If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, chances are you’ve made the short drive up and spent the day at a Napa outdoor wine tasting! I have lived in the Bay Area since 1997 and made Napa my home in 2010. I own Danielle Gibson Events, an event company that designs and produces corporate events, and social celebrations in the Napa Valley, San Francisco Bay Area, and beyond. (I also work with a number of wineries as a prop stylist) I am continually scouting new locations, hotels, restaurants, and wineries to keep myself and my clients well informed as to the best Napa has to offer. Between my two careers and general love of wineries, I have found a need to share my knowledge of the region and have written a few blogs:
A quick note to keep in mind when planning your trip, select the winery that’s right for you.
What kind of wine do you like? What is your price range? All tastings are by appointment and have different price points. As always when visiting a winery, do the right thing and buy a bottle or 2 and leave a tip for your host.
Available by appointment Thursday thru Monday, 12-3:00 pm
Get away from the hustle and bustle of the valley and enjoy the relaxing feeling of tasting under the trees at Whetstone. Guests at Whetstone are encouraged to sip wine by the glass or bottle on their patio and enjoy the view of their incredible French-style chateau built in 1885. They are also a large supporter of their community and encourage guests to grab some take-out from local restaurants so you can enjoy a picnic with their Whetstone wine. Book your appointment here and enjoy their wines ranging from $20 for a glass to $55-$125 for a bottle, depending on what they are offering that day.
Available by appointment Thursday & Sunday 12-6:00 pm, Friday & Saturday 12-8:00 pm, (closed Monday-Wednesday)
Located in downtown Napa’s Art District, St. Claire Brown is a pet-friendly winery/brewery greenhouse dropped in the middle of urban Napa. Tastings of their wine and beer take place in their greenhouse tasting room, which is nestled among seasonal raised garden beds and fruit trees. Enjoy their beautiful greenery and pair your tasting with some of their snacks inspired by the environment surrounding you. Appointments can be booked here at $40 per person for their standard wine tasting (inclusive of 4 current release wines) and $50 per person for their Flagship Wine Tasting which includes 4 of their premium wines. You can also purchase their wine by the bottle, which ranges from $25-$95 per bottle depending on what they are offering that day. For those more interested in beer, a flight of 3 current releases can be reserved at $18 per person, and bottles are purchased onsite for $20 per 750ml bottle.
Available by appointment from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm daily
This relaxed and leisurely seated tasting is among the vineyards on Robert Biale’s back porch. Their wine educators guide you through a personalized overview of Napa Valley, historic vineyards, family farming history, and the fine points of appreciating world-class Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Biale’s rare blends. Tip: ask them all about the Black Chicken! Appointments for their 90-minute tasting can be booked here (up to 4 guests per reservation). Each tasting is $35 per person. You can also purchase their wine by the bottle, which ranges from $40-$110 per bottle.
Available by appointment from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily
As discussed in the pages of Vogue and Goop, the tasting experience at Ashes & Diamonds Winery is not one you will likely forget. The modern design and hipster following have a very different approach than most wineries in Napa. This unconventional approach reaches beyond their architecture to include their wide variety of tasting options. Visitors may choose one of four appointment options ranging from $45-$125, all of which include 4-5 wines accompanied with food pairings. Appointments can be booked here and wine may be purchased onsite, ranging from $40-$120 per bottle.
Available by appointment from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm daily
Dubbed one of the chicest tasting patios in downtown Yountville, Stewart Cellars offers multiple tasting experiences. With their Portfolio Wine Tasting, guests can enjoy sipping on four seasonal wines in their gorgeous courtyard at $30 per person. For a more elevated experience, guests can reserve a Nomad Tasting hosted on the Nomad Library patio (designed by Ken Folk). At $125 per person, guests are able to taste six wines from their exclusive vineyard designated Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Andy Beckstoffer’s Heritage vineyards. Appointments can be made here wine may be purchased onsite, ranging from $25-$175 per bottle.
Available by appointment Thursday thru Monday 11:45 am- 5:00 pm
Designed by legendary architect, Howard Backen, ONEHOPE Winery embodies ONEHOPE’s purpose to nourish the future by sharing wine and giving hope. Since the company was founded in 2007, they’ve donated over $6M to meaningful causes. ONEHOPE’s flagship winery sits in the prestigious Rutherford Bench amongst some of the greatest wine brands in the world. Enjoy a wine + bites tasting for $125 per person in their modern open-air patio with outdoor fireplaces by booking here. Their wines range from $20-$125 per bottle, depending on what they are offering that day.
