Paso Robles adventures: 5 awesome things to do in wine country

Venturing out into the world once more is surreal to begin with. But at Sensorio, the Paso Robles performance space hosting Bruce Munro’s latest Field of Light installation, the light at the end of the tunnel is apparently filled with … ethereal fairy dust. Lights glimmer across the rolling fields, miles of optic fiber shimmer like blossoms in the gloaming.

Munro’s illuminated art installations at sites as far flung as Australia’s Uluru and Saratoga’s Montalvo Arts Center are always fantastical. But the 15-acre walk-through in the heart of Paso’s wine country is his largest installation ever. Some 58,800 stemmed, illuminated bulbs sway gently in the evening breeze, creating twinkling fields of color.

It felt like a fever dream before. Now, the already fantastical Field of Light, which reopened in April, has been joined by Munro’s new Light Towers installation: 69 huge, glowing structures created from 17,000 light-filled wine bottles.

At the end of this endless year, the magic is not only back, it’s been multiplied. Paso’s wineries have reopened, restaurants are bustling and two sleek new hotels — The Piccolo and Stables Inn — have joined the offerings for day trippers too smitten to leave.

Whether you spend a day or a weekend exploring the region’s winding country lanes or strolling downtown, you’ll find plenty to do — not only light-strewn meadows, but new dining options, too, from a sunny beer garden with lobster rolls to a Baja taco spot with Napa cred.

The Backyard on Thirteenth, a vibrant, beer garden-esque expanse, opened on Valentine’s Day 2020. Its repurposed shipping containers, sunny yellow awnings and alfresco seating would have been irresistible at any time, but they’re a perfect fit for the pandemic era. The tasty menu mixes local beer, beachy fare and global inspiration. The lobster roll ($19) is wonderful. The fried chicken sandwich ($13) addictive. And the French fry lineup includes Pad Thai inspired and Tinga topped versions ($13-$14), too.

Prefer to mix wine tasting and stories with your noshing? You’ll find a great new pairing out on Highway 46 West at Wines of the West, which opened in late 2019. The barn-inspired tasting room offers wines from four labels, including Alloy Wine Works — you’ve likely seen their varietals in picnic-ready cans — and Purple Cowboy, which pays homage to winemaking, rodeo-riding cowboys. (They’ve tasted so much red wine, their teeth are purple — or so the story goes.)

How Stetson and lasso-themed is all this? Very. Purple Cowboy is the official wine of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. And it’s home, too, to the Heirloom Kitchen & Eatery popup started by former Hatch exec chef Mateo Rogers and baker Brittney Yracheta. Order one of the wonderful sandwiches — the Decoco ($16), perhaps, with porchetta, Italian salsa verde, pickled red onions and arugula on housemade ciabatta — to enjoy outdoors with a glass of wine and a little sunshine.

Breathe deep. The light at the end of the tunnel may be pixie dust — or it might be rosé.

If You Go

Bruce Munro: Light at Sensoria runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday-Sunday (until 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday) through September at Sensoria, 4380 Highway 46 East in Paso Robles. Tickets start at $37.50;

The Backyard on Thirteenth: This casual, year-old beer garden and eatery is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and until 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday at 1300 Railroad St.;

Finca Paso Robles: This Paso Market Walk eatery opened in May. Grab a taco, salad or wood-grilled seafood between 11 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 1803 Spring St.;

Wines of the West: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 3750 Highway 46 West in Templeton. Book a tasting appointment at the barn or do a virtual tasting from home.

Heirloom: Open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday-Sunday at Wines of the West, 3750 Highway 46 West. Check out the menu and order ahead at

via The Mercury News

Where to Eat, Play, and Sleep in Paso Robles

There’s certainly no shortage of excellent California wine regions within driving distance of San Francisco or Los Angeles. But Paso Robles is different in its sense of down home hospitality, where you’re just as likely to belly up to the bar with the winemaker as you are to end a night with whiskey shots at the local cowboy saloon. Paso holds tight to the small town charm of a working agricultural community and all the camaraderie that comes along with it.

That’s not to say that you’ll be roughing it during your stay, though. There are plenty of architecturally impressive tasting rooms and well-appointed boutique hotels to be found. You just won’t be burdened with as many high ticket pours, or the wine snobbery that comes along with them.

While California was hit particularly hard in the past year, there actually has never been a better time to try wine here; most wineries require a reservation these days, and as a result, guests get a more curated experience. Rather than having to share a tasting room associate with a gaggle of boisterous bachelorettes, you’ll be one-on-one and feeling like a VIP, learning about what’s become one of the country’s quickest growing wine regions.


What to Eat in Paso Robles

Start your day off strong with a Oaxacan mocha and solid breakfast sando from AMSTRDM, and while you’re at it, consider coming back for an evening piano performance from their proprietor, perhaps a nod to Polish concert pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who once soaked in the El Paso Hotel’s hot springs to cure his ailments. (There’s a festival in his honor each November, for all you music buffs.)

For lunch, book in at at Niner, with its picturesque patio overlooking a heart-shaped grove of old growth oak trees lovingly called Heart Hill. (Lovebirds take note: not shockingly this is one of the most popular engagement spots on the Central Coast.) Sip a flight of their sustainably produced wines while enjoying a meal that integrates produce from their sprawling chef’s garden and prepare to be wowed.

If your palate is feeling fatigued after a day of wine tasting, grab a pint of local craft beer and a lobster roll at The Backyard on Thirteenth, where laid back locals and their pooches perch on the outdoor patio, giving the space some serious Denver energy.

If Southern comfort food and cocktails sound more your speed, hit up Hatch Rotisserie and Bar, whose owners also will be opening a wood fired pizza joint inspired by LA’s famous Jon + Vinny’s in the months to come.

If you can catch a reservation at Les Petites Cannailles, don’t hesitate. Chef Julien Asseo has worked with some of the top French toques around the globe including Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon, and it’s abundantly obvious in his beautiful take on bistro cuisine, including his perfect rendition of the iconic Robuchon pomme purée. The well-edited wine list is full of gems—you’d be remiss not to open up a bottle of L’Aventure, crafted by Asseo’s father, a pioneer of winemaking in the area.

Chef Patrick Aguirre, who worked with Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and Suzanne Goin of AOC, is opening Finca this summer alongside his wife, whose family started the famed Siete Mares mariscos chain in LA back in the 70s. The team pristinely restored a historical Victorian home at Paso Market Walk to serve their take on regional cuisines from all over Mexico, and it’s likely to be one of the area’s most exciting openings.


Read the rest of the article at Condé Nest Traveler

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