Paso Wine Weekend
Matt and I spent Presidents Day Weekend exploring California’s central region. Before I moved to California I used to picture traffic, crowded beaches and lines at Disneyland (seriously). But as you wander north of Los Angeles and further up the coast before the bay area, the scenery becomes rugged and unspoiled. The traffic gets lighter, the towns get smaller and life slows down a little bit. Best of all, it’s prime wine country.
Paso Robles is located almost exactly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s about 30 miles inland from the Coast, and about 40 miles from Historic Hearst Castle.
HOW WE GOT THERE
By car! It’s a beautiful coastal drive. (Besides Santa Maria, but they have a Target so it’s okay).
Santa Barbara > San Simeon
- Mileage: 137
- Duration: 2.5 hours
San Simeon > Paso Robles
- Mileage: 40 miles
- Duration: 50 minutes
WHERE WE STAYED
The Dash Inn. A once chicken coop! This detached guest house was perfect for a weekend stay. The best part was there was no cell service and spotty-at-best wifi. It was really nice to disconnect for a couple of days. Chris was an awesome host and provided us with movies, popcorn, fresh eggs and creamer. It had a full kitchen and bathroom and a sweet little porch on the back where we could watch the hens pluck around and watch the sun go down.
*If you're a fist time Airbnb user, you can save $35 on your first stay by booking through this link.
WHAT WE DID
We both wanted to visit Hearst Castle since we hadn’t been there since we we’re both about 10 years old. Hearst Castle is now a National Historic Landmark, but used to be the estate and one of many residences of old time media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Think Jay Gatsby, but with a west coast personality. Hearst used the mansion for lavish parties for guests such as Charlie Chaplin, Charles Lindberg, and Carey Grant, to name a few. So Matt and I thought we’d try to get on the guest list, or at least day dream about being on the guest list for a couple of hours.
We packed the car up Thursday night and left early Friday morning to make an 11 a.m. Grand Rooms tour. This was probably the most general tour the offered, but we needed to make it to Justin before the last pour (priorities!)
The park is very touristy. You’re forced to walk through a visitor’s center with all sort of trinkets. They take your picture in front of a green screen before you get on the bus, all that fun stuff. But once you get up to the estate it’s easy to tune the tour groups out and let your imagination take over.
On the tour we learned a lot of surprising facts about the architecture and construction of the mansion, as well as the parties and gatherings that would take place. The tour lasted about 90 minutes and we had plenty of opportunities to take pictures and look around.
Now that we got the educational part of the trip out of the way…WINE. We hopped in the car and drove out to Justin Winery.
We first stopped at Justin Winery, which was just recently named Best Winery by Wine Enthusiast. With a rating like that, I didn’t have high expectations simply because I find the ultra-commercial wineries to have less personal touch; you just can’t taste the love in their wine anymore.
To my surprise we had an excellent experience at Justin both with the wine and the service. Everything was top notch and I would highly recommend it!
Safety Tip: The road getting out there is narrow, two lanes and full of winos. Make sure to visit early in the day to avoid getting run off the road by that one DD that just couldn’t say no.
The next morning we started our day at Opolo, such a treat! Another big commercial winery with a massive wine club, but their wines are reasonably priced and our bar tender, Roger, was great. They have trails and you can walk all over the estate.
**MOST places will give you a 2-1 tasting if you look for it. Many of the free guides to Paso you can find at gas stations etc will have coupons. Sometimes it the best to just let the coupons lead the way.
On the way home, we stopped at Firestone Walker Brewing and took a tour of their brewing facilities. Highly recommend! It was a free tour and we learned a lot.
Somethings we didn’t try, but they’re on my list for our next trip!
Central and West Coasters, let me know if you visit Paso! There are a ton of options for lodging, including camping. And of course more fun wine and stories to tell.