Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia’s wine coun­try

Travel Guide to California - - PASO ROBLES - BY JILL K. ROBIN­SON

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.

Out­door Ad­ven­tures

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.

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