For a wine lover living in San Diego who's looking for the quality of Napa without the long trek (or the inflated prices), there's really only one legitimate option: Paso Robles. In the relatively same amount of time it takes to drive to Phoenix or Las Vegas, it's worth noting that Paso is in our "backyard". My husband and I recently made the trip north for my friend's wedding. Neither of us had visited Paso, so we made a long weekend out of it. Here are a few highlights from our trip:
1. McConnell's Ice Cream: a stop in Santa Barbara is a must. After lunch (or dinner) head over to McConnell's for some of the finest ice cream you've ever tasted. I had the boysenberry rosé ice cream which was rich and creamy. My husband ordered the banana & salted caramel. You really can't go wrong with either.
2. Ember: we decided to stay the night in Pismo Beach to break up the drive, and in hindsight, it was definitely the right decision as we were able to dine at this hidden gem. Side note: Ember is actually located in Arroyo Grande, a short Uber ride from Pismo. We were seated in the secluded patio where we enjoyed incredible dishes like ahi tuna crudo (pictured), ricotta gnocchi, and a steak which were all paired with local wines. It was a wonderful way to kick-start our weekend getaway.
3. Justin Winery: ahhh, we finally arrived in wine country. Given we tend to drink a lot of Justin wines back at home, it was fun to finally be able to visit their winery The sleek and clean design of the tasting room + restaurant was an unexpected and welcomed surprise. After sharing a tasting, we had lunch over-looking the vines, and purchased a bottle of the 2015 "Savant".
4. Brecon Estate: the wedding festivities began at Brecon. Their tasting area is all outdoor, mostly shaded, and has a trendy look/feel due to the fact it was remodeled a few years ago. This is a great venue for a lazy afternoon of drinking a bottle... or two.
5. Thomas Hill Organics: we enjoyed brunch here, and our favorite items were the avocado toast and goat cheese sandwich. Both consisted of simple ingredients, and were extremely satisfying.
6. Tin City: if you want a break from hopping to one vineyard after the next, then Tin City is the solution. It's a collection of tasting rooms, breweries, and even an ice cream shop, all housed within an industrial rustic looking warehouse complex. We spent a full afternoon here tasting wines. Food trucks often park here if you need to get a bite to eat. Some notable tasting rooms to visit: Sans Liege, Desparada (reservation required), and Turtle Rock.
7. Turley Wine Cellars: the ambiance is average, but their wines are legendary. Finding any bottle of Turley at your local neighborhood wine shop is no easy feat, so if you like anything during your tasting, buy it. We stocked-up!
8. Herman Story Wines: our last stop before driving back to San Diego was Herman Story Wines. We shared a tasting, and were blown away by their wines. The staff were extremely friendly, and once again, we left with a few bottles.
We ultimately ended up with 22 bottles of wine, so I think it's safe to say we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Paso Robles. There are over 300+ wineries in the region, so we definitely have some catching up to do!