A weekend jaunt to wine country

Times Staff Writer

The tourists are coming! The tourists are coming! Wine is flowing in Paso Robles, and the community caught midway between California’s two biggest cities is alive with the idea that hordes of wine lovers will fill its streets and country lanes, bounding from winery to restaurant to winery.

Just 3 1/2 hours from Los Angeles (north via Interstate 5 and then west via California 46, or take the more scenic coastal route, but beware of traffic jams) -- Paso Robles is an easy weekend destination from almost anywhere in the state. And, located only 20 minutes inland from the beaches near Cambria, even non-imbibing partners have a place to play.

In eager anticipation, Paso Robles has polished up its downtown, restoring old buildings and making plans for new ones. Restaurants are opening and luxury inns are under construction.


A near-constant parade of special events dominates the downtown park in a pedal-to-the-metal push to showcase Paso Robles’ charms to anyone who wanders through.

For a community that traces its history back to Mennonite farmers, this kind of total makeover takes time. Accommodations are in short supply, and the shopping continues to be geared toward residents.

Just wait, say local developers. The trickle of tourists is just the beginning. As more come, more things will change.

Here are some of the current highlights for visitors. Unless otherwise noted, all addresses are in Paso Robles.

Wine touring

For a map, list of wineries and details about the Paso Robles Harvest Wine Tour this weekend (Friday through Sunday), featuring barrel tastings, seminars, music at wineries and other events, visit the Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Assn. website at or call (805) 239-8463 or (800) 549-9463.

Where to stay

Finding a place to stay isn’t as easy. Dozens of vineyard owners offer guesthouses. Some are more appealing than others, but none is inexpensive, at $150 or more per night. For details on some winery accommodations, contact the Paso Robles Visitor and Conference Bureau at or (800) 406-4040. No Internet site has a comprehensive list, so try Bed and Breakfast Inns Online at as well.

Orchard Hill Farm, 5415 Vineyard Drive, (805) 239-9680; This guesthouse overlooking the west-side wineries is one of the best. $190 per night.

Inn Paradiso, 975 Mojave Lane, (805) 239-2800, (800) 522-8220, This whimsical 1970s inn has been brought back to life by chef-owner Rochelle Harringer, who is known for her Mediterranean-style cooking. $350 per night.

SummerWood Inn, 2130 Arbor Road, (805) 227-1111, A classic country inn with peaceful vineyard views and breakfast by chef Charles Paladin Wayne. $250 per night.

Justin Vineyard’s Just Inn, 11680 Chimney Rock Road, (805) 237-4149, A night here and a six-course $65 prix-fixe dinner at Deborah’s Room (reservations required) pairs haute cuisine with the inn’s opulent decor and end-of-the-road seclusion. $245 per night.

Villa Toscana at the Martin & Weyrich Winery, 4230 Buena Vista Road, (805) 238-5600, An over-the-top theme park-style place with views of some of the most mundane vineyards in the region. $340 per night.

Paso Robles Inn, 1103 Spring St., (805) 238-2660, (800) 676-1713, This mid-range inn adjacent to the city park has very basic rooms. Live music in the bar until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights can make a weekend stay here a noisy proposition. $155 per night.


Villa Creek, 1144 Pine St., (805) 238-3000. Using local organic produce and grass-fed meats, chef Tom Fundaro creates dishes that he says hearken back to California’s rancho days.

Bistro Laurent, 1202 Pine St., (805) 226-8191. Laurent Grangien was the first French chef to offer bistro food to downtown diners.

Buona Tavola, 943 Spring St., (805) 237-0600. This is Antonio Varia’s second Northern Italian trattoria in the area; the first is in San Luis Obispo.

Tiger Paws, 555 12th St., (805) 226-0408. One of a growing number of ethnic cafes in the area, this spot features the Mugli cuisine of northern India.

Basil, 828 11th St., (805) 238-9945. Paso Robles’ newest Thai restaurant faces the city park.

Paris, 221 Park St., (805) 227-4082. This year-old establishment owned by Claude Chazalon is the city’s second white tablecloth French restaurant.

McPhee’s Grill, 416 S. Main St., Templeton, (805) 434-3204. Specializing in grilled meat dishes, it draws a crowd of locals.

Specialty shops

Hush Harbor Artisan Bakery, 5735 El Camino Real, Atascadero, (805) 460-0541. Baguettes, croissants and elaborate pastries from baker Donnie Monroe.

Di Raimondo’s, 822 13th St., (805) 238-1268. This shop, which offers the city’s first extensive selection of domestic and foreign cheeses, is also a source for European delicacies.

We Olive, 822 13th St., (805) 239-7200. Samples of a dozen freshly pressed olive oils are available at this shop’s tasting bar.


Willow Creek Olive Ranch, 8530 Vineyard Drive (805) 227-0186, The harvest season for olive oil begins in early November, with continuous pressings through mid-December.

Rinconada Dairy, 4680 W. Pozo Road, Santa Margarita, (805) 438-5667. Christine Maguire’s dairy farm is nestled in the hills surrounding Santa Margarita Lake.

Windrose Farm, 5750 El Pharo Road, (805) 239-3757. Bill and Barbara Spencer now are harvesting heirloom melons, winter squash, apples and beans.