In the past few years, I’ve discovered the fun of visiting wineries in Santa Barbara and Paso Robles. Located about midway between the Bay Area and Southern California, Paso Robles is home to over 200 wineries. A weekend trip to Paso Robles is hardly enough to do it justice, but if you plan your visit carefully you can squeeze a lot out of just a few days!
It’s even more fun when you plan your visit to Paso Robles during a weekend when they have an event or festival going on. Most recently, we visited Paso Robles for Harvest Weekend, held annually on the third weekend of October. Harvest Weekend is one of the busiest times in Paso Robles, with many wineries celebrating the annual grape harvest by offering tours, throwing barbecues, hosting special dinners, and offering special tastings. When you’re visiting the wineries of Paso Robles during Harvest Weekend, you may even get to meet the winemakers – like our new friend Steven Lock of Ecluse Wines, shown here giving us a sample from one of his new Hungarian wood barrels!
- GET THERE: The town and the wineries of Paso Robles are located along Hwy 46, roughly where it meets the 101 freeway. There is an Amtrak that services the area, if you prefer to take the train, but we usually drive to Paso Robles. From Los Angeles, it’s about a 3 hour drive. Driving gives you the flexibility to drive between wineries on your own schedule (with a responsible driver at the wheel, of course.)
- There are many hotels in Paso Robles, and because the area is fairly compact and most wineries are relatively close, finding a “geographically desirable” hotel isn’t hard. But plan ahead! Hotels in Paso Robles can book up quickly for busy weekends. I recommend the Adelaide Inn (family-owned, great service, numerous free wine tasting coupons at check-in, and a great pool) or the La Quinta Inn (larger and newer, free breakfast, also a great pool).
- When we have stayed at either location in the past, there was a “Wine Wrangler” shuttle available to pick us up and take us into downtown Paso Robles for dinner at night. I recommend checking with your hotel to find out about any shuttle transportation as that is always a preferred option for getting around at night.
- WHAT TO WEAR: Check the weather, of course, to determine your attire during your trip to Paso Robles. During the days of Harvest Weekend 2015, it was quite warm, and unseasonably hot weather! Evenings can get cool so you might want warmer clothes for your dinner outings.
- Reconsider any fancy shoes you might have planned to wear – Paso Robles is a pretty laid-back place, even on Harvest Weekend. You may find yourself enjoying a barbecue standing on mulch and dirt at the edge of the vineyard like we did at J. Dusi Boutique Winery.
- HOW TO PREPARE: To get as much as you can from your weekend, figure out your own goals for the trip. If you want to visit as many different wineries as possible, use the maps at PasoWine.com to plan your route of wineries close to one another.
- For Harvest Weekend, you can also plan your routes by finding out what the various special events are at each winery such as tours or food pairings, and mapping out the wineries you want to visit based on their event. We especially enjoyed the exclusive Production Facility and Cave Tour at Halter Ranch Vineyard. Be sure to plan and book your reservations in advance for any special events or tastings, they will fill up!
- LOCAL FLAIR: A fun way to get started with visiting Paso Robles is to ask friends with similar tastes for a starting point recommendation. Then just wing it from there! Ask the host (or if you’re lucky, the winemaker) at your starting winery for their favorite nearby wineries, and follow their suggestions. We have found some of our favorite wineries by doing just that.
- It’s also great fun to become a member of Wine Clubs at the Paso Robles wineries you really enjoy. You not only get wine shipped to you on a regular basis, but you also enjoy member benefits when you visit the winery in person. At Eberle Wines, where we are members, we enjoyed a rare & reserve wine tasting in the Eberle Wine Caves during Harvest Weekend. What a treat!
- FAIR & SQUARE? If you plan your visit carefully and visit the wineries that appeal the most to you, and take advantage of any special events going on in a weekend, you will find the drive to Paso Robles totally worth it. It’s not a snobby wine area, everyone that I’ve met in the tasting rooms (from staff to locals to other Paso Robles visitors) is really nice and approachable. I can’t wait for my next Paso trip!