Paso Robles: Where to Stay, Wine & Dine Downtown
Paso Robles: Where to Stay, Wine & Dine Downtown by: Laura Ness Wanna get away, park the car and wine and dine for a few days without once having to worry about where you left the keys? Come to Paso Robles, stay at the Inn, and put your keys someplace safe.
Begin your itinerary by checking in to the Paso Robles Inn, a charming place where famed Polish pianist Ignace Paderewski came to soak his arthritic knuckles in the healing sulphur springs, and was so moved by the experience, he ended up buying property outside of town. Many local artifacts, including a piano he played, are on display in the lobby of the original hotel building, allegedly haunted by several spirits. It’s worth a gander at the restored rooms here.
A series of vintner-themed spa suites are available, decorated in wine country regalia. The hot tub and pool will come in handy between indulgent experiences, and fortunately, there’s a full service restaurant and great cocktail lounge on premises.
Paso Robles is a walking town, centered about a gorgeous green square surrounded by shops, restaurants, wine tasting rooms and additional lodging options. It must be said that small hotels and motels are plentiful here, as this is the home of a huge state fair and rodeo each year.
Since Paso Robles had its origin in horses and cattle long before the arrival of the vines, you won’t be surprised to learn that each October, they celebrate Pioneer Days, during which beautifully decked out cowboys and girls ride into town in all their finery. This year, it’s October 11.
Speaking of horses, should your tastes require something more exotic than the accommodations offered at the Inn, may I suggest The Hotel Cheval, elegant in every way, and bridled with equine related elements at every turn. There’s a horseshoe shaped bar made of zinc, a lovely courtyard where live music can be enjoyed, benches with horse-themed pillows, and of course, each room is named for a famous horse and decorated thusly.
Next door to Hotel Cheval is Haymarket, an escape from local if there was ever one. Want some Parisian style pastries, Italian truffles or pasta, French wine or American Spoon condiments? They’re all here.
This would be a good place to begin your morning, after a walk or run around the town. Coffee is only .50 per cup, and the fresh pastries are off the hook, as is their selection of cheeses and accompanying compotes, mustards and so forth.
For a hearty breakfast on day two, make it Panolivo for the most decadent brioche French toast, bowls of cappuccino and divine Croque Madam and Monsieur. That’ll keep you going for hours, so plan on a lighter lunch after that. Another favorite, a good way to launch yourself on the trip home, is Vic’s Café, a Paso Robles favorite for over 50 years, where the waitresses call you honey, and the eggs and home fries are like Mom used to make. Amazing food and service.
After breakfast, it’s time to gear up for some wine tasting with a stop at one of the many tasting rooms that are springing up all over. Be sure to visit Burbank Ranch, Pianetta, Clayhouse, Chateau Lettau, Ascuncion Ridge and Bodegas Paso Robles.
A visit to Derby Wine Estates, one of the newest places in town, is a must, as is a tasting at Anglim Wines in the old train station, near the Greyhound bus depot.
There are several wine bars, too, including Robert’s Wine Bar and The Pony Club Wine Bar at Hotel Cheval.
Lunch options are many: Odyssey World Café is a great choice for tasty sandwiches and salads with an international flair, there’s Second Press Wine Bar, Berry Hill Bistro, Chico’s Café, Cowgirl Café, Courtyard Café and F. McLintock’s Saloon.
It would not be a trip to Paso without a visit to Boot Barn, a local institution that now has branches all over. But this one is unique in its serious selection of rodeo outfittery.
Galleries on the Park is worth a visit for art lovers, and you’ll also see quite a few examples of chalk art on sidewalks around the square. Paso also offers a movie theatre and bowling alley.
Don’t miss Brown Butter Sugar Cookie Company, Fresh Donuts, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory or Delightful Desserts and Bakery
Kahuna’s Surfin’ Shop caters to beachgoers, and the General Store carries a great selection of locally made goods for pantry and home.
Antique shops abound in this town, and you can pretty much spend an entire day just poking amongst the various emporiums. Check out Two Susan’s and Reminisce.
There’s Ecuadorean food at La Cosecha, French food at Bistro Laurent, Thai food at Basil and awesome Italian at Il Cortile, plus Paso Robles Inn has a great steakhouse.
Wanna feel like a local? Go to Villa Creek, where the lovely bar and amazing leather menus tempting you with a plethora of entrees and a world class wine list, will have you perusing for hours.
Artisan takes California cuisine to a high style, with creative use of exotic flavors, while Thomas Hill Organics wins the prize for best setting, best use of local ingredients and best tasting fresh food, all around. You can also buy local olive oil here: Olea Farms basil oil might become your next obsession: good thing it’s available in 750ml bottles!
The Pine Street Saloon is the place to go for beer, a few shots of tequila, some pool and unmatched karaoke on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday nights, and be prepared to witness some pretty serious performances, as some of the locals are amazingly good. They also have open mic night and live music on other nights. An institution!
If you love beer, you absolutely must get in your car and visit Barrelhouse Brewing Company – go there in the later afternoon when the food trucks arrive, or when they are featuring live music. Bands set up on the back of an old flatbed truck, and the Ipanero, an IPA brewed with habanero and chipotle, will take your tastebuds to a new level of thrill.
Pioneer Days, October 11
Harvest Wine Weekend, October 17 ‑ 18
Thank you to Wagstaff Worldwide, Parker Sanpei Public Relations and the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance for sponsoring and organizing this trip and making it possible for me to share what I experienced with all of you!
BY: LAURA NESS, WINE JUDGE & WINE WRITER
Laura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France, where she had the unmatched pleasure of tasting Sancerre in the medieval town of Sancerre – splendid!— and then a Saumur, after visiting the Chateau de Saumur in Chinon. The concept of terroir came alive in those incandescent moments. She regularly judges wine competitions and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Chardonnay Shootouts. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in concert with Appellation America. You can usually find her sipping and smiling in Mendocino, Livermore, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Paso Robles. Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, and has weekly wine columns in several Bay Area newspapers. She blogs, irreverently and sporadically, at myvinespace.com.