Travel: An Excursion to Cambria and Paso Robles Wine Country

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marymcgrathBY  MARY MCGRATH



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    Boardwalk, Moonstone Beach Photo: Mary McGrath (click to enlarge)
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    Diver Scallops-Madeline's Photo: Mary McGrath (click to enlarge)
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    Pool at Hearst Castle Photo: Mary McGrath (click to enlarge)
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    Wine at Castor0 Wines Photo: Mary McGrath (click to enlarge)
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    Cambria Photo courtesy: (click to enlarge)
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    Hearst Castle Photo: Bill Stansfield (click to enlarge)
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    Thomas Hill Organics Photo courtesy: (click to enlarge)
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    (click to enlarge)

Itchy to get out of town, it was time to plan another excursion.  I’d heard some great things about Paso Robles, and thought we’d partner with a stop in Cambria to round out the adventure. It was a great strategy.

Paso Robles is a mere 40 minutes from Cambria, requiring an easy drive over pristine rolling terrain. The fact that the area is home to so many wineries made the decision an easy one. Let’s go!

Cambria is a gorgeous 3 ½ hour drive north of LA. As we meandered up Highway 1, we remembered previous visits where we stayed on Moonstone Beach Drive, home to several restaurants and quaint inns that freckle the terrain. Lacing along the cliffs is a wonderful boardwalk, offering visitors a bracing view of the Pacific.

This time, we stayed at the Pelican Inn and Suites, a cozy enclave of nicely appointed rooms sporting chic modern amenities with a coastal twist.  After plopping down our suitcases, a stroll was in order along the boardwalk. Who can ignore such a view? Ground squirrels danced by, hoped we’d share some food with them, but alas, our pockets were empty. Soon, they were hopping toward the next passerby, eager to beg for a morsel.

Dinner was planned at the nearby Madeline’s Restaurant & Wine Bar, a cozy romantic spot in downtown Cambria that boasts a nicely fused American menu with French influences.  Make sure you check out the diver scallops and the crab and lobster cakes. Both were remarkable, making this stop a memorable one.

What’s a visit to Cambria without a stop at Hearst Castle? I’ve visited this place many times, and each time, I’m ushered into Randolph Hearts’ glorious past, and decadent opulence. One day, I hope to swim in that indoor pool if there’s an opportunity. I can dream, can’t I?

If you have time, take a quick trip up to Piedras Blancas, where you can enjoy the sea lions and sea elephants romping on the shoreline. The magnitude of these beasts is quite remarkable, giving you a snapshot of nature in its rare form. It’s fun for the kids also.

Soon, we were off to Paso Robles to do damage at a few wineries, and there are so many to choose from.  Our first stop was at Castoro Cellars, where we enjoyed a delightful picnic under their gazebo, provided by 15 Degrees C. Salads and sandwiches on such a glorious day set the tone for some serious wine tasting.  Castoro offers three complimentary tastes, a real bargain compared to some venues, and their low-key attitude will put any budding oenophile at ease. Their Event Gallery hosts a different artist monthly, and provides a chic indoor venue for private and public events.

From Castoro, we headed across the street to Peachy Canyon Winery, a small, world-class family winery specializing in Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon based blends, and Malbec. Ask for Doug and let him tell you about his family’s history, and his background as a teacher.  It’s a great story. A nap was in order, but first we had to navigate to the hotel, the delightful La Quinta Inn & Suites in Paso Robles. Thankfully, it was easy to spot from the freeway, and soon, we were in slumber before heading out for dinner.  Loved the bedding at this hotel, and the place is modern, convenient and affordable, all plusses for the weary traveler.

I’d heard rave reviews about Thomas Hill Organics, and all the hype was well-deserved. Tucked away down an alley off downtown Paso Robles, this place serves produce straight from their farm, and features unique wines from all over the Central Coast and Paso Robles.  Any of their salads is a must, and although we didn’t try their pizzas, they’re a big hit at this place.   We opted for the Short Ribs and the Scallops, and both were unusual and innovative.

A stroll through downtown Paso Robles takes you back to Mayberry with its simple charms.  And although it’s growing, this area still is relatively affordable, which accounts for the escalating popularity of this region.

For general information about Cambria and Paso Robles :

Mary McGrath is a freelance writer and photographer who contributes to, AOL, Angie’s List, Rangefinder Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and many other publications.  She can be reached through her web site at:


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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

  • Judi

    Great article, Mary! Paso Robles is one of California’s most exciting wine regions. When we began offering wine tasting tours, there were just 30 or so wineries here. Today Paso is a major player in California wine making with more than 200! And although the wines coming out of this region are garnering acclaim around the world, Paso has retained its ease and informality. It’s the wine region for people who want to discover amazing wine without the crowds.

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