I think Paso Robles is one of the most underrated wine regions in California. It has it all; gorgeous wineries, impressive vistas, hiking and biking, restaurants and even the beach. Also, if you’re a craft beer lover there are some great places to check out for a cold IPA. Recently a good friend and I embarked on a girls’ getaway and had the most amazing weekend.
WHERE IS PASO ROBLES?
Paso Robles is on the Central California Coast. Its about a 3 hour drive from Los Angeles and 3-4 hours from San Francisco. Although its been a wine region for many years, its popularity has been growing. In fact, according to the site Wine Folly, Paso Robles is California’s fastest growing AVA. “Since 2000, the number of bonded wineries has grown from 50 to over 200, driven by growth in ownership by small family-owned producers.” Those put off by the crowds and expense of the Napa Valley region, will particularly enjoy Paso Robles. When visiting Paso, its a breath of fresh air (literally) as crowds tend to be smaller than some of the more popular California regions such as Santa Barbara, Napa and Sonoma.
WHAT KIND OF WINE IS GROWN IN PASO ROBLES?
Paso Robles offers many different types of wines but you can expect to see a lot of Rhone blends including Syrah, Grenache and Viognier. Additionally the region is home to Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons.
WHAT MAKES PASO ROBLES GREAT?
Absolutely stunning vistas, excellent wine and food options, great outdoor activities like hiking and the beach and Morro Bay is 30 minutes away.
WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
Its hard to find fault with Paso, but we did find it somewhat difficult to find reasonably priced lodging – in particular hotels. We settled on an awesome Airbnb (Link to Airbnb cottage) and have no regrets about that decision. The house was perfect for us as we enjoy cooking and loved the patio and BBQ. I recommend looking into Airbnb if you are planning to travel to Paso.
The only other negative I can think of is perhaps the deep summer heat. In July and August temperatures can definitely hit the 90’s and above. If you want more mild weather definitely look to go in the Spring or Fall.
So let’s go!
DAY 1 ITINERARY
(For this trip I am going to assume that you will be arriving around mid-day.)
FIRST STOP – TOBIN JAMES WINERY (HEE HAW!) – 8950 UNION RD., PASO ROBLES, CA
Our first stop was Tobin James and we were so glad it was. Tobin James has dare I say it, “fun” wine and approachable friendly staff in a cowboy/ western themed setting. Never been to a western themed winery before? Me either! It was unexpected and fun. No hoity toity attitudes or mock turtlenecks here. Tobin James would be a great option for a wine tasting newbie who is looking to learn and taste more wine without the attitude and snobbery of some places. Our friendly host even mixed some Champagne mixed drinks for us. While none of the wines we tasted blew us away, we both left with a very affordable and drinkable Chardonnay. But what we really loved was all the helpful local advice and the map we were given by the friendly employees.
Tip: This is a great place to ask for a wine map of the area. They have maps under the counters ready to give to visitors.
NEXT STOP – PENMAN SPRINGS VINEYARD — 1985 PENMAN SPRINGS ROAD, PASO ROBLES, CA
This was a recommendation from a local Paso wine lover. She said, “its kind of like going to your grandma’s house and tasting wine in her living room.” She was right! After a lovely drive out on some country roads we pulled up to a small cottage-looking building and found ourselves in the small tasting room of Penman Springs. Totally unpretentious, the wine was lovely and surprisingly affordable. The man serving us was kind, especially as it was close to closing time. He never rushed us and offered us some cheese and crackers as well, which was great for our grumbling stomachs. The Meritage and Petit Syrah were favorites. My friend and I both bought a bottle. After trying in a few weeks later at home, I realized how great it was and called and joined their wine club! There is a small tasting fee.
NEXT STOP – DINNER DOWNTOWN PASO ROBLES AT FISH GAUCHO1244 PARK ST., PASO ROBLES
Fish Gaucho is a great option for eating downtown. The downtown is built around a small square park. There are a lot of great options but we really enjoyed the fresh guacamole and tacos. The prices were a tad on the high side but the ingredients were very fresh.
NEXT STOP – DOWNTOWN PASO ROBLES FOR SHOPPING
What trip would be complete without a stroll around the downtown. There are several cute boutiques and antique stores. To see a full list of merchants click here.
DAY 2 ITINERARY:
Its most likely a beautiful day in Paso Robles so after eating breakfast, lace up your running or hiking shoes, slather on some sunscreen and let’s go for a hike. Don’t forget to bring a water bottle and some cash with you – where we’re going you will need to pay for a day pass at the State Park. Trust me its worth every penny when you get to to the top and take in the view. You’re going to need to hop in the car and drive about 30 minutes.
