Central California: Paso Robles

Paso Robles is a dream to us for its light, its soft hills, and its modest elegance. Four hours north of Los Angeles, it’s really best for a long weekend.

It’s our favorite place to go wine tasting in Central California, and our Valentine’s weekend escape of choice.

For the last two Valentines running, Adam and I have explored Paso Robles, choosing to stay in nearby Atascadero at the blissfully-remote Asuncion Ridge. It’s set four winding miles above the 101 through a private gate, in a divinely comfortable house nestled amongst a few hundred acres of pristine ranch land with a spectacular view of Morro Rock far below.

The three-suite B & B is run by winemaker and chef Philip Krumal, who left a successful career in Pasadena real estate to turn this isolated spot into a perfect place to get away from city life. Philip’s breakfasts and coffee are beautiful, and it’s been a highlight of each trip to sit in the living room and talk travel with him, sharing a bottle of one his own label’s exquisite pinot noirs. You can be as alone or social as you’d like here, but we wouldn’t miss the chance to wander the quiet roads and fields around the house for gentle valley views and encounters with free-roaming black cows and fenced-in longhorn cattle.

Eventually you must leave, for you’re too close to great beaches (at Atascadero and Morro Bay) to stay at the Ridge all day. For Paso Robles, you can take the 101 straight into town (more on that in a minute), but my route of choice is reached from Highway 1.

From Highway 1, (about 5 miles north of Atascadero and 20 miles north of San Luis Obispo), take a right on gorgeous, emerald-green Highway 46, arguably the prettiest inland road in Central California. The road starts to widen, and the view rolls on for a mile on each side: gentle green hills, the Santa Lucia Mountains, sprawling, gnarled oak trees and (I swear) the same soft golden light you find in Tuscany. Cows of every stripe roam here, and grape vines stretch far and away out of sight.

Paso’s wine region is officially known as the sister to France’s Rhone Valley, and the Rhone varietals and zinfandels here are often sublime.

Each year, there are three main events in the area:

Late March: Zinfandel Festival
Mid-May: Paso Robles Wine Festival
Mid-October: Harvest Wine Weekend

This is the official wine map of the areahttp://www.pasowine.com/wineries/map.php

Our favorite wineries on this map are:

One other, Zin Alley isn’t found on the Paso wine map, but it has beautiful zinfandels and ports. Coming from Highway 1 on 46, as you approach the first of the Templeton Gap wineries, Zin Alley is on your left.

We avoid Castoro Cellars and Peachy Canyon’s tasting rooms because they’re often crowded madhouses, and their wines can generally be found at Trader Joe’s.

We avoid Donati because, well…we don’t really like their super-dry wines.

If you’re hungry and want to enter Paso from downtown rather than the back end of wine country:

From the 101, 4 hours north of Los Angeles, take the Spring Street North exit into downtown Paso. From this direction, you’re much more aware of the town’s late 1800s history; everywhere you look are tenderly restored vintage stone-and-brick buildings. Most of the town’s best restaurants and shops are set around or near a shaded park of a square with a small bandstand gazebo.

Give any of these a try:

Basil Thai Restaurant is some of the best Thai food we’ve had outside of LA’s Thai Town.

Berry Hill Bistro is perfect for salads and iced tea.

Odyssey World Cafe is a cool place to stop into on a hot day for a snack and a game of Trivial Pursuit (using just the cards).

The next time we’re in the area, we’re hoping to try the relatively new Artisan for dinner.  It has a pretty, upscale dining room and a gorgeous menu full of local, organic foods.

For a relaxing afternoon respite, rent a hot tub at the River Oaks Hot Springs Spa. ROHSS is also a full-service spa, where you can get massages, facials and more…that is, if you’re not effectively passed out from wine tasting combined with a hot tub soak.

If you end up on Highway 46 heading back out to the 1, remember that if you take a right on Highway 1, Cambria is only a few miles up the road — where another series of city-free adventures awaits.

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See also
A Weekend of Wine in Paso Robles
Central California: Cambria
A Dog-Friendly Stay at the Cambria Shore
Central California: Morro Bay
The Best of Central California

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  1. […] See also: Central California – Paso Robles […]

  2. […] dawn tomorrow for our favorite spot on the Central California coast, Cambria, with a side trip to Paso Robles, our favorite wine country in the state.  Toby the Wonder Corgi will be joining us, and […]

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