Destination – The Paso Robles Wine Festival

I’ve given you a broad brush idea of all the different wine regions in California in Beyond Napa part I and part II, Way Beyond Napa.

In this blog I want to bring your wine-loving attention to the Paso Robles annual Wine Festival. This four day long celebration of all things red, white and bubbly in Paso Robles, California and the surrounding region is a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with the various wineries in order to decide which ones you might want to visit for a more intimate and extensive tasting.

Of course, you must pace yourself. Even with four days to spread out your imbibing, it’s easy to over-indulge and dull your palate. I don’t know about you, but I get really sad when I open a bottle of wine I’ve been looking forward to for months, if not years… only to discover that it doesn’t marry up with my memory of the tasting experience at the winery. For this reason I practice the age-old technique of disposing of (pouring out) most of my wine from a tasting.

No, this isn’t rude. In fact, the folks at wine tasting counters everywhere recognize that a person who throws out most of their wine pours is serious about enjoying wine. Tastings should be small to begin with, an ounce or less… but five or six of those at every winery you visit in a day can lead to you drinking three or four glasses of wine in a couple of hours. At this point everything is rose colored and the nice people at the last winery make the most spectacular wine ever. Or not.

So don’t hesitate to pour the wine out into the bucket every booth or wine tasting counter will provide for just this purpose. Never drink the entire pour unless the wine is SO spectacular that throwing it out would be a crime against oenophile tastebuds. (that’s you, an oenophile… which is to say, a lover of wine)

Anyhow, if you’re planning a trip to California to enjoy the wine, the Paso Robles Wine Festival is a terrific place to start. It’s held on the downtown green, and there are a large number of excellent restaurants and shops within two blocks of each side of the rectangle. So when you’re ready for a break, there is plenty to see and enjoy. In fact, if you miss the festival, there are a number of wineries with tasting rooms in the eight blocks surrounding downtown, along with a fun shop (oddly named We Olive,) that has dozens of flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars for the tasting. Go through the back and you’ll find one of my favorite Paso eateries, Thomas Hill Organics where you can savor small plates, creative fresh salads, perfectly prepared fish and steak, and exquisite deserts and enjoy a glass or two of local wine while you take the load off your feet.

Another spectacular Paso Robles sunset
Not all wineries are plush and polished. Some of the best grapes can be found at the end of a long dirt road like this one in Templeton, CA – just south of the town of Paso Robles

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