Visiting Paso Robles wine country


Mar 6th, 2014, 05:57 AM
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Visiting Paso Robles wine country

Last summer we had a great time for a few days in Napa Valley, but in June of this year we're joining extended family for a few days in a rental beach house in Santa Cruz. We're thinking of doing a side trip for a couple of nights to Paso Robles, then maybe head on down to Santa Barbara and LA and return home from there.

A search here revealed no Paso Robles threads in the last 5 years! Any suggestions? Really good wineries, really good food, really good places to stay? Will we be disappointed trying to compare it to Napa? We don't need really upscale resorts (like many in Napa), but would like something more interesting that just staying at chain motels. Friends stayed in Solvang, and while I sort of like the kitsch, it just doesn't seem like where we'd want to stay.
NeoPatrick is offline  
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Mar 6th, 2014, 07:41 AM
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The flora an topography is different. Dry, rolling hills dotted with oaks. Creeks lined with sycamores. Not as "fancy" as Napa, lower key. Similar to Santa Ynez. There have been trip reports which included stops in Paso, but it may be hard to dig them up? :/

We have visited J. Lohr and Vina Robles. Both are larger, not boutique. Vina Robles is beautiful. Lohr, simple and friendly. DH likes Peachy Canyon and others here have mentioned Justin. I think justin has accommodations? We have not stayed in any unique places as we usually stay in SLO, since DD is in college there. For June, make sure you avoid the Cal Poly graduation weekend, 13-15.

For a meal, Artisan is very nice and highly rated.

Firestone Brewing is also based in Paso and very popular.
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Mar 6th, 2014, 08:14 AM
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I was in Paso Robles last summer and stayed in a cottage at Peachy Canyon. It was up on a hill, and had fabulous views in every direction. It was a two bedroom house, and it think they may have a smaller one. It's nice, definitely not the Ritz, but comfortable. And I was able to eat almonds right from the trees, something I've never done before.

We went to many vineyards. I think Tablas Creek, Ancient Peaks and Peachy Canyon were my favorites, but I did enjoy them all. Also did a visit to the Pasolivo olive farm.

Thomas Hill Organics was our favorite restaurant. Large varied local menu and, obviously, a great wine list.

I've never been to Napa, so I have no basis for a comparison.
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Mar 6th, 2014, 08:16 AM
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Mar 6th, 2014, 08:27 AM
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There may have been no threads 'about' Paso Robles but there have been MANY threads that include info about Paso Robles. Many threads about SF / LA road trips have a little or a lot about the Paso Robles area.

Michelle and sum have given you good starting points -- I really liked Artisan.

Peachy Canyon and Lohr may be my favorites - but I've only been to 4 or 5 in total.
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Mar 6th, 2014, 09:03 AM
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Another vote for Artisan!
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Mar 6th, 2014, 10:18 AM
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Patrick, been to Paso a few times and like the area. I usually stay in Cambria because it's one of my favorite little cities and drive to the wineries. But I've always wanted to go to Paso for the weekend and stay in one of the B&B type places that are part of vineyard. There are some that get really great reviews.

My friend goes to Paso often and they stay at The Paso Robles Inn which is right downtown and make it convenient to go to dinner, etc. There are a few great restaurants there, Artisan, Thomas Hill Organics, Il Cortile. I've wanted to eat at Artisan for some time but timing hasn't worked out.

Paso is known for it's red blends and they have some really good ones. They farm lots of Rhone Grapes and on one of my visits I learned a lot about dry farming. Was very interesting.

I haven't really had time to explore all the wineries so have just stuck to a few on Hwy 46. If you look up 90 point wines quite a few come up, Calcareous is supposed to be one of the best, Caliza is good. In 2010, Saxum Winery won the #1 wine out of 100 from Wine Spectator (not sure they have a tasting room). Tablas Creek is good, Lohr is good. There are so many and I've only been to a few.

I think you would really like it there.
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Mar 6th, 2014, 10:20 AM
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I will also ask my DD about the wines there. I know she has some that she really likes and she is a bit of a wine snob. She doesn't get that from me!! lol
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Mar 6th, 2014, 10:20 AM
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My husband and I love going to Paso Robles and try to go at least once a year (since we live in LA). We LOVE good food and the restaurants in Paso are really wonderful! We were just there last week! Here are our top choices: Il Cortile, Robert's, La Cosecha, Estrella. We have also dined at Artisan, Buona Tavola, Bistro Laurant, Villa Creek Bar and Grill and Thomas Hills Organics. We have eaten at all these and have had good meals at them all, but would highly recommend the first four.

As far as wineries, we like Le Cuvier. They pair their wines with food bites that are wonderful. We also enjoy Eberle. We usually have a picnic on the grounds. A great place to get cheese, meats and bread for a picnic is Di Raimondos Italian Market.

We did a tour, tasting and had a wonderful lunch at Kiler Ridge Olive Oil Farm.

