Last fall I craved Perugia's peaceful tranquillity but I didn't want the jet lag. What to do? Instead of a 12-hour flight to Italy I drove to Paso Robles in less than four. Just as Perugia is overshadowed by Tuscany, Paso Robles is eclipsed by Napa. A mammoth mistake for wine lovers. Downtown Paso Robles is a throwback to a simpler era, without a single parking meter. It has inspiring art galleries, quaint tasting rooms such as Bodegas and charming boutiques surrounding its central park. There are fine choices for every oenophile, with more than 400 wineries producing cool-climate grapes. No wonder Sunset magazine named Paso Robles the best wine country town in the West for 2016. The tab: We spent $490, including taxes, for two nights at Allegretto Vineyard Resort; $425 for meals; and $130 for two tickets to the Garagiste Festival.
The 20-acre Allegretto Vineyard Resort (2700 Buena Vista Drive, Paso Robles;  369-2500 has 177 spacious, well-appointed rooms and an impressive art collection. Its Italianate design, fire-pit-freckled courtyard, cabana-clustered pool and cozy spa make it seem less a hotel and more like a beloved uncle's luxurious country villa. Allegretto is also an ideal starting point for a run amid the vineyards. Just walk out the door and turn right.
Dining alfresco at Allegretto's Cello Ristorante was delightful. Chef Eric Olson's foraged mushroom risotto was divine, and the rack of lamb was so tender I didn't need my knife. The Hatch (835 13th St., Paso Robles;  221-5727) epitomizes Paso's laid-back ambience with its creative, satisfying comfort food. The congenial mixologist poured me a Buck Hunt, a mezcal, fig jam and rosemary cocktail that tasted like Thanksgiving. The grilled octopus and fava bean succotash was delicious.
The weekend's viticultural pièce de résistance was Daou Vineyards (2777 Hidden Mountain Road, Paso Robles;  226-5460) overlooking Paso's breathtaking Adelaida District, arguably the region's most gorgeous. Lebanon-born brothers Georges and Daniel Daou came to Paso by way of France, and created an environment that pays homage to the terroir they love, producing remarkable wines. Try Daou's elegant 2012 Reserve Zinfandel.
The lesson learned
Make your travel arrangements in plenty of time for the annual Garagiste Festival, held this year on Nov. 11. It's tasting nirvana with premium, small-lot, hard-to-find wines from more than 65 winemakers. Last year's standouts: Caldera Cuveé's 2010 Tectonic Trio and winemaker Kate Nowell-Smith's 2015 Grenache. It was perhaps even more delightful than her enthusiasm.