This Paso Robles neighbor is worth a day trip. Read on to discover the underdog of California's Central Coast.
Why go now? This often-overlooked Central Coast destination is brimming with small-town charm and newfound epicurean appeal.
The sweet spot: Catch May’s lingering-green hills before summer’s triple digits hit.
Where it is: 6 miles south of Paso Robles. Population: 6,900. Dress Code: Cowboy boots and a reuseable shopping bag
Getting there: Templeton is about 160 miles south of San Jose and 211 miles north of Los Angeles, in San Luis Obispo County. (Map)
Namesake: Named after Templeton Crocker, the grandson of Central Pacific Railroad co-founder Charles Crocker, Templeton is the only town along the El Camino Real that isn’t named after a saint.
Most popular Saturday morning destination: Templeton Park is home to the most bountiful—and beautiful—farmer’s market in the county. (Crocker and 6th St.; Sat. 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.)
Where to fuel up for the day: Joebella Coffee Roasters serves expertly-roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee and tea. (1121 Rossi Rd., suite C; 805/461-4822)
Eat a sandwich named after a winemaker
Famished wine tasters will find much-needed respite at Farmstand 46 (3750 Highway 46; 805/239-3661), where a bright array of artisan sandwiches, salads, and wood-fired pizzas are on offer. The staff works diligently to use local, organic, sustainable ingredients whenever possible, many of which are grown in Farmstand’s estate garden. Next-door neighbor, Cypher winery, makes choosing beverages a no-brainer.
Make Your own Goat Cheese
Tucked away along a bucolic stretch of Templeton backcountry, Happy Acres Family Farm (1955 Templeton Rd.; 805/434-7580) is a new Central Coast treasure that produces a marvelous assortment of farmstead goat cheeses, goats milk-based body lotions (highly recommended), organic produce, and farm-fresh eggs. Nearly 200 goats—all known by name—are cared for by co-owner Stephanie Simonis, whose adoration for her animals is tireless and charming. Special classes invite guests to participate in the goat cheese-making process by milking their own goat and flavoring their own cheese blend.
Clavo and Concerts in the Park
Locals eagerly anticipate the outdoor concert season in Templeton Park (Crocker and 6th St.; Weds. 6:30 - 8:30 pm, 805/434-4900), where they gather beneath a canopy of ancient oaks to picnic and listen to live music. Nearby, Clavo Cellars (315 S. Main St.; 805/226-0174) offers pre-concert appetizers and an excellent selection of picnic-worthy wines, like an expertly-balanced 2008 Grenache Rose ($18).
Dine in a Central Coast Standout
Restaurant owner Ian McPhee was a modern pioneer of sorts when he chose little-known Templeton as the home for McPhee’s Grill (416 S. Main St.; 805/434-3204) in 1994. Today, McPhee’s is one of the most noteworthy restaurants on the entire Central Coast, offering a menu of exceptional New American fare (or whatever Chef Ian is in the mood for), such as ancho duck and cheese quesadillas, and roasted quail with mushroom caponata. At 125 years-old, the building that houses McPhee’s is the most historic in town.
Sip and Savor15c Degrees Wine Shop & Bar is indispensable to wine lovers looking for a superb selection of global wines and hard-to-find, Central Coast favorites. Owner and Certified Sommelier Ali Rush Carscaden offers warm, educated advice about the over 500 wines here, as well as the exceptional tapas-inspired bar menu. Generous cheese plates, imported meats, savory paninis, and a host of microbrewed beers are all on offer. (1121 Rossi Rd., suite A; 805/434-1554)
Pier 46 Seafood
Sustainability is the emphasis at Pier 46 Seafood shop and restaurant, where customers relish some of the county’s highest-quality seafood. In addition to the shop’s excellent selection of freshly-caught fish, shellfish, oysters, and edible accoutrement, Pier 46 offers an extensive restaurant menu, including first-rate fish and chips, robust cioppino, fish tacos with pepperjack cheese, and tender calamari served on toasted sourdough. (1131 Rossi Rd.; 805/434-1950)
See the Countryside
Flanked by gnarled oaks, wildflowers, and orange and avocado groves, Santa Rita Road is a hidden jewel. At its highest point, you get 360° views of Paso wine country and the Pacific Ocean.
An authentic wine country getaway can be found at Venteux Vineyards (pronounced vin-too), where visitors can not only sample the winery’s selection of bold, Rhone-inspired wines, but also find overnight accommodations in a serene vineyard setting. The small Farmhouse-style inn features rooms that are both chic and charming, and come accompanied by gourmet breakfasts on the expansive wraparound porch. (Rooms start a $245; 1795 Las Tablas Rd.; 805/369-0127)