By Dan O'Brien
What do you think of when you hear the words “wine country”? Do you picture rolling hills in France? Perhaps the valleys of Napa or Sonoma in California?
If you said any of those things, you’d be absolutely right. Without a doubt, they produce some of the best wines in the world.
One of California’s best kept secrets, however, is 250 miles south of Napa and a hair north of San Luis Obispo – a town whose culture and heritage match its rich, 120 year history of fine winemaking: Paso Robles, CA.
Though its full name is El Paso de Robles, residents affectionately refer to their town simply as “Paso”.
When you first arrive, you’ll immediately realize that Paso Robles is nothing like LA or San Francisco or even Napa.
Everything is a bit slower. Everyone is a bit more polite. The air is crisper, and somehow, colors seem brighter.
But make no mistake, despite being situated among miles of farms and rolling pastures, Paso is no stranger to privilege.
In a nutshell, Paso features the accessibility of a small town with the amenities and luxuries of a much larger metropolis.
A 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck Paso Robles in 2003, one building fell and many other buildings were retrofitted. As a result, Paso boasts more than 60 new buildings, many of which are quickly becoming centers of culture and luxury.
Hotel Cheval is, without a doubt, the premiere hotel destination in Paso Robles. Located conveniently adjacent to the town’s central square, Hotel Cheval offers walking access to the finest restaurants and shops in Paso Robles.
The design of the hotel is reminiscent of a rare blend of elegance and practicality often missed by other establishments.
The 16-room hotel caters to the every need of its guests – offering an array of amenities including freshly baked welcome cookies, complimentary breakfast, in-room spa treatments, complimentary horse drawn carriage rides to local restaurants on Fridays and Saturdays, free Wi-Fi access, and many others.
Each room features a different design, accenting classical architecture with contemporary furnishings.
Hotel Cheval’s adjoining café, The Pony Club, features an impeccable selection of fine wine, beer, and champagne.
Hotel Cheval features attractive rates starting at only $225 per night.
For reservations or inquiries, call 805-226-9995 or visit http://www.hotelcheval.com.
Studios on the Park
One of Paso Robles’ most popular destinations is the aptly named “Studios on the Park”. Right across the street from the town’s central park, Studios on the Park is a nonprofit, open studio that fosters interaction between some of Paso’s top artists and the general public.
The converted warehouse has been refinished entirely, providing ample space to house 9 studios for 24 artists and “The Showroom” – a gallery operated by the Paso Robles Art Association.
All of the artists in attendance are happy to converse with passersby or art critics alike.
For more information, visit http://www.studiosonthepark.org.
Paso’s restaurants offer every type of standard fare, but a few in particular stand out.
First is Il Cortile Ristorante, specializing in the finest Italian dishes with a local flair. If you have the chance, try the carpaccio with black truffle shavings.
Il Cortile serves an array of imported and local wines, catering to every possible taste.
Next up is Artisan, another jewel in Paso’s dining crown. Artisan specializes in a unique American Bistro cuisine, using only the finest ingredients found locally and around the world. If you find yourself there for lunch, try the poached shrimp club or barbecued pulled organic chicken sandwich.
Visit Il Cortile Ristorante at http://ilcortileristorante.com and Artisan at http://www.artisanpasorobles.com.
RN Estate Vineyard
One of the area’s newest but most discerning vineyard proprietors is Roger Nicolas, a veteran of New York City’s exclusive restaurant scene.
RN Estate Vineyard is completely secluded from highway view – if you’re not paying close enough attention, you’ll miss it – for a reason. Nicolas was never interested in making hundreds of thousands of cases of wine. RN Estate Vineyard produces only around one thousand cases of wine each year. Each is personally crafted and cared for.
The result is an array of tastes and aromas that are both inviting and lasting. RN Estate offers both private tours and tastings for either the connoisseur or the layperson.
To contact, order wines, or schedule a tasting, visit www.rnestate.com.