Available by appointment from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm daily
Tucked away in its own little valley on the eastern hillside of St. Helena sits the 26-acre Reverie II Estate. Visitation is limited and by appointment only. It is a great little gem most visitors don’t know about. Their wines are not your typical Napa Valley grapes but the hosts are typical Napa Valley locals. They have vineyard views off of their estate home on the porch, grassy lawn, or at the roaring fire pit. Book appointments here. Their wines range from $42 -$125 per bottle.
Available by appointment from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm daily
How about a Napa outdoor wine tasting with views of the mustard!? Located on Silverado Trail, Titus’s modern facility has an outdoor patio surrounded by rows and rows of vineyards. (with a bounty of mustard during the mustard season in February-March). At $45 per tasting, guests can expect to enjoy a few samplings of their current releases while enjoying a picturesque view of what Napa Valley is all about. Appointments can be made here and wine may be purchased onsite, ranging from $44-$105 per bottle.
Available by appointment from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm daily
Ehlers Estate has been an institution in Napa Valley since the mid-1800s. Tastings take place outside in the estate’s historic olive groves planted by Bernard Ehlers himself in 1886. Appointments can be made here, where guests can choose between the Estate Tasting, which offers a variety of wines from the estate at $50 per person, or the Cabernet Tasting where guests can enjoy a sampling of exclusive, limited production Cabernets for $75 per person. Wine can also be purchased onsite, ranging from $32-$135 per bottle.
Nestled back in the hills of Calistoga, Amici Winery is a favorite of ours for so many reasons. The setting has a laid back relaxed style giving you the feeling that you are chilling at a good friend’s home. Wine prices start at $25 depending on the wines they are offering at the tasting. Tastings are $30 per person and can be booked here. During the pandemic, they were donating 100% of visitor tasting fees to the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Relief Fund and as a special bonus, they were giving a 15% discount on wine purchases at the winery or online for medical professionals. (ask for details if this discount still exists)
PS – We are also guest blogging this blog for Elise at What The Fab. Elise is a friend of ours, she spoke at our Women’s Conference, Better Together, and was a fellow event planner at Google before she quit her dream job and became a full-time influencer. During the pandemic Elise moved to Napa with her husband, so now we are neighbors! I am excited for you to meet her and give her a follow!
This guide gives you the BEST locations for wine tasting, eating and overnight stays!
Why are we so confident our list is the BEST?
For over 17 years our specialty at DG Events has been scouting locations for events and venues for wine tasting in Napa. We have many friends in the wine industry from Mendocino down to Santa Barbara that have shared their favorites with us. Also, my husband David works in the wine industry and has over 27 years of experience in food and wine. While this is both a blessing and a curse, it has brought us a wealth of great connections in many wine regions. Together, we bring you the best of what we love.
Paso Robles Wine Country is an American Viticultural Area located in San Luis Obispo County, California. The region has approximately 33,000 vineyard acres planted and over 200 producers. Back in the day, it was mostly known for its heritage varietal, Zinfandel, with some Bordeaux grapes mixed in… because that’s what you do in California, right? However, as the modern wave of new winemakers began to move in, it became clear that Rhone Valley varietals were more aptly suited to the warm climate and limestone based soils, particularly on the westside of town. We happen to love Syrah, Grenache, and the like so it’s right in our wine wheelhouse. The good news is that it’s all good and there’s something for everyone!
Paso Robles is about 3 hours south of San Francisco International Airport and 3 hours north of Los Angeles, also known as the Central Coast of California. The Paso Robles downtown is centered around a small square with a quaint little park in the center. You can visit wineries on both the east and west sides of downtown.
The eastside is mostly urban tasting rooms and the location of the famous Tin City. (more details about list below) The westside of town is peppered with estate wineries located on vineyard property. Most locations you can get to within 5 -15 minutes, so it is easy to see everything your little wine heart desires. We recommend visiting for at least 2 days so you can devote one day to the eastside and one day to the westside.
No matter what you are looking for in a winery visit, you can find it in Paso Robles. We like to stay small and support the little guys most of the time and always prioritize a higher caliber wine over the design of a location. But, you might not feel the same, so we have categorized the wineries for you below so you can build your itinerary to make everyone visiting happy!
Estate or Garage?
