G and I were in Orange County, California last month for a friend’s birthday celebration and decided to drive up to Paso Robles for a few days. The area is popping up in articles all over the place as a hot destination, with many wineries that are producing quality wines comparable to those coming out of Napa and Sonoma. So, we decided to head up there to see what all the fuss was about.
We took Route 101, aka El Camino Real, the historic road connecting the former Alta California‘s 21 missions. It follows the Pacific coastline, occasionally winding through hills and valleys that give one the feeling of being in the old west. Before heading inland to Paso Robles, we drove out to Moonstone Beach to have lunch.
It was cool and cloudy, and the only place open for lunch was the Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill. Great location, but mediocre food. The highlight was seeing a few seals lazing on the rocks. One of them even looked up and waved at us!
From there, we made the short drive inland to Paso Robles. The first place we stopped was Turley.
It was definitely one of the better tasting rooms. Joella poured a lovely selection for us, as she told us about the history of the winery. My favorite wine from the list was the 2012 Dusi Vineyard. We put together a case – including a few bottles of the Red Velvet Zinfandel, a nice table wine only sold in the tasting room – to ship home.
Joelle suggested we head over to ZinAlley
next, which is just around the corner from Turley. The gate and tasting room doors were wide open, but after standing around for several minutes we noticed a sawhorse outside with a sign that said “Tasting Room Closed” on it. Yes, we felt like idiots. What a shame, since the place was very cool.
Next stop was Thacher
Winery. I attended Thacher School in Ojai my sophomore year of high school…it was founded by the winemaker’s great grandfather. We met Sherman Thacher outside and introduced ourselves. He was very friendly and escorted us into the tasting room to sample his wine, some of which have earned several gold medals. Our favorite was the Controlled Chaos, which is a nice blend of Mourvèdre, Zinfandel, and Grenache.
Thacher Tasting Room
G, me, Sherman and his daughter
From there, we made our way along the winding road into Paso Robles, to check into our hotel. I admit, it was a splurge, but completely
worth it! The Hotel Cheval
is absolutely fabulous, with 16 suites that open onto a beautiful courtyard. The staff were all super friendly and the Pony Club Bar has a great nightly happy hour, with half price glasses of wine.
Our first day ended with dinner at Artisan
, supposedly the number one restaurant in town. I loved the black truffle pizza, but G was disappointed in his steak – it was overcooked and very dry. Fortunately, the wine was good! Stay tuned for Wine Tasting in Paso Robles Part 2!
Man, Paso was where I did my first (and last, unforntunately) tasting. I didn’t go to any of those you mentioned, but one of the places I went to had the best wine I’ve ever had. And you were in Orange County? That’s right by me! 🙂