Allegretto Vineyard Resort is not just a beautiful resort with a focus on wine. It is not merely the first true, inclusive luxury destination in Paso Robles. No, it’s also a work of art, a hotel as intimate museum, a spectacular destination that could be in Europe, could be from another time – but is instead a very modern take on a stunning Italian villa, in central California.
Allegretto Vineyard resort is elegant, dreamy, an homage to Mediterranean style that is centuries old. Open for just under a year, the resort contains lush gardens and fountains, incredible artwork, a chapel – perfect for weddings or yoga retreats, depending on your needs – called the Abbey, two labyrinths, a pool with a view of the vineyards.
There are twenty acres of vineyards here, and guests can stroll them, if so inclined, or relax by a fire pit, read in a lovely courtyard, experience a spa that features aroma therapy, zero-gravity chairs, and an infrared detox sauna.
But in the end, it’s the art of the place that makes a trip here an experience like no other, with a new “find” around every corner, from paintings to sculptures to massive crystals. Crushed marble from Israel, Indian arches, a stunning Buddha, a Roman goddess – you never know what you’ll find as you ramble through the property.
The luxury and opulence of the resort is hardly formidable: somewhat miraculously, it feels comfortably homey as well as lush.
The concept of the resort comes from creator Doug Ayres, whose family-owned line of 21 chain hotels are perfectly comfortable in their own right, but not properties that would lead you to envision Allegretto Vineyard Resort as part of that chain.
The resort was a one of a kind personal vision by Ayres, after he visited this Central Coast wine region and fell in love with it. He wanted to establish – and has very much succeeded – a destination resort that fits perfectly with the area’s wineries, tasting rooms, and Tuscan-like scenery, and one that is infused with a sense of serenity. Guests frequently check in for a few days stay, and if a room is available, ask to extend their visit.
Featuring 171 rooms and suites, each beautifully appointed in muted mauves and browns – the color of the earth and wines, these rooms are warm and appealing. We loved the large marble shower and our vineyard view.
The resort’s dining is exceptional too, featuring locally sourced, and in some cases, locally foraged ingredients. An outdoor patio with a view of one of the resort’s fountains is a charming place for lunch; or try drinks and coffee by the massive fireplace just off the lobby. The interior of the restaurant, Cello, resembles a wine cave, again the reds and browns predominate in a comfortable, stylish room. In the evening, there’s often live classical music.
Executive Chef Eric Olson is meticulous in his preparation of Northern Italian cuisine. Olson visits area farms to ensure that he’s working with organic and sustainable providers; has built his own bee box, and scours the area for wild-growing natural ingredients from milk thistle to seaweeds, elderberries, edible flowers, and acorns. Olson has his own chef’s garden and a large compost area. The vineyard on the resort’s property, and its 200 plus olive trees, also make fine resources for the chef’s kitchen.
At lunch, we loved the light angel hair pasta with Roma tomato and fresh basil; the thyme-seared scallops on butter lettuce was everything you could wish for in a salad.
“All the seafood is brought in whole, from halibut to salmon, to control freshness and origin,” Olson notes. “We create our pizzas going from gas to wood burning ovens to prepare them in a timely fashion while preserving technique. I look to prepare dishes that are unique and will educate our culinary team and our diners.”
Formerly with Ojai Valley Inn, Olson’s creativity and flair in the kitchen is even more evident at dinner, with dishes like the stunningly presented sustainable abalone, arranged within the shell, and paired with lobster sauce; gluten free flat bread with edible flowers and fresh garlic; risotto with shrimp, scallops, and foraged mushrooms; and coconut gelato with bread pudding.
Pastry chef Carol Anne Phiopott makes all her pastries and desserts from scratch. Her key lime pie is the best I’ve tasted – even after multiple visits to Key West, home to the dessert. “It’s my own recipe. I lift egg yolks and lime dust together,” she notes.
Other stand-out desserts include lemon mascarpone cheese cake, chocolate berry tart, honeycomb and fruit.
Alexandra Pellot, the venue’s mixologist, dries her own fruits and makes her own syrups from scratch.
