Paso Robles, CA

Today I learned that Paso Robles is the fastest growing city in San Luis Obispo County, and after this weekend I can understand why. Paso is quaint and charming, with an explosion of wineries and top-notch restaurants. It’s a nice 3.5 hour drive from Los Angeles along the 101, with views of rolling hills on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

My friends and I stayed at the lovely Venteux Vineyard. They have an amazing guest house that must be newly constructed or recently renovated. It sits on a small hilltop, away from the main house and tasting room, and I love that there are bales of hay out front. If you’re thinking of visiting the area, I highly recommend staying at Venteux.

Favorite Winery: Whalebone. It’s family run, and they are a very cool and good-looking bunch. But that’s not why it’s my fave. Not only do they have great wines, but they also offer a great selection of flavored olive oils, mustards, and jams. The day we went they were also serving free samples of a delicious homemade tri-tip chili with their balsamic glaze.

Favorite Restaurant: Il Cortile. This may be the best italian food I have ever had outside of Italy. All the pasta is made fresh, and the sauces are delicious. I had the lobster spaghetti, which was a special that evening, and it was so flavorful, but not heavy. My BF had the chilean sea bass and it was perfectly cooked. The mashed potatoes that came on the side were the best I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t know potatoes could be that creamy, and yet they didn’t taste laden down with butter.

Trip Highlight: Private tour at Denner. Thanks to the schmoozing talents of our friend MK, we were treated to a private tour of this impressive winery. Denner is a 108 acre vineyard that is large enough to sell over half of their fruit to other wineries. Other makers even produce their wine here. We got a special glimpse of Saxum bottles waiting to be filled after the holiday weekend. I learned that this was a big deal – Saxum goes for a respectable $100 or so per bottle, but that’s if you can get your hands on one. The waiting list is two years.

Please enjoy some of my favorite images from Paso – Of particular amusement (or horror, depending on your point of view) is the winery that had caged geese with a conversation-starter of a sign. (I assure you, the owners intended this as a joke. The geese seemed very happy.)

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