Paso Robles oozes the kind of connectivity that inspires community innovation and cooperation. It’s a theme we experienced throughout our stay in this lovely pastoral wine region. We discovered this right off the bat when Spearhead Coffee was too crowded to accommodate our group one morning and they suggested we head down the street to AMSTRDM Coffee House.
Morning Coffee to Start the Day
At AMSTRDM, two gentlemen were playing chess while a steady stream of customers queued up to order coffee from owners, Corey Jordan and Katelyn Smith. The pick-me-up aroma wafted throughout the café as Katelyn served up large cups of beautifully presented aromatic coffees to smiling patrons.
During the early morning hours, the only hint at another of Corey‘s passions was a piano sitting in a far right corner of the coffee house. The owner is an accomplished pianist, Steinway purveyor, and founder of jazz salons at nearby Libretto around the corner on Park Street. The coffee shop is his newest gift to downtown Paso. The couple started AMSTRDM when the commercial space below their apartment became available.
A Cruise Along the Coast
With coffee in hand and a "brunchwrap" to-go (best described as AMSTRDM's signature breakfast burrito 2.0) ... we set off towards the coast. Paso has been lovingly coined, "the land of cowboys and surfers" for good reason. Just a quick 35 minute road trip west along Highway 1 will take you to some of the Central Coast's best beaches and hikes. Take Harmony Headlands in Cayucos — by the time you've finished your coffee you'll find yourself at the beautiful State Park and trailhead for a two mile hike from the highway to the scenic coastline (four miles round trip). This beginner’s hike is a great coastal day trip. Highway 46 West makes it possible to be back in wine country by lunch, or you can take the scenic Old Creek Road if you have time to trade for some killer views!
Downtown Park Street bustles with tasting rooms, structures under restoration to fit the next phase of their existence, entrances to alleyways hiding inviting BBQ joints along with modern versions of the candy shops once found on every historic Main Street. Brown Butter Cookies is but one of these examples.
Paso Robles doesn’t just have one such street though. They have a town square with Thursday evening concerts in the gazebo with businesses all around. One such venue is the General Store, offering everything you may need in a throwback version sure to please modern customers. The central downtown area of Paso Robles is very easily walkable.
Walking to the east side of the park is a multipurpose art space called Studios on the Park displaying diverse art and open studios where you can see local artists at work. This creative non-profit had 2,500 children participate in free art and craft classes last year through their Kids Art Smart program. Very impressive when you consider that the town has a population of only about 30,000 residents.
The former public library in the center of the park is one of 1,687 public libraries built in the United States between 1883 and 1929 with grants from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Today, it is home to the Paso Robles History Museum and Historical Society.
Newest Paso Robles Accommodation
Next, we headed to The Farmhouse and arrived in time to enjoy this newly re-imagined motel’s continental breakfast, which includes goodies from a local bakery and Spearhead coffees.
Their rooms have been completely renovated with tilework and modern amenities, yet still reflect the charm of yesteryear The retro look was preserved in the modern refrigerators, the high ceilings and the ambiance while showcasing the attention to detail you find in high-quality boutique hotels.
Each of the 26 rooms was thoughtfully designed, with added tables and chairs on the porches and four fire pits with soundscapes scattered throughout the property. Twenty eight parking spots are spaced between the cottages, so none of the guests have to walk far from their vehicles to their rooms. Completing the farmhouse scene are lemon trees and flora meant to attract the local wildlife.
Lunch at Calcareous Vineyard
Our next foray took us to Calcareous Vineyard for a wine tasting experience followed by a full, delightful lunch. The drive led us past vineyards up a windy road climbing to the spectacular views from the highest winery in Paso Robles.
Paso’s winemakers form an interactive community, exchanging information and solving problems together as they gain more knowledge from each another. Winemaker Jason Joyce is a treasure trove of information about the history of winemaking in Paso Robles and the differences the winemakers have discovered between neighboring vineyards due to the Temblor range’s unique geology and climatic differences. Calcareous Vineyard produces wines from grapes originally found in the Rhône region of France with a distinctive limestone character added from the soil and its farming techniques.
We had the pleasure of tasting the 2022 Vin Gris Cuvee, 2021 Lily Blanc and 2021 York Mountain Pinot Noir wines on the stunning picturesque patio overlooking the entire valley below us. Lunch was a feast of delectable charcuteries and entrees ranging from a crisp chicken sandwich to tender Moroccan spiced lamb loin paired with their 2020 Lloyd wine.
An Afternoon in Tin City
Tin City is Paso’s incubator for food and drink industry startups, named for its tin-roofed buildings.
BarrelHouse Brewing Co. was launched by three friends with a vision for a community gathering place combined with a brewery. Having a background in the construction industry, the founders decided to make their vision a reality utilizing reclaimed materials and used equipment wherever possible. They accomplished this goal admirably, only having to buy one new piece of major equipment.
Their outdoor facility can host concerts for up to 1,000 people and is geared toward families enjoying an afternoon out, with a waterfall, play areas for children and picnic tables where the adults can enjoy a beer or two. They have a lot to choose from as the brewery’s current offerings consist of over 20 beers and hard seltzers. BarrelHouse Brewing Co. isn’t finished yet, as they are in the design phase for a much larger facility on the east side of Paso Robles. Judging by the facility they created here in Tin City, the new one will be well-worth waiting for.
Shopping and Dining at Etto
Just a few steps away in Tin City, we visited Etto, a pasta manufacturer and restaurant started by two winemakers with deep Italian roots. At Etto Pasta Bar, the soothing babble of a waterfall greeted us on the patio along with the clinking of glasses as guests happily toasted one other.
Our host graciously provided a wide selection of Etto’s entrees served of course, family style. I fell in love with their Falanghina Blend orange wine, the Giornata Orango Tango. I tend to favor sweet wines but the smooth light selection had me convinced I was back in Italy enjoying a sunny afternoon with my family. We enjoyed everything from a spicy spaghetti dish to the Mighty Cap Mushroom, where the sauce clung perfectly to the conchiglie pasta.
Magical Evening at Sensorio
As daylight faded, we drove to Light at Sensorio. This made for a magical end to a perfect day. This immersive art installation weaves through many rolling acres of Paso Robles hills and valleys. Bruce Munro created the Field of Lights at Sensorio to highlight the natural bucolic landscape. He went on to honor Paso Robles’s wine industry roots by creating Sensorio’s colorful Light Towers from more than 17,000 bottles of wine.
As we approached the grounds, lights began illuminating the valleys in a pale white before slowly turning into colorful waves. It felt as though we were stepping out of a black and white movie into a wonderland of colors. The cooler evening air enticed me to keep moving through the flowing waves of light even though the photographer in me couldn’t help stopping to capture every new wonder that appeared as I stepped into the next valley or onto the next ridge.
Rhythmic African inspired music embraced us as we entered the light tower area. While the solar-powered lights are visible from a distance, fellow art admirers became mere silhouettes dancing among the pulsating towers. Returning from our rambling journey through Sensorio to join up with friends at our terrace firepit overlooking the fields of light will forever be etched in my mind. Clinking our glasses of wine, we toasted the end to a spectacular day in beautiful Paso Robles.