Taste More than Wine at These SLO CAL Wineries
SLO CAL is renowned for its world-class wineries. What many people might not know is that many local tasting rooms feature stellar culinary experiences as well. Whether the ambiance trends towards an upscale restaurant or a casual café, you can enjoy housemade cuisine while sipping wines by the flight, glass, or bottle. All of the following venues offer both indoor and outdoor dining, and some can even provide you with picnic fare to enjoy throughout your travels. Cheers!
Cozy Café with Small Bites and Sandwiches
📍 Santa Margarita
Experience the unique vibe of Santa Margarita with a visit to Ancient Peaks Winery and café. The small-but-mighty menu offers several items to enjoy with your wines – some of which are sourced from the estate vineyard just down the road, the only one within the Santa Margarita Ranch American Viticultural Area (AVA) and the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles area. The made-to-order sandwiches from the café include warm roast beef with provolone and a vegetarian option with artichoke hearts and pesto. All come with a garden fresh salad or opt for the housemade soup of the day. Smaller bites range from a charcuterie plate to house spiced almonds. The café’s welcoming interior provides several seating areas, from high-top tables to sofas, or snag a seat outside on the wrap-around patio when weather permits.
An Imported Wood-Burning Oven Fires Up This Menu
📍 Paso Robles
Located just off Highway 101 south of Paso Robles, this expansive, high-ceilinged tasting room features the wood-fired cuisine of La Cucina. Central to the restaurant’s menu are the Neapolitan-style pizzas crafted in the eye-catching oven imported from Italy. San Marzano tomato sauce serves as the base for some of the most popular pizzas, including the Salsiccia with wood-roasted peppers and sweet fennel Italian sausage, and the classic Margherita with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella. White-sauced options are available as well, such as the Bianca with three cheeses and fresh basil, and the Pizza Al Funghi with Portobello mushrooms and truffle oil. The oven is also put into service for freshly baked baguettes and the roasted portabello mushroom and olive appetizer. Other small plates are hummus, charcuterie selections, and salads. Wine is available by tasting flights, glasses, or bottles. In addition, Broken Earth Winery features live music every Saturday and Sunday afternoons, typically with local talents.
Class Meets Casual on Paso’s East Side
📍 Paso Robles
A longtime fixture in the Geneseo District east of Paso Robles, Cass Winery offers visitors a culinary experience worthy of its award-winning wines. The casual ambiance invites visitors to dine inside the Café, or outside in the tranquil (dog-friendly) garden area. Locally grown, organic produce is showcased throughout the seasonally updated menu, as is Cass’s estate-raised, grass-fed beef. All those ingredients are particularly showcased in two signature dishes: Alice’s Crab Cake Salad served on greens with a housemade remoulade, and the Benny Burger topped with bacon, blue cheese, horseradish aioli, pickled onions, and arugula. However, it’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu, including the Prosciutto and poached pear panini, sesame-crusted ahi salad, or the Cass Dip made with house-smoked top sirloin and freshly baked rustic bread. For a smaller nosh, don’t overlook the thinly sliced, housemade Russet potato chips sprinkled with parmesan and served with herb aioli.
Sustainability is the Name of the Game Here
📍 Paso Robles
Niner Wine Estate’s restaurant is consistently named one of the best winery restaurants in the country, and with good reason. Guests can enjoy wine tasting and lunch in the intimate and elegant dining room, or dine al fresco on the patio overlooking the Heart Hill estate vineyard; the heart-shaped grove of oak trees amidst the vines is an iconic sight to anyone driving along Highway 46 West. Sustainability underlies Niner’s approach to their entire business model, including the LEED-certified tasting room, the solar-powered facilities, and responsible farming practices. That philosophy translates to the restaurant thanks to the half-acre Chef’s Garden where much of the produce, herbs, and edible flowers are grown. The menu changes seasonally – sometimes even daily, but some recent favorites included a hearty rigatoni with grilled eggplant and smoked mozzarella and a grilled strip steak with cognac shallot butter and potato puree. Lighter fare might be a cup of tomato soup, a Caesar Brussels sprout salad, or housemade sourdough focaccia. The charcuterie option is also curated seasonally but always offers at least one locally crafted cheese.
Enjoy Hearty Italian Fare and Shop for Gourmet Goodies
📍 Paso Robles
Motorists whizzing by on Highway 46 East will certainly realize there’s wine tasting available at the Riboli family’s San Antonio Winery, but few have any idea there’s a full-fledged restaurant inside as well. The Bistro’s hearty menu reflects the family’s rich Italian heritage and four generations of winemaking. Tuck into pasta dishes such as linguini with clams or scampi, chicken fettuccini Alfredo, or the signature Maddalena lasagna. A variety of thin crust pizzas are available, as are sandwiches like the meatball with marinara sauce or the Panino di Paso with deli meats and Provolone. Other nods to Paso Robles’ palates are the Waygu tri-tip sandwich and the shrimp tacos served with rice and beans. Several seating options are available at San Antonio Winery: outside on the front patio, or inside in one of two dining rooms. (Grab an indoor seat at one of the window tables and you’ll never know there’s a busy highway on the other side of the winery.) And, if you need any kind of gourmet food item, wine-related gift, or even an assortment of picnic goodies, the marketplace at San Antonio Winery has you covered.
Relax with Upscale Deli Options in Old Edna
📍 San Luis Obispo
Get a glimpse of charming antiquity with a visit to Sextant Winery in Old Edna. Situated just south of San Luis Obispo, this cozy tasting room is located inside a circa-1908 building that once housed the area’s general store. These days, it’s also home to The Gourmet Deli, an aptly-named spot featuring seasonal sandwiches, salads, and flatbreads. Among the favorites are an antipasto salad with burrata and Proscuitto, the Bo Flatbread with roasted red peppers and arugula, and the Dane Bird – a house-roasted turkey sandwich with Havarti cheese and caramelized onion/cranberry pesto. Also available are the daily flavors of from-scratch soups and strombolis. Wines may be enjoyed by the flight, glass, or bottle, and guests are welcome to enjoy Sextant’s hospitality inside the tasting room, or amidst the tranquil garden setting of historic Old Edna.
Dine-in Royal Fashion at This Paso Castle
📍 Paso Robles
You really can’t miss Tooth & Nail – it’s the only castle on Highway 46 West! The expansive location offers several options for sampling both its wines and culinary offerings. The most popular spot is on the front patio near the “moat,” where the outdoor ambiance lends itself to relaxing and conviviality. Wine tasting offers some of the four labels produced here: Tooth & Nail, Amor Fait, Destinata, and Stasis. The food side of the equation is focused and very wine-friendly. Easy-to-share options run the gamut from baked Camembert to roasted garlic hummus, housemade tater tots to herb garlic parmesan fries, and charcuterie plates. Heartier dishes might include duck Bao buns, carnitas tacos, or the signature Wagyu beef sliders topped with caramelized onion aioli, smoked cheddar, and smoky bacon jam. The sliders also come with thin, crispy housemade potato chips, which could be a menu item in their own right. On Sundays, the brunch menu changes slightly to offer a lamb sausage croissant sandwich and French toast with whipped maple butter.