Just three hours north of Los Angeles sits Paso Robles, a scenic nook abounding with olive groves, welcoming winemakers, and surfing cowboys. This low-key San Luis Obispo County town has little in common with California’s more famous wine regions: no destination resorts, no long highways separating wineries, and no camera-wielding crowds. Instead, the charm of Paso Robles is its intimate, walkable historic center with centralized wine-tasting rooms, and down-to-earth vintners hosting guests in rustic cottages on their own property. Warm days, cool nights, and easy access to the nearby Pismo Beach add a Mediterranean edge to the region. Due to its coastal winds, sunny, dry climate, and Bordeaux and Rhône varieties, this idyllic spot produces a world-class selection of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Zinfandel vintages.
Live like a winemaker in one of the on-site accommodations, such as the nine-room SummerWood Inn (from $300), a modern, farmhouse-style bed and breakfast run by the Fukae family, who are originally from Osaka, Japan. Covered in foliage, the light-filled Briarwood Apartment (from $245) on the Olsen family’s Onx Estate Winery is an Old English–style studio with essentials such as a kitchen, living room, and washer and dryer.
Visitors with larger parties can find equally inviting accommodations on Airbnb, such as the former retreat of late singer Tom Petty—the 30-acre, seven-bedroom Windwood Ranch Estate (from $485), with grounds featuring a tennis court, picnic area, and hiking trails. Other notable Airbnbs include the terracotta-roofed Olive House (from $171), a gorgeous two-bedroom home overlooking an olive farm and featuring a tiled fountain—not to be confused with Casa Oliva (from $950) though, a contemporary, Spanish-style guesthouse located within a five-acre vineyard and featuring three bedrooms and its own outdoor pool.
Other standout homes include Hacienda Robles (from $2,500), a five-bedroom estate designed by Marcel Sedletsky with an indoor pool, and the imposing Casa De Madera Vieja (from $1,049), a 4,000-square-foot villa with a negative-edge pool, personal chef, and smart-home features.
Visitors looking for traditional hotel accommodations also have options. The 171-room Allegretto Vineyard Resort (from $239) juxtaposes garden swings and fire bowls imported from Rajasthan, India, against ancient Roman–inspired architecture and an Egyptian-style obelisk.
Those wanting a convenient base for wine hopping can opt to stay in one of the two brand-new additions to downtown Paso Robles: The Piccolo (from $359), a subtle and upscale boutique hotel offering the area’s only rooftop bar and private wine storage lockers, and The Stables Inn (from $155), the unpretentious 18-room sister hotel to the classic Hotel Cheval (from $380), which features the Pony Club, a Parisian equestrian–themed bar.
French-born Julien Asseo, son of L’Aventure Winery founder Stephen Asseo, met Courtney Mays, a Southern girl whose family owns a butcher shop. The two married, moved to Paso Robles, and turned Courtney’s love of whole-pig BBQs and Julien’s reverence for French cuisine into Les Petites Canailles. Don’t miss their signature dish: the hanger steak tartare with confit egg yolk and fresh horseradish, served with locally made, rustic, grilled sourdough.
Fifteen minutes south of Paso Robles in the industrial park of Tin City, Six Test Kitchen is blind dating for foodies. Since its menu changes with the seasons, you won’t know what will be on your plate until you’re greeted with a tray of small bites and an 11-course tasting menu inspired by the elements and prepared for the senses. Only six people are seated at a time in the courtyard, so book a reservation in advance. Dinner starts at 6:15 p.m.
Founded in 1997 by Chef Laurent Grangien, former head chef of Michelin-starred Maison Rostang in Paris, BL Brasserie will transport you to the hills of Èze.
Jeffry’s Wine Country BBQ is ideal for a quick bite. Order online and pick up from the counter everything you need for a picnic on the lawn near the horseshoe pits of Downtown City Park. You can’t go wrong with the award-winning Paso Mac and CheeseSteak: a roasted garlic and five-cheese sauce tossed with small shell pasta, smoked tri-tip, and sautéed peppers and onions.
Homemade pappardelle drenched in wild boar ragu, beef tenderloin seasoned with parmesan fonduta and truffles, veal chop coated in a porcini mushroom sauce—Il Cortile takes its Tuscan classics seriously. Its chef, Santos MacDonal, also runs La Cosecha Bar and Restaurant, with Spanish and Latin favorites like paella, pastelitos catrachos, and grilled octopus.
After drinking your way through some of the tasting rooms of Highway 46 (for a full list of the best wine and wineries in town, see our list here), you’ll have plenty of time to test out innovative, ranch-chic breweries and distilleries on the Paso Robles Distillery Trail. Re:Find, one of the area’s first distilleries, forages leftover red grapes from Central Coast vineyards to make handcrafted vodka, gin, whiskey, bourbon, and vermouth. Top IPA brewing company Firestone Walker, also located in this hamlet, is famed for its hoppy ales.
Serving passion fruit–infused tequila and chai tea–infused, unaged Armagnac, the swanky, 1930s Eleven Twenty Two speakeasy is now open for an outdoor experience. For even more vintage fun, go glamping at the Trailer Pond, a 1950s trailer camp concept on the 130-acre organic Alta Colina Vineyard. Each of the Trailer Pond’s pastel-hued campers houses a kitchen and a double bed that sleeps two adults—perfect for a daytime activity should camping not be in the cards.
While on the coast, wear a cowboy hat, place a surfboard on the back of a pickup truck, and hightail it to the beach as the locals do. Paso Robles’ vine-to-ocean proximity lets you enjoy morning surf sessions in Cayucos, midday seal watching in Morro Bay, and afternoon sand-dune tours at Pismo Beach.
When the sun sets, head back to Paso Robles to take an evening stroll through Sensorio’s field of lights, a colorful open-air installation of some 58,000 solar-powered stemmed spheres by British artist Bruce Munro.