We are all itching to get out and travel. But with a global pandemic, the utmost precautions need to be taken when you leave your home. While hopping on an airplane is not something you may want to do, a road trip in your car is a wonderful way to get out and explore. And what is a better getaway than a weekend in wine country?
Paso Robles is a great destination for a wine country getaway. With an open-air downtown, it is possible to walk around the square and find street-side dining or visit a winery where you can taste outside, often with views of the vineyards. Many people visiting Paso are lax when it comes to wearing masks, however, wineries, restaurants, and most accommodations are adhering to the latest health and safety protocols to make your trip as safe as possible.
Travel to wine country today requires planning ahead. It is necessary to reserve a tasting at a winery or a seat at a restaurant in advance. Here are recommendations of where you can go and what you can do while remaining safe. So, put on those masks and start planning a safe weekend getaway to Paso Robles.
WHERE TO TASTE WINE
At the current time, wine tasting rooms are only allowed to operate outdoor service if they do not have an on-site restaurant. Tasting room staff are required to wear masks. Visitors are also required to wear masks, except when tasting wine. Groups larger than six people cannot be accommodated.
Daou Family Estates (2777 Hidden Mountain Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
Daou Family Estates is located on the top of Daou Mountain in the heart of the Adelaida District, approximately 8 miles from downtown Paso Robles. Founded in 2007 by brothers Georges and Daniel Daou, Daou Mountain was where they determined that they could make high-quality Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Journey to the top of Daou Mountain where you will be greeted by the gloved and masked staff. You will be welcomed with a glass of wine and escorted to your outside table where you will be sitting at an elevation of 2,200 feet. Tables are spaced out and the views are extraordinary. As you enjoy a tasting, you can order food off the menu.
LAW Estate Wines (3885 Peachy Canyon Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
Located above Peachy Canon Road on the west side of Paso Robles, the LAW Estate sits high upon a hill from which you can see Daou Mountain across the valley. LAW Estate Wines was founded by Susie and Don Law, avid cyclists and skiers from Colorado. After falling in love with Rhone wines, they chose Paso Robles to focus on Rhone varieties. With 400 acres, of which 80 acres are under vine, LAW Estate Wines released their first wine in 2010. The wines are 100% estate fruit that is organically farmed and hand-harvested. In the winery, native fermentations are used and there are no pump overs or sulfur added.
On your visit to LAW Estate Wines, you will be greeted by a team member who is dedicated to you for your tasting. Sitting on the shaded patio feels like sitting in the backyard of a friend’s home and is a lovely setting for enjoying LAW Estate Wines.
Clos Solène (2040 Niderer Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
Located on the west side of Paso Robles in the heart of the Willow Creek District, Clos Solène is a family-owned winery. Owner Guillaume is a sixth-generation winemaker from the south of France. Dedicated to Rhone varieties, Guillaume named the winery in honor of his wife and partner Solène.
A visit to Clos Solène feels like a visit to the French countryside. The 28-acre property, with 17 planted acres, has a charming tasting room with trellised outdoor seating. Visits are always by appointment only and a dedicated tasting room staff will join you to discuss the beautiful wines.
ONX (2910 Limestone Way, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
Located in the Templeton Gap, ONX (pronounced "onyx") is a 127-acre estate vineyard with 57.2 acres currently planted with 18 varieties. A second vineyard, Kiler Canyon Vineyard, was purchased in 2017. Sitting atop a hill in the Willow Creek AVA, Kiler is planted to Syrah which is known to be some of the best in the county.
ONX has a tasting room in Tin City but offers experiences on the vineyard property. Make an appointment for a tour that starts in the Tractor Shed, an outdoor covered patio set in the middle of the vineyard. Head on an off-road tour through the vineyard and taste the wines where they are grown. Or reserve one of the semi-private vineyard oases and enjoy a relaxed tasting. Order a cheese plate or bring a picnic lunch.
Nenow Family Wines (3860 Peachy Canyon Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
ONX winemaker Jason Nenow also makes wine for Nenow Family Wines, a joint project between his family and his sister’s family. Sourcing from vineyards that are dedicated to quality, not quantity, Nenow Family Wines is a family project based on quality and love. At the tasting room, located on the Westside of Paso Robles, enjoy an outdoor tasting of the Rhone varieties while sitting on the outdoor deck.
Vines on the Marycrest (5076 Mustard Creek Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
Located off Nacimiento Lake Drive about 3.5 miles out of town and across the street from Chronic Cellars, Vines on the Marycrest is a boutique winery owned by Victor and Jenni Abascal. Victor was a sound engineer in Los Angeles when he first ventured into wine. He planted his first vines on the hills of the Marycrest Manor, a convalescent home, in Culver City. Today he has 26 acres of steep hills in the Adelaida district of westside Paso Robles and the winery is named in homage to his first vines. Each wine is named after famous songs, such as “Jive Talkin,” “My Generation,” “Round Midnight,” “So What,” and more.
Epoch Estate Wines (7505 York Mountain Road, Templeton, CA 93465)
Founded in 2004 by Liz and Bill Armstrong, Epoch is tucked away amongst eucalyptus and redwood trees in west Paso Robles. Epoch Wines is growing Rhone varieties, as well as Tempranillo and Zinfandel, sourced from three estate vineyards. The Paderewski Vineyard, purchased in 2004, was first planted by Polish pianist, as well as Poland’s prime minister in 1919, Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Paderewski came to Paso Robles for the hot sulfur-rich mineral baths for his rheumatism and fell in love with the area so in 1913 he purchased 2000 acres on the west side and planted Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. He took his grapes to York Mountain Winery to make the wine. Liz and Bill Armstrong purchased the Catapult Vineyard in 2008 and in 2010, they also purchased the historical York Mountain Winery, reconnecting the legacy between Paderewski and York Mountain.
