Random fact: I’m not a huge fan of wine, but I love the activity of wine tasting. I wanted to take a weekend trip somewhere and decide to go to Paso Robles after hearing that it was a cheaper and less pretentious wine country than Napa (Don’t get me wrong though, I love Napa – just can’t afford it, haha). We picked a random weekend in October to go and it turned out to be harvest weekend in Paso Robles. A lot of wineries were doing special wine tastings, music, food, and other activities. We were able to go to 2 in one day and really enjoyed our time there.
We left Saturday morning and it took us about 2.5 hours to drive to the first winery from the Peninsula in the Bay Area. Luckily, we didn’t hit any traffic and made it by lunch time!
Tooth and Nail Winery
Tooth and Nail Winery was not one of the participants in the harvest festival (nor is it technically in Paso Robles), but I wanted to go there because the winery looks like a castle and there’s actually a moat around it!
I didn’t know this when I was browsing, but the winery actually had a really dark vibe. The outside seemed magical and pretty, but the interior was dark and gothic. Maybe the sunny blue skies and turquoise moat threw off the initial vibe that day. When you walk inside to the tasting room, the walls are black, the accents are a deep red and the artwork is a little creepy.
It was a surprisingly nice October day so we decided to do a wine tasting ($20 regular or $30 reserve/tasting) and order some lunch. They started us with a free rosé tasting, which I really enjoyed. We also got the reserve tasting which I thought was okay (but don’t take my word for it as I don’t know my wines). We also got some waygu sliders and carnitas tacos which were good. Both were cooked well and had great flavors. The portions were just a little small. Overall, it was a really nice meal with the tasting on their patio overlooking the moat and the service is amazing here.
One of the cool things about some of their wine labels was that they were augmented reality labels. If you download their app on your phone and hold it over one of wine labels, the pictures start moving and you can see a whole story happening!
This was a cool winery. We stayed here longer than we planned just enjoying our lunch, tasting, checking out the augmented reality wine bottles, checking out all the artwork, and walking around and exploring.
Our next stop was at Castoro Winery. I chose this winery because the tasting was really cheap (7 tastings for $10) and there was disc golf ($5/person) that you can play next to the winery. Because it was wine weekend, there was a lot of activities going on and we didn’t end up playing disc golf.
We still did a tasting (pro-tip: check in on Yelp for a free tasting – we found this out after we paid, but it was still really cheap) and walked around exploring what was going on that day. There was an art area, a jewelry vendor, pizza vendor (of course we had to pay them a visit), wine tasting from the barrel, grape tasting, and music.
One other thing they had that’s been on my bucket list for a while was to go grape stomping! They had a giant container full of grapes and people were free to just take off their shoes and stomp on some grapes (Don’t worry – they weren’t actually going to use any of the grapes for wine). My initial thought when I stepped in was that the grapes were really cold, but it was fun to walk around on top of a bunch of grapes. It probably feels like what you would imagine – really squishy.
Overall, I had a great time here!
River Oaks Spa
Aside from the wineries, Paso Robles is also known for their hot springs. My friend recommended River Oaks Spa for some relaxation. They offer various massages, facials, and a dip in the mineral spa by the hour ($22/person/hour).
Since we just got a massage a couple of days before, we decided to do an hour in the mineral hot spring. It was so nice and serene to be outdoors overlooking a pretty vineyard and just relaxing. I also liked that the water was a little hotter than warm, but it wasn’t burning hot so it was a really nice temperature.
To quote the website, Sensorio is “a 15 acre walk-through artwork, Field of Light is a sculptural composition that covers Sensorio’s rolling hills with an array of over 58,800 stemmed spheres lit by fiber-optics, gently illuminating the landscape in subtle blooms of morphing color. Powered by solar, the stunning exhibition captivates visitors, inviting them to engage with the countryside through an ethereal light-based, sculptural experience.” Each ticket to enter was $30 (excluding fees and taxes) on the weekend. I found a discount code for $2 off: PismoLighthouse (better than nothing).
We paid about $35 total for each ticket and though I thought the art installation was really pretty and cool, it was probably worth about $20 at most. If you do go, I would recommend going right before sunset so you can see what it looks like in the day, then you’ll get to see a really pretty sunset and then watch as all the lights get lit up in the dark. It’s a really pretty installation and the lights turn different colors. It looks the best when you look across the whole field and you just see a sea of colorful lights.
Dinner at The Hatch
Apparently The Hatch is a hot spot for lunch or dinner in Downtown Paso Robles so we had to check it out. Pro tip: make a reservation because when we arrived for ours, we heard that the wait was 1+ hours.
They’re known for the chicken so we knew we had to try that. I was a little hesitant since I eat a lot of chicken and don’t normally order it when I’m out, but it was really good. The chicken was cooked perfectly, it was moist and it had a nice rotisserie chicken flavor which was really good with their hot sauce.
We also got the carbonara and was surprised that the bacon came in such hearty pieces (we were expecting like cut up breakfast bacon strips). The pasta was cooked perfectly, the sauce was nice and creamy and the bacon was fatty and salty and added that saltiness to the dish.
I don’t know why we decided to pay $12 for a dish of broccoli, but we really enjoyed it. I loved the charred taste of the broccoli and you can’t go wrong when you dip anything in cheese.
Overall, it was a really good dinner and I can see why people come here to eat.
Where We Stayed
Since we were only staying in the area for a night, we decided a room at an Airbnb would be enough. I’m not sure if it was harvest weekend or if prices are generally pretty high for the area, but we found a decent room at 145W | westside vibe to stay in. The location was about 5-7 minutes to downtown and maybe 10-15 minutes to either the winery, spa and Senorio. It was a really good location and didn’t take too long to get to where we wanted to go.
The hosts were great and the house is really artistic and stylish. The bedroom was really simple, but all we really needed was a bed. I would recommend this place for a quick stay.
Overall, it was a great trip. It such a cute little countryside area with lots of wineries and hot springs. I would come here again to check out the other wineries and also for a day or weekend of relaxation.