If you're heading to Paso Robles for a wine-tasting weekend, you'll find plenty of Marriotts and Quintas, and B&Bs galore. But the Just Inn and SummerWood, two luxurious winery inns planted in the midst of vineyards, have recently been redone, and the results are so lovely, you may forget all about wine tasting.
Tucked at the end of a winding country lane and surrounded by vineyards, Justin Baldwin's Justin Vineyards is a wine-tasting destination. That its charming, recently renovated hotel, the Just Inn, offers luxurious overnight accommodations is the absolute icing on the, er, wine crate -- a crate filled with prizewinning vintages and a 25-year-old series of Bordeaux blends that has been named one of the best on the planet.
Baldwin, an East Bay native and San Jose State alum, began planting Bordeaux grapes here back in 1981, when this part of the region might as well have been the wild frontier. "It was really difficult to get anyone to come out, even to build the place," Baldwin says. "It was built by two Hells Angels and myself and a guy from Belize named Eddie."
You'd never guess that now. Reopened last year after major renovations, the genteel clapboard buildings house a sleek tasting room, a stellar restaurant and three airy, modern suites of such refined comfort, you may never want to leave. The Isosceles Suite -- named for the winery's award-winning flagship blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot -- includes a master bedroom and sitting room with pale celadon furnishings, a fireplace and a dining area.
You can sample the full range of wines made by winemaker Scott Shirley, the former enologist at Opus One and winemaker at the Hess Collection, in the tasting room, of course, and pair those sips with salumi and cheeses on the patio. But the better idea is to head for the restaurant, where exec chef William Torres has paired the recent vintages with light fare at lunch and an extravagant grand tasting menu at dinner -- Dungeness crab and preserved lemon with house-made fettuccine, for example, and Cervena venison loin with radish, carrot and Japanese yam. The food is simply beautiful.
Then sink into that plush bed and dream of wine.
Details: $400 and up per night, two-night minimum on weekends; 11680 Chimney Rock Road, Paso Robles; www.justinwine.com.
-- J. Burrell
SummerWood Winery & Inn
Last fall, the SummerWood Inn completed updates to all nine varietal-themed guest suites and a redesign of the 9,000-square-foot entrance, including a plush yet understated grand living room plucked from the pages of Architectural Digest and the addition of a demonstration kitchen and outdoor dining space, where executive chef Kelly Wangard and sous chef James Hoppe craft seasonable, farm-to-table cuisine fit for wine country royalty. Don't miss the dramatic skylights, beyond-cozy blankets and fireside lounging.
The bed-and-breakfast's overall vibe is contemporary farmhouse with soothing neutral tones and a holistic beauty. We loved lounging on our private patio after a long day of wine tasting to take in views of the sprawling estate and oak-lined walkways leading to the 36-acre vineyard, which is planted to syrah and cabernet sauvignon. The ring-spun cotton sheets and custom-made pillow-top mattresses on our platform queen beds were almost as sigh-worthy as the handmade Sugar + Spice caramels at turndown service.
Enjoy complimentary, fresh, made-to-order breakfast, afternoon SummerWood wine and appetizers filling enough to call early dinner and decadent evening dessert and coffee. Guests receive a bottle of SummerWood Private Reserve wine (a $115 value) upon check-in and a complimentary tasting for two of winemaker Mauricio Marchant's small-lot, Rhone-style wines next door at the winery. And don't miss the bacon and white chocolate chip cookies (if Hoppe is still making them).
Details: $275-$525 a night; 2130 Arbor Drive, Paso Robles. www.summerwoodwine.com.
-- J. Yadegaran