We've done this before but time to hit a couple of new places.
While California wine tasting used to be a fun, cheap way to pass some time on vacation, wineries have caught on and have made this a profit center. Cheap tasting is getting hard to find. Free tasting is on the endangered list and in extreme danger of going extinct.
Still, have faith...there are some bargains to be had out there yet.
A quick inquiry at the hotel's front desk yields us about half a dozen coupons for free wine tasting here in the Paso Robles AVA. Two are local, and we'll taste a third under different circumstances tonight.
From our hotel in Atascadero, it's just a few miles south to Santa Margarita where the Ancient Peaks Winery's tasting room anchors the block-long downtown. A display inside has samples of the soil of their growing areas to the north and a map of each type of soil and the grapes grown on it.
Our coupon gets us tastes of everything on the list and we make up a mixed case (10% discount for non-members) of their great cabernet, Sauvignon blanc, and Blanco...a slightly sweeter dry white wine made up of a chardonnay/moscato mix...from the friendly, helpful, and down-to-earth counter staff. They also had a rose for this hot day but it was average and kind of paled a bit in comparison with the other wines.
Be sure to stop at the bakery next door for some sweets to go with that Blanco by the pool later.
Next, we go to the other side of Atascadero, to Templeton, where the rolling hills are dotted with quarter horse ranches. Here's where we'll find Wild Horse Winery. It's a name we're familiar with as we've had their readily available wines many times before.
It's a bit lonely here as we're the only customers. The friendly woman at the counter helps us out with our free tasting as I end up splurging on a really excellent chardonnay that I wasn't planning on spending that much for (but it was worth it). The other wines, such as their pinot noir and viognier, were on sale for such low price that I made up the price of the charonnay.
Later, at a concert in the park in downtown Paso Robles, we hit the wine bar where J. Lohr is selling bottles of their excellent wine for $20 a bottle, souvenir glasses included.
We enjoyed the concert with a chilled bottle of their Riesling to finish off our wine day in Paso Robles.
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