This California Spot Is One Of America's Most Underrated Wine Regions, Per Samantha Brown

It's no surprise that Los Angeles and San Diego are some of the most frequented cities in California. These top destinations in the Golden State have garnered a strong reputation among travelers, but have you been to Paso Robles? Secluded in the countryside of California's central coast, it's a city full of small-town charm and a fresh wind that ruffles the leaves of its plentiful olive groves. If you've never heard of Paso Robles, allow us to introduce you to one of the most underrated California wine regions, wedged in the heart of the state — a mere three-hour drive from both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Recognizable by its manicured foothills and sprawling vineyards dappled with wineries, this small-town treasure is a worthy road trip destination. Just over 30 minutes from the coast, locals have the wealth of California's diverse central region at their fingertips.

It's no wonder Paso Robles is one of travel expert Samantha Brown's top recommendations for wine connoisseurs thirsty for a glass from one of California's finest wine countries. Brown isn't the only one to have given this pocket of luxury a shoutout, either. Paso Robles has been quick to make headlines in several distinguished media outlets, including The Telegraph and the San Luis Obispo Tribune, for its quality artisan breweries, wine trails, and fertile soil. USA Today also named Paso Robles as the top wine destination in the state of California, even surpassing world-class wine regions like Sonoma County and Napa Valley.

Paso Robles is a unique, hidden gem wine region

According to Samantha Brown, Paso Robles is home to 40 varieties of grapes, making it a strong contender with the grape vines found in California's northern Napa Valley region. Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, syrah, and chardonnay are among some of the most popular varieties cultivated in these hills. While Paso Robles may not be on the radar for many wine tasters, it's a budget-friendly wine destination, recognized as "a great alternative to the pricey Napa area," according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune. The region's unique terroir lies at the center of what makes the wine here such a distinguished delicacy. A warm, dry climate coupled with weathered granite, serpentine, and limestone soil compositions allow for a diverse abundance of grape varieties to flourish on this patch of central coastline. The grapes harvested in Paso Robles account for an impressive 35% of California's total wine production (per Wine Tourism). 

These exquisite red and white masterpieces aren't limited to the nearly 250 tasting rooms draped across the rolling acreage. With an abundance of artisanal culinary workshops hosted by local vintners and farmstead owners, it's easy to dive into what makes the flavors of Paso Robles so unique. Brown recommends visiting AronHill Vineyards for an al fresco lunch experience on their sun-drenched patio. This family-owned vineyard grew from a small grape-sized operation to a winery with an impressive annual vintage. Guests can sample their signature Primitivo wine, a relative of the European grape, Zinfandel, at AronHill Bistro alongside seasonal tasting plates.

Wine and dine in Paso Robles

Capitalizing on superior chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, it's hard to beat Justin Winery in your search for stellar wine in Paso Robles. According to Samantha Brown, this winery has been cultivating world-class Bordeaux-style wines since they first opened their doors in 1981. Nestled on a 26-acre farmstead, this captivating estate supports an on-site luxury inn, a scenic bike ride, and their one Michelin-star restaurant, Justin. Tastings are also complimentary at this upscale winery for members of The Wine Society and up to three guests!

When it comes to sipping wine with a view, Daou Vineyards takes the crown. With a Tuscan-style estate perched atop the hills in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles, this family-owned and operated vineyard offers a premier viticulture experience. Every season, the vines are blessed with a plentiful harvest of cabernet and Bordeaux varieties, aged in 100% French oak barrels. Guests are invited to reserve a tasting time to sample a flight of their premium wines alongside rotating seasonal shared plates.

It's not just winemakers who will be enthralled by a visit to Paso Robles — it's also an excellent city for food lovers to add to their bucket lists. Downtown Paso Robles boasts several local farm-to-table restaurants delivering home-grown, local, organic plates. Il Cortile Ristorante is one of Brown's favorites! This Italian bistro brings a bit of the Italian countryside to California with homemade pasta and freshly caught seafood paired with a curated wine list sourced from local purveyors.