The fall is wine harvest season, so I’m returning to Paso Robles, where we spent part of a fabulous 10-day California vacation.
During two previous trips to the state, hubby and I visited Sonoma, Napa and Healdsburg wine regions. When planning and mapping out last year’s driving route, we realized Paso Robles would make an excellent two-day stop between Big Sur and Sequoia : Land of Giants.
Located in northern San Luis Obispo County along California’s Central Coast, Paso Robles is an agricultural community with a rich history. Over the last few decade, it has shifted from producing almonds and alfalfa to wine.
Winemakers in the region have cultivated the soil and used the climate to their advantage. Today, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends are a staple of the area. Along windy backroads or around a quaint downtown park, there are 200 wineries!
In addition to its wineries and vineyards, Paso Robles is also known for its olive groves, oak dotted hills, and small town charm. It’s where world-class food and wine meet cowboy chic! Lodging options abound, ranging from historic inns and luxury resort, to rustic vineyard escapes. Pour yourself a glass of wine and visit with me.
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Adelaida Winery entrance drive
Established in 1983, the Paso Robles American Viticulture Area (AVA) has about 40,000 acres planted in wine grapes. Winds from the Pacific Ocean cause up to 50-degree temperature swings from day to night! That means warm days and cool nights. Coupled with 700 – 2,000 foot elevations, 30 distinct types of soils, Paso Robles has a long growing season. That allows for the ripening of 69 different sugar and acidity grape varieties.
Wine Tasting Experiences
Like Napa, Paso Robles was built largely by family-owned wineries, with more than 95% privately-owned businesses. Hubby and I feel this really enhances the wine tasting experience — hearing the story of how they got started , challenges (like the current mega-drought), and how their identity is integral to the local wine country where they reside.
Travel Trip: With more than 200 wineries in the Paso Robles region (most concentrated on the Highway 46 corridor), it’s best to research and plan ahead which to visit in advance and to make reservations. Many are only open Wednesday or Thursday through Sunday. During the fall harvest season, Paso can get packed with visitors. On weekends, locals from around the state come in droves!
We chose three wineries to visit over one and a half days. They were selected based on reading through “best of” and “top ten” online reviews and Foder’s guide.
Arriving late morning from Big Sur, hubby and I first walked around the historic town. But it was blisteringly hot — over 100 degrees! So, we grabbed several wine guides and maps and headed on to the Tuscan-style, Allegretto Vineyard Resort.
Hubby snagged a great rate (maybe because of the pandemic?) at the palatial hotel. Our large, luxurious room also had a lovely poolside patio. While waiting for our room, we enjoyed a lovely lunch on the Cello restaurant’s covered patio.
Eberle Winery has been a family-owned producer and marketer of premium wines AVA since 1979. Considered one of the region’s pioneers, Gary Eberle grew up in Pennsylvania and went to Penn State on a football scholarship — my alma mater! The winery logo depicts the German origin of the name Eberle, meaning “small boar.”
One of the most unique aspects of Eberle Winery are its nearly 17,000 square feet of underground caves and winding tunnels. It’s an ideal environment for naturally cooling wine barrels, and home to the VIP tasting cove and Wild Boar Room for events.
While at Eberle, you may also get to meet the family’s standard poodles — all of whom are named after grapes! Currently, furry Sangiovese and Berbera greet over 150,000 visitors each year.
Eberle offers a variety of seated tastings (inside or outside), partnered with a cave tour. We did the 90-minute Vineyard Deck Cave Tour and Tasting. It was a lovely and relaxed introduction to Paso Robles, and real value. Requiring a $10/person reservation deposit, the tasting of five fine wines was complimentary!
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! Since returning home, I regularly pick up several bottles of Eberle’s Big Red to stock our wine cabinet. More difficult to locate — and pricey— is the superb 2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
Afterwards, hubby and I returned to the hotel to catchup on emails and calls with the family. Once it was getting dark and cooled off outside, we headed into town for dinner.
Short rib tacos with tomatillos jam, cabbage, Oaxaca cheese, pickled spicy red peppers, and beef short rib with micro greens.
Although downtown Paso Robles had been a virtual ghost town midday, it was crowded with people in the evening. Hip and atmospheric Fish Gaucho — a modern Mexican restaurant and tequila bar —was packed! Fortunately, hubby had made reservations weeks in advance. All those people wine tasting during the day, flock into restaurants and bars at night.
With unique artisanal margarita and craft cocktails offerings, Fish Gaucho has a seasonally-changing menu. For instance, Smoke, Fire and Blood is made with mescal, charred jalapeno, blood orange, lime and chili salt rim. There are also lots of craft beers on tap and wines to choose from. For dinner, each of us picked one of the specialty taco trios.
We had an outstanding meal and experience sitting on the long covered porch.
Adelaida Vineyards & Winery
Before a full day visiting wineries, we headed into town for a big breakfast. Next was a scenic drive through the mountainous terrain of west Paso Robles to Adelaida Vineyards & Winery for our 10:45 AM tasting.
Claiming it’s sustainable agriculture and winemaking team are guided by nature for the long-term health of it’s land, employees and customers, the ranch farms organically. Its vineyards offer a wide range of mesoclimates, aspects and soil types.
Adelaida’s historic property, tasting room and outdoor patios feature views of the walnut ranch, wildlands, and estate vineyards. Guests can enjoy a wide range of tasting experiences Wednesday-Monday from 10 AM until 3 PM. Glasses of wine are also available until 4 PM. A regular tasting experience is $25 per person and waived with a two bottle purchase.
