If there is one California bias I would admit to, it’s that my home state makes the best wine in the world. Yes, the French make a great product…so do the Italians, Australians, South Americans, and even a few other states…but the grapes of this state just taste so much better to me. If you doubt this, try a glass of J. Phelps Insignia - especially if you can get someone else to pay for it - and let me know.
The wine terrain of California ranges from cool to blisteringly hot, extremely well developed to almost non-existent, from a Disney-like atmosphere to a shack in some guy’s backyard but the vintners here almost all have a lot of passion for their work and put it all on the line and in the bottle.
Grazing around the wine chatter online and in print, a lot of talk about the next big “thing” in California wine is the Paso Robles area, sitting south of the Monterey wine country and just north of the San Luis Obispo area. Mornings here are cool, with clouds and fog wandering over from the nearby Cayucos coast, turning hot and sunny in the afternoon.
The two main growing areas here are pretty neatly cleaved by the 101 freeway between the cooler west side vineyards and the sun drenched east side wineries.
With Tim away for another session at camp, Letty and I decide to head up here for a few days of wining, dining, hiking, and beaching.
The afternoon is aging fast as we cross the hills from McFarland, through the James Dean Memorial Junction, and then right to our hotel. This time, we’re staying at the Best Western Black Oak, just on the other side of the 101.
The hotel has a few accessible rooms with king or queen sized beds and your choice of roll-in or bathtub bathrooms. We’re here without Tim and the wheelchair, so we opt for a deluxe king size room on the second floor. This room is different from the standard king room mainly because there is a recliner in the room.
It’s a nice room with a comfortable bed and includes such amenities as a refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave, hair dryer, flat-screen TV, wireless or hard-wired Internet, and a nice selection of toiletries.
Since we’re celebrating my birthday also, the management thoughtfully left a bottle of champagne and a couple of glasses in the fridge.
In the morning, a drive over to Spring Street takes us to Springside Restaurant. In this converted old house, we sight by a bright window overlooking their flower garden. Breakfast is omelets and pancakes…Letty had spinach and cheese while I had linguisa and cheese. The pancakes were a perfect mix of slightly crunchy outer layer with a fluffy interior, covered with melted butter. It was delectable.
Tummies full, loaded with protein and carbs, we head over to Larry Moore Park. From here, trails wind over to the Salinas River in the shadow of the freeway. Today, the river is more of a creek with most of its water flowing underground. We hike across two dry channels before reaching the water where dozens of small frogs hop around.
We spend a few minutes playing catch and release with the amphibians before moving on. Back on the bank of the channel, we turn to bird watching and catch sight of a thrasher and a flycatcher. A few more trails lead into shady groves of trees with loads of wild anise growing underneath.
A few hundred calories and a couple of miles later, we’re back in the car heading off to the hotel.
Be sure to stay around for part two of our time in Paso Robles coming very soon.
Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
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