In recognition of the upcoming anniversary of the May 24, 1976 Judgment of Paris wine competition I am dedicating my next two TV segments to Great American Wines. This historic event, held in celebration of the American Bicentennial in Paris, pitted French wines against California counterparts in a blind tasting showdown. California Cabernets went head-to-head with red Bordeaux, while French white Burgundy faced off against California Chardonnays. Despite the prevailing favor for French wines, the 1976 competition yielded two surprising victors from Napa, California: the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 S.L.V. Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. This unexpected triumph marked the beginning of Napa Valley’s ascent to global prominence in the world of wine, ultimately paving the way for California to earn the respect of the Global wine community.

Correction: 2008 CV Estate Cabernet can be tasted at Broken Earth Winery Tasting Room in Long Grove, IL

As we approach this significant milestone, I encourage you to taste California wines. While tasting wines can offer insights into a region, there’s a unique dimension that only visiting can provide, so follow that bottle and book a trip. I’ve compiled two travel guides, the first “Shall We Wine in Paso Robles Guide” is based on my recent experiences from three visits to the region in the past five years. The second focused on Napa will be shared in May!

Where is Paso Robles, California?

Paso is located along California’s Central Coast, nestled between the Santa Lucia Coastal Mountain Range. Although the ride from San Luis Obispo airport isn’t poetic, the views through wine country are a novel! Each visit has led me to landscapes that prompt tears.


Why Should Wine Lovers Visit Paso?

Recognized as the Best Wine Region in the 2023 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice travel award contest, Paso Robles is a bucket list experience for wine enthusiasts for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, the region is positioned to produce high-quality wines due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Mediterranean climate (characterized by warm days and cool nights), topography, and diverse soils. Secondly, the wineries of the region produce 60 different wine varieties making this area a tasting playground for wine lovers. According to Paso Robles Wine Alliance, “Cabernet Sauvignon takes center stage, followed closely by Merlot, Syrah, but you can find other red varieties like Grenache and Mourvèdre.” With 11 distinctive American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) and over “200 wineries sourcing fruit from 40,000 acres of vineyards,” there is so much to explore. Third, visiting Paso Robles feels like visiting your favorite auntie. It’s a place where you feel welcomed, taken care of and comfortable.

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Where to Stay When Visiting Paso

Luxury: Allegretto Vineyard Resort

It’s no secret that luxury living is my life’s calling. If you are looking for pure indulgence while in Paso Robles, book the Allegretto Vineyard Resort. This property is a sanctuary offering a balance of wellness activities, spaces for spiritual rejuvenation, and culinary delights. Inspired by Italian vineyard estates, every scene is an Instagrammable moment, from the room views to the art and artifacts from around the world that decorate its corridors. Start your morning with yoga or a silent walk in their Star Garden Trail. Wine tasting can be hard work; unwind in the Spa at Allegretto’s zero-gravity chairs, book a massage or the infrared detox sauna or enjoy amenities like an outdoor swimming pool, 24-hour fitness center, and bike rentals.

Urban Chic: The Piccolo

The Piccolo is a lovely 24-room property in downtown Paso Robles. The boutique hotel is a cozy haven so well-planned that guests never want to leave. Designed by local architects “The Piccolo is reminiscent of traditional downtown hotel design with clean, crisp, contemporary details and authentic materials…” says. Jim Duffy, President, and CEO of Ten Over Studio. The hotel truly reflects Paso Robles vibe with its staff’s “home-town hospitality, contemporary ease, and whimsical touches: like a champagne vending machine. My favorite feature was the courtyard outside of my room where I enjoyed my morning coffee. Every element of the hotel makes it say, “welcome and relax.”

Home Away From Home- Lofts at The Market

The Lofts at The Market is located in a mixed-use project in midtown Paso Robles is a great home base for exploring the area. There are six spacious, stylish, and well-appointed rooms to choose from. I stayed in The Agave, a two-bedroom apartment that made me want to break my lease in Chicago. Wake up to fresh fruit, coffee, and baked goods delivered outside of your door. When you are hungry for Paso flavors and trinkets, a quick skip downstairs will lead you to the Paso Market Walk, a collective of local businesses from sit-down restaurants to a coffee shop and artisanal goods.

Where to Taste Wines When Visiting Paso Robles, California

As I mentioned earlier, there are 200 wineries in Paso Robles. Here are four must-visit wineries that showcase the diversity and quality of wines of Paso Robles, California.

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

Founded in the early 1970s, Jerry Lohr first planted grapes in Monterey’s Arroyo Seco district. In the 1980s, he saw the potential for great Cabs in the Paso Robles region and thus began vineyards there. The famed J. Lohr Estates tier of wines is a testament to the values of the Lohr family and their commitment to producing high-quality wines that cater to every budget. The Monterey-grown flagship wine, the 2022 J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay priced at $14, is a prime example of their dedication to excellence. Certified California Sustainable, J. Lohr sustainably farms more than 2,600 acres of estate vineyards across five sub-AVAs down in Paso Robles as well. I visited their gorgeous Paso Robles tasting room in January of 2024 for a sit down with Kristen Barnhisel, Winemaker in charge of their white wine program. Wine tasting experiences are led by an informative yet fun staff, and can be paired with a cheese plate that tests the endurance of the waistband!

