The Closer-than-Napa Wine Getaway: Paso Robles
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Sunrise at Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles
Despite an explosion of wineries, California’s most down-to-earth wine country hasn’t lost a lick of its charm.
Not long ago, Paso Robles was a tiny, quiet, country town. It’s still quaint, but the historic center is a bustling little hub of all things wine-related. The streets are lined with olive oil shops, tasting rooms, and excellent restaurants, many started by L.A. transplants in search of a simpler life. The introduction of Rhône varietals about 15 years ago really put the region on the map. Now 200 wineries dot the area’s bucolic hillsides. Call it the anti-Napa, where winemakers embrace a spirit of collaboration and experimentation rather than pomp and circumstance.
Paso Robles lies in California’s Central Coast, about a six-hour drive from San Diego. Maps may point you to I-5, but we prefer taking 405 North to the more scenic Highway 101. The train is also a good option; Amtrak drops visitors off a mere three blocks from the heart of downtown.
Paso Robles will be gaining an influx of new hotel rooms with the addition of The Ayres Resort and Spa, set to break ground this fall.
Storybook-like Hotel Cheval (1021 Pine Street, hotelcheval.com) offers the most luxurious accommodations in Paso and is located just off the town’s beautiful main square. The ivy-covered courtyard is lit by outdoor fireplaces, and on weekends, the hotel employs a s’mores butler whose sole job is making the delicious treat for guests. Choose your own homemade marshmallow—flavors have included hazelnut and cinnamon sugar.
Understated in décor, but not in flavor, Il Cortile (608 12th Street, ilcortileristorante.com) serves authentic, rustic Italian. Dishes are masterfully created by chef Santos MacDonal, who worked at many of L.A.’s most venerable Italian restaurants before making the move to Paso. His perfectionism is evident in everything from the homemade pasta to fall-off-the-bone lamb osso bucco. Locals also love Artisan (1401 Park Street, artisanpasorobles.com), an American Bistro with a flair for fusion. Thomas Hill Organics (1305 Park Street, thomashillorganics.com) grows its own fruits and vegetables and serves an excellent Sunday brunch. For a quick bite while on the wine trail, stop by cute Farmstand 46 (3750 Highway 46 West, farmstand46.com), which offers ready-made salads and gourmet sandwiches.