Central California’s wine country
IN CALIFORNIA, THE COMBINATION of rolling hills, symmetrical lines of vineyards, award-winning wineries, local art, tasty treats for foodies and adventurous outdoor activities doesn’t always add up to the Napa Valley. Paso Robles, just a stone’s throw away from the Central Coast’s beaches and iconic Hearst Castle, happens to be one of the state’s most laid-back wine towns.
Paso’s historic town square is dotted with shops and chef-owned restaurants. Highway 46 is a bucolic drive with wineries that pour in barns, cafés, underground caves and even cattle ranches.
Wine & Olive Oil
With more than 40,000 acres of grapes and 11 sub-avas (American Viticultural Areas) growing 40 varietals that can be sampled in more than 200 tasting rooms, Paso Robles is no slouch in the wine industry. And it’s here where you just may rub elbows with family vintners at the tasting counter, because most of the wineries and vineyards are small boutique and family-owned businesses.
It’s not only about wine in Paso. Olive oil orchards and tasting rooms help add to the foodie draw with a variety of options to take home as a souvenir. Three weekly farmers markets showcase the freshest produce from local farms. Food, beer and wine festivals mark the calendar throughout the year, but are especially plentiful in summer. Innovative chefs create delicious meals to be savored in Paso’s restaurants, and the city’s impressive collection rivals even that of a large city, from artisan cheese to Mexicanstyle ice cream made with fresh fruit to rustic Italian fine dining to a classic steakhouse.
Outdoors fans have plenty of options in and around Paso, beyond food and drink experiences. Cyclists can tour wine country back roads with Paso Bike Tours, Central Coast Trailrides takes horse lovers along rolling hills and vineyards, golfers at Hunter Ranch get to enjoy the vista from the highest point in Paso Robles, and cowboys (and cowgirls) of all ages can journey into the past in a stagecoach ride with Harris Stage Lines. Lake Nacimiento is famous for its 165 miles of unspoiled shoreline, great water skiing and white bass fishing. The Estrella Warbirds Museum is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of military aircraft, vehicles and memorabilia.
At the end of your day, roll on back to any of the restaurants, cafés, wineries, or even picnic tables to enjoy a meal and a great bottle of local wine or beer.
A VINEYARD near Paso Robles, on scenic Highway 46, above; olive harvest, below.