The secret is out. Paso Robles, roughly 200 miles north of Los Angeles, is producing some of the best wines in the world. Kevin and I just got back from a quick romantic weekend away, exploring both the famed Paso Robles wine region as well as the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara. To say the area has become a hot spot is an understatement — Paso Robles alone has over 300 wineries. Back in 1990, the region had just 20 wineries!
Like surfing through Netflix, all these winery choices can get overwhelming. Trust me, I get sucked into a deep, dark Netflix hole when given the remote. So we did the work for you and picked our favorite spots on where to eat, drink and stay. And hey, if all else fails, there’s always Netflix. Just don’t look to me for any help with that!
Dinner Pick: Hitching Post II
Call it the Sideways effect — the 2004 cult wino movie with Paul Giamatti — that put a spotlight on Santa Ynez’s Pinot Noir. Many of the movie’s most memorable scenes were filmed in Paso Robles at the restaurant Hitching Post II, best known for their filet mignon and of course their Sideways-branded Pinot Noir.
Though something tells me the bartender has heard the classic movie line more than once, “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving!” We recommend getting the Pinot Noir flight ($18) that includes four 2 oz pours… Just because it’s fun!
Reservations are essential at this classic, bare-bones steakhouse. Or try your luck grabbing open seating at the bar, which is normally several people deep. The restaurant makes a great stop along the way north from LA.
Top Winery Pick: Daou
With so many wineries, how can we narrow it down to just one? Well, Daou is pretty spectacular and I think represents all this excitement coming to the region. First, let’s start with the view — worth the trip alone. Daou is located at one of the highest spots in the region with sweeping views of the wine fields below. The day we were there, it was freezing outside. But luckily, we were able to nab a spot inside right in front of the fireplace.
The story behind Daou is pretty incredible, too. The winery was founded by Georges and Daniel Daou, Lebanese brothers who immigrated with their family to France when they were just 10- and 14-years-old to escape the civil war. They moved to the south of France, which is where their fascination with the culture of wine began. The brothers found their way to the United States but it wasn’t for the wine. They studied engineering at the University of California — where they eventually founded a software company. When it got sold, they decided it was time to fulfill their long-time dream of opening a winery. Flash forward to 2007 and that’s when Daou winery began.
Tastings are $40 per person. Though, each individual tasting is waived with a 3 bottle purchase. Also, two tastings are waived if you join their member program. They also have a special military vet’s discount — waiving the tasting fee for anyone who served. While the tasting fee might seem on the steep side, the wine is really among the best we’ve had. But don’t just take our word, Daou has regularly been selected by Wine Enthusiast Magazine as the “American Winery of the Year,” competing mostly against the big players in Napa.
Besides all this tasty wine, you’ll want to pair it with something. They offer a menu with a la carte options, but we think there isn’t anything better than the charcuterie and cheese plate. Dig in!
Top Pick to Stay: Petit Soleil
Petit Soleil isn’t actually in Paso Robles (I know, I know!). But it’s just a quick 30 minute drive south in San Luis Obispo. This has become one of our favorite return spots and is a charming hotel with so many things we love. Free wine and snacks, a big breakfast included in your stay and easy parking. Hey, we’re from LA… Now that’s a luxury item!
The boutique hotel is French themed, right down to the room decor and accordion music playing from our alarm clock/CD player. One thing to note – these beds are high! Not sure if that’s a French thing, but we got our cardio in for the night by leaping into the bed. At least, that’s what we told ourselves after eating all that cheese and drinking all that great wine at Daou!
- Top dinner pick: Hitching Post II,
- Reservations are essential at this classic, bare-bones steakhouse. Or try your luck grabbing open seating at the bar, which is normally several people deep.
- Reservations: (805) 688-0676 or here
- Top winery: Daou, 2777 Hidden Mountain Rd, Paso Robles, CA 93446
- Advance reservations recommended (during the warmer months)
- $40 a tasting per person
- Reservations can be made here
- Top hotel: Petit Soleil, 1473 Monterey St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
- Reservations: (805) 549-0321
- Rates: $179-$299 (ask for AAA discounts)