“Traveling; first it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” ~ Ibn BattutaMany folks are starting to think about late fall vacations and or weekend getaway plans, and who can blame you, especially if you plan to be in California next weekend? So if your travel plans happen to involve visiting wine country, may heartily suggest a trip to one of my favorite wine destinations in California, none the other than Paso Robles.
A great little town, just north of Santa Barbara County, easily located right off highway 101. If you plan to leave from San Diego, may I suggest an early AM Sunday launch time, if not then take the I-5 and crossover on the 46W, it may take a bit longer; honestly you'll thank me later.
Mrs. Cuvee and I go to Paso Robles pretty frequently, not as much as we would like to, but we were fortunate enough to visit twice last year, we always enjoy the great hospitality and the friendly down-to-earth small-town feel. We had such a good time, discovered some new favorites and became reacquainted with others. We found a few new places to eat and also found a great spot to grab some sack time after a long day on the wine trail.
I've recently been asked by a couple of my friends, to recommend what I like to call hot-spots for wine-ing and dining. So what you have below, is a small, well thought out list of some of my favorite wineries I like to visit, where I've purchased more than a few bottles and will definitely be back to see them, the next time I'm in town. I've also included places to stay and fun places to grab a bite. Btw, if you didn't know, many restaurants in town, will offer free corkage for any Paso Robles wine purchased from one of the wineries. But I'd check with them first, with a quick phone call, to confirm the policy.
"I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." -Robert Louis Stevenson #whywetravel
Tablas Creek [Rhone Zone] So many favorites it's hard to name just one. This winery should be your first stop, and reserve one of their educational tasting options.
Justin: The Savant and Justification [100% First-Run Cabernet Franc] are among my favorites each year. Even though they've been sold to Fuji Water, and lost a key winemaker, they're still a top-notch producer in Paso. They're more known for Bordeaux varietals, but they still dabble in a few select Rhone and Burgundian varietals, namely Chardonnay.
Alta Colina: Their Syrah really takes flight, oh my. The views from this property are wonderful, you can see Calcareous from there. They have a cozy refurbished wood tasting bar, great wines flying under the radar.
Bodegas Paso Robles [downtown tasting room] Some outstanding Spanish wines, I highly recommend giving a swirl, don't doubt this tip.
Lone Madrone: Their Tannat is among my favorite wines being offered, along with their outstanding 2006 Bolla, a 100% Nebbiolo. Note: Tablas Creek and LM share the same winemaker. This tasting room is not to be missed.
Calcareous: Driving up [the long and winding road] to the tasting room, leaves little doubt about where winery got its name. Again the views from this winery are quite stunning, and you'll love Syrah and Grenache.
Herman Story: Tasting room on the east side of tracks in town. You’ll easily get into the nuts and bolts of why their Grenache is so fantastic and other Rhone-Zone favorites not to be missed.
Jada: Another Rhone-Zone stop that will not disappoint. Ask for the "Passing By" it's sensational juice.
DAOU: The view from the tasting room is quite stunning, and the wines ranging from Zinfandel to Cabernet Sauvignon are all quite good. You may even meet Daniel, their winemaker who's often found in the tasting room entertaining guests. All of their wines are 100% free-run.
Sextant Wines: Is just to the south in SLO, but worth the drive, so worth it. If you visit their Edna Valley tasting-room, may I heartily recommend their cheese and wine pairing, again you can thank me later. There are so many great wine choices here; it’s hard to pick just one.
Turley: If you like Zinfandel, then a trip to Zinfandel Lane is the place to be. Many of the 2008's are tasting fantastic at the moment. You have to be a member to purchase wines outside the tasting room. So if you go, prepare to take as many bottles with you as possible.
“A great wine is not the work of one man, it is the result of a tradition that is upheld and refined”, wrote Paul Claudel.
Kenneth Volk Vineyards: Which shares a tasting room with Lone Madrone, a two for one bonus. Again another stop not to be missed.
Linne Calodo Cellars: A winery known for producing seven to ten blends per year; some are heavy in Zinfandel, while others rest in a more traditional Rhone blending style. Visits are by appointment only, but worth the effort.
Denner Vineyards [Make an appointment] the owner Ron Denner is a fun to speak with, the wines produced there, are in many cases stellar! Rhone-Zone and some very nice Cabernet Sauvignon as well, like the Mother of all Exiles.
J. Lohr Vineyards The tasting room is located in what resembles an old school house. I know this is a huge brand, if you are already a fan, a visit will only further cement that sentiment. One of the few east-side wineries I recommend.
RN Estate: Please don't miss an opportunity to visit Roger and the beautiful RN Estate [the view is impressive], call-ahead or email for the sit-down tasting. You can expect to find alluring Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir and unique Paso blends, just waiting to tempt your taste-buds.
Pithy Little Wine Company It's a fun tasting experience, and they have a GSM [Elephant in the Room] which is out of this world good.
Now if you want to go to Opolo [okay] their Summit Zinfandel is massive, super aggressive [high abv] but blackberry jam tasty. If you happen to visit on a Saturday, they often [not always] have a barbeque just outside the extra-wide tasting room entryway, with many tasty treats that in my opinion pair ever so nicely with the wines being offered to sample.
The Paso Robles Inn: Is a great place to grab a steak for dinner or to have that evening night-cap. Bonus: If you bring a bottle of Paso Robles Wine with you to dinner they waive corkage and the best spot in town for a quick hardy breakfast.
Cow Girl Cafe: A 'locals' favorite, great for a hearty breakfast with generous plate size portions.
Artisan: Wow fine-dining to be had here, a great place to eat, they have a little bit of everything, with a reasonable corkage fee.
Bistro Laurent and Wine Shop: Wow, if you bring a bottle of wine in, they will pair a dinner around that wine. Fantastic French style and flavors at its best. I gave their wine list a big thumbs up.
Il Cortile Ristorante: One of the very best Italian dining experiences, outside of Italy. Order a bottle of the Grechetto Bianco with your appetizers.
Thomas Hill Organics: Farm to table at its best. But please be advised [IMO] the portions are small, and they don't offer bread. If you want my advice order some appetizers.
Villa Creek: Has a bit of everything, BYOB is an option, the wine list is decent, and the food is freaking amazing.
Now if you're looking for some low-key dining options, there are also many to be easily found in and around the downtown [aka, the park] square, also quite a few colorful local bars to help quench your thirst.
Where to stay:
For me, I like to stay at the Paso Robles Inn, and I always choose the spa rooms. Everything downtown is within easy walking distance from the Inn, the pricing is reasonable. Do be aware that the natural spring Spa-Waters do have an uncomfortable smell, but once you put in the bath-aroma they offer, it's pretty fantastic. And as a bonus free wi-fi is available.
If you do choose to stay there, ask for the rooms with the balcony over the big conference room. These rooms offer more privacy, more square feet, comfy beds, etc. If you want to use the spa, it takes at least 30 min for the tub to fill-up. And don't bother with the instructions, they seem to be a bit out of date.
Now if you want a more upscale experience [there are many to choose from], Per Cazo has a lovely bed and breakfast, nice and quiet. The rooms are well appointed, and logistically it's much closer any wineries you may be considering. They're located about 15-20 min outside of town.
I hope you find these recommendations helpful, please let me know how they turn out for you. Until next time, here's to travel and exploration, sip long and prosper cheers!