As far as accommodations, we have stayed at two "vacation rentals." One is a bit out of town but a lovely place with a full kitchen and nice deck with lovely views. It's called Bluemoon Hideaway. The other is where we stayed last week which is right in the town square. Very contemporary, comfortable with a kitchen and we LOVED the location being right downtown. It is called Park Place. You can find these on Trip Advisor's Vacation Rentals.

Hotel Cheval is also right downtown and although we have never stayed there, it looks lovely.

We were going to Napa once a year but now we are happy to go to Paso Robles (closer to us and we can drive). We love Napa but Paso Robles is really nice too.

In Santa Barbara, highly recommend dining at Bouchon.

We love traveling up and down the California Coast! You will have a great time!
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Mar 6th, 2014, 10:31 AM
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Just got an update from this sight:
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Mar 12th, 2014, 01:06 AM
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Great to hear you’re coming to our area Neo!

First, here is the weather pattern for June in Paso. I bring this up because I absolutely dread driving through Paso Robles in the summer. I can hardly wait to get to the searing heat of the San Joaquin Valley if that’s an indication. Early June may not be so bad.

Second, here is the weather pattern for Cambria in June. It’s just a half hour west on the ocean taking highway 46 straight across. It’s also a nice drive. Moonstone Beach in Cambria is a lot of people’s favorite for hotels facing the ocean. You don’t have to go all the way into Paso to catch Vineyard Drive which is the wine trail west of the 101.

Third, you have other options. Just a few minutes south of Paso is Atascadero and west of that on the 41 is Morro Bay.

Half hour south of Paso is San Luis Obispo (we say SLO). Madonna Inn is a trip. Very nice, customized and unusual rooms like the Rock room, etc. Very good food there too. The weather is nice in SLO all year round. It’s a nice small town to walk and explore starting around Higuera Street.

The west side of Paso on the Vineyard Drive wine trail has some great Zins especially at Turley, my favorite for Zins.

Justin is known for its Isosceles Cab. You can’t sample it, you have to buy it. It is very good and has a bit of Merlot.

Another favorite is Opolo. They have homemade sausage and pizza you can have with your wine. They have a good Mountain Zin verses a Creekside Zin. They also make a nice blend called Rhapsody.

Cypher is a bit of a kick-in-the pants small tasting room that occasionally comes up with some knock-out blends. They have a small deli there too.

Here is a map of the wine trail and you can see the start of Vineyard Drive is accessible from Templeton or off the 46.

The west side of the 101 is woodsy with slight rolling hills which make it a nice drive. The east side of the 101 on 46 is the other part of the ‘trail’ and flat, basically off the freeway, but also has some good wineries.

Tobin James has some good wines. I didn’t believe that because I tasted there and didn’t like it, but then a friend had me over and poured a couple of bottles of some really fine wine from there. Must be the price.

Fourth, my personal option would be to stay in SLO at the Madonna Inn or at Sycamore Resort and Springs on Avila Drive just outside of town. The Gardens Restaurant there is nice.

Also, Zorro’s on Shell Beach Drive about 10 minutes away has some very good Mex-American food. It’s small, with outside tables very close together but one of our favorite little spots to eat. There is generally a line waiting.

Fifth, if you stay at one of the two above, you will be 20 minutes from Leattecia Winery to the south.

Their 2010 Pinot is fantastic. They also make a really good port. I might have some right now!

The Foxen Canyon wine trail has an unlikely start off Betteravia Road (turn left) at the end of Santa Maria. Drive through some ag areas and you will first think you’re lost. Be sure to turn on Foxen Canyon which is the start.

This map shows it going north to south.

Foxen winery has a new tasting room and the “old shed” off the side of the road which I think is pretty cool. They make a great cab.

Zaca Mesa has come into its own. They sometimes have old reserve blends that they don’t let out for tasting that are extremely good. This is part of the trail you see in Sideways; in fact Fess Parker winery is in the movie with a different sign. Nice spot, wines so-so.

The trail crosses over 154 into Los Olivos, a quaint very small walking town that’s known for its tasting rooms and BBQ tri-tip sandwiches. Matties Tavern is an original stage coach stop and has a nice menu.

Take Grand Ave through town and connect to Alamo Pintado Rd for a short scenic drive towards Solvang. There are a number of wineries around Ballard. Blackjack was in Sideways. Past Solvang heading towards 154 to SB is Gainey. I haven’t been there yet but many people like it. Ask for Eric who serves.


