Paso Robles Delivers The Wow Factor In A Whisper
Make it 48 hours in Paso Robles, a top pick wine- centric destination 270 miles south of Napa via US-101. Save enough time to make the southbound leg of the drive on scenic Highway 1 to benefit from unobstructed ocean views. Take it slow. Nobody should rush past the beauty spot coastal standouts: Monterey Bay, Big Sur, San Simeon. Make a sharp left onto CA 46 just before reaching Harmony, the Central Coast’s tiniest town (population: 18, winery: 1), for the final 30 minutes’ drive into Paso Robles.
EAT AND DRINK
Paso locals are quick to point out that “everybody seems to know one another.” With a population of just over 30,000, the vibe is much more small-town charm than urban sophisticate. Anchored by a European-style town square called Downtown City Park, the inviting green patch shaded by oak trees has taken on a new post-pandemic purpose. Presented by Justin Vineyards and Winery, a concierge escorts diners to sanitized, socially- distanced farmhouse tables under sunbrellas and bistro lights. A reservations system operates Thursday through Sundays; takeout orders from nearby restaurants are encouraged, and downtown manages to preserve its vitality in a win-win solution.
Paso Market Walk on Spring Street is a new 16,000 square- foot showcase for a curated collection of local specialty producers—cheeses, olive oils, coffee roasters, bakers, gelato makers, ranchers, vintners, and brewers.
Tin City is a safe and smart place destination; a two-block community of industrial warehouses for small-production wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cider houses- with handmade sheep milk ice cream for good measure.
In 1983, only 18 wineries called Paso Robles home when the AVA was introduced. Now 300 wineries make this California’s fastest-growing wine region supporting 40 varietals from Albariño to Zinfandel. Three times the size of Napa, there’s differentiation among the appellation’s 11 viticultural areas due to diverse soil types, elevations, and rainfall. The region’s diurnal temperature variation of 40º to 50º F is a striking characteristic.
Within several minutes’ drive from downtown, the countrified persona of Paso Robles opens up to miles of winding roads, rambling vineyards, and lichen-covered oak trees.
On the West Side:
Clos Selène: Inspired by their love for each other and passion for wine, proprietors Guillaume and Selène Fabre left their home in Bordeaux to launch their wine label in Paso Robles. Book ahead for an authentic French-accented outdoor tasting experience at this charming boutique winery where the wines are named for their five children. Clos Selène produces Rhône and Bordeaux varieties on the vineyard estate in the Willow Creek District AVA.
Niner Wine Estates: Find out why “farm-to-table” is never a cliché at Niner Wine Estates. Reserve a private table outside in the shade for a gourmet picnic lunch and wine (by the bottle, glass, or flight) on the pretty estate. They’re known for estate- grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay as well as the flagship blend, Fog Catcher, which are all produced on Heart Hill, iconized by a cluster of oak trees shaped like a heart.
DAOU Family Estates: Founded thirteen years ago by Lebanese brothers Georges and Daniel Daou, this stunning winery is located on DAOU Mountain, at an elevation of 2,200 feet. Today, the winery is fulfilling the promise of Adelaida District as the world’s next benchmark for Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Denner Vineyards: Come to the place where the wines and the views are equally good; book an appointment to drink in both. Contemporary architecture meets old vines at Denner Vineyards, widely known for its sweeping expanse over the valley and its interesting varietals such as Vermentino and outstanding Rhone blends.
On the East Side:
Sculpterra Winery & Sculpture Garden presents the unexpected. Larger-than-life outdoor creations marry the concepts of art and wine throughout the property’s gardens. Proprietor Dr. Warren Frankel and his wife Kathy founded the winery and tasting room in 2007 after growing grapes since 1979. Ironworks by Robert Bentley and spectacular bronze and granite sculptures created by John Jagger and resident artist Dale Evers are curated throughout the grounds. Reserve an outdoor tasting in the shade or bring the dog and kids for a walk in the garden.
Cass Winery: In the back roads countryside, Cass Winery has a relaxed, hacienda-style feel. Enjoy lunch outdoors beside the vineyard where guests can take a stroll. Its 145 acres produce all-estate Rhône varieties: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne.
THINGS TO DO
Unmissable. Held over through January 2021, “Bruce Munro: Field of Light at Sensorio” is Paso’s big surprise. The outdoor art installation of 60,000 illuminated glass orbs spread across 15 acres of meadow comes to life each evening at dusk. Choose a path through the field of mesmerizing, soft pastel lights set off by silhouettes of hills and stately oaks.
Paso isn’t just wine, beer, and cider tasting; it’s olive oil, too. Tens of thousands of trees produce fresh and bold extra virgin olive oil in a milling process that visitors can appreciate in person at the farms during the late fall harvest.
Clean and safe is the overarching message from the hotels and resorts of Paso Robles. These properties are ADA compliant and dog friendly. NOTE: Indoor restaurants, spas, and bars may remain closed per state guidelines.
Allegretto Vineyard Resort: Elegant and art-filled, the Tuscan- style AAA Four Diamond property has detailed health and safety information accessible online. Some rooms have semi-private patios leading to an outdoor heated pool by the vineyard.
Paso Robles Inn: Set in gardens on the downtown square established in 1889, Paso Robles Inn attracted wealthy patrons for the natural sulphur mineral waters. Its offspring is The Piccolo, a new contemporary 24-room luxury property with Tetto, a rooftop space for drinks served with food.
Hotel Cheval: Located less than one block off the historic town square, Hotel Cheval is a delightful looking boutique hotel of international acclaim. Sixteen rooms are built around a central courtyard with a firepit. Guest rooms have fire- places too.
Stables Inn: Enjoy the warmth of the outdoor fire at Hotel Cheval’s new sister property located three blocks from downtown. With only 18 rooms, the horsey-themed look is whitewashed and unpretentious.
Article By: Laurie Jo Miller Farr