Book an appointment and enjoy an outdoor tasting among the eucalyptus and redwood trees at York Mountain. Bring a picnic to enjoy while tasting five wines. Epoch Estate Wines is dog friendly.
Niner Wine Estates (2400 Highway 46 West, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
After a business trip in 2001 brought him to Paso Robles, Richard Niner, and his wife Pam purchased Bootjack Ranch in the Geneseo District of Paso Robles. Today Niner Wine Estates also owns the Heart Hill Vineyard in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles and the Jespersen Ranch in Edna Valley. Son Andy Niner now runs the family business, which includes the Solar Powered & LEED Certified winery, tasting room, and a restaurant.
Relax and enjoy a tasting and lunch while looking at the vineyard. The restaurant features seasonal, local ingredients from local farmers, butchers, and artisans and is served picnic-style to enjoy with the estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or other varieties from their range of wines.
Bushong Vintage Company (565 12th Street, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
Jason Bushong is a small-lot wine producer who works with eclectic varieties sourced from across the Central Coast. From sparkling Gewurztraminer to Pinot Noir to Rhone varieties to Tempranillo, Tannat, and Barbera, Bushong Vintage Company will intrigue and excite your palate while the label art will catch your eye. Book a seat outside the tasting room in downtown Paso Robles and enjoy the wines while listening to music from Jason’s collection of over 1,000 Vinyl LP's on the premium hi-fi system.
WHERE TO STAY
Cleanliness is of the utmost importance when heading out of town. I recommend two places for two different experiences. If you want to stay downtown, near the restaurants, head to The Stables. And if you want peace and quiet in the middle of the vineyards, book one of the houses or apartments with ONX.
The Stables (730 Spring St, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
With the same owners as the high-end Hotel Cheval, The Stables is a charming renovated 19-room motel with a Western chic equestrian theme. Located in downtown Paso Robles, The Stables is a few blocks from the center of town. Each room is new, modern, and stylishly decorated. There are single rooms and double rooms that run about $150/night during the week and $350/night on weekends. There is also a Bunkhouse that comfortably sleeps six which is perfect for families or small groups. Each room has an independent entrance so that you do not need to worry about elevators. And, at night, sit by the communal outdoor fire and sip on a bottle of wine you picked up during the day. With advance notice, The Stables is dog friendly.
If you want to look at the stars at night and wake up to the view of the vineyard, then book one of the houses or apartments at ONX Winery. ONX has two properties. The Kiler Canyon Vineyard Retreat offers a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house ($480/night) or a single room apartment with a private entrance ($165/night). Located atop a hill, you will get a wonderful night of sleep after enjoying the hot tub under the stars. ONX’s other property is the Briarwood Cottage, located on the ONX Estate Vineyard, a short 10-minute drive from downtown Paso Robles. Known as the “fairytale house”, the Hansel and Gretel home is one of three homes on the estate vineyard. The four-bedroom house is an Olde-English style cottage with a flower garden. Above the main cottage is a cozy apartment.
WHERE TO EAT
While out wine tasting, there are two options. Either visit one of the wineries offering lunch, such as Niner or Daou. Or bring lunch with you to have a picnic at a winery. For salads and sandwiches, order from Red Scooter Deli, known for the best sandwiches in Paso Robles.
For dinner, there are many restaurants to choose from in downtown Paso Robles. While restaurants are now allowing indoor dining at 25% capacity, they all are offering patio dining and take-out.
Alchemist Garden (1144 Pine St, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
Located on a corner of 12th and Pine, Alchemist Garden opened in August 2020. Envisioned by five local hospitality specialists, Alchemist Garden offers innovative botanical cocktails and a globally focused food menu. Do not miss the French fries!
Il Cortile (608 12th St # 101, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
Open for a decade, Il Cortile Ristorante is downtown Paso Roble’s fine-dining Italian restaurant. Menus are created by Executive Chef Santos MacDonal using fresh, seasonal ingredients from local and regional purveyors. Pasta is homemade and sauces are made fresh daily. Co-owner Carole MacDonal can be found front-of-house, greeting guests, and talking about the food and wine. The wine list is a mix of Central Coast wines and Italian selections.
Basil Thai Restaurant (828 11th St, Paso Robles, CA 93446)
Perhaps not what you would expect in wine country, Basil Thai Restaurant is a family-owned restaurant serving authentic and traditional Thai dishes with lots of flavor.
California offers a great climate for outdoor life in the winter. While the days may get brisk and the nights cold, just put on a sweater and you can easily sit outside. So, if you are looking to get away for a few days, consider a trip to Paso Robles. Remember, put that mask on and travel safely!
Allison Levine is the owner of Please The Palate, a boutique marketing and event-planning agency. Allison is Level 3 WSET Certified from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and is certified as an Italian Wine Specialist from the North American Sommelier Association. She also has a Master's Degree in International Communications with a focus on cross-cultural training from the American University School of International Service. As a freelance writer, she contributes to numerous publications, including California Winery Advisor and the Napa Valley Register, while eating and drinking her way around the world. She is also the host of the Wine Soundtrack podcast. You can find additional content on her blog at Please The Palate; Twitter and Instagram @plsthepalate; Facebook: Please The Palate