Paso Robles is often referred to as the wild west of wine regions—a place full of the unexpected. The area boasts great restaurants and wineries, but if you’re not careful, you can find yourself down the wrong dirt roads at some subpar spots (we found out the hard way). After quite a few missteps, we went to second generation Paso native Joel Peterson to make sure the places you sip, stay and eat are on target. After two weekends in town, here are our top picks from this vine-laden world of wining, dining, reclining, and back-road driving.
West Hills (Adelaida District)
Halter Ranch is a historic property with a new winery, 10,000 feet of caves, 281 acres planted with both Rhones and Bordreaux varieties, and a diverse line-up of accessible wines. Check out the buzzed-about 2012 Cotes du Paso Red Blend, which is beautifully balanced and under priced at $32. Call ahead if you’re in the mood for a vineyard tour in their newly restored LandRover Defender 110.
One of the pioneer wineries in the region, Adelaida Cellars offers a wide variety of wines—from Pinots and Cabernets to Zinfandels—but is perhaps best known for HMR vineyard, the oldest Pinot Noir vineyard in the Central Coast Plan to spend some extra time here enjoying the complex Pinot and expansive views, and hanging with the sheep and llamas.
Eberle is owned and operated by Gary Eberle, who is referred to locally as the “Godfather of Paso wine.” Eberle helped start the Paso AVA in 1983 and has tirelessly promoted it for 35 years. They are known for their red blends and their earthy and fruitful Zinfandels.
At Cass you’ll find one of the most entertaining tasting rooms in town, featuring indoor and outdoor tasting, and a full restaurant that serves lunch paired with their food-friendly wines. The winery is known for Chef Jacob Lovejoy’s Crab Cakes, which pair perfectly with its Roussanne.
Hwy 46 West/101 Hwy
Eric and Jill Ogorsolka started Zenaida Cellars nearly 20 years ago, and have been producing unique blends of Syrah, Zin, and Cabernet ever since. Farmers first and winemakers second, they craft small lots of their blends and are known best for the Zephyr.
(TOP PICK) L’Aventure was started by Stephan Asseo, who is largely credited with raising the standard of Paso wines. He arrived in 1998 with hopes of blending Rhone and Bordeaux varietals together and managed it with flying colors. This laid back, dusty winery is making wines that rival top brands from around the world. The bottles are pricy, but are well worth it, and Optimus ($45), provides plenty of bang for your buck.
Terry Hoage Vineyards is a sweet little place that makes wines that toe the line between heavy, bold flavors and approachable delicacy. Terry, a retired 49er, and his wife Jennifer run this family business and welcome guests with a warm, country-style charm. Most vintages sell out quickly, and they are sold out now, so get on the list and make sure not to miss the Syrah blends and Rose.
(TOP PICK) If you want to stay in style, look no further than the elegant yet homey Summerwood Winery and Inn. This farm-style oasis is understated and luxurious, and serves one of the best breakfasts in town. The winery is just across the road and the vino is quite good— particularly the Zinfandel, GSM, and reserve tier wines.
Hotel Cheval feels like staying in Carmel and defines country-chic. Modern touches balance stone and ivy-covered walls, and rooms are simple and stylish. Plan to spend a little extra time here enjoying the courtyard, which has picnic tables, lounge chairs, fire pits, and romantic lighting at night.
The Paso Robles Inn is one of the most convenient places to stay if you’d like to be downtown near the bars, restaurants, and action. The place is rustic and fun, and the rooms are comfortable and recently renovated.
The Black Oak Inn (Best Western Plus) is clean, tasteful, and a convenient budget option.
Bistro Laurent is famous locally for serving a delicate and delicious 4 or 5-course tasting menu, paired with wines selected from their wine shop. The menu changes here regularly, but there are always lots of choices for each course. The salad of crispy shrimp with chives and vinaigrette, Ravioles de Romans, sautéed scallops, and pork flat iron are all outstanding options on the current menu.
(Top Pick) Artisan is chic, lively, totally farm-to-table, and the area’s most popular spot. The menu changes regularly, but expect rich, tapas-style dishes with creative cocktails and an impressive local wine list.
La Cosecha is simple in style and culinary design, but far from ordinary. The flavors are robust, dishes thoughtfully prepared, and the vibe is refreshingly down to earth.
Other fun options nearby include Thomas Hill Organics, a local favorite for lunch with a glass of wine or beer in the courtyard, and Il Cortile, a modern Italian restaurant with creative pastas and sauces. Joel, our Paso Robles insider, is a huge proponent of the tacos al pastor at Los Robles Café and the “legendary” fish tacos at Pier 46.