By Karen Feld
Doug Ayres is one of those talented people who can make something magical of what he calls “an inspired space.” That’s Allegretto, where Ayres transformed 20 acres of pastureland into a new luxury resort and spa in the heart of central California Paso Robles wine country in San Luis Obispo County. This resort is appropriately named, Allegretto, a musical term describing a moderate tempo and is located midway between Los Angeles & San Francisco and well worth a visit. It offers a break any time of year from the congestion and hectic New York City-style pace. It is also only a 20 minute drive inland from the Pacific Ocean.
Ayres, whose family developed much of Los Angeles, relates architecture to musical notes and chords. “Each component is part of the symphony,” says Ayres, who was in the film and sound business before joining the family business, Ayres Hotels. “I hear that silent symphony throughout the property. It’s a composition that has to make sense to the listener.” Ayres feels it in all of his senses, and that’s communicated to resort guests. Hence, the name “Allegretto.”
He brings all the elements together in true harmony with nature –the art, design, comfort level, landscape, spa, and artfully prepared farm to table food. The place surpasses his goal of reflecting the spirit of the earth. “I feel like I’m a steward of the celestial bodies of the earth,” Ayres said. “I fell in love with the area. My eyes were having a visual orgasm.”
Eight acres of vines at this romantic Tuscan styled resort produce Cabernet, Malbec, Tenat and Voigneir, but only for local consumption at this time. European inspired ground floor guest rooms with high ceilings open up to a terrace laced with olive vines and landscaped open spaces where you can comfortably relax by open fire pits in the large courtyard. It’s not unusual to see the humble Ayres personally tending to the vines, tinkering in the herb or flower gardens, or anonymously helping guests with their luggage. He wants guests to share his passion for the property not just visually but “in the airwaves.”
The museum quality art is carefully and personally curated from Ayres’ worldwide travels to fit the space. Violins are uniquely painted on elevator doors keeping with the concept of the guests’ senses coming alive. All elements of Allegretto are brought together from the ground up in complete harmony.
Not only is the place spotlessly clean but a wrapper on the TV remote in each of the 171 guest rooms and suites notes a “microbe-free handset.” Remotes, notoriously one of the germiest areas of hotel rooms, are disinfected before each guest arrives. No detail is left unnoticed at this family owned and operated business.
I did not want to leave the property after a zen treatment at Spa Allegretto. Their approach is holistic and each treatment is customized. Ashley treated me to a spearmint beauty elixir as I relaxed on a heated table. The therapist used a cold pumpkin enzyme mask after a warm hammer for firming. Aromatherapy enhances relaxation and helps to detox the mind, body and soul. Signature treatments include the Triple Crown which is a facial including back and scalp, and Cabaletta, a four-handed body massage. Aroma blends created in house include an unwind blend of allspice, anise, cinnamon and patchouli; and an awakening blend of bergamot, sweet orange and ylang-ylang. In addition to their own blends, the spa uses Caudalie, a high end French line of bath products. After your treatment, be sure to relax in their zero gravity chairs and infra red detox sauna.
Spend the afternoon enjoying the lap pool with private cabanas and relax in the whirlpool tub while gazing out at the vineyards above. Play bocce ball or experience Chara, an alternative to yoga.
Alternatively, roam the magnificent property through the hand set stoned archways reminiscent of European monasteries, visit the Abbey, the French inspired non-denominational wedding chapel, stroll leisurely through the Romeo and Juliet Tunnel (it’s sized to accommodate a horse and rider), fountains, manicured gardens and engage with Ayres’ hand-picked art and artifact collection, such as the huge Siddhartha statue from India.
An enormous cross-section log cut from a giant California Sequoia tree displayed off the lobby reminds us of the age and expanse of the world. It’s rings date back before the Great Wall of China and the birth of Christ.
Don’t overlook Cello Ristorante & Bar, a casual Mediterranean-inspired restaurant on-property serving creatively inspired local foods, artisanal locally crafted beers, and Allegretto’s proprietary wines. The scallop salad is a lunch favorite. And sip a glass of Allegretto’s wine in a cozy seat at the fire pit before retiring.
Allegretto Vineyard Resort
2700 Buena Vista Drive
Paso Robles, CA
Karen Feld is an award-winning writer based in New York City. Visit her website at www.karenfeld.com