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Paso Robles, mid-way between San Francisco and Los Angles, is known for wine tasting and summer concerts. Recently  my husband and I drove 3 ½ hours south of San Francisco to visit the famous wineries. An added bonus was the temporary outdoor exhibition of British Artist Bruce Monro who chose the undulating landscape of Central California as the site for his awe-inspiring solar-powered light installation.  

Art installation at Paso Robles

Titled “Field of Light at Sensorio”, the installation’s 58,800 stemmed globes are lit by fiber-optics and LED’s. They twinkle and glow in the dark in morphing rainbow-colored hues. The lights cover 15 acres among rolling hills bisected by wide paths through the valley for visitors to meander among the lights. Photo: Marybeth Bond

After a day of wine tasting, we entered the “Field of Light at Sensorio” at 5:00 PM just as the sun was setting over the hills highlighting the dark silhouettes of gnarled oak trees. We walked meditatively along the pathways, stopping to take photos or sit on benches for silent reflection. Darkness soon fell and the valley and hills were transformed into a galaxy of colored stars. Over head the pitch-black sky was filled with twinkling stars.

 “I work in light, but it’s not about the light, it’s about emotions,” Monro said in a recent interview in  “I feel that we’re in a moment of history when we have to start questioning our values and getting back to basics. I hope that, in a small way, my installation helps guide you toward the clear sky, literally and otherwise and that the experience allows people to relax and enjoy the shared experience and to walk away with a feeling of inner peace and harmony . . . a gently illuminated landscape that is framed by a star-studded sky. I would encourage people to be inspired by nature because it truly holds all the answers!” he added. Entry times to walk through the Field of Lights are staggered from 5:00 PM until 9:00 PM. Advance tickets are necessary.  

Picturesque Halter Ranch offers wine tasting of Rhone and Bordeaux-style wines. Photo: Marybeth Bond

Paso Robles is home to many high quality wineries and vineyards. Photo: Kiana Cooper, Solterra Stategies.

Famous Wineries

Best known for its wine tasting, visitors to Paso Robles are familiar with the   world-renowned wineries such as Halter Ranch, Denner, Daou and Justin. Numerous tour companies offer wine tours with leisurely tastings and vineyard tours. One afternoon we drove to the west side of Paso Robles to visit Halter Ranch. We entered the estate passing a restored 19th century Victorian farmhouse and crossed a covered wood bridge spanning a creek nestled in a forest of coastal live oaks. The hills of the estate encompass over 2000-acres, with 281-acres of SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified wine grapes, 15-acres of walnuts, and 10-acres of olives. Eighty-two percent of the land is preserved for wildlife, including tule elk, wild boar, bob cats, black bears, mountain lions, fox, bald and golden eagles.

 Wineries, Breweries, Cideries and Distilleries.

But that’s not all. Paso Robles is home to not only fine wineries but a burgeoning craft beverage scene. The Earth and Fire Brewing Company is Paso Robles’ only nano-brewery that is hand-crafting rustic and unfiltered beer. The Toro Creek Brewing Company grows their own barley and 13 varieties of hops directly on property. The Pour House offers local and traveling musical acts from Bluegrass to Blues.

A new boutique hotel, The Piccolo Hotel is popular with visitors from Los Angels, San Francisco and travelers exploring California by car. Photo: Marybeth Bond

Paso Robles Perfected in a New Luxury Hotel

The Piccolo Hotel opened in mid-October 2019 to much fanfare, as an upscale sister property of the well-known Paso Robles Inn and Steakhouse. The boutique hotel, with 23 luxury king rooms and a two-room suite was designed with the discerning traveler in mind. Every detail and amenity have been thoughtfully created to pamper guests. A bellman greets you at the curb and offers valet parking, concierge services, firepits and comfy couches beckon you to relax in the open courtyard, the Piper Wine Lounge offers wine tasting, the elegant open-air Rooftop Bar serves creative cocktails with a view of the setting sun over the undulating hills. If it’s cool, snuggle by the fire in the library or take French champagne to your room.

The Piccolo Hotel boasts locally curated rooms with handcrafted furniture, huge windows & exposed brick walls.

The Tetto at the Piccolo Hotel is the first and only rooftop bar experience to downtown Paso Robles. It is the perfect perch to sit, sip, and savor the sprawling hillside views and indulge in wines from an outstanding wine list, craft cocktails and cheese platters. After sunset, enjoy a skyline nightcap at one of the hightop tables, or by a crackling fire. 






Downtown Restaurants

The Steakhouse is an institution in Paso Robles serving gigantic cuts of meat.  After dinner linger for a signature cocktail and live music Thursday-Saturday in the Cattlemen’s Lounge.

La Cosecha on 12th Street is known for Spanish and Latin American gourmet fare.  BL Brasserie offers fine dining featuring traditional French dishes in a cozy atmosphere with soft lighting and white table clothes.

Summer Concerts

Nestled between oak trees and vineyards, Vina Robles Amphitheatre, a 3,300 seat outdoor venue, is a prime attraction for summer concerts.  On Thursday nights during the summer, the public park in downtown Paso Robles is the venue for free concerts featuring R&B, Country Blues, Rock & Roll and more.

We traveled to San Luis Obispo County to see the “Sensorio” art installation and discovered that Paso Robles is the new “go to” destination for weekend escapes from Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a popular venue for destination weddings.

The latest luxury amenity is a French Champagne vending machine. The machines, stocked exclusively with Moët & Chandon, are growing in popularity. Currently, other locations include hotels such as the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Florida.


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This story first appeared in The Ark Newspaper.