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Paso Robles

Photo by Daniel Mangin

Paso Robles Itineraries

Paso Robles 48 Perfect Hours Wine Tasting

Paso Robles East Side Wine Tasting Day Trip

Paso Robles Top 10 Foolproof Wine Tasting Experiences

Paso Robles West Side Wine Tasting Day Trip

Rising wine-world star, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles

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Paso Robles has a long history as a spa town and ranching country, but it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to figure out what’s driving the tourist economy these days: the wine industry. As recently as two decades ago, only a few dozen wineries operated in Paso Robles. Today there are about 250, from pioneers like Tablas Creek and Wild Horse to Caliza, Jada and other newer, smaller producers. Not all wineries have tasting rooms, but many do, and a boomlet in hotel construction indicates that interest in investigating them is high. According to a recent study, most visitors come to Paso to see wineries and vineyards. Enjoying the scenic beauty, climate and fine-dining options are the other priorities.

Advantage Paso Robles

Paso Robles has one other advantage visitors appreciate: it’s easy to get to and around. About 210 miles from the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, the city is just off highway U.S. 101. (The drive here takes about a 3½-hour drive in light traffic from either place.)  Though traffic can thicken on spring, summer and fall weekends, it’s nothing compared to what occurs in either of those metro areas.

Critical Acclaim

But is the wine any good? In a word, yes, and in the past decade it’s gotten demonstrably better at all levels. The editors of Wine Enthusiast acknowledged this development by naming Paso Robles the Wine Region of the Year in 2013. They doubled down in 2016, declaring Paso Robles one of the 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations.

Diverse Portfolio

Paso’s diversity of grape varietals pleases lovers of white, red, rosé and dessert wines. Zinfandel figured prominently in Paso Robles’s early wine history, but the area’s portfolio has broadened during the past 40 years. Cabernet Sauvignon now ranks as the most planted grape, with Merlot, another Bordeaux varietal, in second place. Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre also appear in many wineries’ lineups. These Rhône grapes are vinted both individually and made into “GSM” blends worth checking out. Festivals held throughout the year provide a quick and easy introduction to the range of wines produced here.

More than Just Wine

There’s more to Paso Robles than wine (and a few breweries and distilleries), of course. The Pasolivo ranch is a popular stop in western Paso Robles for olive oil and related products. Northeast of downtown, history and military aviation buffs head to the Estrella WarBirds Museum and Woodland Auto Display to ogle restored aircraft outside on the tarmac, peruse the memorabilia inside and as a bonus view dozens of rare cars. You can also avail yourselves of the spa treatments at Allegretto Vineyard Resort Paso Robles, Spa Central Coast and River Oaks Hot Springs Spa. At River Oaks you can soak in open-air hot tubs, some of them sheltered indoors, others outdoors with views of nearby vineyards.

Downtown Fun

There’s fun shopping and gallery hopping to be had downtown—many of the best restaurants are here, too—and two pleasantly low-tech, old-fashioned history museums document the area’s history. One of them, the Paso Robles Pioneer Museum, is a granny’s-attic assemblage of area memorabilia. A great throwback event is the California Mid-State Fair, a two-week celebration from mid- to late July of the region’s agricultural history. If you’ll be in town when it happens, check out its demonstrations, events and big-name musical acts.


Lodging Options

Lodging options range from bed-and-breakfast inns and mom-and-pop motels to chain properties and a few luxury hotels. To wake up amid the vineyards, considering booking a room at a winery with an on-site inn. These include SummerWood, an outstanding choice that books up quickly between late spring and mid-fall.


Paso Robles Itineraries

East Side Wine Tasting Day Trip
48 Perfect Hours Wine Tasting
Top 10 Foolproof Wine Tasting Experiences
West Side Wine Tasting Day Trip

See also

26 Ways Paso Robles Tickles My Fancy


When To Go

Paso Robles is a year-round destination. It’s busiest in the summer, when weekend lodging rates are the highest. You can see the area’s highlights in two or three days—Paso Robles is a great weekend getaway from the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles—but to fully explore the wineries and other attractions, spending three or four days is better.

High and Low Season

From late spring to harvest time in early fall is high season in Paso Robles. Things slow down in winter and some wineries and attractions  have shorter hours or are closed some days. As might be expected, lodging prices are lower in winter and late fall and early spring.

