Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Paso Robles List

My two years spent working and traveling to Paso Robles on business is at an end (barring anything unforeseen, and there are always lots of things unforeseen). I feel like I have been inside nearly every restaurant and market. many tasting rooms and a couple hotels. Paso Robles is a wonderful place to visit for wine tasting, R&R, or even a drive-by on the way north or south in between the Bay Area and Southern California. My favorites, let me share them with you.

1401 Park Street
Paso Robles, CA

Artisan focuses on local and seasonal produce and proteins whenever possible. The atmosphere is elegant but not off-puttingly so, and the food has been beyond reproach every single visit. This is my favorite restaurant in town.

608 12th Street
Paso Robles, CA

Brought to Paso by Chef Santos MacDonal and his wife, Il Cortile offers Italian food on a par with any I have had anywhere in California. Again, a focus on local ingredients with burrata from LA County's own  Gioia, and a Paso/Italian focus on the wine list. They offer upscale dining inside, al fresco on the sidewalk facing patio and a small bar that appeals to this often solo diner. They even have a regular who stops at Paso just to eat at Il Cortile and visit with the staff on his frequent trips between the Bay Area and Los Angeles. It's that good and they are that friendly.

Villa Creek
1114 Pine Street
Paso Robles, CA
Known among my colleagues for the infamous and Chowhound lauded taco Tuesdays, I love to stop into Villa Creek the second I hit town for a glass of prosecco and a snack to reward me after the long drive. Villa Creek has terrific food and the liveliest upscale bar in town. The bar staff is always good company, the steamed clams on the bar menu my favorite dish.

The Wine:
Lone Madrone
2485 Highway 46 West


My ultimate favorite, they make a nebbiolo that knocks my socks off every time I taste it. Constructed by Neil Collins (also executive winemaker at the heralded Tablas Creek), the wines from this vineyard are dry farmed and head trained, and typically blends inspired by Neil's years of working with Paso wines.

11680 Chimney Rock Road
Love the wines at Justin, have yet to taste one that didn't impress. My sister-in-law A got an Orphan for Christmas (a blend of whatever the vineyard happens to fancy throwing together in any given year).  Last time I stopped into their tasting room, I was treated to several wines not on the menu, I felt incredibly special. It might have been the booze talking. The wine room itself is not my favorite in the region, it reminds me a lot of the more corporate feeling rooms of Napa. But there is none of the accompanying impersonal attitude. Justin is worth a visit.

2900 Vineyard Drive
Turley makes and sells primarily zinfandel. They are delicious, but plan your tasting trip accordingly. Stop at Turley first prior to burning out your taste buds where the wines are bigger.

Tobin James
8950 Union Road
I enjoy that Tobin James is literally right on the 46 as I head out of town after a long day (or short, depending) of work. Stopping by for something special right before hitting the long drive makes arrival home all that much sweeter. The wines at Tobin James lack some of the subtlety of other makers in the region, but they still hit right inside my sweet spot of wine preference.  The syrahs, primitivos and blends tend to the jammier end, but I enjoy every taste of fruit.

Courtyard Marriott 
120 So. Vine Street
Paso Robles, CA
All Courtyards are not created equal. Things to love about this one: room service, busy downstairs bar, large heated swimming pool, pay-per-view movies in room and inclusive breakfast with omelet station every morning. The Marriott is also walking distance to downtown Paso, perfect for a morning jog around the square or an evening walk to dinner.

La Quinta Inn & Suites
2615 Buena Vista Drive
Paso Robles, CA
Located out by route 46 (and not really a safe walk into town, traffic wise), I love La Quinta nonetheless for their pet policy. No fee, no holds barred. Around the fenced parking lot (away from aforementioned traffic) is a green belt replete with oft emptied trash cans and doggy bag stations to self clean after your meandering pup. I discovered their pet friendly policy this fall and wish I would have discovered it two years ago.

Di Raimondo's Italian Market
822 13th Street
Paso Robles, CA
It's not all Italian and it's not only cheese. Get in here for cheese, a baguette and other goodies before wine tasting. Trust me.

Powell's Sweet Shop
840 11th Street
Paso Robles, CA
For your kid or your inner kid, Powell's will blow you away with the array of classic, nouveau and novelty sweets.

Kennedy Fitness
500 South River Road
Paso Robles, CA
To work off the stress of the day or front load some serious calorie burning before wine tasting your afternoon away, stop in at Kennedy for a group exercise class.  Every single one I have attended is top notch including Body Pump, Spin, Yoga, Zumba (it wasn't pretty), and Sculpt. If I remember correctly, they charge $12 non-member fee per usage. Worth every penny.

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