Unplugged in Paso

Birthdays = Big Sur, at least in our two-person/one-dog family. (Actually, my husband tends to invoke Big Sur as the answer to any holiday or celebration.) Recently, his Friday birthday was rudely sidelined by a long and pretty important photo shoot at our Paso home (see Wine Enthusiast, July issue), and this made him cranky. “No Big Sur?” he mumbled, eyes downcast. Too far to drive for just a day and a half--I told him guiltily—plus we’ll be exhausted after the shoot. And then I came up with Plan B.

Because sometimes, when you live in paradise, you forget that it’s paradise.

“Lets just stay home and unplug from everything; we’ll pretend we’re visiting,” I suggested. And that’s how we came to spend the weekend after his birthday unplugged from technology but blissfully plugged into our hometown of the past four years.

Saturday morning: With iPhones turned off (gasp!), we boarded the bus in Santa Margarita for the Zipline Tour. I’m not really a tour bus kinda person, but our host was so knowledgeable, the wildlife and landscape of Santa Margarita Ranch so riveting, that I forgot we were part of a group. Inside me, a little voice piped up “This is some scary bidness. You won’t have the guts to jump into thin air.” After 8 million safety precautions and 12 fail-safe buckles, I launched into the air with great elegance (I thought), and zipped smoothly, like a wheeling hawk, over cows, vines, oaks, and 400 years of ranching legend. And then I did it again. I’d do it again tomorrow. Have you been? Go now.

It’s seems criminal to say we get bogged down going to the same wineries over and over, because they are all so splendid. But on this weekend, it was time for some new blood. Among the tasting rooms we frequent in town is D’Anbino—for their excellent music events—but Anglim had been mentioned by lots of people recently, so we dropped into the warm, woodsy little building next to the train station for a chat and a taste with the lovely and knowledgeable Steffanie. She and her husband have quite limited production, meaning every bottle is overflowing with love (I was especially partial to their Mourvedre). We felt like we had made a new friend as well as scored some excellent wines. And that’s what it’s all about here, after all.

Still blissfully unplugged, we walked over to a brand new (to us) restaurant: Second Press, right on the square. What an amazing job the new owners have done with the ex-Meritage space! Dining at the bar, as usual, we met new people, discoursed with the friendly bartender (there shouldn’t be any other kind!), and fell head over heels for the Brussels sprouts and crispy pork belly.

On Sunday, the goal was to really wind down; my favorite place to do so is an outdoor hot tub at River Oaks Hot Springs. You can sip a mildly fortified, carbonated beverage (i.e. champagne!) while the hot-and-healing mineral water carbonates all around your tired body, then surrender your noodle-like selves to two expert masseuses. Ninety minutes later, I’m having an out of body experience. Best part: We’re only ten minutes from home, and the new season of House of Cards awaits. Pinch me.

This was so unexpectedly fabulous, that we’re doing it again for the Fourth of July weekend. (Wait -- does this count as a “Busman’s Holiday”? Ummm…who cares?)

For more information on Paso Robles and to plan your next stay, please visit TravelPaso.com.


-- Brigit Binns is the author of 28 cookbooks, most recently The NEW Wine Country Cookbook: Cooking from California’s Central Coast. Her husband, actor and director Casey Biggs, is also known as “Paso Wine Man.” The couple has recently launched Refugio, a state-of-the-art studio kitchen/event space plus two luxury vacation rental suites. www.RefugioPasoRobles.com