Visit Paso Robles in the Spring to avoid the Crowds and Intense Heat

Waiting for summer may mean 105 degree temps, crowded wineries and restaurants  –  and an escape to the coastal towns of Cayucos and Cambria

You may risk rain and wineries closed half time but at least you can breathe and walk around this charming town. No lumber a wannabe wine country destination, Paso Robles has come into its own and is a bona fide contender in excellence in winemaking, and experimentation in wine varieties and the fabled Paso Robles blend distinctive to each winery.

I have always loved Paso and many times used it as my halfway point between Healdsburg and Malibu, the place I live and my second home in LA. Making the 6-7 hour drive is hard and a stop for a meal or a night’s rest in Paso can make all the difference. It is an old farming town that is built around an impressive town square which is now surrounded by wine tasting rooms and restaurants on the scale of Napa or Sonoma,


Even better, many wineries serve a full restaurant menu that pairs with the wines you will be drinking. Not surprisingly, these winery dining destinations attract not only tourists but have become favorites of locals as well. I had a very good burger and a killer cherry chocolate bread pudding that was so big I took half for breakfast the next day.

On the rainy spring day I stopped by the Ancient Peaks tasting room in adjacent Santa Margarita. I was floored by how busy the restaurant was and winemaker Mike Sinor explained that locals love it there. The food was great and the wines impressive – and affordable.


Ancient Peaks has an amazing history dating back to the founding of California and the town still retain an old west charm as do the impressive vineyards (all of their wines are produced from the estate) and cattle ranch land spreading over an entire sub-AVA named Santa Margarita within Paso Robles AVA.


Another memorable winery with a restaurant to match is Calcareous Vineyard, perched at 1500 feet overlooking the Salinas Valley. The views are stunning, the wines highly awarded, balanced and delicious. I paired them with the duck confit cassoulet on the Calcareous Cafe menu and what a spectacular meal….with a view.

I had some unique Indian wine and food pairings I will cover in an article specifically on the eastern influences on Paso-produced but, suffice to say, I am thoroughly impressed by the creative pairings of Indian cuisine and wine, a harmony that has been wildly underestimated in gastronomic circles.

Fine dining has undergone a revolution in Paso and the influx of French winemakers and chefs means there was only time until a French would demand a restaurant like Les Petites Canailles. And we are so lucky they did. There is no substitution for French cuisine and when it meets the bounty of the central California coast, the result is a meal that rolls from olives to escargot in a creamy basil sauce to halibut sauteed Mediterranean style with the crispiest French fries and a dessert of, what else but chocolate mousse and crème brulée. A memorable meal paired with wines of two French winemakers, from a French winemaking family, Clos Solene and Benom Wines.

While in Paso, especially traveling with a small dog, there are two places I can easily recommend staying, one in town called the Stables Inn and one across the freeway (101) on the east side off the main east west road route 42, Allegretto Vineyard Resort.


The Stables Inn is a converted motel in easy walking distance of Paso Robles Plaza, Proudly welcoming all kinds of dogs, this relaxed atmosphere of simplistic, no-thrills with excellent coffee is a little oasis after a day of wine tasting, 

The Allegretto is the exact opposite. Set among vineyards in the rolling hills, driving up to the resort you pass sheep and llama among the vines. Arrive to the Tuscan-like retreat and find an inspired collection of art along the walls and in every nook and cranny of this palace designed and built by experienced hotelier Douglas Ayres as a statement to art, history, hospitality, music and spirituality, which includes a labyrinth, a chapel, gardens, stations of astrology and more.

The rooms here are exquisite and their policy toward dogs is very generous. My little Jack Russell Terrier and I were given a first floor room with French doors that opened onto the center courtyard for easy access to go outside quickly day or night. She was also greeted everywhere with pats and treats and made very welcome. Rarely does a dog owner feel such a warm reception at a luxury hotel and, frankly, I could get used to it. Looking forward to returning to the Allegretto Resort the next time I visit Paso Robles.


There is even a dog menu at the excellent Cello restaurant. Dogs are not welcome to taste their wines but easily accompany their owners to the on-site tasting room. Woof!