As my friend Takayo and I drove the 208 miles north to Paso Robles, my imagination went into overdrive in anticipation of the 58,000 fiber-optic flowers that create Bruce Munro’s “Field of Light at Sensorio.” I had been a fan of Munro’s work since 2016, when I saw his “Field of Light” at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. I hoped Takayo would share my passion for and excitement about a world powered by solar after seeing the possibilities that Sensorio suggests. The tab: about $600, including $202 for a double queen suite; $75 for breakfast and lunch; $217.70 for two for Sensorio’s VIP experience; $48 for rideshare to and from Sensorio and $53 for gas; includes taxes, tips and fees but excludes wine.
We stayed in a two-room whirlpool suite at La Bellasera Hotel & Suites, where the architecture is reminiscent of a Mediterranean villa. The beds were comfortable, and parking was free. Amenities include a small swimming pool and a fitness room. The next morning, we had breakfast at Enoteca, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant. At $25 a person, our meal was pricey, but we thought Takayo’s chilaquiles and my eggs Benedict justified the tab. (Note: The restaurant is being remodeled and is to reopen at the end of November.)
A friend who enjoys wine tasting suggested we visit Tin City, an industrial park with 24 businesses, including several wineries, a brewery, a cidery and a restaurant called Tin Canteen, where we planned to have lunch. But hunger got the better of us. We were famished when we arrived for our tasting appointment at Giornata Wines, so we put together a picnic of cherry tomatoes, locally made cheese, Di Stefano burrata and Italian crackers from Etto, Tin City’s Italian grocery. Our picnic was about $25 (excluding the wines we bought at Giornata and Levo). Next time, Canteen for lunch and more time at Tin City.
Any ticket — general admission is $33.75 — to Bruce Munro’s “Field of Light at Sensorio” will be a visual feast, but we splurged for the VIP experience (limited to 150 people and must be reserved 48 hours in advance) and it was worth it. It allowed us to relax, sip wine (or beer; two drink tickets are included) and nosh on Mediterranean-style small plates while viewing the field from a private terrace. Arrive early to grab fire pit seating. I knew the field would be captivating after dark, and it was, but I wasn’t expecting it to be just as beautiful during the sunset that filled the landscape with shades of gold, amber and orange. VIP ticket or no, go early to catch this unexpected part of the show.
THE LESSON LEARNED
Our hotel was about 13 miles from Sensorio, and because we knew our day would involve wine, we decided to use ride-hailing to get to Sensorio. Wouldn’t be much, right? Wrong. It was $24 each way. Next time, we’ll skip the wine and drive (the ticket includes parking for general or VIP admission) or budget for the extra cost.
La Bellasera Hotel and Suites, 206 Alexa Court, Paso Robles; (805) 238-2834. Four handicapped accessible rooms. Doubles from $169.
Etto, 3070 Limestone Way, Templeton; (805) 400-3193
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Giornata, 470 Marquita Ave., Suite A, Paso Robles; (805) 434-3075. Handicapped accessible. $10 wine tasting fee is waived with purchase.
Levo Wine, 2975 Limestone Way, Paso Robles; (805) 400-5994. Wheelchair accessible. Tastings average $15-$30.
“Field of Light at Sensorio,”4380 Highway 146 E., Paso Robles; (805) 226-4287. Wheelchair accessible. Tickets from $33.75.