tasting rooms. There are so many vineyards to see but I recommend visiting L’Aventure, Denner and Tablas Creek on your way to Justin. All produce some of the best wines in the region and their tasting rooms are exquisite.
Arrive at Just Inn in the late afternoon. Check in to one of three gorgeous suites. All are lovely but, if you can, book the Justification Suite which features two balconies overlooking the vineyard. Unwind after your busy day enjoying the complimentary bottle of Justification wine and welcome charcuterie plate.
Then prepare yourself for Just Inn’s exquisite tasting menu and wine pairing at the Restaurant at Justin. Enjoy five courses of locally sourced meat, fish and produce paired to perfection with Justin wines.
Wake up and enjoy your spectacular breakfast and perhaps a stroll through the gardens and vineyard.
After breakfast it’s time to check out and head down the road for a tour of Justin’s winemaking facility and caves. Learn how they make their outstanding wines you sampled last night at dinner.
With the tour complete, your getaway in Paso is over. I hope you enjoy this special part of California.
THINGS TO NOTE
- Book ahead of time. Hotel Cheval and Just Inn are small hotels that book quickly on weekends and during festivals. Also, many tasting rooms are available by appointment only.
- I don’t want to freak anybody out but snakes do live in the vineyards. Chances are you won’t encounter any – I’ve haven’t seen one yet. So to be on the safe side, wear closed toed shoes when out exploring.
- Bring a coat for evenings. The temperature in Paso Robles can drop 40 – 50 degrees from day to night. Fantastic for grape growing but shocking when wearing short sleeves.
- As mentioned there are over 200 wineries in the area. Make sure you have a Designated Driver.
Paso Robles is halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. You can fly to either city and then drive to Paso. Either way, it’s about a 3.5 -hour trip.
Another option is to take the hour-long flight from SFO or LAX to San Luis Obispo Airport. Paso is a 30-minute drive from there.