Driving along California’s 101 Highway through Paso Robles is like a master class in the natural splendors of the world. The mountains and valleys crisscross along the Central Coast all the way down to the Pacific Ocean, and the chalky limestone hilltops glow in the peachy California sunset. The air is fresh and crisp, and it almost appears as if the lush, green grapevine canopies sway in the distance from the wind.
It’s a lot to take in. And yet, somehow, all that earthly grandeur isn’t the town’s greatest attribute. It’s the community that really makes Paso stand out.
Located smack between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the quaint little town of Paso Robles — or Paso, as locals call it — is one of America’s most welcoming wine regions. The camaraderie among seasoned and burgeoning winemakers is uncanny. Those who respect the land and have the willingness to preserve it and make it better for future generations are accepted here with open arms. Folks are as likely to run into winemakers at the Pine Street Saloon or General Store as they are to see them at a neighboring vineyard.
Though there are more than 200 wineries currently in operation in Paso, there’s more to love about the vibrant community beyond the vino produced and poured there. There’s plenty to see and do. Here are just a few places that make Paso worth visiting.
Wineries to visit
There are plenty of grapevines to see on Cass Winery’s 145-acre estate, and there’s a ton of wine to taste like the Rockin’ One Blanc 2020, comprised of Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier, and Cass’ Damas Noir 2018, made with 100% Mourvèdre. However, several other entertaining outlets make this winery stand out, including the Cass’ luxury boutique hotel, the Geneseo Inn. Wake up with a morning yoga session in the vineyard or wind down with a private massage. Explore the gardens and dine on estate-grown food at the property’s restaurant. There’s even a designated archery area at Cass for those who want to let off some steam with a bow and arrow before tasting a bottle of Cass’ Backbone Syrah 2017.
Enjoy tastings of the winery’s full lineup of the award-winning Cavern Select wines or opt for food and wine pairings with seasonal delights prepared by the on-site chef Mike Learned. Beyond patio relaxing with flights of wine, the winery places a heavy emphasis on education. Robert Hall holds barrel tastings where guests learn about the winemaking process, sustainability efforts, and everything that happens in the Robert Hall cellars to create wine while sipping vino straight out of the barrel. The winery’s vineyard tours provide a firsthand lesson on regenerative farming and the biodynamic practices the winery incorporates to promote healthy vines and soil.
Go here for a sweeping view of the west side of Paso. The vineyard at Law Estate Wines sits some 1,600 to 1,990 feet above ground, and the outdoor deck, which wraps around the estate, offers a cozy, enchanting glimpse of Peachy Canyon Road, where many wineries and vineyards can be seen in the distance. Law’s tasting program is all about comfort and relaxation. Here, guests can chill out on the couch with a host while tasting through flights of five different wines of their choosing from the winery’s portfolio. With an open pet policy, visitors can even bring their four-legged friends along to enjoy a little bit of peace on Law’s grand patio.
Over in the Estrella District is Villa San-Juliette, a dreamy 130-acre estate vineyard that looks more like a Tuscan villa than a California winery. Proprietors Ken and Julie Warwick and their close friend Nigel Lythgoe bought and developed the property in 2005. Lavish fountains and lush gardens surround the tasting room, outdoor patio, and vineyards where12 varieties of grapes are grown on-site to produce sensational Bordeaux and Rhône-style wines. Villa San-Juliette’s tasting flights showcase the diverse range of wines produced on the property, while the winery’s chef Roberto Lavarini whips up seasonal dishes to complete each sip.
If prestige is on the agenda, look no further than DAOU Vineyards. Set along the slopes of DAOU Mountain, which rises some 2,200 feet in elevation in the hills of the Adelaida District, a wine tasting at this place comes with breathtaking views. There are several options for wine tasting, including flights of DAOU’s portfolio of Reserve and Estate collection wines, food and wine pairings, private picnic experiences, tasting tours of the mountain-side vineyards, and tastings of wine in DAOU’s barrel room.
Where to eat
When the mood calls for something a little less fancy but still delectable, The Backyard on Thirteenth, located in downtown Paso, will hit the spot. Find better-than-fast-food favorites on the menu like warm Brezen pretzels, hot fried chicken sandwiches, smash-burgers, and Pad Thai fries coated in sriracha and topped with peanut sauce and chopped nuts. Wash it all down with craft beer like the citrus blonde Sunny Daze by the local Barrel House Brewing Company or a refreshing and crisp can of Gym, Tan, Laundry by another nearby favorite, Tin City Cider Co.
Roasted escargot swimming in decadent Carnaroli rice, garlic butter, and parsley. Heirloom tomatoes beside compressed watermelon and whipped mozzarella. California squab confit dressed with roasted fig and bitter cocoa jus. These are just a few of the mouthwatering dishes Chef Julien Asseo prepares at his downtown French restaurant, Les Petites Canailles. There’s plenty of good wine to pair with the sumptuous dishes, including bottles of Paso-based L’Aventure, the winery launched by Asseo’s father Stephan Asseo, and Benom Wines, created by his brother-in-law and fellow French native Arnaud Fabre.
All that Paso wine drinking may strike up the need for a sweet treat, and Negranti Creamery is just the place to satisfy that craving. The family-run shop, located in Paso Robles’ urban winemaking hub Tin City, specializes in sheep’s milk ice cream. Negranti creates fun and exciting flavors like strawberry basil, blackberry rosemary, salted brown sugar, and ice cream staples like vanilla bean and chocolate.
Latin-inspired flavors meet market-fresh ingredients at this eatery located in downtown Paso. With fire-grilled pizzas, Honduran empanadas, braised lamb shank, and pan-seared scallops gracing the menu, there’s plenty to savor at this local hot spot. A robust wine list and intricate cocktails only heighten the experience.
Where to sleep
Simple living at its finest, the shabby-chic Farmhouse Motel is close to many shopping and dining options in downtown Paso. It’s a simple motel with king and queen-sized rooms to accommodate couples and small groups, and it has an outdoor patio/garden space that’s perfect for nighttime stargazing and wine drinking.
Just three blocks away from Paso’s park square is the charmingly chic Stables Inn. Updated rooms featuring modern furnishing and amenities make this an Instagram-worthy place to crash in between vino adventures in Paso. There’s also an outdoor patio with a fire pit for guests who want to keep the pours flowing after winery hours.
Yet another gem in Paso’s town square is this 16-room luxury boutique hotel, fully equipped with a courtyard, fire pit, and a s’mores cart stocked with gourmet marshmallows, chocolates, and graham crackers. There’s even a candy library and a breakfast bar for visitors to fuel up before wine tasting every morning.