After exchanging vows at San Francisco City Hall in1954, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio set out on their Paso Robles honeymoon. Times have changed but Paso has only gotten better. Midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso Robles in California's Central Coast wine country is much more than just an alternative to Napa and Sonoma.
Two hundred wineries growing 60 varietals on 40,000 acres in ideal conditions says soak up sunny days going wine tasting and bring an extra layer to wear after sunset. The grapes of Paso Robles love the diurnal spread that can deliver a 50-degree drop when daytime transitions to chilly nights, but uninformed humans are in for a bit of a surprise.
Great Wines Without Snobbery
Paso Robles is California's fastest-growing wine region. It's a pre-eminent producer of award-winning dark berry Zinfandels, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhône-style reds (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre) and whites (Viognier, Rousanne, Marsanne).
It's all about excellent wines produced by genuinely nice Paso people who are delighted to share their tasting rooms and winemaking stories with visitors. You may even get a look behind the scenes.
Walk among the vines, stroke the resident winery dog, meet a winemaker or two, take lunch in a garden with stunning vineyard views.
Downtown Paso Robles
Take a break from driving. Check out 20-plus tasting rooms within a few blocks on the Downtown Wine Trail. They range from cozy to classic to contemporary.
Downtown is easy to navigate, laid out around a grassy square with large, photographic oak trees and a handsome 1908 Carnegie Library, now the Historical Society.
Local art gallery go-to: Studios on the Park. With more good restaurants per person than most metros can dream of, Paso is the food destination of the Central Coast. Il Cortile Ristorante menu includes seriously tasty antipasti, homemade pasta and grilled octopus in one of the Central Coast’s best restaurants where an impressive wine list showcases Paso, including a hard-to-find Kukkula Noir.
Casual comfort food outdoor dining at Jeffry’s Wine Country BBQ features the signature smoked tri-tip sandwich, pulled pork, ribs, and unbeatable mac n’ cheese. A Paso Robles standard is the handmade Brown Butter Cookies corner shop; they’ll offer you a taste.
Paso Craft Makers
In just a few years, Silva Brewing has developed an outstanding portfolio of delicious, small batch, craft brewed beers to order at Jeffry’s BBQ or taste in their Pine Street location.
A Field of Light at Sensorio
You don't look at this art installation, you walk into it and through it. As sunset approaches, 58,800 stemmed spheres powered by solar softly illuminate 15 acres of rolling hills. Spread out like a carpet of your imagination, subtle and soothing shades of pink, blue, green, violet morph in and out as you wander through an ethereal otherworld anchored by trees and moonlight. Internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro has created his largest work to date, one which required 20 volunteers five weeks to install.
Come at dusk; it's best before dark as the glow intensifies. Where: 4380 Highway 46 East, Paso Robles. Tickets: From $27 through Jan. 5, 2020. Visit SensorioPaso.com
Outdoor Concerts at the Vineyard
Vina Robles Vineyard & Winery has an amphitheatre that's large enough to attract big names and small enough that every seat has unobstructed views within 150 feet of the stage, plus lawn seating. Open from April through November, check out the performer lineup.
More intimate summer concerts take place some weekends at Rava Wines, a boutique winery with lovely grounds and a feature pond with fountains.
Paso Hotel Options
Stay right in town at Hotel Cheval, a romantic luxury boutique property where rooms are set around a pretty courtyard with evening firepits and s’mores. The horseshoe shaped bar is a popular mingling spot. Also downtown, opt for landmark authenticity at the historic Paso Robles Inn with its own steakhouse. Its trendy sister, The Piccolo, with a rooftop cocktail lounge, opens in autumn 2019.
La Bellasera has no resort fees, free parking, free Wi-Fi, an outdoor pool, guest accommodation with an in-room jet tub, and the hotel serves great breakfasts on the rear patio. For upscale elegance in a Tuscan-style resort with a spa and outdoor pool, Allegretto Vineyard Resort produces and pours its own wine at Cello Ristorante & Bar.