I had a wonderful breakfast of a eggs almost like there were rolled like a jelly roll with bacon and fresh cut heirloom tomatoes inside, fresh fruit with a bit of Greek yogurt, an organic chicken sausage and coffee. There was another couple from just outside of San Diego that was also staying there. They were visiting a daughter and grandkids that lived nearby. They were wonderful breakfast company.
Armed with a map and coupons for free tastings from the B&B, I went off driving into the rainy weather. I was to take Vineyard drive all the way to its end and then take a left. There wine tour wasn’t supposed to start until 10:30AM and I left at 10AM; that should’ve been plenty of time. But I took the left before I got to the end and got a bit turned around.
|Photo- Jack Creek Farms with pumpkins galore!|
I stopped at this cute little farm called Jack Creek Farms. There were pumpkins galore on displayed, a small windmill, and 6 cats playing among the pumpkins. I asked for directions and the next thing I know the gal in charge is on the phone with Tablas Creek and finding out if they were doing a wine tour. They weren’t because of the weather but if I went over there and told them that I talked with the manager they could give me a talk and possibly a shortened tour. With new directions, I headed out to Tablas Creek.
|Photo- Part of the pretty drive out to Tablas Creek Winery.|
It was an additional four mile very scenic drive that took me through tree covered roads with vineyards all along and even an olive grove too. I finally reached the end of the road and arrived at Tablas Creek. There was only two other vehicles other than mine. I walked in and a man asked me if I was there for a wine tasting. I said yes but I was also there for the tour too. He said that there wasn’t a tour because it would be too muddy out in the fields for that. My face fell and he said however he would be willing to talk about the vineyard to me while it was slow here.
|Photo- Tablas Creek Wineries tasting room.|
Steve proceeded to tell me about the history of the vineyard. How it started out as a friendship between two families (one American and one French) and ended up as a partnership in 1985. It took them four years to find the right property. They were looking for a limestone soil, a certain climate, and a rugged terrain. All conditions needed to grow the grapes that were brought over from France. They finally found the right one here in Paso Robles (the town just north of Templeton where I was staying) in 1989. The French vines had to be held in quarantine for 3 years and then they were finally able to plant them here in California.
Tablas Creek’s 120 acre vineyard is an organic estate. The emphasis is on dry farming; another reason that the limestone soil is so important. Limestone soil will hold water and allow the grapes a steady supply of moisture throughout the growing season. But Tablas Creek takes organic one step further; they have become Biodynamic farmer. They plant certain plants around the vineyards vines that feed sheep that are on the property and supply manure as natural fertilizer for the vineyard. These plants also are chosen because they promote lady bugs and other pests that help keep away pests that are not good for the vineyard. There are three dogs that roam the property and they help keep the deer, rabbits and other rodents away from the vineyards. Steve explained in wonderful and understandable detail of all of what is involved in Biodynamic farming. He took over 15 minutes while we sat outside under a covered area and he drank his morning coffee. He patiently listened and answered my questions.
Then, we went in and Steve took me through a wine tasting and explained each wine and the types of elements that were in each. It was wonderful and enjoyable as he also explained some of the nuisances of it all. They had a wonderful red table wine which had been ranked 37th worldwide. I could tell why; it was wonderful. I later found out that Tablas Creek has a reputation for emphasis on education in the area. They generally do two vineyard tours a day at 10:30AM and 2PM.
|Photo- Pasolivo's olive oil tasting room and giftshop.|
Next, I headed down the road to the Pasolivo Olive Oil which said it was open daily. Another thing that you find common in the area is olive groves; they quite often go hand in hand with vineyards in some areas. I drove up to an unassuming long white building and went in. I got to experience my first olive oil tasting. First, you pick up a small bag with cut up pieces of bread. Then, there are little cups that you can put a bit of oil into that you dip the bread in to taste. There were several different flavors of oil.
There was an Italian one that had a bit of a peppery bite to it; or I thought it did. It was funny because one guy started to cough and the sales lady said that it was natural to cough because it was showing that the anti-oxidants in the olive oil is working. The next thing you know almost everyone in the place except for me is coughing while I was having a hard time keeping a straight face. Boy! Everyone was sure making sure those antioxidants were working!
Other flavors in olive oil that they had were; kitchen blend, rosemary, lemon, tangerine, lime, and citrus. The two that I thought were the best was the rosemary and the lemon. They also had other items available such as; bar soaps with different scents, salts and spices, vinegars, jams, lotions, lip balm, body butter, and liquid hand soaps. It was a fun shop to go through and just smell or test some of the products.
|Photo- A water fountain on the outdoor patio at the Rotta Winery.|
Then, I headed to the oldest winery in the area. Rotta was started in 1908 and is the only remaining family owned vineyard out of the first three original vineyards that started in the early 1900’s in San Luis Obispo County; a real rarity. Currently, a grandson owns the vineyard and has been trying to breathe new life into it. I was the only car in the parking lot and was wondering if they were opened until I went in. A gal behind the counter took my free wine tasting coupon and started my tasting.
