Italy on the Central Coast

For Il Cortile Ristorante Managing Partner, Carole MacDonal, introducing guests to Italian wines and their California counterparts is a major perk of the job.

“I’ve had a lot of experience with Italian wines over the years, and a lot of education,” said Carole, who recently became Level 1-certified through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and whose thoughtful wine list earned the Paso Robles fine Italian dining establishment a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence this year. “I have specific ideas about pairings, so I educate the staff, and they’re very knowledgeable.”

Designed specifically to complement the cuisine of Il Cortile’s Chef Santos MacDonal, Carole’s wine list has grown over several years to include wines by the glass, by the bottle and limited release wines across a wide spectrum of prices. Of these selections, about one-third are Italian in origin with the remainder hailing from California’s Central Coast.

“I often like to pour tastings for guests like the Marchesi de Gresy Nebbiolo, a traditional variety from Italy's Piedmont region, and a Central Coast Nebbiolo, like one from Giornata Wines so they can taste the unique qualities of each region,” said Carole. “Or, if we’re going Tuscan, I’ll pour local Sangiovese with Chianti to compare and contrast.” Il Cortile also offers an Italian flight that correlates to a “Local Italian” flight.

“Our cuisine is true to Italian tradition, but our ingredients are extremely local – I look at the wines the same way. It’s just as exciting to pair Santos’ dishes with Old World Italian wines as it is to pair them with New World interpretations of those wines.”

While wine is a lifelong passion for Carole, her background includes a successful career as a producer and published writer in Hollywood with credits in both television and film. Her experience running productions is evident in thoughtfully-designed events like Il Cortile’s recent “reverse winemaker dinners,” in which a weekly wine producer presented several wines around which Chef Santos crafted a menu.

To see Carole MacDonal’s wine list or to learn more about Il Cortile Ristorante, please visit



Il Cortile is located in downtown Paso Robles at 608 12th Street, and is downtown Paso Robles’ fine dining Italian restaurant. Chef Santos MacDonal crafts seasonal menus with the freshest ingredients sourced from the surrounding local and regional landscapes and provides a vast array of exceptional homemade pastas, fresh seafood, top quality meats and antipasti. A major destination for exquisite wines, picturesque landscapes and beautiful weather, Paso Robles provides the perfect pairing for Il Cortile’s authentic Italian fine dining. Il Cortile is a recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2014. For reservations and information, please call 805.226.0300 or visit