Paso Robles for the weekend: An itinerary

December 6, 2006 

The Cattleman's Lounge at the Paso Robles Inn sports four flat-screen televisions and a large screen that’s pulled down on game days.

JOE JOHNSTON — The Tribune Buy Photo

A morning in town

Fill up with breakfast at the historic coffee shop – complete with circular counter and chrome barstools -- at the Paso Robles Inn (1103 Spring St., 800-676-1713) then spend the morning strolling around Paso Robles’ downtown, centered around the lovely City Park. If you’re around on a Tuesday, there’s a farmers' market in City Park from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (There’s another good one in Templeton at the park on Crocker and Sixth streets from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays.)

There are plenty of shops for browsing, located mostly on the square and the block north to 13th Street between Park and Pine. Don’t miss Di Raimondo's Italian Market and Cheese Shop (822 13th St., 805-238-1268) and We Olive (1311 Park St., 805-239-7667), with an olive bar, olive oil tasting and all things olive-related, from tapenades and salsa to gadgets, cookbooks, soaps, ceramics and linens.

There are a number of good options for lunch. Among them: Panolivo (1344 Park St., 805-239-3366), a French Mediterranean bakery serving sandwiches, paninis and quiche; the Thai dishes at Basil Thai (828 11th St., 805-238-9945); the world-spanning, deli-style offerings at Odyssey World Cafe (1214 Pine St., 805-237-7516); the "contemporary comfort food" – paninis, quiches, pot pies, salads and soups – at Berry Hill Bistro (1114 Pine St., 805- 238-3929); and the hefty sandwiches on signature bread at Garden Bread Bakery & Café (1401 14th St., Suite A, 805- 239-1002). Or just pick up picnic provisions and head out for the wineries.

An afternoon of wine

SLO County has almost 200 wineries, most of them in the Paso Robles area. Whatever you are looking for – an outstanding zinfandel, a complex Rhone wine, a cutting edge varietal mash-up or just a nice spot to spend the afternoon -- you’re likely to find it in Paso.

Check out some of our favorites in our suggested itineraries or look through our winery directory. Or just drive along the main routes – Highway 46 West and Vineyard Drive on the west side of Highway 101 and Highway 46 East on the east side – and stop wherever catches your fancy.

For a scenic route around Paso’s west side past dozens of wineries, head out Highway 46 west from Highway 101, turn up Vineyard Drive then loop back to Highway 101 on Adelaida Road. Turn off the main route at any of the back roads for even more options.

For a shorter, though less scenic, trip to Paso’s east side, take Highway 46 East, which features several notable wineries. At Tobin James Cellars, take Union Road, with a quick dip down Penman Springs Road, back to Paso.

If you’d rather leave the driving and details to someone else, you have plenty of options. Click here to find out about escorted and custom tours of Paso’s wine country.

Evening back in town

When you’ve had your fill of wineries, head back to downtown Paso for dinner. Try the country French cuisine at Bistro Laurent (1202 Pine St., 805-226-8191) or the fresh California and Mediterranean inspired dishes made with local ingredients at Villa Creek (1144 Pine St., 805-238-3000). There is also the American bistro Artisan (1401 Park St., 805-237-8084) All boast extensive wine lists, outdoor dining and plugs from Wine Spectator magazine.

Try the new spot on the Paso culinary scene, or duck over to Templeton to McPhee’s Grill (416 S. Main St., 805-434-3204), a local favorite with a gourmet Wild West flair.

The 10th Street Basque Café (249 10th St., San Miguel, 805-467-3141), a little farmhouse just a few minutes up Highway 101, serves up a wild Spanish fiesta three nights a week. You’ll join the other guests family-style, share wine from a suede bota bag (which you pour into your mouth without touching your lips) and savor a nine-course Basque feast of paella, tapas and other specialties – all for $24.95. There’s only one seating each night, at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 6 p.m. Sundays. Reservations are almost a must, and note that they don’t accept credit cards.

If you’re up for still more wine in the later part of the evening, check out Fenomenal Bar (closed Mondays, 835 12th St., 805-227-7154) on the square. It offers sofas, overstuffed chairs, high pub tables and an 18-foot granite bar plus a cozy room especially for couples. There are wines for tasting or by the glass, hors d’oeuvres, desserts, an international beer list and much wine paraphernalia for sale. Every Wednesday a local winemaker arrives to pour, chat and share a barrel sample.

Check our hotel listings to find a place to stay. The historic Paso Robles Inn (1103 Spring St., 800-676-1713) is right across from City Park. There’s an outdoor pool and spa, and some rooms feature hot springs mineral spa tubs. Also around town are a number of chains, and the wine country is dotted with B&Bs for those looking for a romantic option. Or you can spend a night at a winery. Check out those offering accommodations here.

After a good night’s rest, hit all the spots you missed the day before, drive down to SLO to visit the wineries of Edna and Arroyo Grande valleys or head west on Highway 46 West – rolling through some of the county’s most breathtaking landscapes –to the North Coast and spend a day exploring the bucolic east and west villages of Cambria, watching elephant seals and visiting the opulent Heart Castle.

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