Welp. It wasn’t exactly easy to put it together, but it turns out if you plan and you’re lucky you can
whine wine all you want amidst COVID life.
Planning is definitely key. We started putting this trip together weeks before and it wasn’t soon enough. “It’ll be easy”, we thought. “No one is going anywhere”, we thought.
We thought wrong. Someone is out there scooping up all the hotel reservations. And, of course, with lodging at limited capacity, the rooms go fast and – no surprise – at highly inflated prices. Our first thought was a few nights at the iconic Post Ranch Inn. Nope. Completely booked. That splurge will have to wait for the next plague, when we’ll plan ahead better.
Same problem with the other hotels we looked at, and with fires in wine country, Sonoma and Napa were smoked off the list. We had checked with our long-time favorite Hotel Cheval in Paso Robles but again the refrain, there was no room at the inn. We resigned ourselves to the endless staycation at home but then the phone rang and we were suddenly back on with three nights at Hotel Cheval!
So off we went! We stopped along the way for an outdoor lunch at Brasserie SLO, a new find for us in San Luis Obispo.
Then onward through miles and miles of Central California’s fall-dry hills.
Listed as a “best of the best” on TripAdvisor, and recipient of their 2018 #1 Small Hotel in the US award, this 16-room inn elevates sleepy Paso Robles to a must-go destination.
The rooms are cozy
and dog-friendly, although we left Lily home to entertain our friend Lori while we’re away:-)
The hotel is built around a gracious European-style courtyard.
The breakfast buffet is gone due to COVID, but there’s still a breakfast tray, to be enjoyed in the adjacent Pony Bar courtyard.
And, of course, at night there are s’mores served around the fireplace. Pretty sweet!
We visited two wineries, chosen more for the setting than for the wine, but that was good, too! Both were only a convenient ten-minute drive from the Cheval.
First was Caliza, where they pride themselves on their Mourvèdre-forward red blends. Lovely setting and a warm welcome there.
The next day we visited Niner Wine Estates which is a sprawling, pristine complex just over the hill from Caliza. I didn’t get to taste their coveted Fog Catcher but I’m bringing home some of their crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Best of all, even though they are just recently up and running again with COVID protocols in place, they serve a charming picnic lunch. Memorable experience.
The CE doesn’t join in the wine-tasting, but he greatly enjoyed the view:
I should mention that we did not starve in-town Paso. They truly have their act together with restaurant “parklets” abounding around the town square and a generally relaxed atmosphere. We had dinner in the well-ventilated interior courtyard at longtime favorite Thomas Hill Organics, where I ordered the empañadas:
There was a wonderful al fresco paella lunch at new find La Cosecha:
And a truly outstanding dinner on the expanded outdoor patio at Il Cortile. Even with ample seating they were turning people away. It must be that fabulous Pappardelle Chinghiale, or perhaps the panna cotta:
Shopping in Paso offers a few gems:
And, always, there is the town square, a favorite hallmark of so many of the small wine towns in CA.
But Paso’s square is the only one where you can pay homage to Polish composer and pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who settled in Paso Robles in 1913 and grew zinfandel grapes on his ranch. A man ahead of his time!
Lucky us, going from no trip to road trip to sweet Paso Robles. It felt almost normal to travel and stay there, which is not the case everywhere. Balm for the soul, and plenty of wine. The perfect fall getaway!