Why Winter is an Ideal Time to Visit Paso Robles

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Allegretto Vineyard Resort at sunset

The central coast community has undergone a viticultural explosion and now boasts more than 250 wineries. Paso Robles translates loosely as Pass of the Oaks, and the terrain changes dramatically from west to east. The west has the Santa Lucia Mountains and Highway 46, which funnels cool air from the coast. The east is flatter and hotter—but once the rains fall, you could be in Ireland. By winter, the crowds that braved the heat have thinned, making it an ideal time to visit.

THE WINE TRAIL
Take Highway 46 west with stops at pioneers such as Peachy Canyon (zinfandel), its tasting room in a historic schoolhouse, and Castoro Cellars (Bordeaux blends), cooled by a leafy garden. Continue to Vineyard Drive and into the hills, with a detour on Peachy Canyon Road for Villa Creek and the artful winemaking of Cris Cherry. Back on Vineyard, head to Adelaida Road, which boasts top winemakers and stunning views. Expect to pay $10 on average for a round of tastings.

Zinfandel grapes at Castoro Cellars

DESIGNATED DRIVER
Wine expert Jill Tweedie can customize her Breakaway Tours to any taste. Love whites? One of the company’s stylish vans steers you to the area’s top makers of chardonnay and viognier, to name two. Express an affinity for reds, and you’re off to what this region excels at. Plus you’ll get a native daughter’s trove of history, tips, and anecdotes along the way.

DESIGNATED DRIVER
Wine expert Jill Tweedie can customize her Breakaway Tours to any taste. Love whites? One of the company’s stylish vans steers you to the area’s top makers of chardonnay and viognier, to name two. Express an affinity for reds, and you’re off to what this region excels at. Plus you’ll get a native daughter’s trove of history, tips, and anecdotes along the way.

LUNCH BREAK
Seafood is the focus of Fish Gaucho, near Paso Robles’ serene downtown park, but don’t miss the carnitas tacos ($15), served with a jalapeno pineapple salsa. The nuevo Mexican restaurant offers more than 140 tequilas and mescals and mixes sensational cocktails such as The Highwayman, made with locally crafted gin, lavender honey, and charred cedar blackstrap bitters.

FARM VISIT
A number of biodynamic and organic farmers have put down roots. Windrose Farm offers tours of its fertile acres ($10), planted in leafy vegetables, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, eggplant, squash, carrots, cucumbers, melons, apples, and stone fruits. You can savor the area’s bounty in the crispy-skin salmon with shaved carrots, radish, frisee, and arugula ($34) at Thomas Hill Organics, owned by Debbie Thomas, who started as a farmer before becoming a restaurateur.

SPIRITS WORLD
There are nine stops and counting on the Paso Robles distillery trail. From grapes, Alex and Monica Villicana produce fine vodka, gin, and limoncello (their kids zest the lemons) at Re:Find, the distillery adjoining their decades‑old winery. Over at Krobar, part of Barton Family Wines, there’s a grape-based gin, but the pièce de résistance is the bourbon (yes, that’s made from grains)—aged, of course, in oak.

The wine room at Thomas Hill Organics

HOME BASE
There’s no more peaceful place to stay than Allegretto Vineyard Resort. Owner Doug Ayres studied the world’s religions, and he has created sacred spaces throughout his luxe property, using artifacts collected on his travels. The spacious rooms ($280 and up), brimming with amenities, look down on the Tuscan-style courtyard or onto Ayres’ vineyards. The posh Cello restaurant is now under the direction of Justin Picard, whose Mediterranean-centric menu roams from Spain to Turkey.

THE ZONE
Much like Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, breweries and wineries in Paso Robles have turned a cluster of industrial warehouses, dubbed Tin City, into tasting rooms. It’s also the location of Wine Shine, where Patrick Brooks gets creative with brandies, flavoring them with mango, hibiscus and lemon, fig, and cinnamon. And, he’ll inform you, his orange peel brandy is a lower-calorie version of Grand Marnier, should you be a fan.

MUSICAL NOTES
Four years back, Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery built a classy outdoor amphitheater, attracting a roster of big-name performers including, most recently, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie and L.A. fave Morrissey.

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