You can make it back to SLO in about 90 minutes or head over the pass to SB (about 30-40 minutes).

bear900 is online now  
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Mar 12th, 2014, 04:35 AM
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bear - marvelous, informative report. Have only driven 46 from Paso Robles out to the Ocean/Cambria - but my wife's nephew - who has become something of a young onephile (particularly for the better Zins) - spent his honeymoon at Justin Winery and they loved it.
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Mar 12th, 2014, 04:39 AM
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I would also add that by Santa Maria is the fabulous Lavender farm,which has a great area for picnics - overlooking the fields of Lavendar.
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Mar 12th, 2014, 05:01 AM
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And Bear if I might ask. I have yet to sample many good Zins (tried a few - but guess I retain a little of the old predjuice for spending very much) - and would appreciate some recommendations for the ones you like best in the $15 to say $30 range? Or higher if you can recommend a killer.

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Mar 12th, 2014, 05:02 AM
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That's suppost to read: for not spending very much on Zins......
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Mar 12th, 2014, 05:06 AM
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And Neo - it's called the Clairemont farms Lavender field - closer to Los Olivos actually.
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Mar 12th, 2014, 06:31 AM
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We went years ago. I remember there being next to nothing in the way of lodging, aside from a few scattered B&Bs. Hopefully things have improved.

Wineries we tend to like include Justin, Tablas Creek, Turley, and Saxum, off the top of my head.
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Mar 12th, 2014, 12:28 PM
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TomSd - Turley is still my favorite for Zinfandels. Although I’m not far away it’s impossible to get around to all the tasting rooms. In fact, when we go to Paso Robles for wine, I’m content staying on the west side of the 101 traveling on and around Vineyard Drive. It’s more scenic, and has more of the wine ambiance than highway 46 for us. Doesn’t mean they don’t have good wines there too.

There is more lodging being built right on some of the vineyards. My favorite sighting is at Opolo. If you stay there they will take you by cart up the hill to the vineyards and you get free wine tasting during your stay. They have a nice Zin but I won’t compare it to Turley. I was an Opolo club member for a long time, and I swear when they have member events with food and wine up on the hill overlooking the vineyards you may as well be in Italy. It’s very beautiful.

Justin has moved its tasting room up the road and is now in a cavern where they store the barrels. They still have cottage lodging and an overly priced restaurant at the original spot. Most Inns built on vineyard property are very expensive.

I buy the Turley Ueberroth Vineyard Zinfandel, Paso Robles for about $40 at the winery. I need to go back soon for more, and just for the ride.

A friend just gave me a bottle of Salisbury 2012 Zinfandel. It’s a mid-range Zin with some unusually strong berry flavors. It’s quite nice and probably in the $25 dollar range. I drive by this place off the freeway all the time and it has never appealed to me to stop. Just goes to show that some good wines can be found at mom & pop vineyards.

Paso Robles’ specialty is Zinfandels. If you’re a cab drinker you may find it hard to make a switch. My suggestion is to pay a bit more and start with the better Zins, then you can taste your way down to a price level you will still like. Sometimes you can find good names at Costco. I saw a Justin Isosceles cab at Costco for $55 and was shocked they even had it. Just saying you can spot good names there if you know them.

Travelgourmet – They have some decent newer hotels now in Paso Robles but I wouldn’t stay there. That’s just a personal preference. I would stay somewhere out of SLO or nearby Shell Beach hotels, and take a limo wine tour to Paso. Well worth the money, especially if you don’t have a designated driver.
If you have to drag in from Vineyard Drive or highway 46 after a day of tasting there’s a Courtyard Marriott on Vine Street in Paso Robles.

Neo – From Hearst Castle (really a ranch house) down to Santa Ynez just before Santa Barbara this is primarily ranch country. It’s not unusual for wealthy business owners to be branding cattle on weekends. You won’t find top-notch restaurants as a Foodie may expect. If you love beef you can find it at just about any saloon type of place right out of a western movie with tables near the bar and people eating stakes. F. McLintocks Saloon & Dining House in Paso Robles and in SLO on Higuera Street are good examples. Steaks are generally cooked over red oak. Tri-tip roast cuts are often BBQ’d here. The cut doesn’t exist back east as it is ground up and there are only two per cow. Someone in nearby Santa Maria threw one on a red oak BBQ and voila! They became an All-American city. (true!) It’s a good time to experience the flavor of the area. Buellton has a Hitching Post shown in Sideways. The original (and better) is in a podunk town two blocks long in Casmalia heading towards Lompoc. People who know this place come from all over to eat there. It’s not unusual to see suits walking in.

McPhees in nearby Templeton is rated tops and the cook came from Cambria. Rosa’s Italian in Pismo Beach is good. Don’t bother with Asian (except Thai) or Mexican food here. In SLO many spots are smaller specialized places for tourists and college types like Jaffa Café (Mediterranean), or Firestone Grill.

I lived up and down the state and now here for twenty years. You give up the city life for a taste of the old west, the nearby scenery, wine country, sense of community and the slower pace of life. It's still expensive and we try to keep the gates closed.
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Mar 12th, 2014, 01:35 PM
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Lots of good information - thanks. Bookmarking for future trip.
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Mar 12th, 2014, 02:43 PM
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Thanks a lot - Partner!!
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