Tuesday, August 13, 2013

8 tips for visiting wineries in paso robles, california

You type "mid-century modern barware" into eBay search and an amazing assortment of drinking-ware will present itself.

Dorothy Thorpe Roly Poly Glasses on eBay right now!
Cocktail hour is quintessentially mid-century modern and has been making a huge comeback. Honestly, I have never been a fan.

My beverage of choice is wine. AND, we live just about four hours south of one of the best kept secrets of the central Southern California Coast -- Paso Robles, California.

Linne Calodo

Maybe the wines in Paso can't compare with Napa (asserts Steve Heinmoff in the Best Wine Blog of 2013), however, according to the Huffington Post, the pace is slower and more relaxed. Paso is also less corporate and (dare I say) a bit more hipster than Napa.

Linne Calodo (Borderline rustic modern if you ask me.)
A few Saturdays ago, we took quick trip to taste some new wines and get away for a little bit. Since we have done this at least a half a dozen times before, let me offer you my eight (8) tips for wine tasting in Paso Robles. These tips will help you NOT waste money but they will also prevent you from getting wasted (and making a fool of yourself). 


#1 Don't drink 

This advice may seem counter-intuitive due to the nature of this excursion, but you must sip. Otherwise, you will be tipsy by your third winery and drunk by noon (not that there is anything wrong with that). We went to 17 wineries in 27 hours. Trust me, you taste or sip and then you dump in the handy containers on the bar. Hey, you can drink every drop, but don't hold me responsible.

Aron Hill Vineyards

#2 Share tastings  

Every person in your party should not purchase their own individual wine tasting. See #1.

Epoch Wines

#3 Buy a bottle 

If you buy a bottle of wine from every winery you visit, not only will you remember where you stopped (critical to bragging later), but the wineries will also provide you the tasting for free (they deduct the tasting from the cost of the wine). And, after the server takes you through all the wines on the tasting menu, it is a lot less awkward if you close the session by saying, "I'll have a bottle of  Mother Hubbard Zinfandel" which is the wine tasting equivalent of asking for a phone number.

Niner Wine Estates
#4 Eat

Scout out where you want to have lunch and make sure you stop and EAT. Not all of the wineries have food. In fact, very few have food. You need something in your stomach for the wine to land on.

Booker Vineyard

#5 Don't Drive

Seriously. In order to relax and not worry, rent a town car or a limo. Paso wineries are located on complicated country roads and a driver certainly helps keep everyone safe and sane. But do have your own list of wineries if you have preferences. Not that I am implying the drivers get a cut, but the drivers probably get a cut. Just makes sense.

Booker Vinyard

#6 Wine clubs

Cancel half the wine clubs you sign up for when you get home. If you sign up for two, cancel one. If you sign up for five, cancel two and a half. Immediately. Right when you walk in the door. Don't be embarrassed.

Hearthstone Vineyard and Winery

#7 Hotel

Skip the luxury hotel or B&B. Use your points and stay at the local Marriott Courtyard in Paso. Save your money for the wine (focus on the prize).

Ventuex Vineyards and also a great depiction of how you will see at the end of the day if you drink all the wine.

#8 See Hearst Castle

It is 43 miles away from Paso on the coast, and super freaking cool! Make a weekend of your visit but get your tickets in advance. Because I am a house whore (first step is admitting you have a problem), on our last visit to Hearst Castle, I went on three of the four possible tours. And I really regretted not doing the fourth.

Kukkula Modern tasting room and modern home on the hill. These people are my heros.
These eight simple tips will save time, money and embarrassment. For lessons on tasting wine or guidance on which wineries to visit, you'll have to see another blog. I am really more about the architecture, tasting room decor, and the landscape. But you knew that.

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  1. Great tips for ANY wine tasting trip. Though I guess # 8 is a little Paso-specific!
    And 17 wineries in 27 hours - you're amazing! 4-5/day is usually my limit.

    1. I didn't really believe we went to that many wineries. But we did. The purpose was to bring some good wines back to refill two household's refrigerators. So it was kind of a quest. In a few wineries, cases were purchased and split between the two groups. Which is another money saving tip.

  2. We used to alternate visiting nurseries and gardens with wineries when we visited Sonoma a couple of times a year. Could never have managed that many wineries in a couple of days!

    1. Bizarre pace for sure. But we were fairly determined.

  3. Great tips and beautiful photos! I bet the Hearst tours were great too. I kinda enjoy being a house whore in my old age. It beats the hell out of some of the vices I had when I was younger. :)

    1. Seriously, right Dana? We could do a lot worse. You would LOVE Hearst Castle. Put it on your list. Not mid-century but just a bizarre, crazy spectacle.

  4. Nice list! My husband works for a Paso winery though (and I know a lot of people in the industry) and I *have* to contend with a couple of your points:

    #5 — Yes, don't drive if you want to hit a lot of wineries! But the drivers don't get a cut, really. There are no "cuts." The drivers have relationships with certain wineries (so it's OK when they suddenly show up with a dozen people), but it's not a money thing. If anything, wineries LOSE money on big groups... but that's a whole 'nother story!

    #6 — Please don't do this. Just don't join a wine club if you don't want to, I promise no one will hold it against you! Of course the wineries love if you join their club, it's like joining their special wine family. But it's no good for them if you join and then immediately cancel; it means a bunch of wasted work and time. Plus (and I feel kind of bad saying this to someone outside of the wine industry), it's really taking advantage of the wineries. Most wineries offer a significant discount to club members, and give that discount in good faith to people who have just signed up. If you use that discount to buy wine, then immediately drop the club, that's not very honest. I'm sure you weren't thinking of it this way, but many wineries in Paso are family owned and operated and run on thinner margins than you might think.

    1. Well hello Lindsday! Thanks for dropping by. We love Paso wineries which you already figured out. Thanks for the clarification on the drivers. It was pure speculation. And on the wine clubs ... let me splain ... The deal is, enthusiastically, with the best of intentions, people MAY sign up for way more wine clubs than they can afford. So, the proper advice is: "Don't sign up for a bunch of wine clubs you can't afford."

  5. Love the lavender fields at Niner Wine Estates--it looks like such a bucolic area. Hope you found some good whites (for me to taste).

  6. Great pictures, post and advice! I'm stumbling distance from the Temecula wineries (which I'm sure any wine critic would say don't compare)and it's certainly a fun and relaxing outing! Have to check out Paso Robles now.


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