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Paso Robles Wine Bus Tour – October 2010
Yannis of Yanni’s Bistro & Cellars, a great dining place in Poway/Scripps Ranch, also a good friend and client took us to an restaurant industry event on board a Celebrity Cruise Ship that was in port. While on board we dined with Chris who owns the Wine Vault & Bistro on India Street next to El Indio. I had never been there but I joined his email list and started seeing the exciting wine pairing menus that he puts on. We then received an email about a group of upcoming Wine Bus tours to the Paso Robles area. This was a trip that we had to go on.
The night before we left we found out that our good friends of many, many years were also on the bus. We don’t get to see each other often enough so having them as travel companions will make the trip more memorable.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Chris and his wife, Mary had put together a great itinerary. They had done some reconnaissance trips to Paso Robles (tough job but they “took one for the team”) to set this up and make sure that everyone had a great time. They planned this for crush season where we would have the opportunity to see the grapes coming into the winery and be part of the wine-making process. This is a very special time to see the wineries in action.
We arrived Sunday morning at 8:00 at the restaurant and enjoyed Bloody Mary’s and Screwdriver’s. The bus showed up right on time and we about 34 of us piled on for the drive north. Eric from Sun Diego Charter was the driver. Issac, the Love Boat Bartender, was played by Keith. Keith was assigned to the back of the bus and it became immediately clear that we were all in trouble. Laughter and cocktails started to flow. It seems that they had brought Gatorade bottles full of the pre-made cocktail juice. The party was on!
I woke up somewhere north of Thousand Oaks… Our first stop was The Cliff House Inn just north of Ventura – Every person brought a bottle of wine to share with the rest of the group. It was really fun passing the 35-ish bottles of wine from table-to-table. White, Red, Blush, Sparkling, Champagne, we had it all. We ate in the Inn at the Shoals Restaurant. This is a great stop if you are passing by. It is right on the ocean!
Well, it seems like we did not finish all of the wine and it was packed up and put in Keith’s possession for unsafe-keeping. We apparently had made excellent time getting through Los Angeles and Chris decided that we could have a bonus stop. There is the greatest tavern in the hills above Santa Barbara called Cold Spring Tavern. The Tavern is located in the San Marcos Pass on Highway 154 near Lake Cachuma.
When we arrived Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan were playing music out front.We were able to stay for about 3 songs.
Here are a couple of (shaky) home-made videos:
We then continued our trip up to our Home Base, the Paso Robles Inn. This is a fabulous place to stay. I have written about it before here. We cleaned up and then got back on the bus and headed to dinner.
Dinner was at Tobin James Winery. Mary and I have known the co-owners, Lance and Clair Silver for many, many years and we were excited to get to spend the evening with them. Lance had arranged for their chef, Chef Erik to prepare a great meal for us. Tobin James has a large wood-fired pizza oven and Lance and Chef Erik put together some gourmet, thin crust pizzas. I think everyone had a great time. We poured into the bus and headed back to the Inn for the night. Mary and I had upgraded to a suite with a mineral hot springs spa on the patio. We managed to take a spa before heading to bed.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Monday morning arrived way too early and we headed down to the Coffee Shop for breakfast. At 9:00 A.M. it was time to get back on the bus. Surprisingly, everyone was perky and ready for a new day. The first stop today is the Halter Ranch. This is a 3,000 acre ranch that produces some incredible grapes. We were met by Jim Witt who walked us around the property. We started in the old barn where different varieties of grapes were drying on the floor on beds of hay. These will be turned into their delicious dessert wine.
Jim then showed us the new winery that is being built. It will be a gravity flow winery where you put grapes in at the top and they flow downhill without pumps throughout the winemaking process.
We continued our walk down the old airplane runway and Jim turned us over to Mitch Wyss. Mitch is the winegrower, he was very fun to listen to as he explained the process of getting the grapes from the field to the winery or to the customers that buy their grapes.
We then headed down to the tasting room next to the Victorian Farmhouse. Here we tasted a wide selection of their wine offerings. This is a great stop in the Paso area.
