Situated midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, picturesque Paso Robles has not lost its small-town charm and down-to-earth attitude even though it's now on the radar of everyone in the wine world. Thanks to its genuine friendliness, you'll feel right at home, whether you're a wine aficionado or don't know the difference between a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Syrah. That said, the quaint Central Coast town is the perfect girlfriend getaway to begin or advance your wine education while enjoying some of the region's lush and diverse wines.
Named after the area's tall oak trees, El Paso de Robles, or "The Pass of the Oaks," Paso Robles has a rich history in winemaking — wine-grape growing began about 1790, before the town itself was founded in 1886. Today, Paso Robles boasts everything from boutique wineries to mid- to large-size vineyards. There are more than 26,000 acres producing more than 40 varieties — from Spanish to Italian, Bordeaux to Rhône, including the region's famed Zinfandel. Here are our suggestions for the perfect way to experience Paso Robles wine country, whether you and your gal pals want to brush up on your wine knowledge or just kick back and enjoy what some call "the drink of the gods." And there's more: No girlfriend getaway would be complete without a spa treatment, so we've detailed those too. Enjoy — and prepare your palate for some fabulous-tasting wines!
Learn about wine
Any snobbery associated with wine tasting will be a distant memory with one stop at Clautiere Vineyards, where its motto, "a winery like no other," proves true. Fantasy décor includes purple-painted walls, oversized black-and-white tiled floors, colorful wigs, chandeliers and mosaic tiles — think Mad Hatter meets Willy Wonka. As delightful as the décor, prepare to be thrilled when you taste estate Rhône varietals and blends, Cabernet Sauvignon and a vintage-style port while you take in Clautiere's stunning mosaic art display. Visit Clautiere Vineyard, 1340 Penman Springs Road, Paso Robles, (805) 237-3789.
Continue to refine your wine knowledge, learning how to taste, identify and enjoy different wines at Vina Robles. The winery crafts wines that bridge the old and new worlds, capturing the sophistication of European wines while celebrating the bold flavors of Paso Robles estate vineyards. Current releases include Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Visit Vina Robles, 3700 Mill Road, Paso Robles, (805) 227-4812.
Niner Wine Estates
Next, discover what herbs, spices and fruits make up wine at Niner Wine Estates. The estate offers several wine education series throughout the year, including cooking classes and demonstrations. Visit Niner Wine Estates, 2400 Highway 46 West, Paso Robles, (805) 239-2233.
Remember that famous I Love Lucy episode when she crushes wine grapes? Here's your chance. Learn how to harvest wine grapes and make wine yourself, when you take part in a blending seminar and wine workshop at First Crush. The classes focus on a thorough wine education, ranging from Wine 101 to Blending Workshops, and are available year-round. Visit First Crush, 2995 Pleasant Road, San Miguel, (805) 434-2772.
Where to stay
Hotel Cheval, 1021 Pine Street, (805) 226-9995: The only high-end boutique hotel in downtown Paso Robles. The 14-room hotel offers luxurious rooms and amenities. Enjoy a glass of wine with your friends in the Pony Club or sit in relax in the library.
Canyon Villa Bed & Breakfast
Canyon Villa Bed & Breakfast, 1455 Kiler Canyon Road, (805) 238-3362. A Tuscan inspired B&B in the heart of Paso Robles wine country. After a day of wine tasting, wind down and enjoy more wine and appetizers in the courtyard from 4 – 6 p.m. during the summer months.
Take in a spa treatment
River Oaks Hot Springs Spa
River Oaks Hot Springs Spa has been a gathering place and a source of healing for years. Here, guests can relax and rejuvenate, whether they're soaking in the mineral springs under the starlit sky or relaxing in the shade of a private open-air spa. Visit the spa at 800 Clubhouse Drive, (805) 238-4600.
At Vino +Therapy Studio
Wine is not just for drinking. At Vino +Therapy Studio, luxurious wine-infused treatments include the Coco-Cab Facial, a cabernet- and chocolate-infused treatment ($70), a wine-soaked manicure and pedicure ($50) and grape-seed oil massage ($70 for 60 minutes). Visit the studio at 5990 Entrada, Atascadero, (805) 466-8466.
Getting to Paso Robles
Fly into San Luis Obispo; Paso is a 30-minute drive north on Highway 101.
More vacation and travel tips
5 Fashionable hotels
5 Spa getaways worth the splurge
Learn a language and culture together