Continue up the coast, stopping for bites at Bell’s, a Michelin-starred French bistro (and California chef and vintner favorite) in Los Alamos; and Ember, a hotspot for wood-fired pizza in Arroyo Grande, if time allows. (And keep in mind that time is a concept, especially in California.)
Make sure you make your reservation at Six Test Kitchen a month before you arrive among the rolling hills of Paso Robles. The 12-seat restaurant is “inspired by nature,” from the farm-to-table food to the custom-made ceramics, according to chef Ricky Odbert. The restaurant earned a Michelin star in 2021 and serves up hyperfresh seafood.
“We get our oysters about two hours after they’re out on the water of Morro Bay,” Odbert says. “We work with a fisherman that catches black cod, which is representative of the air here. It’s a cold-water deep, deep fish.” Choose an acid-driven wine to accompany your meal from a list that focuses on lesser-known varietals. “We also have a reserve wine pairing with a lot of Old World wines, like some Barolos from the 1960s and Château d’Yquem from the 1980s,” Odbert says.
For your final tasting, Odbert suggests heading to the nearby Thacher Winery, which sits on 53 acres of cattle farm and has a jovial country vibe. There’s alfalfa fields, ambling goats and chickens which delight kids and tipsy adults alike, and plenty of outdoor tasting areas.
“We like to do varietals that no one else is really doing here in Paso; a lot of Rhône varietals,” says tasting room manager Drew Mulkern. “We practice natural wines, so we only use native yeast that grows on the skins themselves.” The winery uses predominantly neutral oak barrels, but also terracotta jars, which are like giant clay pots. “Terracotta is a good old Italian, gritty way of aging wines,” Mulkern says.
Be sure to taste their Cinsault, which you can only get in the tasting room. And if you’re looking for an educational, elevated experience, book a private stable tasting in a horse carriage.
Finally, make your way to idyllic Carmel, a true gem of California’s coast. Indulge in a tasting menu rife with meticulously plated seafood like uni, oysters, and ayu smelt at Aubergine, then rest your head somewhere you can fall asleep to the calming crash of ocean waves. Don’t be surprised if you’re overwhelmed with thoughts of relocating to this sunny, sensual coast permanently.