Next up was a short ride to the Villa Creek property where we met Chris and JoAnn Cherry. They also have a restaurant in town on the square called Villa Creek where we will be dining tonight. Chris did an excellent job of teaching us about the way he crafts his wines. We were able to ‘punch down’ some grapes in a barrel. Chris had a selection of gourmet cheeses and crackers for us to have while we tasted his hand-made wines. Chris and JoAnn showed us a very nice time and we are really looking forward to dinner tonight. We also got to visit with their winery cat and 2 dogs. The cat would let anybody pet it and the dogs were cheese and cracker lovers. They were obviously packing on some fat to get them through the Winter.
The next stop was the property at Luna Matta where we were met by Stephy Terrizzi of Giornata Wines.
Stephy and her husband Brian put together some incredible Cal-Italian wines, my favorite. Giornata is another example of Youth in Action in Paso Robles. Stephy is quite young, in wine years, to be as good as she is. She took us on a Billy goat hike up the side of the mountain as we toured the Luna Matta property. This is a very rustic vineyard with varying terrain. Chris from Villa Creek arranged for his chef, Tom Fundaro put on a fabulous BBQ. We sat on tree stumps and plastic chairs and had some of the best Cal-Italian wines and awesome food.
We were not done yet! The next stop is as different as you can get. This property is Denner Vineyards. Here is a very nice drawing of the building The Denner Perspective. We were hosted in the private tasting room by Ron Denner.
Ron has built an incredible facility. Denner produces wine and also hosts other producers who make their wine in his facility. Ron told us about his fascinating life’s story and then turned the presentation over to his winemaker Anthony Yount. Up walks this kid, an amazing, young winemaker.
Once he started speaking it was apparent that he knows about winemaking. Anthony walked us through his wines explaining what was involved in creating them. I don’t think any of the women heard a word he said. They were all just smiling at him.
When we were finished tasting the Denner offerings we were introduced to the folks from Epoch Estate Wines. Epoch has taken a keen interest in Paso Robles history. They have purchased the original land of Ignacy Jan Paderewski Paso Robles’ most famous resident. They have replanted his original vineyard. Epoch has also purchased York Mountain Winery. York Mountain Winery has produced grapes since 1882. It has its own appellation in the mountains to the West of Paso Robles on the way to Cambria. Epoch obtained the winery in July of 2010 when it was being liquidated. It is great to see Epoch continuing the great history of the Paso Robles region.
Matt Hobbs, the General Manager of Epoch told us the Epoch story and then poured some of their incredible wine. Epoch tends to completely sell out very quickly so it was a real treat to be able to taste them. Near the end of the presentation Matt introduced us to Jordan Fiorentini their winemaker. She was crushing wine at the Denner facility and popped in for a visit. Jordan has quite the resume, Master’s, Chalk Hill and Araujo Estate in Napa, and Antinori Winery in Firenze, Italy. She is yet another young winemaker. It seems to me that youth, innovation, and new ideas are taking over the industry. So far, if Denner and Epoch are any indicator, it is a huge success!
OK, back to the Inn to rest up for dinner. Dinner was at Chris Cherry’s Villa Creek Restaurant. This is just a short walk diagonally through the Town Square. Once here we had cocktails in the saloon then we were escorted to the private dining room for a winemaker’s dinner. He expertly matched some incredible wine with his meals. We all had a great time and a great meal. Slowly people started heading back across the town square to the Paso Robles Inn to get some rest and prepare for our third and final day.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
It is Tuesday morning and everyone is perky and on time! Mary and I had found a local bakery called Mora’s Bakery & Café on Park Street in downtown Paso. What a find! This is a great place for breakfast, lunch or just to stop in and get some good bakery items. We had breakfast and bought some baked goods for the trip home.
We were treated to a vineyard tour & grape tasting, goat petting, and the opportunity to graft our own root-stock that we were able to take with us to plant our own vines. Just in case we screwed it up, Craig also gave each of us a small plant that was about 2 feet high. It was very interesting hearing him talk about the functions of the root versus the vine.
