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Grass growing between rows of Merlot grapes is mowed at a vineyard near Galt, California.


Tired of the limo lineups and double-digit tasting fees at Napa? We are too. So why not grab your sunglasses and corkscrew and head to the Paso Robles region in California, which boasts one of the state's hottest wineries.

Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the region is gaining recognition for its Rhône varietals and 200-plus wineries.

"We're still kind of that authentic California, where the price point of entry is still very doable," says Stacie Jacob, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. "You don't have to have a reservation to come to a winery."

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The rise of Paso is based on both wine and the fact that Napa and Sonoma are crowded with tourists, says The Globe and Mail's resident wine guru, Beppi Crosariol. "And one of the hottest properties in Paso is l'Aventure, run by Frenchman Stephan Asseo. Amazing big reds, unconventionally blended from cabernet sauvignon and syrah."

Asseo moved to California from Bordeaux so he could mix things up. And he has done so with success. "That really depicts the pioneering spirit that is here," Jacob says.

Other must-visits include Eberle Winery, which started planting grapes here in the 1970s. The estate is known for its cabernet sauvignon, with piles of medals to prove it. Tablas Creek Vineyard is another success story - founded in 1989 when the U.S. and French partners found terroir similar to their French roots.

So set up camp in Paso Robles, a one-time ranch town now dotted with eateries such as Artisan, and then hit the country roads.

Second question: We're taking our kids to New York in November and would like to stay in a modern hotel with family suites and a nice pool, but without paying $600 a night. Suggestions?

Well, The Pod Hotel may not be for you - unless you're still co-sleeping. But in the metropolis of everything, and Le Parker Méridien, a contemporary 725-room property a few blocks from Central Park, meets your needs.

It even has a rooftop pool, says Chris Heywood, vice-president of public relations for NYC & Company, the official marketing and tourism organization for New York. "It is lovely because it's glass-enclosed and you can see the city."

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The hotel is also home to Norma's, a popular spot featuring extravagant ways - foie gras French toast - to start your day. And there's an affordable burger joint tucked in the lobby.

Oh, and about that bill. In November, standard rooms, which you can book adjoining, start at $289 (all amounts U.S.) a night; a junior suite with a pullout couch, starts at $439 a night.

Or if you can give up the pool, check out the spacious Best Western Hospitality House, a converted prewar building near Radio City Music Hall, Heywood suggests. One-bedroom suites start at $300 and two-bedroom suites start at $450.

After all, are you really going to have the energy to swim laps after exploring New York?

Karan Smith is a former Globe Travel editor.

Special to The Globe and Mail 

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