For centuries, travelers flocked to Paso Robles to experience rolling hills, coastal beauty, and mineral hot springs. The romantic backdrop remains, but today, the city’s biggest draw is undeniably the wine. In the last three decades, the area’s winery count has grown from 20 to well over 200. As Katie Hayward, owner of Uncorked Wine Tours, explained on a recent episode of the California Now Podcast, “We are one of the largest growing wine regions in the world at this point… It’s just kind of blowing up.”
The recent oeno-explosion is due in large part to the area’s unique geography. Located on California's Central Coast, 300 miles from both San Francisco and Los Angeles, the area plays host to 11 AVAs. “We have everything from Zinfandel, Verdot varietals, Roehm varietals. I mean, it's amazing,” says Hayward.
Through Uncorked, Hayward crafts customized itineraries for wine lovers seeking to taste their way through her hometown. Steal the recommendations Hayward curated for California Now Podcast host Soterios Johnson, and make sure to listen to the full episode to learn more about the wonders of California wine.
If you only have a weekend to wine taste, Hayward recommends homing in on the region’s most iconic vineyards. Founded in 1983, Eberle Winery was one of Paso’s first producers and it continues to be one of its best. Visit the estate to find Gary Eberle, the so-called “godfather of the wine region,” sitting in the sun, signing guests’ bottles, and sipping Cabernet.
With vines dating back to the 1920s, J Dusi Wines has a strong Paso history as well. The winemaker, Janell Dusi, employs her grandfather’s Old World grape-growing techniques to develop award-winning Zinfandel, Carignan, and more. For a spectacular view and a high-end experience, head to DAOU Vineyards. The 10-year-old winery specializes in unique blends paired with culinary delights, inspired by the Daou family’s Lebanese heritage.
This agricultural region grows a lot more than grapes. Taste locally-grown fruits and vegetables styled by the area’s best chefs at one of the dozens of restaurants downtown. Hayward’s favorites include Buona Tavola for homemade pasta or Fish Gaucho for produce-forward Mexican and “the best margaritas in the area.” For seafood and sushi try The Naked Fish. Barbecue is a Central Coast speciality, and Hayward loves the tri-tip—and all the “smoked yumminess”—at Jeffry’s Wine Country BBQ.
Choose a hotel in the center of the city to enjoy Paso Robles’ charming and walkable downtown. Book a spa room at the historic Paso Robles Inn to soak the night away in a private outdoor hot tub, a nod to nearby natural sulfur springs. Steps from Paso Robles’ historic town square, Hotel Cheval is Hayward’s choice for a luxury. The cozy 16-room boutique hotel offers thoughtful touches including nightly s’mores, local wines poured in the tasting room, and a candy bar in the library.
Don’t miss what Hayward calls “a little hidden gem” within Paso proper. Tin City is an industrial maker’s market tucked alongside the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. Spend an afternoon exploring garagiste-style tasting rooms, listening to live music, strolling through the oak trees, sampling local ice cream, and sipping other sorts of beverages from Tin City Cider, BarrelHouse Brewing Co., and Wine Shine artisan spirits.
Those with time to explore should take the 40-minute drive to San Simeon right on the coast. Spend a few hours touring what Hayward calls the “iconic, historic, amazing” Hearst Castle. Or simply soak in the stark contrast between the Pacific’s windy majesty and Paso’s sunny hills before heading back inland where more world-class wine awaits.