There is a townsite behind Sextant called Old Edna. This is a two-acre privately-owned ‘town’ that has country-style accommodations. The entire farmhouse is rented to one group at a time. It has three bedrooms, a totally equipped farmhouse kitchen and is furnished in a very elegant fashion.
Sextant also has an incredible deli where the Stoller’s did a wine and food pairing. To me, this was the highlight of the trip. To Mary, this was her opportunity to break the pact that we were not going to join any more wine clubs.Craig and Nancy and their team made us feel right at home and presented some great wines along with perfectly prepared food.
We loaded our wine and vines on the bus and hit the road South. Our next, and last, stop is back to the Cold Spring Tavern where we will have lunch and a wine tasting.
At Cold Spring Tavern we were met by the folks form Margerum Wine Company. They poured some of their hand-crafted wine. They served, Sauvignon Blanc, an M5 Rhone Blend, and ÜBER Syrah. These were all excellent wines. They had been crushing earlier and brought us some crushing remains to feel and also a bottle of freshly-pressed juice to taste. The Cold Spring Tavern did a great job of squeezing us into the tavern since it was raining and we all had a great lunch.
After lunch we toured the (wet) grounds and then headed back to the bus to head home. We had a beautiful trip down the mountain into Santa Barbara. The weather was clearing and the view to the ocean was breathtaking! Once we got back on the freeway I heard the clinking of wine bottles along with Keith’s incredible laugh and I knew the trip home was NOT going to be a quite ride.
This is the way to travel! We had no transportation worries. We usually drive to Paso and by the time we arrive I am exhausted from driving. This time we arrived in full Party-On mode! Eric was an awesome driver. He made it through some treacherous weather and roads. All we had to do was to wake up for a little while to eat or taste wine. I don’t know how he did it but Eric had us back at The Wine Vault and Bistro 30 minutes early. This was a most enjoyable trip and I recommend it to everybody who would like to visit the Paso Robles region. You should join Chris’ email list here to keep an eye on future trips. I think he is planning another trip up to Northern California next.
Mary and I would also like to thank Chris for providing us with special meals. We are Pescatarians (fish eating vegetarians) and he pre-arragnged alternative food for us at all of the stops. He also can provide you pescatarian/vegetarian options at his wine events. Thanks Chris!
From Mary Baker – A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 27, 2010, at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 820 Creston Road in Paso Robles. Friends and family are invited to gather following Mass with a special celebration of Jacob’s life at 3 p.m. at Dubost Winery, 9988 Chimney Rock Road in Paso Robles.
Via Mary Baker –> We have lost young winemaker Jacob Raines of Dubost Winery. His ATV rolled in the family vineyard. He died on the vineyard he planted, under a full moon. Please send your condolences to Dubost Winery. His parents are Kate Dubost and John Raines, and stepfather Curt Dubost. He is also survived by his brothers Lucas and Zachary, who works at Adelaida Winery.
Some good friends told us about Daou Vineyards. They know Daniel Daou who hosted a private tasting at their house. I sent an email to Daniel and he arranged a visit to their property. We were met by Peter Bowers, who is the Winery General Manager. There was a group of 4 people from Los Angeles who also joined us. As we stood overlooking the property Peter told us the Daou Story. We then took a drive up to the winery that is under construction and drove through the trees to the hilltop paradise where they are planning a small B&B for their club members. The view from the top is magnificent.
After the tour we met up with Daniel and headed down to the house to taste some wine. Daniel and Peter graciously poured their Cabernet, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, and Syrah. Peter, who has a long history in the Hospitality business created a wonderful meal of fresh bread, cous cous, fabulous cheeses, fresh veggies, and salad. We were not expecting a meal, much less an elegant feast. For dessert, Peter melted some Hagen-Dazs vanilla and poured it over some fresh fruit. They then poured some of their Pasorina wine. Pasorina is a Moscato, it paired perfectly with the dessert. It is a very fun wine.
The wines of Daou are very nice. They are clean, Bordeaux, and Rhone blends. They are competively priced and really should be tasted. You can find Daou wines in some of the finest dining establishments.
To read the Daou story, please check out their website here.
Here is a short video from the top of the hill.
