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.
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