Weather and Climate

From fall to spring, the climate in Paso Robles is generally mild. In summer it gets very hot—daytime temperatures often reach 100°F in July and August, though in the western sections close to the Pacific Ocean this is sometimes mitigated by cooling breezes. In nondrought years, the rainy season starts in November, with the heaviest precipitation often from December through February. From May to October it rains very little. Late spring and early fall are generally quite pleasant.

Events and Holidays

Spring

Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend
This festival puts the spotlight on Zinfandel, the grape that first brought Paso Robles to prominence as a winegrowing region. Third weekend in March.

Hospice du Rhône
Paso Robles producers figure prominently in this festival of Rhône varietals whose participating wineries come from around the world. It’s a good place to sample various vintages of a winery’s Viognier, Syrah, or blend. Mid-April.

Paso Robles Wine Festival
The main attraction of the city’s largest wine festival is the Grand Tasting in Downtown City Park of wines by more than 80 wineries. The area’s restaurants and caterers provide food. Other events include winemaker dinners, seminars and exclusive reserve tastings. Mid-May.

Summer

California Mid-State Fair
Paso goes back to its agricultural roots for this two-week extravaganza that includes a parade, a pageant, horse shows, cow-dog trials, home-arts demos, a talent show, olive and other tastings, “muttonbustin’,” and performances by major rock and country acts. Last two weeks of July.

Fall

Pioneer Day
The businesses of Paso Robles started this festival in 1931 to show appreciation to local patrons during the Depression. In keeping with that spirit the event, whose highlights include a bean feed in Downtown City Park and a parade with amazing old farm equipment, remains free to this day. If you’re not sure what a bean feed is, check out this great Pioneer Day video with 1930s footage, or come down to the park at 7:30 am to watch the preparations (the feed’s at noon). Saturday before October 12 (the date of the first Pioneer Day).

Harvest Wine Weekend
More than half of Paso Robles’s wineries participate in this festival that celebrates the yearly harvest. Many wineries that don’t normally give tours often do so on this weekend. There are also winemaker dinners, seminars and live music events. Third weekend in October.

Paderewski Festival
Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860–1941), one of the most famous pianists and composers of his era, owned two ranches in Paso Robles for nearly three decades. This festival celebrates his connection to the area with concerts, master classes and other events. Early November.

National & State Holidays

January (1st): New Year’s Day
January (third Monday): Martin Luther King Day
February (third Monday): Presidents’ Day
March (31st): Cesar Chavez Day
May (last Monday): Memorial Day
July (4th): Independence Day
September (first Monday): Labor Day
October (second Monday): Columbus Day (aka Native American Day)
November (11th): Veteran’s Day
November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December (25th): Christmas

Time Zone

Paso Robles is in the Pacific time zone.

To check the local time in Paso Robles click here.

Daylight Savings Time (DST) happens in the spring (in early March, on a Sunday morning at 2 am). It’s when clocks are advanced one hour so there is more daylight later into the evening. In the fall (in early November on a Sunday morning at 2 am), clocks shift back one hour to standard time.

What To Pack and Wear

In keeping with the area’s cowboy roots, casual attire is the norm in the Paso Robles, though it’s a good idea to upgrade to dressy casual when dining at nicer establishments. Women may find themselves more comfortable in flats or low heels, especially when going on winery or vineyard tours or standing at tasting bars.

Other Items

From spring through harvest can be very sunny: pack a sunhat or visor, sunglasses and sunblock. From November through April you may need an umbrella.

What it Costs

Prices for sights and activities, restaurants and especially lodgings can fluctuate depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. Rather than list exact costs that might date, below we have provided some general ranges (quoted in $US), followed by tipping advice.

See & Do, Tours

Per person:
N/A => Not applicable
Free
$ => $10 or less
$$ => $11–$25
$$$ => $26

Eat

For average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served):
$ => Up to $15
$$ => $16–$22
$$$ => $23

Sleep

For a double room:
$ => Less than $150
$$ => $151–$299
$$$ => $300 or more

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices for sights and activities, restaurants and especially lodgings can fluctuate depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. Rather than list exact costs that might date, below we have provided some general ranges (quoted in $US), followed by tipping advice.

See & Do, Tours

Per person:
N/A => Not applicable
Free
$ => $10 or less
$$ => $11–$25
$$$ => $26

Eat

For average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served):
$ => Up to $15
$$ => $16–$22
$$$ => $23

Sleep

For a double room:
$ => Less than $150
$$ => $151–$299
$$$ => $300 or more

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are fickle things. When you need them to be low, they’re high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and, boom, when there’s a deal, news of it will appear immediately in your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to “friend” airlines or subscribe to their email notifications.