Instead, we reserved the $75 per person Signature tasting. It takes place in a special room, with a view of the production facility. Complimenting the five Signature vintages were a gourmet selection of artisanal cheese and charcuterie.
Although the 90-minute session could accommodate eight, it turned into a private tasting and tour of the facility that lasted nearly twice that long! What an incredible experience, and each wine and food pairing had me swooning.
Afterwards, we enthusiastically joined the library vintage wine club for twice yearly distribution of six bottles. What a fabulous wedding anniversary gift to each other! Our family enjoyed sharing them with splayed, smoked turkey for Thanksgiving, beef Wellington at Christmas, and to ring in the New Year.
Unable to make return visits to the winery to attend special events, free tastings, etc., made the club membership too expensive. Regrettably, we elected to end our club membership for a second year. But what an amazing year-long wine experience!
Next, we were off to DAOU Vineyards for our 2:15 PM appointment. Originally, we had planned to stop for a light lunch. But, having stayed at Adelaida for nearly three hours, we needed to get a move on! Good thing both our tastings including food lol!
DAOU Mountain offers what it’s owners claim is “a jewel of ecological elements;” with an exceptional terroir (soil and climate) for producing Cabernet Sauvignon. The very rare soil is composed of clay with calcareous and limestone subsoil.
Rising 2,200 feet in elevation, DAOU Mountain rises dramatically above the Coastal Range with breathtaking views! It’s the the highest winery on the Central Coast of California. The mountain is cooled by the Pacific Ocean, fourteen miles away.
Travel Tip: Tasting hours are offered seven days a week, but reservations are required. There is very limited parking at the mountain top tasting room. Van and jeep shuttle services run continuously from the parking area below. So best to arrive an extra 20-30 minutes before your reservation.
We enjoyed a diverse flight of wonderful wines from the DAOU Reserve and Estate collections. The 60- minute experience was $50 per person and there is no by the glass sampling option. A tasting menu is available, and we added the $50 artisanal cheese and charcuterie board. The tasty spread also included nuts, locally grown olives, fire-grilled naan, and assorted crackers.
Our server floated around the patio and would pause to explain each wine and answer questions. Both the outdoor patio and spacious air-conditioned indoor tasting areas were crowded with visitors. Still, we enjoyed a lovely, relaxing experience with gorgeous views.
Afterwards we both enjoyed a refreshing nap before the short drive to our evening destination.
Have you ever been to Paso Robles? If so, what wineries did you visit? Experiences to share?
Field of Light
Light at Sensoria opened in Paso Robles and has been in continual residence since 2019. It features two installations by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro.
Field of Light is a 15-acre walk-through experience, and the artist’s largest installation to date. It’s comprised of more than 58,800 stemmed spheres lit by fiber optics. They gently illuminate the landscape in subtle blooms of morphing color, across the curves of the surrounding landscape.
Our timed-ticket admission of $50/adult (purchased online weeks ahead of our trip), included access to an area with live music, local beer, wine, distilled spirits, and food available for purchase.
We arrived about 7 PM to allow time to eat dinner before sunset. An area of food trucks and picnic tables offered various menu options, but lines were long because of incredibly slow service.
VIP/Terrace ticket options start at $89. Patrons enjoy priority entry, drink ticket, exclusive access to the private terrace with guaranteed seating, Airstream bar, fireside tables, heaters, and the best views of the exhibition.
But after sunset, the ultimate experience is strolling through the Field of Light, so we didn’t feel the VIP ticket was worth the cost.
Light Towers is the latest installation at Sensoria, celebrating Paso Robles wine country. It features 69 towers made of more than 17,000 wine bottles. They are illuminated with glowing optic fibers whose colors change to music.
And I thought the hundreds of corks incorporated into my Wine Cork Wreath DIY Tutorial was a lot, lol!
Both the Light Towers and Field of Light are solar-powered. What a stunning exhibition! First watching the beautiful sunset, then seeing the lights begin to glow, and strolling through the landscape was a mesmerizing experience!
Have you ever seen anything like it?
Art, Light & Sound Experiences
It was the third amazing light and music exhibition we’ve enjoyed over the two years. First was Step Inside the Van Gogh Immersive Experience, during a long weekend visit with family in Philadelphia.
And recently, I shared Blaze: Jack O’ Lantern Carved Pumpkin Festival in Sleepy Hollow of Headless Horseman fame.
From Wine County to National Parks
We got up early the next day for the 3 1/2 hour drive from Paso Robles to Sequoia: Land of Giants.
It was the first of three California National Parks we explored during our vacation; including Kings Canyon River Valley and a return trip to Yosemite: Views, Hikes & Accommodations.
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The field of lights is beautiful! I’ve not experienced anything like that, thank you for sharing!
It was mesmerizing Rita, and oh so beautiful! And, very romantic walking through the 15 acres of lights hand-in-hand with hubby.
WOW – that’s amazing! That’s definitely going on my bucket list – maybe for an anniversary someday! 🙂 Thanks for the beautiful tour!
Thanks Barbara. Paso would be a wonderful anniversary spot and the Field of Lights was very romantic. We spent a previous anniversary in Napa.
That field of light looks incredible!! You always find the neatest places to explore.
Part of the fun of taking a vacation for me is the research and planning beforehand — because there’s never enough time or money to do everything you’d like. Even when our sons were small I leaned heavily into Fodor travel guides for “top ten” and “hidden gems.” In more recent years, I’ve added Rick Steves guides. As early retirees and empty nesters (with no grandkids), we are haven’t a great time exploring the world together!