FIRST STOP – HIKING THE CERRO ALTO TRAIL
The trail is about 5 miles round trip, so expect to hike for a good 2.5 hours. The 2,624-foot summit of Cerro Alto is one of the highest points in San Louis Obispo County and it culminates in a gorgeous panoramic view at the top. Getting there is fairly easy but be mindful of Internet access that we found was spotty as we got near the park – so make sure your map on your mobile is working.
Getting there – go into the Cerro Alto Campground which is tucked off Route 41 between Morro Bay and Atascadero. You’ll drive down a road for a while. When you get to the end you will see cars parked near the trailhead and campsites. You may need to put 10$ in a box for the day hike/use rate. From there the hike is a steady climb through several different environments – when you start out, it can be quite wet from a stream that runs through with some tall trees. As you climb further the trees dissipate and it becomes drier with more scrub-brush. You’ll encounter some beautiful views throughout the hike but keep going, the summit is worth it – 360 degree views from mountain to ocean. Grade A for the view.
NEXT STOP – FIRESTONE WALKER FOR LUNCH AND A BREWERY TOUR
1400 RAMADA DRIVE, PASO ROBLES, CA
Firestone is just off the 101 you can’t miss it – not only does it have a tasting room and restaurant but its also one of the main production sites for its impressive roster of beer. Even if you’re not a “beer person” Firestone is a great place to try some different beers from IPAs to Stouts to Porters to sours. If you have never toured a brewery before, I recommend checking it out. Its a great way to see how the beer is made and the process that goes into each beer. If you want to do a tour at Firestone, call in advance to schedule. Tours last about 30-45 minutes, space is very limited and reservations are strongly recommended. Note, if you are traveling with kids know that only children 12 years old and over are allowed to go on the tour and for your safety, the brewery requires that you wear flat, closed toe shoes or you will NOT be allowed in the brewhouse.
Additionally the food is solid, I particularly like the Ahi tostada. It appears on the appetizer portion of the menu but its definitely enough food for a satisfying meal. My family stops at Firestone religiously every time we drive to northern California (both this location and the location near Solvang) they have a great kids menu including a giant hot dog (enough for small children to share) gooey Mac N Cheese and a chocolate sundae. Other great options for adults include the pizzas and salads, the DBA Mac N Cheese is delicious if you have a hankering for some comfort food after a long hike. If you are not familiar with Firestone’s beers I recommend doing a series of “tasters” where you get a few ounces of several beers to try.
DAY THREE ITINERARY:
WINE, WINE, WINE
Today is all about the wine. You are in for a treat because the wine and the scenery are amazing. I particularly adore the spring when everything is green and blooming but its beautiful year round. The three wineries I am going to recommend are just a small sampling of the great options. Pick up one of these maps, they are typically available for free at every winery.
FIRST STOP – OPOLO – 7110 VINEYARD DR. PASO ROBLES, CA
Opolo opens at 10 am. This is a great spot to enjoy wine tasting, they do have some snacks for purchase as well. Take a stroll around the grounds. The tasting room is in a large barn looking structure. It has a very laid back atmosphere. We tried a lot of varietals, including some tasty blends. We both bought a bottle here for around the 25$ range.
NEXT STOP – HALTER RANCH – 8910 ADELAIDA ROAD, PASO ROBLES, CA
The road to Halter Ranch is one of the most beautiful I have ever driven; picture green fields with gorgeous oaks dripping with moss. When you get to the winery you will drive through a covered bridge to get to the winery building. The outdoor patio is beautiful and it has a outdoor fireplace. It was a warm day and so we brought our tastings outside to take in the view. This is truly a must-not-miss spot. Oh and the wine’s delicious too. I brought home a Cab and I’m letting it age a bit more before opening it.
LAST STOP – LUNCH AND WINE TASTING AT DAOU — 2777 HIDDEN MOUNTAIN ROAD, PASO ROBLES, CA
Last but certainly not least — DAOU. This winery wins the award for best views. High up on Hidden Mountain Road the winery sits offering beautiful vistas as well as a restaurant. Expect big crowds, and to take a shuttle from the parking lot up to the winery. When we were there, there was a red carpet leading into the winery which was a bit strange, but perhaps it was for an event. Prices are higher but the views are worth it. The wine is solid, expect bottles to range from the high $30’s on up. Instead of a tasting my friend and I both purchased a glass and found some chairs overlooking the valley. Even if its crowded you should be able to find a place to sit, DAOU grounds are vast.
Well, that wraps up the trip. By all means, there are many other things to do, a day trip to Morro Bay and the rock, biking and other hiking, many, many other wineries.
Enjoy and I hope this makes your travel to Paso Robles more fun!