The answer is yes. The beauty of this place can be credited to the balance of how these two approaches to winemaking coexist and promote one another. Hit some spots in the vineyards, but say hi to the cool kids in Tin City and the warehouse spots as well.
A little while ago we were lucky enough to get introduced to Cris Cherry of Villa Creek Winery. Since meeting him we swear he should run for Mayor of Paso Robles. He has become a friend of ours who always takes the time to point us in the right direction when visiting, and if you catch him in the right mood he might just share a local secret or two for a slab of paté from Fatted Calf. So, with a little help from Cris and a couple trips around the block of our own, we’ve built a short list of what we love.
Let’s start with him….His vineyard estate is located on the westside of Paso, on the cusp of the fabled Willow Creek and Adelaida Districts. Villa Creek has been making wine for nearly two decades. Starting with grapes purchased from west Paso Robles’ most esteemed vineyards and eventually planting what is now their MAHA Estate. The wines and vibes are as good as it gets in the Central Coast so this is a must.
With beautiful rolling hills surrounding the property, L’Aventure offers breathtaking vineyard views and some of the best wines in California. Winemaker Stephan Asseo brought France to Paso Robles, producing red wine blends of primarily Rhône grape varieties and helped propel the region into new found acclaim on the world wine stage.
We met owner Don Law and winemaker Philipp Pfunder last year in Florida at DCWAF. We were quite impressed by their wines, so we put them on our list to visit when we were in the neighborhood. They began with the right approach by bringing in Scott Hawley to develop the winemaking and vineyard program. He and his wife Viquel have since launched their own label Torrin which is also part of our Paso Robles “short list”. Law’s stunning modern facility is located atop rolling hills of vineyards providing 360° views of their property and beyond. Not to be missed if you like sleek design and big, bold, polished wines!
After making wine with Justin Smith (of Saxum) for five years and Stephan Asseo (of L’Aventure Wines) for two years, the Jensens decided it was time to create their own expression with Booker Vineyard. The 2005 vintage was Booker Vineyard’s first release with the wines being made by owner Eric Jensen. They became an immediate cult hit and have become more impressive with every release. The wines show both power and precision, totally personifying the modern Paso Robles aesthetic. Get on the mailing list quick if you still can!
Clos Solene Home of Guillaume Fabre, 6th generation winemaker and his beautiful wife Solene. They are a boutique winery on the westside of Paso Robles in the heart of the Willow Creek District. Elegance and finesse, forcefully coupled in a unique style crafted by their honest approach to farming and process. If Guillaume is in the room, I defy you not to join the club.
Denner One of our favorite spots in Paso Robles (Wine Spectator’s too!) located on the westside in a traditional winery setting. We wanted to buy everything we tasted, so our credit card was nearing meltdown as we left. I might become a part time “ditch digger” myself to keep this stuff in my glass!
As you head east toward highway 101 out of the square, Herman Story just chills on the corner like a poet that is waiting to write something meant just for you… Late Bloomer? First Time Caller? Anybody? Taste their wines and hear Russell From’s story and you will feel his genuine approach and reckless precision and realize you want Herman Story at your party.
After that, head right over 101 to the corrugated steel chateau that is home to TOP.
Stanley and Elena have created something that just rings so true. The warmest couple you would ever want to meet. And you will, if you visit – it’s just them. The wines are as pure and polished as they are. Ask anyone, and thank us later.
OK – now jump on the freeway and drive a few miles south…as you turn left into Tin City make a hard right into Cordant/Nelle. Tyler Russell is creating beautiful expressions of both Rhone varietals and Pinot Noir under the same roof, but under different labels. This spot was our coolest new find and we simply cannot get enough of their wine. The vibes are warm and the wines are delicious. Amber will keep the turntable spinning and your palate grinning.
Let’s take you into Tin City now…
While this development has a very industrial/communal feel, their structure needs to be understood. Everything is by appointment and a few spots are closed on Mondays.
Our friend Mayor Cherry recommended Turtle Rock. Owned by Claudia and Don Burns, they are perfect ambassadors of the second wave of the Paso Robles revolution. With Don’s Paso roots and his Justin Smith/Saxum pedigree, they were bound for greatness. The finished product is delivered in artfully designed labels, each one with a thoughtful story behind it.
We were lucky enough to track down Tin City’s newest (and busiest) winemaker Riley Hubbard.
