Paso Robles Travel
Planning a wine vacation in Paso Robles? Check out this Paso Robles wine guide exploring the wineries and region to get the most out of your trip.
Located about 200 miles (320 km) from San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso Robles (pronounced "PASS-oh ROH-bulz") is still an undiscovered wine country.
For the connoisseur, it's surprising to see this much wine quality in a 15 mile (24 km) radius. And, because so many of the wines get snapped up locally, it's well worth making the trip.
Driving the 101 Freeway into Paso Robles from Los Angeles is epic. Eight-lane freeways out of LA slink down to 2-lane curving roads lined with California oaks. The 4 hour trip from Los Angeles is highly recommended in a fast car or on a motorcycle.
Paso Robles sits on the Eastern side of the Santa Lucia Mountain range, a low set of hills that stop the dank marine influence. In between these hills, tight valleys lay the scene of a wine region growing rapidly.
How many days do you need in Paso Robles?
Plan to visit Paso Robles for 2 days and 2 nights. This will give you enough time to enjoy the area's amenities and visit a few vineyards. Going to the vineyards is a must because they're truly impressive. Plus, you'll get the real taste of the terroir and the culture behind the wines.
When is the best time to visit Paso?
Spring, summer, and fall are everyone's top choices to visit Paso Robles. That being said, it rains just two out of ten days during winter, so there really isn't a bad season.
If you're an adventurer, you'll love Paso Robles in the spring. During this season, the hills become brilliant green from the fresh crop of grasses. Bud break (when the vines sprout leaves) typically happens in late March. Paso Robles is a driver's paradise.
Two Paso Robles spring wine events might catch your interest:
Spring Release Weekend – 3rd weekend in March. This is a great way to taste many different wineries at once in a large walk-around tasting in the historic Downtown City Park.
Paso Wine Fest – 3rd weekend in May. This is a massive multi-day event with music, food, vendors, and most of the local wineries pouring their wines.
Summer is hot in Paso Robles, but it cools down quite a bit at night. It's a great time to visit if you love to relax by the pool or want to explore a cellar tour during the midday heat. Vineyards will be in full form with veraison (when the grapes change color) starting in early August. Grab a bottle of rosé and relax.
Summer events to know about:
Mid State Fair – This massive 12-day fair at the end of July hosts the Central Coast Wine Competition, featuring wines, olive oil, and spirits.
Harvest typically starts at the end of September, and this is when Paso Robles becomes a 24-hour-7-day-a-week hustle. Many wineries pick their grapes at night to keep them as fresh as possible. You'll see wineries in full swing, including lots of forklift action for the vintage crush.
Harvest Wine Month – A month-long harvest festival happens throughout October in Paso Robles at various wineries.
Which Wineries to Visit in Paso Robles
There are over 200 wineries to choose from in the area. If you take a closer look at the region, you'll realize that there are 11 unique sub-AVAs here, and each subregion has a unique microclimate that subtly affects the wine style.
Here are some ideas when choosing Paso Robles wineries:
Don't miss western Paso
Forested hills cover western Paso Robles, including the sub-regions of Adelaida, Templeton Gap, and Willow Creek. This area offers some of the most picturesque Paso vineyard scenery. Look for wineries specializing in Rhône varieties, including Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre.
Under-the-radar wineries at Tin City
Many up-and-coming wineries, cideries, and breweries have set up shop in a converted industrial area in South Paso. Since everything is close by, it's easy to explore.
Gain elevation in eastern Paso
What gives eastern Paso wines freshness is growing at elevation. Vineyards in some of the appellations start at 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level.
Get started early Downtown
On the weekends, the popular downtown tasting rooms get busy quickly! Make sure to drop in earlier or schedule a private appointment.
Look up the Rhône Rangers
Rhône varieties (including Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre) wouldn't be as popular in the US today had it not been for several pioneers, namely Gary Eberle, Robert Haas, Bob Lindquist, and Randall Grahm.
Organics and beyond
Be sure to check out the vineyard information on the wineries you research. One surprising feature here is the large number of wineries going beyond organic practices, including biodynamics and even regenerative organic farming.
Tasting Room Etiquette
If you haven't planned a wine country vacation before, here are some basic tips about tasting rooms.
What to wear – Paso Robles is all about comfort. If you're going to a winery, wear closed-toed shoes with grip because a working winery floor gets slippery. Avoid perfume or strong-smelling lotions, which can interact with the aroma experience.
Bring a jacket to a cellar tour – Proper cellars range between 55–64 ºF (13-18 °C), which is quite cold if you're in summer attire!
Make reservations – If you're visiting wineries and tasting rooms outside of downtown, make a reservation or call ahead to let them know you're coming.
Hydration is key – It's smart to bring a water bottle with you while tasting and stay hydrated. Wineries are happy to refill them.
Pets yes! – More than 70 tasting rooms allow pets in Paso Robles! Many wineries also have shaded outdoor areas with water for leashed pets.
Tasting room fees – Average tasting room prices range around the $20–$30 mark. Most wineries will waive your tasting fee if you buy some wine.
Use the spittoon – It's pretty common to see experienced tasters use a spittoon while tasting. If you're sensitive to alcohol, try this out, it's a great way to stay sharp. Try out the 4-step tasting method to sharpen your abilities.
Over 60 varieties of wine in Paso Robles
Paso Robles blew up in the 1980s and 1990s for Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends (which also include Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot). However, if you really want to taste the cutting edge of this region, check out the alternative varietal wines here.
Tannat – A South-West France specialty. In Paso Robles, it's fruitier, darker in color, and even more tannic. It's hailed as one of the most high-tannin wines in the world. Great cellar selection.
Viognier – An aromatic-yet-rich full-bodied white wine. Flavors range from peach to orange peel with richer notes of vanilla and star anise spice.
Grenache Blanc – Another full-bodied white wine which often sees oak in a similar style to Chardonnay, but without all the butter. Think zesty citrus flavors backed with nuttiness and a waxy palate.
And many many more! Investigate the wines page to explore more!