Careful sourcing is also a feature of the fine wines the vineyard resort creates: a Viognier with notes of minerals, citrus and honeysuckle, the hardy Spanish grape of the Tenaught, a favorite here but rare on the coast, featuring spice notes, blackberry, and notes of chocolate as well. We were also impressed with the light rose petal notes in the Zinfindel and the cocoa and Bing cherry flavors in the Cabernet.
A wine tasting room has just opened on site, for guests to enjoy sips from these vintages and more, both from wines created from the resort’s vineyard, and from the region. With dinner we were able to taste a delightful Leticia sparkling Brute as well as a dry and fragrant Jack Creek Pinot Noir.
Off property, we tasted at Villa San Juliette, whose capacious grounds and fountains made a lovely match with the resort’s ambiance. The Villa opened their tasting room in 2008, according to host Melanie Porteny. Created by Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, Villa San-Juliette’s tasting room is set amid the gardens of a 168-acre estate.
The winery grows 11 varietals. We tasted a 2014 Pinot Gris redolent of almond, apricot, and lemon; an airy 2014 Sauvignon Blanc; and a rich Syrah with butterscotch notes. Winemaker Dan Smith, mixes 90% Syrah with 5% each of petite Syrah and Grenache to create the Syrah. Along with our tastings, we were treated to a bountiful cheese plate.
We also strolled Tin City, a section of Paso Robles once given to industrial use, now with its warehouses recreated as wineries, distilleries, and breweries.
We visited Barrelhouse Brewery, a terrific neighborhood hang out, producing 4500 barrels a year last year, and twice again as much this year. Outdoor picnic tables make a great spot to listen to live music on weekends.
Open since 2013, Barrelhouse is the creation of Jason Carvalho and Kevin Nickell, lifelong friends and business partners. “We’re not looking to be found in every 7-11. What’s most important to us is to be part of the community,” we were told. We loved Big Sur, their crisp double IPA, and their Sunny Daze Citrus Blonde Ale.
A drive to the coast for some beach walking in Cayucos, and then it was time for dinner.
In the heart of downtown Paso Robles, Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Lounge is another find, a beautiful restaurant that offers Central Coast resources as delicious as they are perfectly prepared. Produce comes from area farmers, breads are crafted by local bakers, and the local wines are perfectly selected.
We tasted a 2014 Adelaida from Anna’s Vineyards along with Central Coast Brewing’s Monterrey Street pale ale to accompany an incredible seasonal dish of fried green tomatoes, dipped in gluten-free, house-made, Panko.
Next came a cold cucumber soup, with Dungeness crab and sun gold tomatoes; zucchini from Haussler farms prepared with romesco and mint, and line-caught California King salmon served with crispy potatoes, Blue Lake beans, and olives, grilled with lemon. For dessert, the chocolate torte with cherries, and brown butter cake were both exceptional, and well paired with a Halter Ranch Vine de Paille and Rockso Porte.
Sitting on the charming brick patio, this was a meal we lingered over, listening as owner Debbie Thomas explained that she doesn’t believe in heavy sauces, and neither does head chef Tim Veatch. “Let the fresh local ingredients shine,” she says.
Thomas started an organic farm eleven years on top of a hill which she named Thomas Hill Farms, leaving a career in marketing in Pasadena. From the farm’s abundance of produce, the restaurant was born. “I was ahead of the farm to table curve,” she laughs.
Returning to Allegretto Vineyard Resort, we were struck by the gorgeous play of colored lights on the fountains, the quiet of the vineyards, the serenity of a windswept night. Contemplated any time of day, both art and vineyards are pure delight.
You’ll want to taste, see, savor, and be transported by these Paso Robles finds as soon as you can – and then arrange a return trip to the sublime.
Allegretto Vineyard Resort
2700 Buena Vista Drive Paso Robles, California, 93446
Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Lounge
1313 Park St. Paso Robles, CA 93446
6385 Cross Canyons Road San Miguel, CA 93451
Barrel House Brewing Company
3055 Limestone Way Paso Robles, Ca 93446