The Hidden Coast: Vintage California

Heading south on High- way 1, outside Cayucos, you have a chance to turn left—inland—on Old CreekRoad. CAUTION: NARROW WINDING ROAD, the sign says, and as you disappear into the foot- hills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, it becomes clear that this is not just the warning of an overly prudent traffic engineer. The next nine miles of steep, shoulder-less hairpins are a time machine—through canopies of knotted oak, past cows and avocados and blistered red barns—to a distant California, at once more severe and more enchanting. At its summit, Old Creek Road intersects Highway 46, which rolls east, across wine country, to Paso Robles. Spend a few hours amid the brick storefronts of downtown, full of tasting rooms and bistros, none better than Artisan (805-237- 8084), which features a different local vintner at each Monday prix fixe dinner.