A Lofty Life - Paso Robles, Calif.


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Danicka Bowler, Vivant's cheese purveyer.

Karen Loftus

Paso Robles, the other California wine country, with nearly 200 wineries is quickly stealing the wine limelight from Napa and Sonoma. Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the natural beauty of the prime central coast clearly explains why early aviators flew in, silent film stars flocked and folks like William Randolph Hearst would build a castle here.

Santa Barbara couple Robert and Sherry Gilson and first time hoteliers, used this beautiful country as a canvas when creating their equine-inspired castle—a 16 room, luxury boutique hotel, the first of it’s kind in the heart of downtown Paso that in equal measure appeals to a wave of discerning foodies and wine connoisseurs hitting the Central Coast.

The equine design is woven seamlessly throughout the property, where no two rooms are alike. It is especially celebrated in the Pony Club, a classic European spot with a zinc horseshoe shaped bar, where locals and guests pony up to the bar to enjoy the most celebrated wines of the region. Many of the guests on deck are the vintners themselves.

Others pop in to experience precise cheese pairings courtesy of Danika Bowler from Vivant, a purveyor of local and rare cheeses who delivers their cheeses right off the truck each day to many of the local wineries.

A ride in the horse drawn carriage by Cheval’s own Belgian Draft horse Chester is intended to slow down the visitor’s usual urban pace. Chester will take you to the door of one of the three most noted restaurants in town. Bistro Laurent and Villas Creek are the two long standing restaurants that set the bar and the foodie culture in place to complement the divine local wines.

Bistro Laurent is a classic upscale French bistro. On this site, duck breast with red wine reduction sauce is paired with Paso cabernets and French Bordeaux’s, while Villa Creek is California to the core with local, sustainable and organic foods, from excellent fish to charcuteries and fillets as well as squash enchiladas for vegetarians at the table. Go for Villa Creek’s own label, especially their red grenache. It’s easy to slip in one too many tipples here.

However, the pleasures of country living do not stop with Cheval. Artisan, the new restaurant in town, is also making some serious culinary noise, reining in the far flung discerning foodie and many local vintners enjoying their Kobe steaks, Dungeness crab cakes, Colorado lamb chops and their own wines.

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