On a dark “winter” night in LA, we packed our bags and left the smog behind to head North on a road trip towards wine country. An idyllic weekend in Paso Robles was to follow; A quaint secluded cabin, a sky full of gleaming stars, and miles upon miles of green vineyards that seemed to roll on forever. All of this was made complete by, well let’s be honest, lots of wine, but also a soundtrack that we unknowingly created. With every song we chose to play while sitting by the fireplace or while making the drive into town to pick up fresh ingredients for dinner that night, we helped shape our trip into the wonderland it became. So next time you’re in the mood to get out of town with someone special, here’s my guide to a romantic weekend in Paso, along with the perfect playlist to accompany it.
A Cabin for Two
I won’t tell a lie. When we finally arrived in Paso at 11 pm on a Saturday night, I was utterly exhausted and a little bit hungover from our company holiday party the night before. I hadn’t eaten a full meal all day, and my head was pounding. But as soon as we pulled into the tree-lined driveway of our AirBnb, my tired eyes lit up. The expansive navy sky was glittering with stars we could actually see, and the cabin we’d booked was illuminated before us by the string lights decorating the doorway. We quickly clambered out of the car and made our way past the little grill and fire pit out front, into our new hideaway. This place was very clearly designed with love in mind, and everything, from the shower to the fireplace to the cabinets had a personal touch that made it impossible not to adore. Even the mini-kitchen had everything we could’ve dreamt of needing. Pots and pans, wine glasses, a stovetop, and most importantly, all the ingredients we would need to make S’mores. After rinsing the day off in the shower and turning on the fireplace, we played some music and sipped red wine while making a late dinner together.
Featured song: Every night by Paul McCartney -A soothing comforting melody consisting of Paul’s voice over acoustic guitar, bass and drums. It’s an understated love song that you’ll immediately want to sway and hum to (while making dinner in an adorable cabin in this instance). It was written at a time in Paul’s life when he was slowly parting from The Beatles and feeling more and more domestic. “But tonight I just wanna stay in, and be with you“
We slept in for quite a bit the next morning and awoke to find our stomachs growling. After bundling up to prepare ourselves for the the 15 degree temperature drop from LA (cue: laughter), we headed out the door and made the drive into town in search of Brunch. Anyone who’s spent any time around me at all likely knows that we didn’t just wander around aimlessly looking for food though. I’m an annoyingly obsessive Yelper, so I’d obviously found this place ahead of time: https://www.yelp.com/biz/springside-restaurant-paso-robles. Springside Restaurant was a small family-run joint boasting an Apricot French Toast that had immediately made my mouth water when I first checked out the menu. Of course by the time we got there that’s not what I wanted, but alas, the California Omelette ended up being delicious, as did the Seafood Benedict. Somehow even more outstanding was the fresh-squeezed orange juice in our mimosas. Ecstatic to be breathing in the fresh air, we continued to sit peacefully on the patio long after the food was licked clean from our plates, sipping tea while planning our adventures for the day.
Featured Song: Why do you let me stay here? By She & Him- Most certainly the catchiest of all She & Him songs, you’ve likely heard this one and been struck by it before. Zooey Deschanel’s playful breathy verses ring out clear over this breezy vintage pop track. A fanciful start to the day while you’re on your way to brunch, driving with the windows down singing “doo doo, doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo doo”
The Wine Tasting
We’d made our way past several gorgeous vineyards during the 5-minute drive into town, so we decided to double back after Brunch and do a wine tasting. The first step was finding the right place. We pulled into the driveway of a fancy looking winery but after checking the Yelp reviews, we quickly reversed. After making several U-turns on the barren one-lane road, we settled on Castoro Cellars, housing the award-winning (Take it easy, so is Barefoot…) Zinfusion: a rich red wine bursting with notes of raspberry jam, roasted nuts, rose petals, cherry pie, and wild strawberries. Once we arrived, an ethereal path of vines and fiery orange leaves led us to the entrance, where we opened the double doors and were greeted by the scents of wood and wine. While we waited our turn for a tasting, I browsed their various other makings; jams, olive oils, and vinegars. I’m a huge vinegar fan, so my heart was immediately set on a delicious-looking dark cherry flavor. The tasting was only $5 and included 7 wines, so we decided to split it. I’m admittedly a bit of a lightweight and wanted to avoid being drunk for the massage we’d booked after. After all, no one wants to drop a bunch of money just to fall asleep snoring like a maniac face down on a massage table. Still, the guy behind the counter continued to fill our wine glass up pretty high with each new bottle he poured, so I didn’t exactly walk away unphased (or in a straight line). The counter boy, who’s name I clearly don’t remember, told us he was local to the area so naturally we asked if he had any recommendations. He quickly seemed to regret telling us because he didn’t have much to offer up, other than “Our Thai restaurant is pretty good.” Considering that I live a mile away from Thai Town in LA, I decided to pass on Paso Robles’ one Thai restaurant. He did however pique our interest when he mentioned a nearby beach that is typically swarming with seals. Spoiler: We drove 30 minutes out of our way to find this beach the next day and there was not a single seal in sight. Not one. In any case, after purchasing a bottle of the Zinfusion as well as the dark cherry vinegar, we took a peek at the cute little art gallery next door and headed off for our massage.
Featured Song: Hot Knife by Fiona Apple – A lovely melodic round with overlapping backing vocals, featuring Timpani; also known as kettle drums (a type of drum stretched over a bowl of copper). it’s a powerful, passionate song and if you don’t pay close attention, you could miss how wonderfully intimate it is. Similar to sharing a wine glass and tasting rich new flavors with someone you love. “He makes my heart a cinemascope screen”
The Hot Springs
After our massage, we drove to the edge of town and up spiraling scenic hills just in time to see the sun set at River Oaks Hot Springs. This place is truly luxurious, especially when all I had to compare it to was a recent trip to a run down Sulfur Springs in the middle-of-nowhere Colorado (Sorry, Dad). Here, the reception area was adorned with a glittering Christmas tree and a fireplace, where we were immediately asked whether we’d like to order any champagne or wine for our private hot spring. There’s typically both outdoor and indoor options, but unfortunately we hadn’t made a reservation and all the outdoor tubs were booked at the time. To be fair, the indoor option ended up being just as lovely and even more private. Imagine your own open-air cabin, equipped with a bubbling natural hot spring, the crisp night air at your fingertips. We ordered a bottle of wine to sip on while we relaxed in the tub, breathing in the fresh air as stars began to form in the sky. The whole tranquil experience, wine included, cost us about 60 bucks which was more than worth it. An hour later, we left feeling serene and revitalized.
Featured Song: Gypsy by Fleetwood Mac is a childhood favorite of mine; A beautiful Stevie Nicks song that evokes so much wistfulness and nostalgia within me. It’s the perfect song to instantly connect you to a new and beautiful experience, and it always brings me back to my center. “Lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice, oh and it lights up the night.”
Back at our little cabin hideaway, we pranced around the kitchen making a delicious dinner of steak, asparagus and cherry tomatoes. The rest of the evening was spent cozied up by the fireplace playing Gin Rummy and Heads Up. If you haven’t tried the latter, I demand that you grab a friend and download the app on your phone immediately. Just be forewarned that if you’ve been drinking wine all day, it may seem especially difficult. We drew the night to a close with a little walk before bed, and ended up laying on our backs on a dirt pathway, gazing up at the stars. Come to find out the next day that it wasn’t a dirt path at all, but rather an actual road. In conclusion, we ended our trip by laying in the middle of the street, and it was magical.