Arriving in Paso Robles
Wine is on my great list of things that I want to MASTER.
The great thing about this particular aspiration of mine is that often, I get to actually drink wine to learn about it. It’s part of the syllabus of sorts.
When people think about California wine, they often think of Napa Valley first. Napa is beautiful. Hot air balloons, wine caves, romantic inns. But there is a lesser known wine region in California that has been a pleasant surprise - Paso Robles.
Paso Robles is about an hour east of Pismo Beach which lays about an hour and a half north of Santa Barbara. Michael and I made our first trip here back in November in between our previous jobs and our current roles. We spent a glorious three weekdays taking our time in tasting rooms and enjoying the quiet beauty of Paso.
The region is home to over 200 wineries. To me, it reminds me of the brightest, coastal/cool air climate wine. Many winemakers in the region boast a strong Rhone and Bordeaux inspiration with the added benefit of the unique porous soil - limestone.
Paso Robles is no Napa Valley. You won’t find novelty wine trains or bachelorette party buses ripping through town. Instead, you’ll find locals, many of whom have grown up in Paso and witnessed the growth of the wine industry, who are energized by every vintage and welcoming to both tourists and fellow locals alike. Tasting rooms are often by appointment only, though even the walk-in rooms are seldom crowded.
In between wineries, I enjoyed the repeating patterns of vineyards and the occasional tasting room perched atop a golden hill. There are also trees- so many trees, all dripping in romantic Spanish moss. It is unlike any area of California that I’ve ever explored. With all of the rain that California received this past winter, the area is exploding in wildflowers and greenery. It is truly a secluded paradise.
Michael and I are celebrating our anniversary here. It seems only fitting as we tend to favor quieter retreats when it is just the two of us. A few weeks ago, we attempted a birthday weekend in Vegas to very little success - so we’re convinced that wine country is truly where our souls find rest and joy.
We left Los Angeles at around 5:30 AM and flew up the coast to San Luis Obispo (SLO). Downtown SLO is as charming as it is packed with amazing boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Michael is an efficient driver. We made it before most of the businesses opened and made a pit stop for a mandatory caffeine break at Scout Coffee. I love everything about Scout Coffee - from the industrial interior, friendly baristas, delicious pastries, and of course - the smooth, crave-worthy drinks. The owners, Jon and Sara studied coffee for 10 years with the dream of opening up their own shop. I find people who plan and live out their dreams this way incredibly inspiring. It makes me hope that Michael and I will be able to somehow grow our love of wine into something more than just a hobby someday.
We planned on picnicking at our first winery stop, so we grabbed a sandwich and salad from High Street Deli on our way out of town. It felt like a snapshot out of a history book. The small shop has been serving out delicious “sandos” since 1927 and has an entire wall of branded soft cotton t-shirts (which gives you $5 off of your sandwich, by the way).
Before we knew it, we were weaving through rollings hills of yellow wildflowers, vineyards, and shaded roads lined with oak trees. It is as if time stands still in Paso. Only the wines choose to age with time.
Today, we tasted at Denner, Booker, and Jada. All three were very different from one another (see tasting notes below). Each had their own unique features. I’m biased towards heavy red wines, but on this trip, I’m trying to be more open minded towards whites and rose just in time for a warm California summer.
Michael and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to pick up and leave the busyness of our jobs and city lives for a few days. We also feel lucky to have one another to share and enjoy in these experiences. It’s rare to find a friend with so many shared interests, and even rarer to find a partner with the same. We laughed all the way up the coast (though I admittedly napped for a while) and he chatted up the tasting room staff while I took copious notes in my travel Moleskine. Our personalities are different, yet complementary. We find great joy in that.
Favorite memories of the day
Walking around downtown Paso Robles after enjoying some live improv blues music at the Pour House with the locals.
The adventurous private ride up Booker's vineyard in a Kawasaki Mule.
Sitting with locals in SLO at Scout coffee and the delicious berry bar for breakfast.