Hearst Castle – The iconic home of William Randolph Hearst at San Simeon is a must-see for anyone visiting the area. Your journey will likely start at the bottom of the estate in foggy, cool weather. However, your tour bus will wind up the mountain until the sun is beating down on you above the clouds at an elevation over 1,600 feet above sea level. In its heyday, the ‘ranch’ (as Hearst liked to call it) was an amazing vacation venue for many Hollywood stars, such as Charlie Chaplin and Clark Gable. First stop on the Experience tour (~$45 for a 1 hour and 45 minute tour of the pools, a guest house, several rooms in the main house, the tennis courts, and the movie theater) was the Neptune pool in all its outdoor glory. Apparently, tour guides (and a couple personal guests) get to swim in it once a year, which has rekindled my desire to become a tour guide at Hearst Castle in my retirement, something I remember deciding after my first visit to Hearst Castle at 8 years old. My mother informs me that I nonchalantly thought it would be nice to live there someday. She probably thought I was suffering from delusions of grandeur, but since that was also around the time when I still thought teachers slept in their classrooms, perhaps I just figured tour guides got to stay at Hearst Castle after a long day’s work back then too. Alas, full-time residence at Hearst Castle probably isn’t possible for me (sigh!), but I could settle for a dip in the pool every year. The impressive grounds and Mediterranean architecture were my favorite parts of the property, but for you art lovers out there, Hearst was an avid collector and filled this masterpiece of a home with an equally impressive art collection. Every corner of Hearst Castle (even the ceilings) seems to possess an astounding piece of art or antiquity.
Expect a hot experience both literally and figuratively in Paso Robles. Paso’s wineries are only about a half an hour away from Hearst Castle, and the temperature rose over a degree a minute on the drive inland from that landmark, eventually hitting triple digits in Paso. Luckily, the wineries were just as smoking as the temperatures. Rhone-style wines grow very well here, so if you like Syrah and Viognier, you will probably like the Paso wine scene. Downtown Paso offers a variety of tasting rooms within walking distance of each other, but on this trip, the WWG stuck primarily to vineyard visits.
Cypher (formerly Four Vines)
Experience – With a name change and new focus on extreme vineyards/wines, Cypher is looking to remain the alternative, cool kid on the block. The WWG’s tasting included Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay, a traditional Rhone blend (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre), Zinfandel, a Malbec blend, Petite Syrah, and Tempranillo. Cypher looks poised to increase its hipster status even further with lower volume productions in the future. With whites ~$24 per bottle and reds ~$40 per bottle already, price-conscious WWG followers may want to focus their time elsewhere while in Paso.
WWG Purchased – Nada.
Details – Tasting Room at 3750 Highway 46 West. Tasting with wine glass is $10. Open Daily 11am-6pm.
Experience – This modern facility is meant to blend into the rolling hills of the winery’s landscape. Club members can taste in a room with phenomenal views. Non-club members are relegated to a back tasting room in a separate building. Luckily, the ambiance there was greatly enhanced by a friendly wait staff eager to speak about Paso. They even helped the WWG get into Jada, which was only open for a private tasting that day. During the tasting, Denner’s whites shined, and it was tough to pick between the Viognier and the Roussane blend. Although still a splurge, WWG went with the better value wine.
WWG Purchased – 2010 Theresa ($32 per bottle; 40% Roussane, 30% Grenache Blanc, 20% Marsanne, 10% Viognier)
Details – 5414 Vineyard Dr. $10 tasting fee is waived with a bottle purchase. Open daily 11am to 5pm.
Jada – WWG’s favorite of Paso Robles!
Experience – Jada was the WWG’s favorite of the day in Paso because of the high quality wines, cheese pairings, and sleek tasting room. During the tasting, Jada served a different cheese to complement each wine, which added a nice touch to the experience. The Rhone-style varietals were stellar (particularly the smooth Syrah and ‘88’ white blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and Roussane), and the WWG was pleased to hear the new winemaker (hired in Spring 2011) doesn’t plan on altering them significantly. Of note, the new winemaker’s ‘red’ experience is primarily in Bordeaux-style wines, and he plans to improve upon Jada’s Bordeaux-style wines (like Cabernet Sauvignon) going forward. Also, Jada’s wines likely offer ‘splurge’ rather than ‘everyday’ bottle options, but the tasting is well worth it. So if you are visiting Paso, at least treat yourself to a stop at Jada, which offers tastings at the same price as most other rooms in the area.
WWG Purchased – Jersey Girl 2008 ($45 per bottle; 100% Syrah). An example of one of my favorite alliterations – a super smooth syrah!
Details – 5620 Vineyard Drive. Tasting fee of $10 without wine purchase and $5 with bottle purchase includes cheese pairing. Cheeses are also available for purchase. Daily tastings except Wednesday.
Experience – To get a taste of Paso’s history, the WWG went to the granddaddy of them all, Eberle Winery, which is one of the oldest wineries in the area. Eberle also boasts the most awards of any winery in the U.S. The Eberle tasting experience frankly felt a bit dated compared to the other spots the WWG visited that day. However, the atmosphere was friendly, the wine flowed freely, the picnic area was pleasant, and the winery offers a large list of varietals at reasonable prices. What’s not to like? With wider distribution than many wineries in Paso, WWG followers should keep an eye out for Eberle in their local wine stores and restaurants for a solid example of what Paso has to offer.
WWG Purchased – Full Boar Red ($15; Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon blend also includes Sangiovese, Barbera, Zinfandel, and Tempranillo).
Details – 3810 Highway 46 East. Daily Tasting 10am to 5pm. Free tastings and tours.
Pismo Beach – After a full day of sightseeing and winetasting, the WWG needed a siesta, and the Cliff’s Resort at Pismo Beach provided a great environment for relaxing after this full day in Central California. Dinner at the resort, a beautiful sunset over the Pacific, and wine/conversation at the poolside firepit were a great end to this epic day.
Surfer Count = 0