Guests dine on hors d’oeuvres alongside their wine at Le Cuvier in Paso Robles, Calif. // © 2018 Le Cuvier
Feature image (above): Justin features stunning views as well as award-winning wine. // © 2018 Justin Vineyards & Winery
Midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco lies the charming, vineyard-laced region of Paso Robles. This lesser-known wine destination is ideally situated for a romantic pit stop during a romantic California road trip — or as a destination unto itself.
While there are more than 200 wineries in the region, these four wineries offer unique experiences worth exploring, for both first-timers and seasoned visitors to the area.
Offering free winery tours from informative guides, Eberle Winery is the place to go for clients interested in learning about wine production. Along with a complimentary tasting, customers can explore the winery’s underground caves and check out the massive oak barrels that line their stone walls. From picking and harvesting to aging and bottling, every aspect of winemaking is covered during Eberle’s comprehensive tours.
The most famous of the Paso Robles wineries, Justin is the creme de la creme of the fermented and bottled. Located miles away from other wineries — or rather, civilization — the scenery here is breathtaking, with rolling hills of perfectly manicured vineyards.
Unlike most wineries, a five-wine tasting at Justin costs a relatively hefty $20 per person. Expect upscale clientele and, most importantly, extra-smooth red wines. The property also features an upscale restaurant, perfect for a romantic lunch between tastings.
While great wines can stand alone in their deliciousness, the addition of food can alter and enhance a wine’s flavor profile. At Le Cuvier, winemakers successfully embrace this idea. Clients not only get to discover the wine, but, as part of Le Cuvier’s standard tasting, they also get to enjoy them with homemade hors d’oeuvre pairings.
And with a professional chef cooking on-site, the accompanying bites are not your average wine snacks. Expect fancy fare such as pork belly with a pomegranate reduction and goat cheese profiteroles alongside pentimento and petit syrah wine. For the cherry — or grape — on top, the winery is high up on a hill, so the tasting room overlooks a valley of stunning vineyards almost too distracting to appreciate the food and wine (almost).
A significant source of Paso’s undeniable charm comes from the boutique winery experiences that occur unexpectedly and serendipitously, away from the big bolded names on the winery map. Tolo Cellars is a perfect example of this kind of hidden gem, offering friendly and personal tastings free of pretentious buzzwords or pushy salesmen.
And while the tasting room may not offer spectacular winery views, it is the epitome of rustic: It doubles as the home of the winery owners, complete with a purring cat that occasionally welcomes clients at the door.