Distance from San Francisco: 205 miles
Distance from Los Angeles: 206 miles
Best time: March to November
Best for: Girl's Getaway, Romantic, Food and Wine
Paso Robles may not be the first place Californians think of when planning a trip to wine country, but that's what makes it such a refreshing surprise. In place of Napa's celebrity-anchored restaurants and pricey boutiques, Paso is filled with funky art studios and cowboy bars—plus a bumper crop of top-notch (but totally unstuffy) tasting rooms. In fact, this decidedly low-key area is the fastest-growing American Viticultural Area (AVA) in California, boasting a more than five-fold increase over the past decade from 35 to over 200 bonded wineries. And the wines here are no joke: more than a dozen producers now lay claim to prestigious ratings of 95 points of higher in the country's leading wine publications. For a wine-soaked weekend itinerary, these are our favorite spots to indulge, both in town and around the region. –By Erica Duecy
1. Jump right into your wine weekend with a downtown Paso Robles tasting-room crawl. Start just north of City Park (the town square) and pop in to any of several storefronts that headline standout local producers. We recommend Bodegas Paso Robles, Pianetta Winery, and Clayhouse.
2. Wander over to the new Fenomenal on City Park, a wine and tapas bar on the park that's getting local raves. With 32 wines by the glass, there's bound to be a perfect pairing for snacks like tuna crudo, lamb empanadas, and blue cheese tarts.
3. For dinner, head to Villa Creek a few doors down. The eclectic restaurant showcases local ingredients in international dishes like rabbit cassoulet and butternut squash enchiladas in the dining room, and features a lively bar scene that hops with local winemakers and artists sipping wine and sharing small plates like guacamole and ceviche.
1. Giving a nod to the region's pioneer heritage, go for a cattlemen's breakfast at Paso Robles Inn's diner, Coffee Shop, with dishes like the mountainous Jesse James sandwich, featuring thick sourdough toast stuffed with eggs, bacon, and cheddar.
2. It may seem a little early to start provisioning your lunch, but before heading out for an afternoon in the vineyards, stop at Di Raimondo's Italian Market to stock up on charcuterie and cheese platters with sea salt-topped baguettes. Trust us: you'll need sustenance for your vinous adventures.
3. Just minutes outside of downtown Paso Robles, one of the area's most picturesque drives also happens to feature some of its best wineries. Adelaida Road (click for wine road map) is where you'll spend the afternoon, sampling at tasting rooms along a winding, oak-shaded road. Among the first wineries you'll pass are small, award-winning producers like Alta Colina Vineyard and Carina Cellars.
4. Your next stops on the road will be visits to hilltop wineries of DAOU Vineyards or Adelaida Cellars, both premium producers, where fantastic views and top-rated wines accompany your lunch (both wineries welcome picnickers). Spend extra time at Adelaida, which features an open tasting room so you can watch the day's winemaking activities taking place.
5. Further down Adelaida road, don't miss the 1,000-acre Halter Ranch Vineyard property, with its organically farmed vineyards (try the Bordeaux-style Ancestor Estate Reserve, and the charming new rosé that comes from the vines you're walking past) and stunning new gravity-flow winery on the hill above the tasting room.
6. Arguably the most visible winery in Paso Robles, Tablas Creek Vineyard, will be your last stop on the wine road, and it's a can't-miss tasting. The venture is a partnership between the renowned Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel in France's Rhone Valley, and an American wine importer, and the wines are top notch. The winery's tasting room was just expanded and remodeled; spend the tail end of your day sipping the acclaimed Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc on the winery's outdoor patio.
7. Back in town, pair a chic scene with your meal at Il Cortile, a buzzy, upscale restaurant renowned for its seasonal modern Italian menu, including specialties like prosciutto-wrapped asparagus with burratta, and homemade pappardelle with braised boar. Select from the well-edited wine list that focuses on California's Central Coast and Italy, or, bring one of the newly acquired bottles from your day's adventure for a reasonable $20 corkage fee.
1. A few blocks from City Park, the buzzy American bistro Artisan—run by the talented and charming Kobayashi brothers—is a sure bet for a leisurely brunch, with dishes like Dungeness crab cake Benedict, chanterelle toast and eggs, and French toast with bourbon-soaked dates.
2. After brunch, spend some time exploring Paso Robles' other great passion: art. The town's vibrant artistic community buzzes around the hive-like Studios on the Park, an open studio and gallery that opens at noon on Sunday, and features the work of more than 40 local artists.
3. For one last taste of Paso Robles, stop in for the famous al pastor (grilled pork and pineapple) tacos at Los Robles Café. Locals like to argue about which tacos in town are the best, but this old-school, Formica-tabled spot always gets our vote.
Did You Know? Paso Robles may not be the first place Californians think of when planning a trip to wine country, but that's what makes it such a refreshing surprise. In place of Napa's celebrity-anchored restaurants and pricey boutiques, Paso is filled with funky art studios and cowboy bars—plus a bumper crop of top-notch (but totally unstuffy) tasting rooms. In fact, this decidedly low-key area is the fastest-growing American Viticultural Area (AVA) in California, boasting a more than five-fold increase over the past decade from 35 to over 200 bonded wineries. And the wines here are no joke: more than a dozen producers now lay claim to prestigious ratings of 95 points of higher in the country's leading wine publications. For a wine-soaked weekend itinerary, these are our favorite spots to indulge, both in town and around the region. –By Erica Duecy
For our money, the best place in town is Hotel Cheval (rooms from $265/night). Located downtown, down a side street off the leafy, picturesque city park, the property is a wine country-chic respite with plenty of spaces for lounging around fireplaces, both indoor and outside.
Just north of the park, the Paso Robles Inn (rooms from $160/night) is a more affordable option with mineral soaking pools off the patios of many rooms, and a central pool where guests can "take the cure." Be aware that these mineral springs are sulfurous, and the rotten egg smell can linger.
Paso Robles is a year round destination, but there are a couple of key events worth planning ahead to attend. The buzziest times of the year are in spring and fall around the region's biggest events. In mid-May, the Paso Robles Wine Festival weekend features region-wide tastings and other events and celebrations at over 150 individual wineries.
In the fall, Harvest Wine Weekend is always the third weekend in October, where wineries hold activities like blending seminars, barrel tastings, harvest demonstrations, vineyard and winery tours, and live music performances.
Finally, while winter is a sleepy time of year, hotel rooms are a cheaper for the off-season and visitors can expect to receive more individualized attention from winemakers and tasting room staffers.
By train: Paso Robles is easily accessible by train from Los Angeles or the Bay Area, making it a great destination for a car-free weekend. Amtrak has two trains daily into Paso Robles station. From Oakland's Jack London Station, take the Coast Starlight south to Paso Robles Station. From Los Angeles's Union Station, take the Coast Starlight north to Paso Robles Station. All downtown Paso Robles sights are within walking distance from the hotels and restaurants we mention here, and transportation to Adelaida Road can be arranged through The Wine Wrangler.
By car from San Francisco: Paso Robles is 3 hours, 30 minutes from San Francisco. Take Highway 101 south to downtown Paso Robles, exit 231A, for the 16th Street off-ramp.
By car from Los Angeles: Paso Robles is about 3 hours, 30 minutes from Los Angeles. Take Highway 101 north to Paso Robles' Spring Street exit.
Driving in wine country: Be smart. If you don't have a designated driver, arrange transportation by car service, shuttle, or organized tour through The Wine Wrangler.