California’s Central Coast is a bit of a mystery to many travelers.
We say that because, in the years we’ve provided our travel advising services and arranged custom itineraries in California, we’ve had plenty of people come to us for advice on where to go in this region. They want to travel the coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco, be in view of the Pacific Ocean, and see the beach and wine country. However, they often don’t realize how large and diverse it is.
Traveling California’s Central Coast
We find travelers don’t realize that as they go from Ventura in the south to Santa Cruz in the north, they’ll pass sleepy beach towns, rolling ranchlands, prime agriculture, historical sites, the famed Big Sur, and lots and lots of wineries in quite a few different regions.
And, as we talk about the area, one spot, in particular, seems to be lesser-known to travelers coming from outside California: Paso Robles.
If you’re a wine lover, you probably are thinking, “But some of my favorite California red wines come from there!” Or, if you’re a California resident, you may be thinking how the food, wine, and cute historic downtown make Paso Robles a must-visit–and we’re with you on that.
Paso is one of the top places we find ourselves educating our clients on and, we get why: there is a lot to get to know in Paso Robles, especially when it comes to wine.
Rather than dive into it all, we’re going to give you a taste of how to enjoy Paso right now.
Where Is Paso Robles Wine Country
Located in San Luis Obispo county and situated halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso Robles has a bit of the Southern California laidback lifestyle, a touch of Northern California’s innovative spirit, and yet, thanks to its ranching and farming roots, is a culture all its own.
If you’re a food and wine lover heading on a Central California road trip, passing through Paso Robles is a must. Historically, there was a lot of almond and barley farming, but today you’ll find everything from olive oil to cheesemaking and even lavender and, of course, wine.
What Paso Robles Wine Country Is Known For
With more than 200 wineries, a lot is happening in Paso Robles Wine Country. More than 80% of the wine produced in the Paso Robles wine region is red wine, and it’s known as one of the premier spots in California for growing Rhône varieties and producing red blends.
Across the region’s 11 viticultural areas, you’ll find a spectrum of geography and climates. Ask local winemakers, and they’ll lament that the region is sometimes coined “The Next Napa Valley.” They feel that’s not acknowledging that Paso Robles wine country is its unique place with distinct wine culture.
As you taste and explore, it’s apparent that a “rising tide, all ships” mentality is primarily at play. And that’s not just about the success of the wine country but also the long-term sustainability and health.
You already know that California is a global leader in sustainability in wine, and you see that in Paso Robles everywhere, from the pioneering wineries like J. Lohr to many of the new generation winemakers.
Paso Robles Wine Tasting
Recently, I visited Paso Robles with Discover California Wine to get a taste of the region’s history and its next generation. Here are a handful of wineries to see when you next travel to Paso:
Having produced wine in the area since the 1980s, J. Lohr family-owned wineries are synonymous with Paso Robles. They’re known for growing Bordeaux and Rhone varietals across both Monterey County and Paso Robles. They’ve dug in deep into sustainability and have taken a leadership role in sustainability in Paso Robles and the California wine industry as a whole.
Hope Family Winery
Another family-owned winery that’s been around for over 30 years is Hope Family Wines. They have five different wine brands in their portfolio, including Austin Hope, Treana, Quest, Liberty School, and Troublemaker.
Plan a wine tasting in their eclectic modern barn, and be sure to book their just-launched Wine and Cheese Pairing, where they pair the local Stepladder Creamery cheeses with the wines of Austin Hope.
Sans Liege Wines
Located in the hip Tin City area–which has several tasting rooms of notable Paso Robles wineries, food shops, and more–Sans Liege Wines is the brainchild of Curt Shalchlin. With his wines at Sans Liege, Curt sources fruit from around the Central Coast and aim to embrace New World innovation and the heritage of the Rhone Valley. He is also part of the beloved Fableist wines.
Also, in Tin City and just around the corner from Sans Liege Wines is Desperada. Valia From is the winemaker and founder, and she’s sourced fruit from some of the most renowned vineyards in the region. The Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc are among our favorites but be sure to try the whole gamut of wines they’re pouring when you visit.
Beyond Wine In Paso Robles
One of the main questions we get from clients is advice on what to do in Paso Robles besides wine tasting.
As people who love to get active, it must be said that this is one of our favorite parts of California for outdoor activities. You can call Paso Robles home base and then do day trips around the region for everything from hiking and surfing to horseback riding. But, if you want more of a food focus, there is everything from olive oil tastings to craft beer visits. Here are a few we’d recommend:
Try Artisanal Cheese
One of our favorite cheese produced in California, Stepladder Creamery, is very much worth seeking out. They are currently not doing tastings on the property; however, you can find them in local shops, farmer’s markets, and even as part of the new tasting experience at Hope Family Wineries.
Taste Local Ice Cream
Ask locals for must-eat foods, and they’re sure to mention Negranti Creamery. Their creative sheep’s milk ice creams have a significant following, and with a shop in Tin City, Atascadero, as well as in downtown Paso Robles, you have no excuse to skip this!
Visit A Local Farmers Market
Even if you live in California, we highly encourage you to visit a farmer’s market. One is held every Saturday morning in Templeton and another every Tuesday morning on the north side of the downtown square. Thanks to its central California location, the produce from this area is home to some of the best in the Golden State.
Take In Some Art
Set just a few minutes from downtown, the light installation is known as Bruce Munro: Light at Sensorio is beloved. Situated on a former turkey farm, it started as a temporary exhibit but has become permanent and is about to expand. Visit at sunset and plan to stay until it’s fully dark.
Tour More California Wine Regions
Looking to do wine tours in the Paso Robles area and beyond? There are plenty of options. Let us help you create a custom itinerary for your California wine region vacation–learn more about our California travel planning services here.
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