Have Car, Will Travel

As with airfares, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.

There are also name-your-own-price sites such as Priceline, which tries to hook you up with a rental company that will accept your bid. If you aren’t picky about the make and model of your rental, you can sometimes get a good deal.

Money Saving Tip: Costco, because of its behemoth size and negotiating power, offers low prices for most major car rental companies. Yes, you must first purchase an annual Costco membership, but it more than pays for itself with what you’ll save with a typical week’s car rental. A recent search, for example, turned up a mid-size car through Costco for $225 and a comparable car through another aggregator for $325.

Did You Know?
Budget Car Rental offers drivers residing at the same address (e.g., unmarried partners or BFFs) complimentary extra driver coverage. Other car rental companies charge upward of $10 a day. By the way, when renting in California, there are no additional driver fees by law.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to (or within) the U.S. goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation — About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical — Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.

Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay — Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.

Do I need travel insurance?

If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case.”

Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.

How do I choose an insurance provider?

Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).

If you have pre-existing health conditions — Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance — If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.

For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

Bartender
$1–$2 per drink

Bellhop
$1 per bag, $2 in fancier places

Concierge
$5–$10 for brief advice or service; $10–$20 per person, per day, for help with planning activities, making
reservations or acquiring tickets, or transportation.

Hotel Maid
$3–$4 at most lodgings, $5 per day at higher-end properties

Hotel Room-Service Waiter
$3–$5 in addition to service charge

Parking Valet
$3–$5 when picking up car

Porter (Train Station)
$1–$2 per bag

Skycap (Airport)
$2–$3 per bag

Spa Employee
20%

Taxi Driver
10%–20%

Tour Guide
10%–15%

Waiter
18%–20% (if bill includes service charge, nothing extra required)

Costs That Add Up

Fees to taste wines, beer and spirits can add up quickly. You can often pick up tasting coupons (usually allowing two guests to taste for the price of one) at visitor centers and many lodgings and online on website of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. Also check the websites of the wineries you plan to visit; some offer coupons you can print out or download to your smartphone or tablet.  Some wineries offer discounts if you check in on Yelp or other social media.

Transportation

Getting There

By Air

San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (SBP), 3 miles south of downtown San Luis Obispo and 36 miles south of Paso Robles is the area’s main airport. Alaska, American and United airlines serve SBP.

By Bus

Greyhound serves Paso Robles from Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities in California and beyond. The bus station is at 8th and Pine streets.

By Car

Paso Robles is nearly equidistant (about 210 miles) from Los Angeles and San Francisco on U.S. 101. Highway 46 heads west into Paso from California’s Central Valley and Interstate 5, and east from coastal Highway 1.

By Train

The Amtrak Coast Starlight train serves Paso Robles directly from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. From San Francisco (twice) and Oakland (once), passengers must transfer to buses for part of the route, making traveling by train a less efficient choice. The train station is at 8th and Pine streets.

Getting Around

By Car

Driving a car is by far the most efficient way to get around Paso Robles, which spreads both east and west of U.S. 101, the main north–south roadway. Highway 46 splits the town east–west; many wineries are along or off Highway 46.

By Van

Breakaway Tours and The Wine Wrangler are two reliable companies that offer group and private tours to Paso Robles wineries.

Background

Fun Facts

Acreage: The Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA) was established in 1983 with 17 wineries and 5,000 acres planted to grapes. Today, out of the 614,000 acres within the AVA there are presently more than 32,000 vineyard acres.

Appellations: The Paso Robles AVA was divided into 11 subappellations in 2014.

Districts: More than half the area’s winery’s are within three of the 11 subappellations, the Adelaida, Paso Robles Willow Creek and Templeton Gap districts.

Most planted varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape varietal within the larger Paso Robles AVA, followed by Merlot.

Temperature shift: According to the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, the AVA has the greatest diurnal (from day to night) temperature shift during the growing season of any California appellation. In the dead of summer the difference between the highest temperature during the day and the nighttime low is often between 40°F and 50°F.

Zin heritage: Zinfandel was first planted in the late 1880s and for many years was the wine the region was most known for. The Polish pianist and composer Ignacy Paderewski (1860–1941) moved to Paso Robles after taking to the town’s sulfur baths to cure his rheumatism. He planted Zinfandel at a vineyard now owned by Epoch Estate Wines.

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