Monthly Archives: October 2012

Two Sweet

My adorable cottage in Paso Robles for Halloween!

Trick-or-treaters climbed this stairway to heaven panting and sweating in their costumes so I gave them extra candy. What a totally new cool experience! Not the panting and sweating part but handing out candy to trick or treaters. Apartment and condo living most of my life has prevented me from enjoying such an event.

Ranchero Cellars

Normally confident people often walk into winery tasting rooms only to openly admit to the tasting room attendant that they know little or nothing about wine. ‘Twas as if the wine rep had beaten them into intimidation. After seeing this a few times, you become determined to take the snot out of wine. Well, Amy Butler’s already done it. She has a new refreshing take on some old favorite wines. The refreshing part is a white wine called Chrome that gets its lush body from Viognier with a crisp, clear, shiny finish of Grenache Blanc.

She approaches winemaking like a bit of a ranchero. Tirelessly seeking out the wild and rough Carignan, she nurtured it into a smoky and brash yet delightful California red. True to her namesake, check out her ride:

Madonna Inn

You know you’ve passed it on the 101 right by that big Cuesta grade. You’ve probably always wondered what it’s like on the inside. It is probably most definitely everything you’d expect.

But, what you may not expect is how delicious their food is. Best sweet potato fries! I think it had something to do with how they sliced them crinkled. And, when sweet meets spicy, it’s like one of those great first dates you remember fondly. But it’s also got a third element: sweet, spicy, and smoky. They serve their wavy crispy sweet potato fries with a slightly spicy smoky chipotle aioli sauce.

Giants 2-0!

Overheard at a bar tonight:
“Do you know the score of the playoff game?”

“Giants: 2, Losers: zero”


Discovered this wonderfully tasty wine on a roadtrip years ago and something about it lingered. I can’t even remember what varietal it was. But I remember the name, its blue label, and, of course, it’s deliciousness. It had the deep flavor that made you think about the grape yet a complex balance derived by distinctive winemaking and a boldness that could only come from a free thinker.

By chance, I found this blue label in Paso and had the pleasure of chatting with its free thinking winegrower, Hilary Graves. Now, you know wine this good can only come from someone who really knows what they’re doing, not only in the vineyard but in the winery. But this winegrower also calls herself a farmer, raising grass fed beef, and pastured pigs, chickens and turkeys. After all that, she makes her own bread from the yeast that is a byproduct of the winemaking process.



What a tremendously creative culinary wand she wields. I’m going to program my brain to dream about what Thanksgiving dinner is like at the Graves home.


Paso may not have pilates downtown, but they do have one thing no one else has. A radio station called KRUSH keeps you updated on wine events in the area, broadcasts interviews with winemakers, and plays pretty darn good music too. It has never been easier to feel more informed or welcome in a new California wine pocket. I’m only sad it’s taken me so long in my stay here to find it. Tune in!

Le Cuvier

La Cuvier lives the credo “it ain’t what you do it’s the way that ya do it.” They don’t just make an exquisite Chardonnay; they make it like a red. They ferment this wine on the skins giving it a rich golden color with the flavor and thickness of crème brulee. Their Bordeaux style also has a unique history because they blend portions of the previous vintage in the wine each year like the Solera system used to make Sherry, Madeira, or Port. Not sure if that’s why but it sure perks up your mouth with flavors that range from smoke, spice, and dark cherries.

But their tasting service experience is also distinctive. They pair each wine on the list with a morsel of food that is as unique as the wine.

Wine pairing food

Bet you’re wondering what all this is…

La Cuvier Pairings

Amsterdam Coffee House

One step inside the Amsterdam Coffee House on any given Monday and you’ll see the huge demand for a public place that simply offers wireless internet access. I’d much rather be at a wine bar but none around here offer wireless access. Why they don’t is beyond comprehension. Clearly, they have internet access. Otherwise, how would they run credit card purchases?! And, securing their connection for business transactions while opening an additional connection for patrons is easy. This is a no brainer. Easiest way to make more money!

Pappy McGregor’s

WERD, Pappy McGregor’s just gave me 10% off my dinner for wearing a Giants shirt. I’m told the owner is a die-hard Dodgers fan but agreed to offer this because the Giants are a California team in the play offs. What a guy! This is the kind of business you want to support!

Harvest Weekend!


Beautiful grounds and view. They also have an estate chef with a creative spin on food and wine pairings that will make your mouth water. If you want the clean, cushy, opulent winery experience in Paso, this is definitely the place. Beware of crowds, though.

Alta Colina

When more than one local recommends a winery, it should go higher on your list of priorities. Alta Colina was like a breath of mountain air, not just because of their wines but their timeless father/daughter operation.  When families work well together, a heightened sense of pride comes from whatever they produce. This close knit family produces wines that are likewise held tightly together and characteristically remarkable.

What gives them their boost is the Alta in Alta Colina. High on a hill top, their grapes get more sunlight as they peak above the fog layer. Fog in Paso? Not very often. But it happens everywhere.


Wherever you like their wine, ask them to recommend a few other places to go for wine. Alta Colina recommended Rangeland. She cautioned it would be a hike. But I thought she meant on foot, which I’m happy to do. And she said they raise their own grass-fed beef and were serving sliders. So, I was tempted. But it’s way way way off the main road, not sure about going over a river, but through the woods most definitely. When you get there, it’s almost like grandmother’s house. A warm, loving, family invited me into their home for a taste of their hand-crafted wines.

None disappoint. All are deliciously elegant with wonderful typicity. Their cab has the big body you expect from the king of grapes yet balanced acidity and succulent fruit. Perfect for a light juicy slider. The ground beef has flavor I’ve never tasted and the lightness of mountain air.

Harvest weekend has been really fun here today. But, for the first at my home base here in Paso, I had to park like 2 blocks away. Having just written that, I realize it probably means I am no longer a San Franciscan. But here’s the equation:

SF + 5 blocks = Rock Star

Paso + 0.5 blocks = Rock Star