Let the crushing begin! Harvest is here and winemakers everywhere are lugging in thousands of bins of this year's vintage, stripping their stems, and turning them into glorious wine. While many will trek north for Napa's classic traditions and often over-priced tastings, you might be better off heading in the opposite direction. For a harvest experience that's more earnest and less erudite, take a trip to Paso Robles (or ro-bulls, as the locals say).
Vina Robles outdoor amphitheater(A. K. Carroll)
CATCH A SHOW
Plan ahead if you want to catch a concert at Vina Robles, a palatial winery with six massive vineyards and a gorgeous 14,000 square-foot hospitality center that includes a tasting room and private event spaces, as well as an intimate outdoor amphitheater. The style of the space is a mash-up of Old World Europe crossed with a California mission and the venue has hosted performers such as Amy Schumer and Cyndi Lauper. Upcoming shows include The Doobie Brothers, The Monkees and Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlan. // 3700 Mill Rd. (Paso Robles), vinaroblesamphitheatre.com
Villa Creek(A. K. Carroll)
WINE + DINE
Harvest season or not, a visit to Paso should include a reservation at Villa Creek, a winemakers' hang out with true farm to table practices and its own in-house winery. The restaurant's spacious patio and indoor dining space are casually elegant and perfect for sampling from a selection of local and international wines. SLO County culinary icon and new executive chef Maegan Loring helms the kitchen and serves thoughtful food, such as basil risotto topped with apple fennel slaw and a flaky fried tart stuff with sautéed wild mushrooms and creamy ricotta. // 1144 Pine St. (Paso Robles), villacreek.com
Refugio(A. K. Carroll)
A GOOD NIGHT'S REST
You can find hotels and Airbnbs at any price point, but for a really rustic stay, consider booking a room at Refugio, a wine country haven created and run by cookbook author Brigit Binns, whose husband and partner Casey Biggs describes her as "The Martha Stewart of the Central Coast" (pre-prison, of course). Refugio's glorious teaching kitchen cries out "lifestyle magazine" and serves as a venue for guest chefs and cooking classes, many offered by Binns herself. Overnight guests can book the Oak Suite, Barn Suite, kitchen, or entire house and enjoy every amenity imaginable, including in-house massages, horseback riding, fire pits, and heated tile floors. // Barley Grain Rd. (Paso Robles), refugiopasorobles.com
More adventurous travelers can get an aerial view of Santa Margarita Ranch and Paso's majestic landscape with Margarita Adventures zipline tours. Six ziplines—the first of which is 2,800 feet and includes a 300-foot suspension bridge—total over 7,500 feet and send you zooming through the canopy for an exciting and educational three-hour tour. Once you're back on ground, you may choose to visit the affiliated Ancient Peaks Winery, which specializes in artisan wines grown on Santa Margarita Ranch. Zipline guests receive a discounted tasting fee and reduction on merchandise. // 22719 El Camino Real (Santa Margarita), margarita-adventures.com
Paso's General Store(A. K. Carroll)
Once you've had your fill of big cabs and rare vintages, take a trip to downtown Paso. Hit up Spearhead Coffee (619 12th St.) for the best third-wave in the region (try their miel latte for a subtly sweet treat) and stop in at Brown Butter Cookie Company (801 12th St.) for samples of their six scrumptious varieties, including limited-edition bourbon. You'll find a variety of small stores and boutique shops lining the tiny town square and won't want to miss the General Store (841 12th St.) a specialty gift shop featuring local products. Sample their famous almond-brittle, custom blend olive oil (made by Paso Olivo) and signature Pasotastic ice cream, a sheep's milk delicacy made by the nearby Negranti Creamery. Should you wish to take a little Paso home, pre-made and custom gift baskets are assembled in the back of the store.