Among my favorites at the Rotta vineyard was a Zinfandel Rose; that had a bit of a dry nice crisp flavor with a hint of strawberry, and two dessert wines. The first dessert wine was a Zinfandel Port which had a wonderful smooth port flavor to it. The other one was the Black Monukka which is a rare find of a grape. This dessert wine had a nice nutty vanilla flavor and was not finished like a port but finished off with a grain alcohol to keep its wonderful flavor. I bet would’ve been wonderful over ice cream. Yum!
|Photo- The sign near the entrance of Aron Hill Winery.|
Next, I went to Aron Hill Vineyards where they had signs advertising food. It was lunch time and that sounded good. I ordered a Panini sandwich and then took out my coupon for the winery. Well, I discovered that it was a 2 for 1 wine tasting which didn’t do me any good. The gal said that she could charge me ½ regular if I just choose three wines to taste. Okay, I thought and I tasted 3 of them; all of these wines were reds where the other wineries so far had both red & white. I ordered one of them as a glass to have with my lunch and because of the weather sat at a table inside. I imagine on a clear day their patio area would fill up for lunch; it was a gorgeous view overlooking Hwy 46 and three other vineyards in the area. While eating my lunch, I ended up sharing a table with a couple from just north of the San Diego area. This was their first winery that they had visited of the day. I ended up giving them of the lists of the ones I had visited and the olive oil too.
|Photo- The rustic barn that houses the tasting rooms |
for Lone Madrone and Stehphen's Cellar.
Next, it was down and almost around the corner on Hwy 46 to the Lone Madrone winery that Steve at Tablas Creek had highly recommended. There’s also a Stephen’s Cellar located at the same place. It’s a little like one stop and two wineries. Though, the Stephen’s Cellar is more like a selection of wines from different producers. I didn’t have a coupon but if you purchased one tasting you got the other tasting for half price. I started with the Lone Madrone; which only had one white wine selection then it was onto reds. I’ve never truly been fond of reds in general and I didn’t really care for any of these.
A tall blond willowy gal in her late 20’s was standing next to me and started talking away while I started the wine tasting at Lone Madrone. She was really disappointed when she found out that I wasn’t from the area. She had just moved back in with her mom after breaking up with a boyfriend where she lived in southern California. I think she was hoping to make some new friends to hang out with in the area. I guess I was funny because she laughed a couple of times but quite a bit of my humor kind of just went over her head. I asked her about jobs in the area and she said she had gotten hired almost the same day at a place in Cambria. But I wondered if it was because she was beautiful and her mom lived in Cambria and pulled strings? After she left, I finished my wine tasting and wondered if the reason she visited the winery was the young man doing the tastings behind the counter. Sorry to say but I had the feeling he swung the other way. She was paddling up the wrong creek on this one.
I took my wine tasting glass from Lone Madrone and went right around the corner for the wine tasting at Stephen’s Cellar. There was a very stylishly dressed older woman that was behind the counter. For this wine tasting you could choose 6 out of the list of wines. She started me off with the whites that I had asked which ones she would recommend. I did reserve one of the 6 as a Muscat wine that sounded delightful. This lady explained the wines to me like Steve did at Tablas Creek. This was wonderful and these wines that she was choosing for me were gems. I asked her where she would recommend next. By this time it was almost 4:30PM and a great deal of the wineries closed their tasting rooms at 5:30PM. She recommended that I go the city square of Paso Robles because a great deal of those stayed open till 6pm and were closely situated.
So, off to Paso Robles I went which was maybe a quick 7 mile drive. I parked north of the city park square and got out. But I really by this time had felt like I had been “wined out”. I just walked around and happened to stumble upon an art gallery called Studios on the Park. It was a group of studios within the same place. It had about 10 local artists that had their art on display; most of it 2 dimensional in nature. There was one featured artist that had the main walk center area for displaying their art. There was a great deal of variety and styles; a good selection for an art gallery. I walked through slowly and said hi to a couple of the artists; some who were working on another piece of their art. It was just interesting walking through and seeing them at work.
|Photo- Just inside the door at the Studios on the Park Gallery.|
I wandered around the city park square some more and then walked back towards my car. But I was thinking of maybe some dinner. So I stepped into a local bar/restaurant that was called something Irish like. I can’t remember the name and I sat at the bar. I ordered a beer and wasn’t there but a minute before this older woman sits next to me and am showing me pictures of her grandkids. She said she needed a drink because she just came from the hospice where her sister was in. I must have said something funny because the next thing she’s doing is thanking me for being there to lighten her mood. We talked for a while and then a guy sat next to her on the other side. Soon, she had him in on our whole conversation too. She was quite the character. As I drank my beer, I just didn’t feel hungry for anything that I was seeing. I finished my beer and headed back to the freeway.