The unincorporated community of Templeton, Calif., just south of Paso Robles, is a secret worth discovering. Templeton was established in the late 1880s as the southern terminus of the Southern Pacific Railroad and has had several iterations over the years: first as a railroad town, then as a farming community and finally as a wine-making center. Although it still has a rustic, rough-around-the-edges quality, the town seems to be changing again, this time into a tourist destination. The tab: The Vis-à-Vis Suite at the Carriage Vineyards Bed & Breakfast was $174 a night (including the $10 online reservation discount), and dinner for one at McPhee's Grill was $64.50, which included a couple of glasses of local wine. The cost of wine tasting at local wineries varies.
Choices are limited in Templeton because the city has no downtown hotels, but in the countryside you can find several charming B&Bs. The delightful Carriage Vineyards Bed & Breakfast (4337 S. El Pomar Road, Templeton;  227-6807, http://www.carriagevineyards.com) is part of a working vineyard and ranch, with 22,000 vines sustainably farmed on 27 acres. The B&B is a converted family home, and the recently remodeled Vis-à-Vis suite contains two rooms with a shared bath, antique furnishings and a romantic king bed. As an added attraction, a 2,400-square-foot carriage house sits next door containing a collection of 20 beautifully restored vintage carriages. Carriage rides are available.
Since 1994, McPhee's Grill (416 S. Main St., Templeton;  434-3204, http://www.mcpheesgrill.com) has been the go-to place for Templeton and for much of the Central Coast. The restaurant, owned and operated by husband-and-wife chefs Ian and June McPhee, is in what may be the town's oldest building (circa 1860) across the street from the still-active grain elevator. McPhee's is best known for its steaks, but on the night in question, I chose a salad of baby kale, pecorino cheese, dried cranberries and pomegranate seeds with a distinctive apple-cider honey vinaigrette. This was followed by a fresh macadamia-crusted ono in a ginger-sesame vinaigrette, accompanied by wasabi mashed potatoes and Asian slaw. The desserts looked scrumptious, but alas, I had no room.
Templeton is all about wine and is home to Turley, Wild Horse and other big names. But it's the small, off-the-beaten-path establishments where real finds can be made. At Sarzotti Vineyard on the east side of town, Jim and Cheryl Sarzotti produce a mere 1,000 cases a year that can be bought only at their winery (180 Bella Ranch Road, Templeton;  226-2022, http://www.sarzottiwinery.com). Bill and Liz Armstrong, another husband-and-wife team, began work in 2009 on the west side, where their Epoch Estate Wines (7505 York Mountain Road, Templeton;  237-7575, http://www.epochwines.com) produces 4,300 cases a year. Their 2010 Estate Blend (a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Tempranillo) was named Wine Spectator's 25th best wine in the world.
The lesson learned
If you look beyond the bigger places, small treasures abound. Paso Robles is your favorite? Give Templeton a shot. Adventure and good times await.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times