Known as the land of “cowboys and wine,” Paso Robles charms with its unpretentious attitude, stunning scenery, and wide range of wines suited for every taste and budget. In fact, Paso Robles grows over 40 different varieties and is home to some 200+ wineries (and counting), so it’s no wonder this Central Coast region is quickly becoming one of California’s most popular Wine Country destinations. From farm-to-table fare to cozy vineyard inns, here’s our insider’s guide to eating, drinking, staying, and playing in the burgeoning region of Paso Robles.
Paso Robles is located in the heart of the Central Coast, just over three hours south of San Francisco and roughly two hours north of Santa Barbara. While often compared to Napa, Paso Robles has its own sense of place and style, from the wine to the accommodations. In general, “Paso” a laid-back area with a wild west spirit, and while winemaking is taken seriously, you won’t find any pretense here — Paso is known for its friendly, welcoming vibe.
While Paso Robles was once home to ranches raising cattle and farms producing almonds and grain, today the main industry is wine, thanks to the region’s diverse microclimates and soils, cutting edge winemaking, and hospitable tourism industry.
The Paso Robles wine region has 32,000+ acres of vineyards located within its 11 different sub-appellations, which span across 614,000 acres of varied topography and elevations. Due to its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, vines see consistently hot, dry days with plenty of sunshine, followed by fog and coastal influences that cool things down at night, making for ideal growing conditions for many different types of grapes.
Though the Paso Robles AVA may be the largest in California, don’t let that fool you; everything in and around the quaint town of Paso Robles is quite accessible — mostly within easy driving (or walking) distance. Choose to stay in town or out in the hills amongst the vines; either way you’ll be in close proximity of things to do.
Offering a slice of luxury in the heart of downtown Paso Robles, the 16-room boutique Hotel Cheval wins for its personalized service and thoughtful details, including locally-made cookies upon check-in, made-to-order s’mores by the fire, and gourmet continental breakfast each morning. A stay here means you’ll be steps from downtown Paso’s shopping, dining, and tasting rooms, but if you don’t want to venture too far, take advantage of the spacious patio at the hotel’s wine bar. For those looking for resort-like amenities, head a few minutes out of town to the Tuscan-inspired Allegretto Vineyard Resort, which offers a spa and fitness center, pool and full-service cabanas, room service, and unique artwork throughout. The Allegretto also has its own wine label, available to taste at the onsite tasting room.
If staying in the middle of a vineyard is more your style, just four miles out of town is SummerWood Inn, a contemporary farmhouse-style inn at SummerWood Winery, where nine guest rooms overlook the surrounding vineyards. A stay here is sure to leave you feeling pampered, thanks to custom pillow top beds, luxurious bath products, in-room fireplaces, and wine and appetizers served each evening.
For an entirely different experience, don’t miss “camping out” in a vintage trailer at The Trailer Pond at Alta Colina Winery. Stay in one of the cozy, retro trailers for a unique camping experience and enjoy the sights of the peaceful pond and vineyard.
Those looking for variety need not worry when it comes to tasting in Paso Robles, where you’ll find cabernet sauvignon, Rhône varieties like syrah and mourvèdre, Spanish grapes like albariño and tempranillo, and even more obscure varieties like picpoul blanc and the Portuguese grape, touriga nacional.
When in downtown Paso Robles, stop into Taste in the Alley, where you’ll find over 400 local wines in stock, nearly every one available by the glass. While you could easily spend your time hopping around the 20+ tasting rooms downtown, like the boutique Herman Story Wines, for a hip, urban tasting experience, head south to Tin City, an industrial cul-du-sac community of young, creative wineries and eateries. Pop into Levo Wine for impressive wines made from quality fruit (mostly sourced from Santa Barbara County), ONX for rich and complex red blends, or make an appointment at Giornata, featuring compelling wines made from Italian varietals. When you’re in the mood for something other than wine, head to Tin City Cider Co. for thirst-quenching, dry-hopped ciders on tap, along with the occasional trivia night, or BarrelHouse Brewing Co., which has a regular line-up of live music to accompany your cold brew.
