This trip to Paso Robles marks our tenth year in a row of traveling to this wine country. Much has changed since 1999, some good and some bad. The earthquake of December 2003 and the onslaught of many new wineries have brought about many changes to this old California farming town. In many ways it still is a town in transition. There is still a lot of the old; cowboys strolling the streets, McClintock’s Saloon, Corrigan’s barber shop and others. But for sure, Paso Robles is trying to go upscale. Each year we visit, there are always a few more tasting rooms in town and new wineries to visit. Last year two new fancy hotels opened catering to the wine crowd and the affluent. This year, on Highway 46 West just before Vineyard Drive, a huge winery is under construction. It looks quite out of place in the Paso landscape of rolling hills, oak trees, and beautiful vineyards.
We always stay in the old Paso Robles Inn. We stay in the Annex, a section of the hotel that was damaged in the earthquake and totally rebuilt. Since it is totally new, it is not supposedly haunted like the rest of the hotel. Folklore has it that the hotel has been haunted since it was rebuilt after it burned down in 1940. Supposedly the only individual who died in that fire haunts it. Nevertheless the location is terrific because you walk to dinner and have no worries about a designated driver.
Our favorite breakfast and lunch spot is the Panolivo restaurant. For breakfast they have great coffee, assorted pastries, or a full breakfast. For lunch at Panolivo, we order a take out delight and head to the wineries for a picnic lunch. On this trip we discovered a new coffee shop in town, the Amsterdam Coffee House. It is been open only seven months but seems to be a very popular spot in the a.m. For dinner there are several good choices, but nothing beats the Artisan restaurant. If this place were in the Napa Valley, our bet is it would have a Michelin star. This place is usually packed, so make sure you make a reservation.
As for wineries, there are many to visit. On this last trip, we visited several and these are the ones we liked the most and can recommend to anyone.
Poalillo Vineyards is one of the smallest wineries at just under 500 cases. Charlie Poalillo is one Paso Robles’ favorite winemakers and owners. We will have more to tell about Charlie in a future blog post. The wines are big and the ride to the winery is very scenic.
Pomar Junction is a new winery located in the vast farmlands east of Highway101. The Pomar Junction farmland dates back eight generations of family ownership, with the last 30 years devoted to wine grapes that were sold to various wineries. The current family members decided it was time to take their wonderful sustainably-farmed grapes and make their own wine. Their consultant winemaker is Kevin Riley of Sextant fame. How can they go wrong with fabulous grapes and a famous winemaker? The views are gorgeous and this winery is a must if you want to picnic.
Another new winery nearby is Pear Valley Vineyards. Go there just to enjoy the view but do taste their wines. We especially liked the Chardonnay and Syrah and the very pleasing tasting room.
We decided to visit the historic Paso Robles train station at the end of the downtown area. The train station has been restored for retail use. Here we found the Anglim winery tasting room. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of these wines. This is a husband-wife team that focuses on Rhone varietals plus a few other varietals. These wines are excellent and we purchased several including a Viognier, Petite Sirah, and a very dry RosÃ©.