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Paso Robles City Trip

View of Paso Robles Wine Country


Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Where to Stay Where to Eat What to See & Do
Wineries & Tasting

Nestled in California's scenic Central Coast, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso Robles has quietly emerged as a favorite destination for foodies and wine lovers. However, there's still plenty of small-town rural charm, in part thanks to a rich farming and ranching tradition that's enjoyed rediscovery through diners' increasing appreciation of seasonal fare.

Though the temperate climate also attracts outdoor enthusiasts, especially cyclists and golfers, wine tasting is arguably the biggest draw in the area. At last count there were over 32,000 acres of grapes planted, and the number of wineries recently topped 200. The majority of those are small, family-owned and -operated labels, but there are some big players in the field as well.

Cabernet Sauvignon still commands the most acreage, but the region also has a long successful history with Zinfandel, California's heritage grape. Thanks to the impressive diversity of soils and microclimates (in fact, the area was recently divided into 11 American Viticulture Areas, or AVAs), many other varietals thrive here as well, especially red Rhônes. Most Paso wines are bold and terroir driven, with appealing fruit forward characters bolstered by good tannins. As such, they are approachable early, but can also be cellared.

In addition to local wines, you'll find that the local craft beer and spirits movements are also alive and well, and there's a renewed interest in hard cider production. Even if you can't get out to sample those potent potables, they're just as well represented in local restaurants as the wines.

You won't spend much time in Paso Robles without hearing the terms "eastside" and "westside"— words locals use to delineate which side of Highway 101 you're on — and that's actually a good way to approach your three days here. On Day One, acquaint yourself with downtown and some local history; on Day Two, hit the links and explore eastside labels; and on Day Three, enjoy the countryside and the diverse experiences of the westside.

Almost all wineries charge nominal tasting fees, which are typically refunded upon purchase of wine or if you join their wine club. Some tasting rooms are also starting to offer light lunches and picnic supplies for purchase, but it's still a good idea to take along some snacks and water, especially when you visit the westside. Consider booking one of the local touring companies such as Uncorked Wine Tours, Breakaway Tours or even Destination Drivers, which provides a driver to chauffer you around in your own car. For brewery visits, check out Hop On Beer Tours. Maps and information for the entire wine region are available from the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

A  guestroom at Hotel Cheval in Paso Robles, California

Lodging choices in Paso Robles include small motels and inns, and well over 30 B&Bs ranging from one-room guest cottages to nine-room estates. If you wish to stay in the heart of town, the historic Paso Robles Inn and Steakhouse is conveniently located right off the square and within walking distance of many fine restaurants. Another option is the intimate and upscale Hotel Cheval and its popular Pony Club Bar, or the elegant La Bellasera and its Enoteca restaurant just south of Paso Robles.

For bed and breakfast options, check out JUST Inn at Justin Vineyards, which also features the gourmet lunch and dinner fare of Deborah's Room; Asuncion Ridge, a great location atop a 320-acre vineyard estate; or Chanticleer Vineyard Bed & Breakfast, a romantic, farm-like atmosphere just minutes from downtown.

PASO ROBLES DAY 1: Pioneer Museum, Culinary Shops and Studios on the Park

To settle into your 72-hour escape, let's spend some time exploring downtown Paso Robles and soaking up a bit of local history.

Formally named El Paso de Robles (The Pass of the Oaks) for the majestic native oak trees throughout the area, the city is usually just called "Paso" by locals. At the heart of downtown is a town square known as "the park" that's about as Main Street as you can get. Depending on the calendar, you'll find it hosting weekly farmers' markets, an annual olive festival, Friday night concerts in the summer and one of the largest outdoor wine events in the state — the Paso Robles Wine Festival in May.

The Old Jail at the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum

There's also a vintage Carnegie Library building in the park that's home to the city's historical society (open daily, except Wednesday, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.). For a further glimpse into Paso's past, especially its farming and ranching history, check out the exhibits at the Pioneer Museum, open Thursdays through Sundays from 1-4 p.m. You'll find everything from a 45-million-year-old oyster fossil, to more than 1,000 examples of barbed wire, to antique cars and farm equipment.

The restaurants surrounding the park will offer you an international array of menus for lunch and/or dinner, and most have an outdoor dining area that will let you take advantage of the beautiful California weather. Enjoy classic French cuisine at Bistro Laurent, Spanish-inspired dishes at Estrella and La Cosecha or tuck into spot-on Thai food at Basil. For meals that will really give you a taste of Paso Robles, try the acclaimed Artisan (twice nominated for a regional James Beard award) or the vibrant Villa Creek, both establishments that work closely with their food purveyors to source local and/or sustainably grown products whenever possible — from beef, to abalone, to farm-fresh produce.

For some urban wine tasting, scout out some of the 10 or so downtown venues that are within fairly easy walking distance of each other. Some of the standouts include Asuncion Ridge (especially the Pinot Noir), Anglim Winery (which specializes in Rhône varietals) and D'Anbino Vineyards and Cellars. The owners of the latter are professional musicians, so you're likely to find first-rate live music happening on weekend evenings.

Other culinary spots worth seeking out are the flagship We Olive store (located just a block from the park) and the General Store (right on the park). The former celebrates all things olive, and offers tastes of olive oils, balsamic vinegars and olive-inspired products such as tapenades. The General Store showcases primarily local foodstuffs ranging from spice mixes, to sheep's milk ice cream, to spicy pickles, and they have a variety of fun items for kitchen, pantry and home.

For a brush with art, Studios on the Park offers a unique experience since it functions as both gallery and studio space for several working artists. You can stroll through and talk with whatever artists might be there, or just browse the gallery space and store.

Continue to Day 2

*View of Paso Robles by Sam Houston


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