We spent three nights in the Paso Inn. To me, the Inn is really the only decent hotel in the main part of town. This is a local landmark that is located on the City Park, a 2 square block donated to the city by the town’s founders. This is a well used park by the locals. While we were there they had their annual Pancake Breakfast. This was free to all. There were horse carriage rides, music, and a great pancake, egg, sausage breakfast all for free.
The Paso Robles Inn is a great place to stay as you explore the region. The Inn has been around in several iterations since 1857. When you stay at the Inn you can read the in-room copy of “The History of the Paso Robles Inn: More than a Century of Pride.” This is a hard-bound 120-page book by Ann Martin Bowler chronicling the history of the Inn. I did finish the book but decided to read it again. You can buy this history book at the Inn for $20.00 plus tax and shipping. Call 800-676-1713 to order. This book is a must-read. It tells the fascinating story of the City of Paso Robles.
The Inn has beautiful grounds with Koi Ponds, a swimming pool , spa, coffee shop, restaurant, and full bar.
We stayed in room 1204, a King Spa Room above the Grand Ballroom. This is a huge suite with a natural mineral spa on the deck outside. There is a floor-to-ceiling curtain that you can close to insure your privacy. You enter through the grand lobby and bar. This is a great place to sit and take in the grandeur of the building. Each night we enjoyed a natural mineral spa on the deck.
The Inn is also walking distance to many fine restaurants and shops that encircle the City Park. You begin to feel very comfortable walking through the town. The townsfolk are very friendly. I recommend staying at the Inn always. If that is not your choice you should stay there at least once just to get the old-town feeling.
Lance and Claire Silver – co-owners of Tobin James Cellars are the reason that Mary and I fell in love with the Paso Robles Wine region. We met them in 1997 and they showed us what the good people of Paso Robles are all about. They have a wide variety of wine and present it in a very fun atmosphere.
We joined their wine club member and we are member number 151 or so. Their list has grown immensely and they have become wizards and maintain their customer base. Tobin James does things right. They still consider themselves a small winery but their tasting room was packed on a Tuesday afternoon. They have built a customer allegiance that is awe inspiring. They have learned how to make their customers love them. They are marketing geniuses. When you receive their twice-yearly wine club shipment they always include a prize. The last shipment had a metal paper towel holder. All of their merchandise and surprises have their sun logo on them. As you acquire more goodies, you end up with their logo all over your house. You can even see the logo all over town. At home you see the sun logo and you think about the fun time you had at Tobin James.
Lance found out that it was Mary’s birthday and had some gourmet appetizers ready for her. We spent a couple of hours tasting everything, including their reserve wines. We were, once again, treated like royalty.
We made an appointment to go see Dubost Ranch. Kate Dubost was glad to have us and spent time telling us about their winery. This is a family-owned and operated winery. The Crew consists of Kate, her Husband Curt, and Son Jacob Raines. They are located way out on the West Side near Justin Vineyards. Dubost has a long history in Paso Robles. The winery is very interesting. The wall are made of hay that has then been faced with cement. This keeps the cellars temperature perfect.
Dubost produces wine and olive oil. Their wines consist of Grenache, a very nice Rose, Tempranillo, and Syrahs. These are very nice, handcrafted, limited quantity wines. It is well worth the drive to go visit Dubost.
We met Billy Grant, a partner at Four Vines Winery in town. Billy invited us to stop by his winery. We stopped in a saw Nicole who has a great knowledge of all things Four Vines. She expertly led us through the awesome selection of wines. The tasting room was extremely busy. They are obviously experts in customer retention. They have a rocking tasting room with funky apparel, glassware, and cool stuff.
They wine lines are called Four Vines with bottles like, Naked Chardonnay, Biker/Maverick/Killer Canyon Zinfandels. They also have the Freak Show line with Anarchy, Heretic, Loco labels.
They are on the Westside and they have a real nice gourmet deli out front right on Highway 46 West. This is great because there are not many places to get lunch on the Westside. Four Vines also has nice picnic area. You can get a sandwich, buy a glass of wine and sit outside and relax.