A guide to Paso Robles: go for the wine, but don’t miss the other charms

If you use Google Maps, Paso Robles precisely halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco (205 miles up or down, while the car is driving), making this central coastal town the ideal stop for Californians looking for a relaxing weekend getaway. And with nearby San Luis Obispo with flights from all over the country, it’s also a reasonable stopover for foreigners.

Paso, as the locals call it, is best associated with wine, and for good reason. The region is home to more than 200 wineries, and the bottles it produces are comparable to the better-known regions in the north of the state. Any good itinerary includes plenty of time to explore the vineyards and tasting rooms, but Paso Robles is also home to great restaurants, breweries, and distilleries, plus a few activities that don’t involve consumption.

Here’s an introduction to what to eat, drink, and do in Paso Robles, plus where to stay if you’re making more than one pit stop (which is highly recommended).

Explore the surprisingly diverse wine region

Paso Robles’ Mediterranean climate and diverse topographies and soils make it one of the most interesting wine regions, not just in California, but in the world. It has a long growing season and temperatures that shift from warm days to cool nights to produce full-flavoured grapes. Plus, it’s home to 11 different wine-growing regions that channel the sun, soil, and temperatures to create unique wines indicative of where they’re grown — which is really just a long-winded way of saying Paso makes a lot of different wines, and you might they have to drink. Throw a dart at the winery’s map and you’ll hit something worth trying, whether it’s a nationally known heavy hitter like J. Lohr, Daou or Justin, or a small operation with just a winemaker in the back and a dog that works in front. from home.

Tablas Creek is a good introduction to the area. It began in the late 1980s as a collaboration between French and American wineries and planted its first vines in 1994. Today, the brand makes a wide range of Rhone-style varietals and blends, including Grenache, Syrah and Marsanne. Tablas Creek is also one of the pioneers of regenerative organic farming and biodynamic winemaking techniques, using sheep to cut the grass and relying solely on rainwater to irrigate crops.

Halter Ranch, which is next to Tablas Creek, is a good candidate for your next stop. It’s one of Paso’s most scenic vineyards, with rolling hills, a pond, barrel storage caves, and even a little train that runs through the property. Visit the estate for tours, tastings and lunch, or book a Defender picnic, where a classic Land Rover Defender takes you around 2,700 acres, with regular stops for wine and cheese pairings. Halter Ranch grows 20 grape varieties, including Grenache, Syrah, Viognier and Vermentino. It also produces walnuts and its own olive oil, so you can go home with snacks to go with your wine.

Let the wine flow (and enjoy it) at Niner, a lovely family-run business that serves a seasonal lunch menu, with many of the produce picked straight from its own garden. Or head to Le Cuvier, a small operation that overlooks the surrounding countryside and serves an impressive menu of food pairings alongside the wines. Caelesta is the rare vineyard that makes high quality wines and also grows black truffles – they run regular truffle hunts with guides and dogs, so keep an eye out, and you might find some black gold.

If you want to visit some small wineries in one day, head to Tin City. This cheerful neighborhood is teeming with side-by-side activities and is home to some of the area’s most exciting young winemakers. You can’t go wrong with Hubba Wines, Aaron Wines, End of the Day or Kaleidos.

Also try the breweries and distilleries

If you want to drink something that isn’t wine, Paso Robles is also home to several breweries. Firestone Walker is the biggest of the bunch. Their beers are easy to find at bars and shelves across the country, but you can drink a Mind Haze IPA or Pivo Pils straight from the source at the brewery’s taproom. Silva Brewing makes a range of German, Belgian and American style beers, from Kölsch to stout, and Barrel House supplements light ales and IPAs all year round with beers in small batches, taproom only, and also hosts regular concerts at its outdoor stage.

If you’re looking for hard stuff, the Paso Robles Distillery Trail highlights the area’s nine distilleries, plus three more in San Luis Obispo. Re:Find makes its spirits by fermenting and distilling the saignée (free-range juice from the winemaking process commonly thrown away) from local wineries to make vodka and gin. Calwise Spirits Co. makes gin, whiskey and rum and offers behind-the-scenes tours where the magic happens. And Tin City Distillery makes a diverse range of spirits, including whiskey, vodka and gin, plus a range of brandies under the Wine Shine label. Drop by for a tasting to try them all.

Eat fresh, locally grown food

Downtown Paso Robles has plenty of restaurants to keep you well fed during your stay, with options ranging from Michelin-starred tasting menus to casual dining rooms. The first can be found in Six Test Kitchen, an ambitious 12-seat venue that highlights produce from around California’s central coast. For a completely different experience, head to Paso Market Walk, a food hall with coffee, ramen, burgers, desserts, and a small cider bar. If you can’t decide, have one of the excellent grilled cheese sandwiches at Paso Robles Wine Merchant.

Les Petites Canailles is a neat bistro with a tasting menu and à la carte dishes. French-trained chef Julien Asseo worked for heavy hitters such as Joël Robuchon and Guy Savoy before moving to Paso. Fish Gaucho serves Mexican coastal dishes such as aguachile and fish tacos alongside bright salsas and margaritas. Thomas Hill Organics takes farm to table seriously, with a seasonal menu of local meats, fish and produce, such as the duck with celeriac puree, sweet onion and fennel salad and marmalade. The Hatch is a popular spot for wood-fired comfort food and fun cocktails – you can’t go wrong with fried chicken and a sandlot call back via the bourbon-enriched Wendy Peffercorn cocktail.

Bonus: ETTO in Tin City isn’t a restaurant, but a small Italian marketplace selling all kinds of delicious Italian things (cheeses, canned tomatoes, olives), including its own line of pastas. Leave some extra space in your suitcase.

Stay downtown or in a Vineyard Resort

After a long day of wine tasting, eating and hopefully a bit of walking around, you’ll want a comfortable place to sleep in the evening. Staying downtown means you are close to bars and restaurants, and you are only a short drive from most of the wineries in the region. The Piccolo is a 24-room luxury boutique hotel with exposed brick walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and custom furnishings. It is also home to the Tetto rooftop bar, which offers a perfect spot for nightcaps.

Hotel Cheval is a 16-room boutique located near the historic town square. It has a horseshoe-shaped bar and a dedicated s’mores butler, who makes s’mores every evening outside by the fire – a facility we don’t see often enough. More affordable options include Stables Inn, a Western-style motel with communal seating and fire pits, and Oxford Suites, with clean, comfortable rooms, free breakfast, and a pool.

If you want to sleep closer to the vines, you can also stay at select wineries and wine-adjacent resorts. A few good options include Allegretto Vineyard Resort, The Inn and Croad Vineyards, and the quaint seven-suite inn on the property of CaliPaso Winery.

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