DRINK THIS: 2022 J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay, priced at $14. This wine is an incredible value! The palate is fresh with flavors of orchard and stone fruit. There is a creamy mouthfeel and a light touch of oak.

Continental Wine Collection + Continental Vineyard

Rooted in the pioneering spirit of Paso Robles Wine Country, Continental Wine Collection is a premier wine company comprising Broken Earth Winery, CV Wines, and Pull Wines. The history of Continental Vineyard planted in 1973 dates back to its original name, “Rancho Tierra Rejada,” where Herman Schwartz planted over 500 acres of grapevines in the early days of Paso Robles viticulture. Today, Continental Wine Collection continues this storied legacy, with a focus on sustainable practices and innovation. With a winemaking philosophy centered on presenting the true personality of each wine. Tastings in Paso Robles are held at Broken Earth Winery. Check out their onsite restaurant, La Cucina, and music events!

Readers in the Chicago area, visit their Tasting Room in Long Grove, IL (219 Robert Parker Coffin Road, Long Grove, Illinois 60047, United States)

DRINK THIS: 2018 CV Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, priced at $80! A gorgeous cabernet with silky tannins and flavors of blueberries, blackberries, and spices.

DAOU Vineyards

Established in 2007 by brothers Georges and Daniel Daou, DAOU Vineyards has swiftly ascended to prominence as a premier estate for Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties in Paso Robles’ Adelaida District. The vineyards adhere to organic farming practices, and the DAOU Mountain vineyard holds SIP certification (Sustainability in Practice). The scenes from DAOU Mountain are unparalleled, offering awe-inspiring views. Moreover, DAOU excels in hospitality, offering diverse tasting experiences and tempting food pairings inspired by the family’s Lebanese background. Once you experience DAOU, leaving becomes a challenge in itself.

DRINK THIS: 2020 DAOU Estate Soul of a Lion $150

DRINK THIS: 2020 DAOU Vineyard Soul of a Lion $150. The Soul of a Lion Cabernet Sauvignon is decadent with flavors of cherry, dark chocolate, cinamon, and nutmeg.

Tablas Creek Vineyard

I have stopped by Tablas Creek two of my three visits to the area. Founded in 1987 through a partnership between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and the renowned Haas family. Tablas Creek Vineyard has consistently produced exceptional wine reflecting the unique terroir of Paso Robles. Furthermore, “Jason Haas led Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, California, to attain the world’s first Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) certification for a winery in August 2020.” Rob Report. I highly recommend a visit, not only because they are committed to farming practices that are good for the land, but because their wines showcase delicious single and blends of Rhône varietals offering visitors another taste of Paso Robles.

DRINK THIS- 2021 Esprit de Tablas Blanc a blend $60. This wine is a blend “of five white Rhone varieties propagated from budwood cuttings from the Château de Beaucastel estate; Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc, Bourboulenc and Clairette Blanche.” The combination of these wines results in a clean, dry wine with flavors of green apple, honey, spice and sea salt.

Where to Eat When Visiting Paso Robles, California

Paso Robles culinary scene is on fire! Like the wines, there is an array of options to satisfy every palate. If you like Mediterranean flavors Allegretto Vineyard Resort’s Cello Ristorante & Bar is a must-visit. Situated within the picturesque Allegretto Vineyard Resort, Cello Ristorante & Bar highlights Mediterranean-Inspired cuisine alongside seasonal specialties.

For a taste of modern Mexican cuisine with a vibrant atmosphere, The Fish Gaucho is everyone’s favorite. I have to admit that I have NEVER eaten here (I walked in and was overwhelmed by delicious aromas) because they are always booked. But, when I ask for recommendations, locals and visitors alike, recommend The Fish Gaucho. Located in the heart of Paso Robles, the menu is filled with innovative dishes that celebrate the flavors of Mexico. From fresh seafood to creative tacos and yes, yes they have margaritas!

Transport to Paris by booking a table at BL Brasserie (formerly Brasserie Laurent). This dining experience was a lovely surprise. The atmosphere was warm, and the service was delivered with a French accent that made me say, “oui oui” to every dish! Start with champagne, don’t miss the oysters and pair the steak frites with a local Cabernet Sauvignon. Balance is good!

I recommend lunch at Jeffry’s Wine Country BBQ! Located in downtown Paso Robles, this fan favorite serves up mouthwatering barbecue dishes paired with a selection of local wines. I needed some sustenance to soak up the wines, so I ordered smoked brisket tacos with a side of beef brisket – don’t judge, I need my protein.

Although there are many more wineries and restaurants to recommend I will stop here and promise a Paso Part 2! The Napa Guide will be out soon!

More Thing to do in Paso

Learn about Wines of Paso: