Wine, Olives & Cookies - Three Days in Paso Robles with a stop in Solvang

By Charleen - February 14, 2022

After a fantastic New Year celebration with family in San Diego, we drove north to enjoy Paso Robles and Pacific Grove with two chow chows. Both communities were dog friendly with lots of outdoor activities and dining options. In Paso Robles we stayed in a fantastic AirBNB and enjoyed wine country, brown butter cookies, an olive oil tasting, many excellent meals and a walk amidst craggy oaks on rolling hills.

The idea of a driving vacation, staying at dog-friendly AirBNB rentals, and making plans on what to do at the last minute sounded very appealing for its freedom and relative safety compared to crowded airports and hotels. My sister had heard of Paso Robles, equally accessible from Southern California and the Bay Area.  So we booked a dog-friendly AirBNB and set off from San Diego for a 3-night vacation in Paso Robles. On the drive up, we stopped for lunch in Solvang, CA with its Danish bakeries. 

Looking south along Alisal Rd at Mission Dr (Rt 246). There is a parking lot ahead on the left and the pedestrian segment of Copenhagen Dr is ahead on the right.

Danish Bakeries in Solvang, CA

As we pulled into Solvang, we were immediately struck by the steep, gabled roofs and contrasting half-timber and white-washed facades similar to the English Tudor style. But in this case, the peaked roofs, windmills and royal crests are all Danish. Solvang was founded in 1911 by Danish immigrants, and remains as a historical bit of Scandinavia transplanted to the Santa Ynez Valley of California.

The Solvang Shoe Store on Copenhagen at First St.

We were eager to explore this fairy tale town, but a note to the wise, Monday may not be the best day to visit. Many of the shops and restaurants were closed on Monday, and most bakeries that were open tended to close by 3 pm. We saw some intriguing dinner menus posted outside several establishments, and would definitely return for a future visit.

As we walked out from one of the free public parking lots, we enjoyed a colorful painting on the side of the Birkholm's Bakery (closed), which depicted Danish leaders from the era of Gorm the Old onwards. 

From Gorm the Old (900-950) on the far left (out of frame) to Queen Margrethe II (Reign 1972-) 

Luckily, Chomp, a sandwich shop was open with both indoor and outdoor dining areas, where we stopped to eat with the two chows laying under the table. While the fare was not Scandinavian, we enjoyed the fish and chips and Reuben sandwiches. 1693 Mission Dr., 805-688-7733.

Right on the corner outside of Chomp is a replica of the famous Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen. 

Walking back down Alisal Road, we turned right onto the pedestrian-only Copenhagen Drive, which seemed to have the highest concentration of bakeries. We saw long lines at the Danish Mill Bakery, which is open 8am-6pm daily. My sister went on ahead and snagged the last three aebelskivers from Arne's Famous Aebelskiver, the take out window of the Solvang Restaurant right before they closed at 3 pm. These are like round donuts sprinkled over with powdered sugar and raspberry jam.

We then returned to the Danish Mill Bakery to select pastries to bring on to Paso Robles, as we were pretty full after lunch and aebelskivers. We ogled the huge kringles, but opted for a selection of four smaller items.  1682 Copenhagen Dr., 805-688-5805.

Animated bakers in the window of the Danish Mill Bakery

Pictured on the left is the most amazing pastry!  We wished we had gotten more than one "French Waffle with raspberry and buttercream." Thankfully, it was long enough that everyone was able to get a taste. These treats are sometimes referred to as Danish Waffles, although franske vafler in Danish translates to French Waffles. They are much better than any other waffle I have had -- two long, flaky crisp batons of puff pastry sandwiching just the right amount of jam and whipped cream. The lemon cheese danish, which was quite good, paled a bit in comparison. The lemon half was wonderfully sweet-tart, and I wished I had picked the plain lemon danish to get more of it. On the right is a bear claw that could have used a bit more almond filling, and towards the front are two unusual treats that can apparently be mail ordered from the bakery. They are called træstamme, or wood trunk, and consist of rum chocolate cake bites coated with marzipan and drizzled with chocolate.

Sweets from the Danish Mill Bakery - although they were all tasty, the French waffle with raspberry and butter cream (left) stood out.

We resisted picking up Swedish fish at the Swedish Candy Factory, and were appropriately cautious with the licorice there. We like licorice, but our Danish friends always said that you can't get real licorice in the US. Scandinavian licorice is much less sweet with a salty ammonia sensation. The olive oils at the Solvang Olive Press were a bit too subtle for my taste, although I was strongly tempted by the Dark Toasted Sesame Oil. I am glad I passed, however, as we would have missed the aebelskivers if I had taken the time for a purchase. And I ended up loving the olive oils in Paso Robles.

After passing several more closed bakeries, including Mortensen's that closed at 3, we had high hopes for Olsen's Danish Village Bakery, but when we arrived, we found that a family emergency had them closed before their normal 5 pm closing time. After arriving back at the car, we noticed a back gate from the parking lot to the Old Mission Santa Inés, and wandered back there for some views.

View from parking area in front of the Mission.

Paso Robles, CA

The drive from Solvang to Paso Robles was truly beautiful, with mountains and hills to the right, and a coastal sunset to the left. Paso Robles itself sports a central town green called the Downtown City Park, with local small businesses arrayed all around it. There is ample street parking, and each vehicle can park for up to 2 h a day for free after registering your license plate at the kiosk, and $1/h after that. On the south side of the Park, there is a public library and a very nice bathroom complex with outdoor hand-washing stations. 

On Tuesday and Saturday mornings, there is a farmers' market from 9:30-noon along the southwest border of the Park. We picked up some fresh eggs, kettle cooked potato chips (Maui onion, Luau honey BBQ), and fresh tamales (chicken molé, red sauce pork) for a quick lunch before our first wine tasting. 

Farmer's Market gave us the perfect lunch before wine tasting. Chicken mole (left) and pork in red sauce (right) tamales.

Red Cloud Rendezvous AirBNB

The night before, we had checked into our wonderful rental house. It was in a quiet neighborhood with a huge garage, complete with 220V electric car charger. There was a spacious kitchen, breakfast nook and cozy living room, both surrounded by picture windows, and a formal dining room.  The main house had three spacious bedrooms -- a king master suite, two queen bedrooms with a hallway laundry room.  

Living room looking out to an outdoor seating area, formal dining room, kitchen and master.

Out back, there was a fire pit and a fenced in astroturf yard that was perfect for the dogs.  The backyard is elevated compared to the street behind the house, so it gave the impression of a private view.
Stairs in the backyard led up to a private suite up above the garage and a fourth bedroom, which had its own mini kitchen, dining area, bathroom and living room.

Left, fire pit and outdoor seating area.  Right, suite above garage and view from balcony to backyard

We had plenty of room, and there was a wall mounted monitor used to check in and out, which also helped with suggesting dining options and other activities.

The only issues we had with the house is that someone had turned off the master shower using a little lever high up on the shower head, so we only had the rain shower for the first night. Paso Robles Vacation Rentals sent a plumber the next morning, and he showed us how to turn the master shower back on. All the counter tops (kitchen and bath) were higher than normal, suggesting the owners are probably pretty tall. The kitchen was extremely well-equipped with everything you might need.

Overall, we loved living here and it was a convenient and short drive into town each day.

Wine, Cheese and Charcuterie


We thoroughly enjoyed our first dog-friendly wine tasting at Sculpterra. As my sister called around, we discovered that wineries in the area were not doing the food and wine pairings that we hoped for. Some of them did not have their kitchens open at all, and others only opened from Thursday-Saturday. 

At Sculpterra, we entered through a huge doorway with beautiful wrought iron grape vines and lanterns on either side. As suggested by the name of the winery, there were large mostly metallic sculptures in the gardens surrounding the main building. The ranch is owned by Warren & Kathy Frankel, who grew the vines and commissioned all the artwork.  As a still-practicing medical doctor, he initially had no plans to make wine until his son Paul decided to do so. 

View of safari animal sculptures from Vista de los Venados in the Viognier section.

We were able to bring the dogs right into one of the tasting rooms. In the adjacent shop, they also had tasting tables. Although generally you would select 6 wines to taste, she went through the entire front side of the list, plus two dessert wines on the back since it was our first visit to the winery. And they allowed my sister and I to share a tasting. 

Their 2021 Sauvignon blanc was the best white wine I have sampled in a long time. It was clean and crisp with a bright, almost a peach-like quality. The tasting unfolds with stories about the owner and his medical practice and Healing Hands missions to bring healthcare to underserved areas of the world, and the several artists whose work is displayed. 

There is a little map showing where each of the grape strains used in the wines are grown, and the bottles have detailed information about the blend. We ended up being blown away by this dessert wine with a chocolatey finish, and bought two bottles of the J. Jagger Primitivo Port.

We also bought a bag of pistachios, which were the first trees planted in 1979. They were great to snack on during the tasting. The plain roasted pistachios might be the best I have tasted. They also sell them with flavorings, but the garlic & onion flavor, while tasty, covered up the uniqueness of these particular pistachios.

After that we enjoyed walking among the sculptures, rose garden and gaming area (you can borrow chess, bocce ball, foosball and ping pong equipment).  We particularly enjoyed viewing these huge panels of historical photos, displayed like a giant metal photo album. Apparently, Paso Robles was founded Drury James, the uncle of the outlaw Jesse James, who hid out there for a while.

This was an unusual winery with lots to see in addition to tasting the wine!

5015 Linne Rd, 805-226-8881. Open Daily 10-5.

Di Raimondos Italian Market and Deli

The following day, we planned to travel out to Justin Winery as they have a restaurant on site. However, when we called, we found the restaurant only opened on weekends so we decided to bring a picnic lunch. We visited Vivant cheese shop as that was the cheese sold at Sculpterra, but found the two workers in the shop to be completely indifferent to helping us. Their ad mentioned local cheeses, but when asked, they only had a single local cheese -- Aries from the Shooting Star Creamery. And they were charging over twice the price that it was being sold in San Francisco!

So we searched online and found this Italian deli called Di Raimondos Italian Market and Cheese Shop. It is a very small shop with goods from floor to ceiling and two cold cases. After tasting a few options, we bought 3/4 pound portions of Calabrese salami and this amazing bresaola (aged beef). 

My favorite cheese was the Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, and we got a package of goat cheese, and vanilla infused mild Wisconsin cheddar. We also picked up a package of acorn fed Iberico ham, some dried pear halves and a loaf of French bread.  

What a fantastic spread when combined with crackers, fig jam and an olive tapenade that my sister had brought on the trip for tastings!

822 13th St., 805-238-1268.  Google says closed M-W, but we were definitely there on a Wednesday. They serve sandwiches Fri-Sun.

Justin Winery

At Justin Winery, the dog-friendly wine tastings occurred at sit-down tables arranged along outdoor terraces with views of vineyards. There was a surprisingly high number of rabbits seen running through the vines, possibly fleeing some unseen predator. 

Even though the restaurant was closed, we greatly enjoyed our picnic lunch of a do-it-yourself charcuterie and cheese platter. One of us got the premium wine flight and the other two, the regular wine tasting. I opted out for a chocolate flight instead. But the server brought a fourth glass so we were in essence able to taste everything. 

My favorites were the Strawberry Basil White Chocolate (second from left) and the JUSTIN Cabernet Sauvignon Dark Chocolate (right). Others: Passion fruit white and smoked sea salt caramel milk.

Overall, we enjoyed several of the reds at Justin, and ended up buying several bottles. However, it was a little disconcerting to find out from our server that the majority of the grapes used in the wines are purchased and not grown on site. Among our favorite wines were the 2019 Focus (Syrah), the 2018 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2019 Justification, a blend of Cabernet and Merlot. 

View of tasting rooms from among the Cabernet Sauvignon vines up the hill


Brown Butter Cookie Company

These cookies are truly amazing, with a fine texture that delicately crumbles perfectly in the mouth. We went back to the shop several times. On most days, they have samples of the original brown butter cookie, and beginning on Thursday morning, they had samples of all the flavors that are in stock. My favorite flavors were the original and the chocolate, but I am very intrigued by the seasonal key lime brown butter cookie, which unfortunately was not in season. They are a bit pricey at $1.25 per cookie, but worth it for eating slowly and really savoring the perfect flavor and texture.  

The Original, with Cocoa in the background.

801 12th St., 805-239-5894.

When we got home, my husband made some brown butter shortbread cookies. He managed to achieve this wonderful nutty flavor, but the texture was a bit too crisply crumbly.

Negranti Creamery

This local creamery specializes in sheep milk ice cream, although they did have 4 flavors in cow milk. Sheep milk ice cream is in between custard and sherbet in texture, probably because it is lower in fat. We enjoyed pints of the Harvest Pumpkin and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip. 

1211 Pine St, 805-801-3847.


The general store next door was still closed, although they were setting up the window, so we wandered into Firefly in our search for playing cards. This eclectic shop has a bit of something for everyone. I got caught up in a kitchen display featuring these beautifully watercolored cookbooks by Erin Gleeson called The Forest Feast and The Forest Feast Mediterranean. I had tried out the Tortilla Espanola with Rainbow Chard recipe when the latter was featured in an EatYourBooks giveaway, and it has become one of my favorite recipes. So I had to pick it up, along with a decorative dishtowel featuring the National Parks. 

839 12th St., 805-237-9265.


The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar

This restaurant's menu pulled up on our electronic concierge screen at the rental, and it looked good so we piled into the car and headed out. We had the mistaken impression it might have been southwestern, but the Hatch hot sauce was red and very hot, with no sign of a hatch chile. 

Everyone was drooling over the lamb and beef shepherd's pie over white cheddar grits, but unfortunately, that is only served on Thursdays. The honey fried chicken was pretty good. The black pepper honey added a great flavor, but there was not enough of it. The breading was a bit heavy in texture and not what I was expecting. My sister's yellow beet salad with endives and apples was uninspiring, coated in a white sauce that she left mostly uneaten, and the smoked bacon potato salad side was rather bland.

Our favorite dish there was the appetizer. Brussels sprouts with bacon, grilled grapes, whipped blue cheese and thyme. It was truly delicious and the grilled grapes contrasted nicely with the soft, charred brussels, sweet against the blue cheese sauce. My husband also seemed to really enjoy his meatloaf.

Fabulous brussels sprouts and grilled grapes appetizer. Sparrow 6 virgin cocktail. Fried chicken, Hatch sauce & potato salad.

835 13th St., 805-221-5727.

TASTE Craft Eatery

We saw some people eating breakfast under heat lamps on the balcony and decided to check out the menu, which is posted outside. This place specializes in small plates, and you can select 2-4 small dishes to form a dinner. The options included burgers and other sandwiches all served on a ciabatta bun, different types of mac and cheese, mini-salads, and roasted brussels with all sorts of toppings. The Trio is the most economical option at $6/selection. You can also opt for full size salads instead.

We all kind of agreed afterwards that of the small bites, the burgers were the best. I had the Fancy Pants Burger, and I also really liked the Winter Sprouts (brussels sprouts with truffle aioli & parmesan). The smoked gouda mac & cheese with bacon was tasty, but did not stand out.

Fancy Pants Burger

My sister liked her Eve Burger with fig jam and chevre and my husband like his burger better than the Blue Bird. Other popular options with our group included the Solstice Spin Salad and a Bahn mi with pork spilling out of the slider.  

Soltice Spin Salad, Bahn Mi, Gouda mac n'cheese with broccoli.

810 11th St, 805-200-2978.

The Alchemists' Garden

After two days of wine tasting, it was great fun to experience the cocktails at The Alchemist's Garden. The menu posted outside caught our eye because there seemed to be some creative vegetable options, and this turned out to be our favorite meal in Paso Robles!

We were able to sit in an outdoor area that had a roof and canvas walls for a bit of social distancing. Although intrigued by the list of spirits, we decided to try some of their fanciful interpretations of classic drinks. 

My daughter ordered a fantastic version of Painkiller called Belladonna, which featured butter-washed krobar naval rum, falernum, pineapple and orange juices and creme of coconut. The tableside theatrics for her drink was a flaming rum-filled lime half sprinkled with cinnamon to create fireworks at the table. 

The Belladonna

The warm 3 Broomsticks Butterbeer -- butter rum, lemon, bourbon, falernum, caramel and cider -- seemed tame in comparison. This, it turns out, is the only nod to Harry Potter - the Nimbus is named after the cloud, not the Broom. The Nimbus is a foamy concoction with gin, silver rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, citrus juices, apricot liqueur and egg white. It came with a flamed-at-the-table sprig of rosemary that infused each sip with a nice aroma. 

Za'atar popcorn; mushroom-arugula salad; raclette fondue with perfectly textured potato dippers; Nimbus.

We ended up ordering a few plates to share, planning to order more substantial plates if we were still hungry. We got the Za'atar sesame popcorn, the cast iron fondue with mozzarella and raclette cheeses, soyrizo and pumpkin seeds, and the tiger shrimp over harissa-seasoned cauliflower puree,  

Tiger Shrimp

Next we ordered two veggies. The first was a roasted local mushroom and arugula salad dressed in a lemony vinaigrette with a poached egg on top. The second was a striking orange and pink dish with roasted baby carrots over red beet yogurt with a caraway maple glaze, pistachio, orange zest and arugula. 

A highly enjoyable and stimulating meal full of exciting and well-balanced flavors. 


By consulting the internet, my husband found a truly wonderful morning hike under 2 miles.  It was a 1.6-1.7 mile loop trail called the Jim Green Trail, which begins at the end of Cortez Avenue in Atascadero, CA, a bit south of Paso Robles. 

Although it was foggy every morning, by the time we got to the trailhead at 9:40 am, the fog was mostly burned off.  The hike had some gentle hills, with lovely views of valleys dotted with craggy oaks. 

There is a golf course nearby, adding smooth green contrast to the wooded views. We went clockwise off the short stem and really enjoyed the hike. 

Trailhead: From El Camino Real, go east on Carbaril Ave and take a right onto Cortez Ave. Park in the dirt lot at the end of the road. There is no trailhead sign, but just walk along the trail at the end of the lot along a fence and some railroad tracks. You will cross a small bridge and then get to a branch in the trail where the loop starts. 

Pasolivo Olive Oil Ranch

We rounded out our visit to Paso Robles with my favorite activity in the entire trip -- a visit to an olive ranch. I had seen an ad in the visitor guide to "Take a drive and learn about olive oil by tasting it." Unfortunately, as we neared its address in Tin City, we realized we were not visiting a ranch, but rather heading to a tasting room in a rather industrial-looking area of town. So we opted for a place that kept turning up under Yelp suggestions when I went to read reviews about the first place.

After a beautiful drive out, in which we noticed these green blobby structures in many of the leafless trees, we arrived at the gracious entrance to Pasolivo. Pulling into the parking area, we noted two electric car chargers for both Tesla and non-Tesla vehicles.

Pasolivo entrance, electric car chargers, and walking with olive groves to the left and an oak with a blob of American mistletoe on the right.

I guessed right when trying to figure out what the rounded aerial plants with small green leaves could be. It turns out the oak trees are susceptible to a parasite called the American mistletoe.

We sat outdoors for our olive oil tastings. There were so many delicious oils paired with seasoning blends and vinegars to sample with bread that we did not need to get lunch afterwards!

They grow all the olive varieties used in their oils, and they harvest and press in November. They only harvest an amount that they are able to fully mill and blend that same day. 

The tasting starts out with the four EVOOs, paired with a truly fantastic aged balsamic vinegar, truffle salt, Tuscan spice blend, and black lava salt. It was striking that I loved all four of their EVOOs!  Usually, I find the mild ones to be too bland, but in this case I was pleased to learn that the Cucina, which is the buttery base for all their flavored oils, tastes pretty divine on its own. 

My husband and daughter loved the California best and my sister and I preferred the Classic -- both are labeled as medium bodied, grassy and peppery.  Next, we each got to choose two flavored oils to taste, and she brought out spices and vinegars designed to complement each of our choices. So it is better to go in a group, because we all got to taste each selection.

The basil oil deserves special mention. Instead of infusing the oil with basil extract, they mill the fresh basil in with the whole olives from the beginning. The sparkling citrus vinegar also deserves special mention as it was bright and fresh, designed to complement the tangerine olive oil. They also have lovely olive wood serving items, unique mustards, salts, soaps and lotions featuring olive oil. 

I believe there is a nominal fee if you taste and don't buy anything, but I ended up joining the club so I would not have to try cramming both wine and olive oil into my checked bag. I went with my husband and daughter's favorite EVOO, the Californian, his favorite Tangerine flavored olive oil, and gifted my sister her favorite, the Basil Oil. I also picked up truffle salt for my daughter and a lovely salt dish in olive wood with a spoon. And I know pretty much what I want for my next shipment...

At the end of the day, she mentioned that their shop in town had samples of tangerine olive oil brownies and a lot more giftware. So we swung by on our way out to pick up these samples and get more brown butter cookies for the road! While there, I tasted some Pasolivo mustards and fell in love with the Sugared Jalepeño Mustard. When we got home, my husband made a whole pan of tangerine brownies, using their recommended conversion factor for butter, just for us. Yum!

Ranch: 8530 Vineyard Dr., 805-227-0186
Shop in town: 1229 Park St. 805-226-8800

🐾 Next time, I want to fit in a visit to a creamery. At this time, the Central Coast Creamery was not doing tours due to being short-staffed. 

"Poor Horace" cast bronze statue by Wilma Cruise on Pine St.

What are your favorite places to visit in California between Los Angeles and San Francisco?

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