Her label is called Hubba and she just moved into a totally rad spot in the deep corner of the neighborhood. Riley’s education (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) and former stops (Law & L’Aventure) have given her the foundation to succeed. However, when you meet her you’ll see that Hubba is her own unique vision, and her wines are fantastic.
Of course Tin City is home to plenty of other great producers and if you find yourself needing a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon in the mix, please visit Benom. Arnaud Fabre and his brother Guillaume (Clos Solene) unite the precision and polish of France with the power of Paso Robles in an intimate and stylish setting. Très Bon!
Heirloom (Westside – South of Tin City by 10 minutes)
Casual setting, serious sandwiches and super cool salads. You can get in and out quickly if you’re on the go in the westside winery scene and still feel like you treated yourself. Do the right thing and have a Topo Chico with lunch. It’s gonna be a long day and they have all the flavors.
Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar (downtown Paso)
We discovered this randomly and we were so glad we did. Bistro atmosphere with a menu that changes daily, paired with ingredients sourced locally and seasonally. Fresh and simple, served with regional wines and awesome beer selections! Open for lunch & dinner.
New Kids On The Block (2 Minutes North of The Square)
Paso Market Walk is a mixed-use development that gives residents and travelers the opportunity to convene, relax, shop, and taste the distinctive flavor of the Central Coast. Celebrating the people of Paso Robles – from the small scale, family-owned operations, to a new generation of standouts making names for themselves in food and wine, to the neighbors and guests who can savor them all.
Downtown Paso Robles For Dinner
After your day of tasting make sure you have some gas in the tank to hit Paso Robles’ buzzing restaurant scene..
Let’s start at the top.
Les Petites Canailles High Bar, but not High Brow. Causal, fun atmosphere that delivers on every level. Julien Asseo and his wife Courtney have created something truly special here. He doesn’t brag about his chops (and background) but rather flexes them. Magnificent wine list and service with heart. Open for dinner only. This was hands-down our favorite restaurant.
BL Brasserie (formerly Bistro Laurent)
Relaxed but refined dining, offering à la carte and a multi-course, prix fixe option, spiked with classics and paired with local and French wines. Think Provence in Paso, but you speak the language…dining in France just off 101! Not to be missed. Open for lunch and dinner.
Lively cantina vibe featuring modern Mexican plates with radical salsas and ceviches. The bar program is fun and funky, featuring killer margaritas, craft cocktails and a Mezcal program that will blow your mind. Open for lunch and dinner. Always call ahead, it’s the busiest spot on the square for all the right reasons.
A modern, gastro pub inspired joint right on the bustling part of the square.
The menu is driven by the culture and comfort that food brings to our lives. Add to that, inspired cocktails and an honest energy. We enjoyed the hip, local vibe and friendly staff…did we say bourbon? Only open for dinner.
I would recommend staying downtown around the square. You can enjoy yourself at dinner and casually walk back to your hotel. Our first trip to Paso we stayed at Hotel Cheval. This 16 room boutique hotel embraces Paso’s equestrian heritage with elegant rusticity, the design is both luxurious and smart without feeling too snooty. The service is amazing and they have received several accolades over the years from Conde Nast.
For more recommendations, check out Villa Creek’s Paso Robles lodging recommendations on their website.
Again, Chris won’t steer you wrong.
We also found these alternatives if you don’t want to stay at a hotel.
Law Estate has a beautifully designed guest house on the property that has 2 bedrooms, if you’re looking for more amenities than just a hotel.
Airbnbs are becoming more popular in Paso Robles. We stayed in this apartment right on the square. It was very convenient and had modern amenities, but be prepared to sing a few tunes in your sleep with the local bar downstairs if you go to bed before 11 pm.
Enjoy your trip!
X, DG Events
Interested in other wine tasting regions? See our Napa blogs here and here.
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What a fun evening… good friends, food, wine, and a picturesque location! This year was my first time attending one of HandMade Events’ PopUp Parties. I have always seen photos on social media and was curious to experience it in-person. I met with Nicole Benjamin-Sathre, part owner of HandMade Events earlier this year and was looking forward to seeing her event in action. We bought our tickets and joined everyone dressed in all white at the Sonoma event (held at Jack London Park). What a fantastic time!
Our table: white, gold (of course!), and surrounded by fur!Menus + a cookie tower dessert!The beautiful location! Jack London Park, surrounded by grape vines and mountain ranges.
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