Paso Robles Wine Country Two-Day Getaway
It has been a long two years since we spent time in the Paso Robles wine country. Our very first visit to this wine country was in 1998, and we have returned on numerous occasions. You can’t imagine the growth in the wine and food scene since our first visit. In 1998 there were, at the most, 50 wineries in Paso Robles. Today, there are more than 200. In town, there were perhaps one or two nice restaurants; now it is a gourmet mecca.
On this visit we found some subtle changes. There seems to be a lot more traffic and more crowds in the tasting room. Maybe folks are concerned about the state of wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma and are heading to Paso as an alternate choice. We noticed tasting room fees are creeping upwards, not as high as the Napa Valley but enough to make a few days of wine tasting very expensive. The wine prices are also up.
I love the handy tool on the Paso Robles Wine Alliance Website for filtering wineries to visit. Select your choices and, bang, you get a list of wineries to visit. I started by selecting filters at $0 tasting room fees and wine prices less than $25 a bottle. Only nine wineries popped up among the over 200 Paso Robles wineries. This is what we did over two days in Paso Robles.
Our first stop on Day One was Lone Madrone on the lovely Adelaida Road. The Adelaida Road Wine Trail is a terrific guide for visiting excellent wineries in the Paso wine region. Lone Madrone is a simple tasting room with a quiet picnic area. You get to taste five wines for $15. The man behind the Lone Madrone label is Neil Collins, the winemaker at Tablas Creek, the esteemed Rhone producer of fine wines. We enjoyed all the wines here; they are very well made and fun wines. All the wines are produced from grapes that have been sourced from various vineyards. No wine is made here, but it is a very nice place to taste wines.
Our second stop is Halter Ranch Vineyard, further west on Adelaida Road. The Halter Ranch winery is quite the contrast from Lone Madrone. The winery has an absolutely stunning, state-of-the-art winemaking facility. The tasting room is expansive, with grand windows that look out into the vast vineyards of Halter Ranch. It is packed with tourists and staffed appropriately.
The views are sensational and the wines are very good. For a $15 tasting fee, you taste five wines and, if you purchase a bottle, the fee is waived. I love that policy. The Grenache Blanc is delicious, our favorite of the white wines. In the reds, the CDP (Côtes de Paso) and the Syrah are both beautifully balanced and very flavorful. Y0u can also buy wines by the glass and retreat to the outdoor tables to enjoy a serene experience.
From Adelaida Road, we work our way back to town via Highway 46 West. Vineyard Drive leads to the highway and along the way are many excellent wineries worth a stop. A good picnic winery is Castoro Cellars, just off Highway 46. The wines are reasonable and the staff very friendly. Castoro is one of the early wineries in Paso Robles.
For our first night in Paso Robles, we have elected to prepare dinner in our rental home. With the advent of Airbnb and others, renting a home in Paso Robles is an additional option to hotel and motel lodging. We cooked up two Ribeye steaks on a very hot cast iron skillet and matched them with a Halter Syrah and a Lone Madrone Nebbiolo. We lodged at a home a 1/2 mile from the downtown area.
Day Two Paso Robles Wine Country
We walked to the Paso Robles Plaza for coffee and scones at the Red Scooter Deli. I love the sign on the wall, “No Wifi, pretend like it is 1994 and talk to each other.” The Red Scooter Deli is a perfect choice for stocking up on deli lunches for a wine country picnic. Unlike the Napa Valley, most of the wineries in Paso Robles have picnic areas.
Today, we plan on hitting the wineries on the east side of Hwy. 101. It is not as pretty as the westside in terms of backroads, but there are some great wineries to be explored. First stop is Bianchi Winery. This a beautiful winery facility, complete with pond and Bocce courts. The wines are reasonable and delicious, and there are several different varieties on the wine list. It is too early for lunch for us, but in the future it will be on the top of the list for a midday feast. One of the wines we liked was the Refosco. Refosco is an Italian grape, the second most grown in Italy. Unfortunately, the vineyard sourced for this wine has been replanted with another grape variety, so this is the last of the Bianchi Refosco wine.
Further along the backroads from Bianchi, we pass a small winery called Rio Seco. The winery and vineyards were established in the 1980’s. This is a small (1700 cases) family-owned winery. We love the coziness of the tasting room and that the winemaker is giving the tasting. There are no frills here, just plain old-fashioned wine fun. The wines are good and inexpensive. They are not high quality with new French barrel aging. Just decent wine. The founder and original winemaker, Tom Hinkle, was a major league baseball scout for 30 years. His baseball labels add fun to the wine bottle. How about Squeeze Play, Clubhouse Red, or Stealin’ Home?
Driving along the eastside wine route, we pass by several wineries including Pear Valley, Penman Springs, and Clautiere. These are fun wineries, but we head to Cass Winery. It is an old favorite of ours and the winery has an excellent picnic area. We love the Rhone wines at Cass, especially the Marsanne and Roussanne, both 100% varietal wines. Delicious!
Now that we have tasted several delicious Paso Robles wine, we are headed to the Paso Robles Albertsons Supermarket for wine shopping. This article on Good Cheap Vino tells it all. It is without a doubt the best wine department of any supermarket we have visited. They have a very large inventory of wines from the local wineries and priced much lower than you can buy them at the tasting room.
Dinner at Paso Terra
Paso Terra is a real find for us. Paso Terra has been operating since 2012, but somehow we’ve have missed it on past visits. It is a French restaurant specializing in seafood. The chef is Andre Eversang, and he is a very real Frenchman. Andre graduated from Avignon Culinary School and has worked with many famous chefs. We went on a Wednesday night when one can order French wines at half price. Our dinner was: complimentary champagne, an amuse bouche followed by the main courses. We ordered ceviche, lobster bisque, salad crab cakes, butterfish and a delicious halibut. Andre came to our table and spent some time with us. We all felt like we were in Paris again.
What a fantastic two days in Paso Robles wine country. If you’re planning a trip to Paso Robles, use our Paso Roble Wine Country Planning Guide. The guide has everything you need for planning a terrific wine and food adventure.