Situated midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso
Robles was once a mid-19th century hot springs resort. The thriving
health retreat wound down into a sleepy little ranch town serving
as a quick Highway 101 pitstop for mid-century motorists (including
Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe who spent the first night
of their honeymoon in Paso Robles’ Clifton Motel en route from
San Francisco to Palm Springs). These days, Paso Robles—or Paso,
as the locals call it—is a destination dripping with vineyards and
award-winning wineries with a healthy splash of Old West charm.
Viticulture isn’t new to this region. Franciscan padres planted
grapes at nearby Mission San Miguel (founded in 1797), and
commercial winemaking kicked off in 1882, but nearly another
century would pass before wine grapes were planted on a large scale.
Now touted as California’s fastest growing wine region, Paso
Robles is home to more than 250 wineries. Many of them have
tasting rooms in the center of town, making downtown Paso a
walkable wine-lovers’ paradise. While zinfandel first made a name
for the region, other varietals are flourishing. One of the largest
producers is J. Lohr (jlohr.com), with around 1.5 million cases
produced a year. Winemaker Jerry Lohr has championed cabernet
sauvignon, merlot, and syrah from the Paso Robles appellation
since the early 1980s. He recognized that the Paso Robles region’s
diurnal temperature swings of 45 to 50 degrees from early morning
to midday during the growing season would create optimal flavor
development in these classic red varietals.
Just three miles from the center of town, the J. Lohr tasting
room (6169 Airport Road, Paso Robles) offers complimentary tasting
and the winery is dog-friendly.
But spirits are also now on the map as more and more of the
region’s versatile winemakers break into the distillery scene by
February/March 2019 79
gray whales migrate south to breeding lagoons in Baja California.
Beginning in February you can spot the gentle giants migrating
back to Alaska to their feeding grounds with their newborns by
their sides. This is often when the best viewing can take place since
the new mothers and their calves move more slowly as they swim
against the current. Occasionally the spectacular sight is punctuated
by spontaneous geysers as the whales come up for air, resembling a
long line of steam locomotives spouting out in the ocean.
The hotel’s award-winning restaurant, Sierra Mar, showcases
local bounty like Morro Bay oysters and Monterey Red Abalone.
The chef also offers a nine-course Taste of Big Sur menu, with
optional wine pairing, as well as the more traditional four-course
prix fixe menu which changes nightly.
Oenophiles will happily linger over selections from the renowned
wine cellar, home to one of the largest wine selections in North
America, with over 14,000 bottles. Wine Director Dominque
DaCruz places equal emphasis on both Old and New World wines
from Europe to Australia and from California to Washington, as
well as classic to small artisan producers.
Included in the steep room rate are a variety of perks, from a
breakfast buffet to daily yoga classes, guided hikes and stargazing
outings. Keep your eyes peeled while hiking the resort’s trails for
the unique creatures who make the Central Coast their home, including
majestic California condors soaring overhead. The natural
beauty of nearby waterfalls, secluded beaches and state parks may
inspire you to write an ode to Mother Nature and her resplendent
flora and fauna offspring. You’ll appreciate why Big Sur is revered
as a retreat for brooding romantic writers and has been venerated
in books by such literary icons as Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac.
As the only hotel in Big Sur with a view of the wild waves of the
Pacific, Post Ranch Inn offers a heady mix of top-tier luxury and
stunning natural beauty, making this the ultimate destination for
romance, relaxation and rejuvenation.
WINE AND THE OLD WEST
Hotel Cheval and horseback riding
Heading south to the Central Coast, ride off into the sunset with
a romantic retreat to Paso Robles, where cowboys and cabernet
go hand in hand.
FROM SIERRA MAR’S
LOWER PACIFIC SUITE