The Essential Guide to Paso Robles, CA
Paso Robles or “pass through the oaks” is a hidden gem in the central coast of California. I was delighted to make a recent trip, hosted by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, and learn more about the the Paso experience.
I expected great wine, beautiful views, and a nice town; what I found were phenomenal wines, picturesque landscapes, and charismatic people. The food is fantastic, the varietal variety is limitless, and there must be something in the water because everyone is so happy. I fell so much in love with Paso, I had to return less than a month later with my husband for a romantic getaway. Paso has it all.
I stayed in the historic Paso Robles Inn, located in the middle of downtown Paso. Originally built in 1891 it is the still the only hotel in town able to boast the healing powers of the hot springs. My room was a wonderful Spa Room located in the ballroom building, meaning I scored a hot springs hot tub! The inn is walking distance from most downtown attractions including wine stores, restaurants, and shopping. It is also a short drive to most Paso Robles Wineries.
Shortly after my arrival, my travel companions and I walked to dinner at Il Cortile Ristorante. Il Cortile strives to provide the freshest seasonal menus with locally and regionally sourced items. The dinner was an exceptional sampling of meats, homemade pasta, and fresh seafood. Dinner was paired with wine from five local producers: Hug Cellars, Nadeau Family Vintners, Pianetta Winery, RN Estate Vineyard & Winery, and Terry Hoage Vineyards.
While sitting amongst the amazing men and women from the above wineries, I learned the true side of Paso. There is an unforgettable camaraderie among them. I discovered the magic of a region where people foster growth through shared intel and cooperation. Caitlyn Pianetta talked candidly about the joys and struggles running a father-daughter business, while Robert Nadeau shared the nitty gritty of dry farming without a trellis. Auggie Hug described Paso Robles as a special magical place, and I could not agree more. Roger Nicolas regaled us with the story of how he cycled through his dreams from France all the way to the central coast. He strongly believes Paso will never be the next Napa and I couldn’t help but hope the same. The wine is just as delicious, but there is none of the attitude. Jennifer Hoage talked about the beauty of Paso Robles and the decision she and husband, former NFL football player, Terry Hoage, made to start their own vineyard. The evening was filled with laughter, knowledge, and remarkable wines.
Breakfast was served steps from my amazing bed at the Paso Robles Inn Steakhouse. The portions were more than generous and set us up for a long day of tasting. The potatoes, especially, were scrumptious. Stomachs full, we headed out to start a day of tasting on the comfy Grapeline Shuttle. In one weekend I would be shuttled to about 10 wineries, but that is not even a dent in the more than 180 bonded wineries in the Paso Robles AVA. Here are a few that truly stood out:
Windward Vineyard is a 100-percent estate-grown Pinot noir vineyard. Owner and winemaker Marc Goldberg aptly calls himself the wine shepard. He claims the vineyard makes it, and he is just there to make sure nothing bad happens to it. It might sound easy, but Marc specializes in the heartbreak grape. He and wife, Maggie D’Ambrosia, have lived a life of passion surrounding Burgundian style wines. Windward is a must-stop on my list.
L’Aventure is fueled by the zeal of owner/winemaker Stephen Asseo. The morning of my visit L’Aventure was in the full swing of harvest, and I loved seeing all the steps it takes to get those grapes into a barrel. Stephen came to Paso in order to fulfill his desire to make blends that were not approved by AOC law in Burgundy. I, for one, am glad he did.
Croad Vineyards is run by a friendly Kiwi, Martin Croad. I was honored with the chance to punch some grapes, a task that proved to be harder than it looks. Martin took us into his barrel room for some one-of-a-kind tasting. The Croads are currently building a small inn next the the winery. I can’t wait to book a stay and wake up to the amazing views.
Oso Libre Winery is a sustainable farm of 90 acres with not only grapes but free range Black Angus. When you stop in for a drink, you can also take home a big steak. Oso Libre is not the quiet rustic winery you expect in Paso; it is a party. The newest addition is a wine wagon that brings guest right up to the tasting room.
All of the vineyards in Paso Robles are unique and worth visiting, but while in town you cannot forget the delectable food.
Thomas Hill Organics is a farm-to-table market and bistro in downtown Paso. I visited the farm in the morning and ate its figs on pizza at the bistro that evening. It has a wonderful courtyard with a giant pizza oven. A farmer and an artist, Joe Thomas spends the day taking care of his farm and the nights working on the artwork that adorns the walls of the restaurant.
Olivas de Oro produces organic artisan olive oil from century-old olive trees. Frank Menacho has created a sanctuary among the rolling hills of his orchard, and guests can take in the stars from his newly renovated home. His olive oils are a treat, and the flavors are a gift. Frank cold presses ingredients with the olives to create flavored olive oils that are stronger than an infused oil. He also offers olive tree adoption as his club.
I have only hit the tip of this iceberg of a wine country that includes great hotels, culinary gems, specialty tastings, and unique vineyards. I am already planning my next trip.
Visit the Paso Wine website to plan your trip to Paso Robles and learn more about the amazing region.