It’s Tuscany, but not as we know it. For one thing, despite its wealth of ochre walls, fountains and terracotta, the Allegretto Vineyard Resort is in the middle of small-town America, surrounded by plain buildings selling farm machinery rather than Italianate olive groves and wineries which have produced Sangiovese for centuries.
However, the architecture is authentic in style and the family which owns the resort produces very fine wines indeed here in the central California wine hub of Paso Robles, named for the charming small town a couple of miles down the road. It has a wonderful wine route meandering into the woods on the other side of town, but the Allegretto perches like an oasis above the more desolate, hinterland stretch of Highway 46.
Inside it’s all formal corridors leading to spacious, traditionally furnished rooms opening out onto different but equally enticing forms of outdoor landscaping. Ours led on to a courtyard equipped with fire pits around which to enjoy a glass of the homegrown vintage before dinner; others are closer to a garden with an intriguing “sonic maze” which greets you with chimes and vibrations as you stroll its planted paths.
The Cello restaurant, where a gourmet dinner can be enjoyed inside or out, is a great place to enjoy food several levels above the good but simple offerings down in the town centre. Just a few of the estate’s own bottlings are available on the menu, but the full range can be sampled in a separate on-site tasting room.
Good shopping is reason enough to drive into town, which fields a European designer boutique facing the beautiful central square and a wonderful collection of vintage jewellery in the Relics Mall two blocks up the road. The little park surrounding the Arts and Crafts town hall in the square is a good place to chat with locals who hang out on the benches with their dogs.
Until at least summer 2020 there’s a reason to turn left at the bottom of the hill rather than right towards town – Sensorio, a 15-acre plot currently playing host to a world-class installation, Field of Light. Now a show and dinner, as well as gourmet digs, are on offer in the area, there’s a compelling reason for making Paso Robles an overnight stop midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It may not be coastal, but it’s only a 45-minute scenic drive through the canyons to Route 1 for those who want to make the essential detour to Hearst Castle and Big Sur via America’s most beautiful road before picking up the 101 freeway again in Monterey. Tuscan wine country may have it on ancient stones, but you can’t beat central California for the breathtaking coast and vintages which are increasingly being ranked among America’s finest.
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Allegretto Vineyard Resort, 2700 Buena Vista Drive, Paso Robles, California 93446
Doubles start from around £196, room only