For my birthday last November, my husband surprised me with a trip to California’s Central Coast for a nice, long weekend of wine tasting and relaxing. We’ve been to Sonoma County for wine tasting many times and love the area and also to the more trendy Napa Valley but we’ve never ventured to any of California’s other wine tasting regions. My husband, whose hobby is exploring different wines and learning about them had read quite a bit about the Paso Robles area. It’s becoming quite an up-and-coming area producing some fabulous wines so we decided to make that our destination.
We flew into San Jose because it’s the closest to Paso Robles. An alternative would be to fly into Los Angeles which adds about 50 miles to the drive. Since the drive from San Jose to Paso Robles (“Paso” from now on) was going to take about three hours we decided to make a stop at Hahn Winery outside of Soledad. This worked out perfectly since Hahn is halfway to Paso. We picked up some Subway sandwiches at the shopping center in Soledad and brought them to Hahn.
Hahn Winery is located on the Santa Lucia Highlands, which is one of the most prestigious Pinot Noir growing regions in California. The visitor center has a large wooden deck that looks down on the valley and is a great place for a picnic. We enjoyed our lunch enjoying the beautiful views while relaxing from our day of travel.
After sampling some of Hahn’s wonderful wines we decided to purchase a bottle of their Luciene Pinot Noir to enjoy on our first evening in Paso. We’ve since found their Hahn Estate SLH wines here in Houston and those have become one of our favorite “weekend” wines (i.e. wines over $15/bottle).
We continued our drive to Paso and arrived about an hour and a half later. We stayed at a wonderful hotel called La Bellasera which is in the heart of Paso. We loved our stay there and can’t wait to go back. The hotel was elegant yet comfortable. Our room was gorgeous. The most interesting thing about our room was the fact that there was an enormous hot tub in the living room. It was kind of amusing. Our room though was spacious and very beautifully decorated. Room service was excellent and every morning they brought up a pot of coffee for us to enjoy on our balcony.
On our first day in Paso, we decided to head to a familiar winery, J Lohr. We especially enjoyed tasting their 2005 Carol’s Vineyard Napa Vally Cabernet, their Sauvignon Blanc and their Hilltop 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.
We went over to Rotta Winery next. Rotta was founded in 1908. It’s the only remaining family owned “original” winery in San Luis Obispo County. We loved their 2010 Vermentino and their Trinity 2007 Cabernet.
We had lunch at a place called Farmstand 46 which served gourmet sandwiches. The food was absolutely fantastic and perfect for a stop on a day of wine tasting. Everything tasted so fresh and the location was perfect!
Other wineries we visited included Turley. We loved their 2009 Paso Robles Zinfandel Dusi Vineyard and their 2007 Paso Zin Ueberroth Vineyard as well as their 2008 Rattlesnake Ridge Roussanne.
At Mooney winery we found a very relaxed tasting room called Chateau Margene where we enjoyed their 2010 Grenache Blanc.
We enjoyed Lone Madrone’s 2009 Points West White and Kenneth Volk’s 2008 Mourvedre Lime Kiln Vally En Vineyard and their 2008 Barrel Fermented Verdelho. At L’Aventure Winery, we loved their Cote’ A Cote’ Estate 2009 and their Optimus Estate 2009.
On our third day, we decided to head south on Hwy 1 to Moonstone Beach. Moonstone Beach was beautiful and the rocks on the beach looked like colorful stones. A little further down we stopped at Elephant Seal Beach where the seals covered every inch of the beach sunning themselves. A little further down was Hearst Castle.
On our last day in Paso, we stopped at Justin Vineyards and Winery for a tour of the winery called the Just Barrels and Bottles tour. You’ll need to make a reservation and it costs about $30.00 per person and lasts approximately 45 minutes. It’s a fascinating tour which takes you through the production of Justin wines and into the cave where the barrels are kept. You are able to taste Justin Wines from different barrels as you learn how the wine develops during the barrel aging process. You conclude your experience with a tasting of a library wine to see how wines change as they bottle age. It ‘s very interesting.
Our next stop was beautiful Carmel. We drove Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy. 1) down from Paso to Carmel. The views were spectacular but all I could think was that I was glad we had a small rental car (a convertible!!) because I couldn’t imagine driving our suburban on that narrow road with no guardrails!
We arrived in Carmel and pulled into Tickle Pink Inn. This hotel has got be my favorite hotel of all hotels I’ve ever stayed in. The view from outside our room was spectacular! The outside of the hotel looks quite unassuming however, when you open your room door and look into the room from the bed and beyond to the spectacular views you’ll understand. Our room had a balcony which opened up to the coast. We honestly didn’t leave our hotel the entire time we were there. They served us a room service breakfast in the morning and in the evening we went down to the hotel patio where we were served a very nice assortment of meats,cheeses, breads, desserts and wines. We fixed a plate for each of us and brought them back up to our room to sit on the balcony and look out at our view. Tickle Pink Inn is the perfect place to truly relax. It was truly spectacular.
Our trip to Paso was over all too soon but it did open our eyes to other wine regions. We’d love to explore the wines of Oregon and Washington State next.
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