Wine tasting is so subjective, especially when it comes to wine preferences, likes and dislikes. However, what makes for a unique experience is also the area and location in which one tastes the wine. A professional cellar may outrank an industrial building tasting room, but one must also take into consideration the person who is pouring. Is he/she just a sales person, wine-maker, owner or Joe Schmoe? Do they interact or ignore you?
If you happen to live in Los Angeles, you can learn and experience the full effects of wine tasting a mere 4 hours away in Paso Robles. Don’t be discouraged that you might not be the next Robert Parker (famous wine taster), but you can easily do a 1 night stay getaway and have a great time. Not too shabby if you’re on a time and budget crunch. I recently went on a 72-hour weekend vacation getaway in Paso Robles and here are my experiences…
M., the dog and I piled into the car at 8am after picking up our coffee from Peets and headed up the 101 to try some wine tasting. I’d say that it’s not as exciting as Napa, but I’ll make do with a short and relatively cheap trip up the coast. Boy, I can’t tell you how much I miss driving through the rolling hills and green pastures. Los Angeles is a concrete jungle and the people are a different story!
We arrived at our first wine appointment at Justin Winery around 1pm. For some reason, I thought it was a boutique winery – but with 30 cars in the driveway I knew we had made somewhat of a mistake as I prefer smaller tasting rooms with a bit more intimacy! Since we had been driving for 5 hours, we opted to skip the more intimate private wine tour located another mile up the road and stayed for their wine tasting in a bar like setting where people line up awaiting their turn. We had a hard time flagging someone down to get a tasting, but luckily 2 spots at the bar opened up. The tasting experience was a bit overwhelming because it was so crowded, but I tried my best to enjoy the scenery and appreciate the fact that they are a dog-friendly site. Monster was fortunate enough to be tied up in the backyard where he enjoyed a private and gorgeous view of their vineyard. Lucky dog!
While trying to enjoy our wines among the crowds, I chatted up a storm with Richard, a man tasting alone, who had driven up for the day to pick up a bottle of his favorite wine – Isocoles. This bottle of wine is something he and his wife had shared and enjoyed 2 years ago when they celebrated their wedding on the property. The restaurant catered their food and the winery provided wine and location. Lucky for him, the winery was less busy back then!
We then had lunch at Deborah‘s, located just a few steps outside of the tasting room. The dining room is located in a beautifully enclosed outdoor patio where a resident dog grazes around the guests and stares at you for table scraps. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much to share with him since our lunch took over an hour to get to our table… you wouldn’t think that a brats-dog and hamburger would take over 45 minutes to prepare, but it did. Sad.
Richard had recommended that we visit Mondo, or Villa nel Mondo, a smaller boutique style winery which was on our way back into town. I’m so glad we took his recommendation! As soon as we walked in the doors, I noticed how quiet and peaceful the tasting room was in comparison to the previous place. Mitch, one of the brothers that owns the winery, welcomed us and immediately set us up with a free tasting. How refreshing it is to have personal one-on-one interactions with someone from the winery!
After chatting for a bit at the tasting room, we wandered around and planted ourselves on a couch facing a window with picture perfect views of the valley. I asked Matt what he thought of Paso Robles so far, but both agreed we hadn’t exactly seen much to develop an overall impression. Mitch over heard us chatting about Paso Robles and chimed in, topped off our wine glasses and spent another 30 minutes chatting with us. His property was purchased 30 years ago by his family, but only developed as a winery about 2 years ago. We also learned that Paso Robles is reminiscent of Napa back in the 1980’s. (Note to self, if I have extra cash, buy some land now!)
While sipping our wine, we noticed a small group of people out on the patio enjoying finger food and appetizers. I noted, “What a great way to spend the evening with the sun setting behind the Paso mountains. If only we were locals… we could do this every day!” Mondo has a little kitchen and serves happy hour with $6 drinks and appetizers running through April to October. If you live nearby, you’d be lucky to enjoy this. By the way, the winery also has a little B&B upstairs, which you can see in the second photo.
We ended the night with a nice dinner in the old Paso Robles town square and a visit to Powell’s Sweet Shoppe (see photos). Dinner wasn’t anything memorable or fantastic to write about, but I will warn you that there are plenty of tourist traps eager to make a quick buck on you. As with any vacation, you should do your research before hand in order to find some of the better places to visit.
By the way, if you’re wondering where we spent the night with Monster, our dog, we’d be happy to let you know that we found a great rate and deal at La Quinta which is pet-friendly!
To be honest, Saturday went to an okay but (welcomed) lazy start. I love researching my way through trips and had a great conversation with the manager at La Quinta who is a huge wine fanatic. He pointed out several wineries we should definitely check out, being that we prefer boutique wineries as opposed to large commercial ones. Hopefully Sunday will bring more surprises!
Justin Winery & Vineyard
11680 Chimney Rock Road
Paso Robles, CA 93446-9792
Mondo Cellars Winery
3260 Nacimiento Lake Drive
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Powell’s Sweet Shoppe
840 11th Street,
Paso Robles, CA 93446
La Quinta Inn & Suites Paso Robles
2615 Buena Vista Drive,
Paso Robles, CA 93446