Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Paso Robles area is the up-and-coming wine country for oenophiles ahead of the curve. Napa and Sonoma may get the big press and big bucks, but tastemakers look to Paso for their new vintages.
Rolling hills of vines, the grapes of which make wine for Opolo — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
With 32,000 vineyard acres and 200 wineries, Paso covers a lot of ground. Most winemakers here tell similar stories of falling in love with the area’s unspoiled landscape, its welcoming people and more affordable real estate.
They often struggle to define the region with its numerous microclimates, soils and 40 grape varieties that hail from across the globe. Perhaps the only definition needed is "quality."
Some familiar Paso labels are well worth a tasting stop: Justin, Eberle, J. Lohr, Tablas Creek and Hope Family Vineyards, makers of Liberty School and Treana.
But Paso's hidden gems are the real gold mine. This host of small vineyards produces wines rarely distributed outside of tasting rooms and wine clubs, and visiting them is worth your entire trip: Chronic Cellars, Alta Colina, Clavo, Kukkula, Seven Oxen and RN Estate.
You may need help finding and getting into some of these. To ensure access (and unbridled enjoyment), we'd recommend hiring a local driver for your tasting tour.
Uncorked Wine Tours offers reliable transit for your tasting tour — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Uncorked Wine Tours is a reliable, educational and fun way to discover more than just wineries; olive oil, almond and walnut orchards and the likes. Or book an adventure with FARMstead ED, and participate in interactive agriculture and food experiences making things like soaps and vinegars with local ingredients.
The General Store in downtown Paso Robles is stocked with local goodies — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
The General Store in downtown Paso specializes in quality local artisanal handicrafts and produce - from clothing and spices to famous almond bark and sheep’s milk ice cream. The quaint downtown has a little bit of everything; tasting rooms, unique shopping, delectable dining and a peaceful park, all within a comfortable walking radius.
Bodegas Paso Robles winemaker Dorothy Schuler shares wine with visitors in her downtown tasting room — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
While in town, don't miss the tasting at Bodegas Paso Robles, as colorful as the owner, where they bottle eclectic grape varieties in festive labels. The wines at Parrish Family Vineyards are also notably bold and great for cellaring.
For dining, visit Hatch for superb, creative wood-fired cuisine - or Artisan for flavorful farm-to-table fare.
You’ll also find amazing food and great chefs at many wineries including beautifully plated pairings at Niner Wine Estates, killer burgers and smoked meats at Cass Vineyards and divine pizza at Opolo Vineyards.
Local cheese, honey and cured meats make up the charcuterie plate at Cass Vineyards — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Paso accommodations have reached a new level with the opening of Allegretto Vineyard Resort. Located on 20 beautifully manicured acres, you'll be delighted with the experience inside and out: enjoy their olive trees, chef’s garden, bocce ball and more.
Allegretto Vineyard Resort offers a distinctive European feel — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
The hallways are full of fascinating art from all over the world. Enjoy yoga in the Abbey, a zero gravity pedicure chair in the spa and rustic Italian cuisine in the restaurant.
Once a laid-back farming community, and now California's next hot wine country... when you visit Paso, you’ll understand why people never want to leave.