Despite the pre-departure snafu we were able to maintain our departure time and headed out for a couple of days in Paso Robles wine country.
The drive took us through some beautiful countryside and we stopped for lunch at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafe. Lunch was tasty if nothing spectacular and afterwards we stopped in at the Qupé tasting room where one of my favorites was their 2008 Bien Nacido Syrah.
After lunch we headed on to San Luis Obispo where we’d booked rooms at the Apple Farm Inn. A warm and welcoming place where guests are greeted with freshly baked cookies and complimentary wine tastings while also taking kitschy Laura Ashley inspired decor to the next level.
After relaxing for a while we headed out for dinner at Artisan in Paso Robles. This was my birthday treat to myself. It’s a beautiful space with an open kitchen and that hallmark of easy California-style service (attentive and welcoming without being pushy). The food was absolutely delicious and their menu loaded with delicious dishes where the only problem was picking what to order as there was just so much I wanted. I settled on an abalone starter, wild boar and a trio of puddings.
Dipping my taste buds in the area’s wines I started with their generously poured white wines (Thacher’s Grenache blanc, Despatadas “Fragment” Sauvignon blanc and an Albarino, Chardonnay, Rousanne Bodegas de Edgar) each one had a unique profile with the first two being my favorites the Bodegas de Edgar was blended to the point of disappearing on the palate.
During the meal, Valerie and I shared a bottle of Seashell Vineyards 2009 Symbiosis Temperanillo and as post meal treat I enjoyed a local port from Zin Alley. Bottom line: if you are in the area I highly recommend dining there.
The following morning we joined a Wine Line tour. They offer transportation between vineyards as well as packed lunches so it seemed like the logical approach so that we weren’t drinking and driving.
As it was early in the week many of the vineyards we had hoped to stop in at were closed but nonetheless we managed to make several stops: Castoro Cellars, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, AronHill Vineyards, Zin Alley, Cypher Winery and finally Veris. My favorites were definitely the first two with honorable mentions to the others.
Castoro Cellars was our first stop and a judicious one. Sherry was pouring and really helped put everyone at ease. She called me out for taking notes on my phone instead of participating and when Valerie expressed some difficulty in determining whether she liked a wine right out of the bottle Sherry took charge and walked us through a “how to” of tasting which helped even this old seasoned taster reconnect and discover new elements in the wines.
Kenneth Volk Vineyards was our next stop and while their focus is on Pinot Noirs which I enjoyed, I ended up purchasing their Temperanillo and the Mourvedre. After the tasting we opted to sit outside to enjoy our packed lunches while sharing a bottle of the Temperanillo with our fellow tour mates.
From wines to vistas and the friendly staff, AronHill Vineyards was also a delight but reaching the high teens in wines tasted I was finding my palate tiring and missing the subtlety of the wines. One last mention goes to Zin Alley where we were served a fabulous Sauternes so between that and the port from dinner at Artisan I’d recommend it for its off the beaten path wines.
By the end of the day and though I had managed to drink quite a bit of water and feast on snacks but I like everyone else was tired so we opted for a low key dinner at Thomas Hill Organics. Honestly I must say that I left disappointed. While I did enjoy their seared tuna salad, the pork belly with forbidden rice was served with broth that made the dish on the watery side of soupy and the dessert, a chocolate fondant with pistachios, was served topped with a caramel sauce that just drowned out the whole thing.
The next morning we headed out early for the drive back to Los Angeles as I had a flight to catch. We stopped in Ventura at Beach House Tacos for an early lunch and to check west coast tacos off my trip’s food list. I tucked into their grilled shrimp, fried calamari, tuna and fish tacos and simply put: Beach House Tacos rocks.