For a wine tasting experience amongst the vines, venture out to the beautiful Adelaida District, where dozens of wineries offer stunning views, impressive wine making facilities, and plenty of tasty wine to sip. At Tablas Creek Winery, recognized as one of the leaders in the California Rhône movement, take advantage of the twice-daily tours to see the organic, estate vineyards and production facility before sampling some of their much-loved Rhône wines. At nearby Halter Ranch Vineyard, you’ll be welcomed by a large, renovated tasting room, but for a more unique experience, spring for the Excursion Tour to explore the picturesque property from a restored 1984 Land Rover Defender 110.
If stunning views is what you’re after, don’t miss DAOU Vineyards & Winery, a lavish, hill-top winery offering panoramic views as you taste. Walk-ins are welcome, but the culinary experiences, such as the private Estate Picnic tasting, require a reservation. For more great views, book the Summit Vineyard Tasting at Alta Colina, where you’ll enjoy a private two-hour tour and tasting overlooking the vines.
Further south at Epoch, an appointment will get you a tour of the historic winery, once home to York Mountain Winery, and five of their estate wines. And, on the other side of town, the long-standing, family-owned Eberle Winery welcomes visitors daily to its location along the 46 East. Home to the very first wine caves in Paso Robles, Eberle offers complimentary tours of the caves every half hour.
Since wine and food go hand in hand, it’s not surprising that Paso Robles is home to plenty of great restaurants, many of which take the term “farm-to-table” seriously.
In downtown Paso, pony up to the bar or snag a table at local favorite, The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar, known for its killer cocktails and delicious, southern-inspired offerings, including shrimp and grits and the ever-popular half rotisserie chicken with buttermilk dip and house fermented hot sauce. At nearby Il Cortile Ristorante, expect fine dining, Italian-style, where homemade pastas, quality meats, and fresh seafood are served alongside a large selection of both local and imported wines. Just off the downtown square is BL Brasserie, formerly Bistro Laurent, which offers classic French brasserie fare highlighting locally-sourced ingredients, served in an unpretentious yet elegant setting.
For an intimate dining experience you won’t forget, make a reservation at the soon-to-be-open Six Test Kitchen, a 12-seat restaurant with two nightly seatings available Tuesdays through Saturdays. Located in Paso Robles’ Tin City district, reservations are sold like tickets, so if you get one of the coveted seats, you’ll be in for an evening of beautifully-plated, delicious courses sure to leave your taste buds happy — even better if you opt in for wine pairings.
Also in Tin City is the newly opened Tin Canteen, where you’ll find a mouthwatering list of menu items that change with the seasons — think Wagyu beef meatballs, duck lasagna, and four cheese pizza. When you need something sweet, walk around the corner to Negranti Creamery, a family-owned and operated creamery specializing in fresh sheep’s milk ice cream. At their Tin City scoop shop, choose from 16 fresh-churned, artisanal flavors, or take an ice cream pie to-go.
It’s only natural that a trip to Paso Robles would include a lot of wine tasting, but when you’re all wined out, don’t miss grabbing an after-dinner cocktail at 1122 (eleven twenty-two), a secret, 28-seat cocktail lounge and speakeasy in downtown Paso Robles.
For something that doesn’t involve food or booze, explore the many shops that line the town square. Find locally-made provisions and gifts at General Store, which features everything from artisan jams and olive oils to picnic blankets and stationary. At AndBe Boutique, peruse the chic assortment of clothing, home décor, and accessories for both men and women, then find the perfect baby gift at Bijou on the Park, a curated collection of apparel and toys for kids, as well as women’s clothing.
Outside of town, get a glimpse into the past at the Estrella Warbird Museum, home to a large collection of military aviation artifacts and memorabilia, including planes, tanks, and war equipment, as well as classic cars. Or, to experience a bit of a thrill in Wine Country, head to the historic Santa Margarita Ranch to zipline over pinot noir vines with Margarita Adventures.
If visiting Paso Robles during the warmer months, don’t miss watching a show at the popular Vina Robles Amphitheatre, an outdoor concert venue that welcomes big name acts all summer long.