The coastal appellations of Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley specialize in Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, while inland, the vast Paso Robles AVA can be blazingly hot in summer, with temperatures frequently topping 100˚F. Yet nights cool off rapidly, with the mercury often falling by 50 degrees, thus ensuring that the predominantly red grape varieties retain vital acidity.
The county seat, San Luis Obispo, is home to California Polytechnic State University, which gives the city a modern, youthful vibe. Meanwhile, tradition continues at the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, founded by Spanish friars in 1772.
Paso happily retains remnants of its 19th-century cowboy culture: A bastion of summer activity, the Fairgrounds features rodeos and country music stars, culminating with the 10-day-long California Mid-State Fair in late July.
The burgeoning wine culture around Paso is bringing gentrification, such as the fancy new restaurants that have sprung up around the Town Square. Fortunately, the two cultures—cowboy and wine—hitch up together just fine. —Steve Heimoff
Paso winemakers are blending their way to the top.
Paso Robles has always felt a little like comedian Rodney Dangerfield. It didn’t get any respect.
Napa Valley and Sonoma County monopolized the public’s fancy for fine wine. Paso, by contrast, marked the halfway point on the freeway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Conventional wisdom ran that it was too hot for wine. The area’s cowboy traditions didn’t exactly burnish its reputation as chic wine country.
But things are quickly changing.—Steve Heimoff
The Templeton Gap Effect
Some years ago, people began to seriously explore Paso’s wide-ranging terroirs and microclimates. Granted, Paso’s northern and eastern reaches tend to be ovens in the summer. But vintners increasingly took advantage of a weather effect caused by the region’s notable Templeton Gap—low passageways in the coastal hills that permit cool maritime air to penetrate vineyards within its influence. Particularly in hilly western Paso Robles, these temperate areas have proven successful for more balanced, nuanced wines.
Vintners discovered something else: If they made a wine from one particular variety, it could be a little one-dimensional, with “divots”—deficiencies in aroma, color, texture or flavor. By blending in different varieties to fill in the divots, winemakers discovered they could create more complex, complete wines.
As Tablas Creek’s general manager, Jason Haas, notes, “Why do we blend in a world where varietals reign supreme? Because blends are better than component pieces.”
Mixing It Up for Today
A younger generation of winemakers, less encumbered by the traditions of the past, has wholeheartedly embraced the blending phenomenon. Matt Villard, the owner/winemaker at MCV, tinkers with everything from Petite Sirah and Grenache to Tannat and Petit Verdot in his “1105” red wine. “I’m a big fan of blends,” he says. “You get a more interesting wine, with a broader spectrum of everything available.”
Brian Brown of ONX says of his unique Zinfandel, Syrah, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon blend, “You’d never see this kind of blend anywhere outside of Paso.” He feels that Paso’s traditional weakness—an absence of high-end winemaking—has been turned into its strength. “A lot of winemaking elsewhere is done by convention. Even in Napa Valley [where Brown used to be winemaker at Round Pond], I don’t think Cabernet Sauvignon necessarily makes the best wine. But that’s what sells.”
“It’s no-holds barred down here when it comes to blending,” observes David Galzignato, winemaker at Jada Vineyard. “The culture is more artistic and experimental than other places I’ve worked,” which include stints at Charles Krug, Lewis and Paraduxx, all of them in Napa Valley.
More Success Brings More Talent
Success breeds success. As Paso Robles has upgraded its image in the past few years, outsider investors have noticed and moved in. As Brown puts it, “More interest from the public brings more capital in, so more folks want to invest. And talent always follows the money.”
Besides the wineries referred to above, others that are producing interesting red (and sometimes white) blends from Paso Robles include The Farm Winery and Bonne Niche. As The Farm’s co-owner, Wally Murray, notes, “After many decades of effort in California, I think we now have a pretty good idea of how to make good wines—and that requires blending!”
If you do visit Paso—and it’s well worth a few days—you’ll hear about the great restaurants that have sprung up around the old Town Square. The Old West way of life is still alive and well, but the new wine culture has arrived with culinary deliciousness. Try Villa Creek, Bistro Laurent, Buona Tavola and, a winemaker favorite, Artisan.
Master Blending: Justin Vineyards and Winery
One of the vintners responsible for Paso Robles success is Justin Baldwin, founder and former owner of Justin Vineyards and Winery.
In 1981, Baldwin, a banker, bought 160 acres of pristine land in the western hills and began planting grapevines. He focused on Bordeaux varieties—an audacious proposition at a time when the Napa Valley had the lock on that style of wine.
Wine lovers initially resisted (some say shunned) Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon. But by the 1990s, opposition began to crumble. Suddenly, Justin was in demand; as its popularity soared, so too did that of Paso Robles overall.
Justin’s winemaker since 2012, Scott Shirley, is a Napa Valley veteran (Opus One, Hess Collection) who decided to make the move south. “Paso Robles is such an exciting appellation, with ideal ripening conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon,” he says.
The winery has broadened its portfolio beyond Cabernet and Bordeaux blends (under the Isosceles and Justification proprietary names) to produce a stylish Syrah-based blend, Focus, as well as a Cabernet-Syrah proprietary blend, Savant. All the red wines show a signature Paso style of ripe, exuberant fruit, soft tannins and a smooth, lush mouthfeel.
The winery owns considerable vineyard acreage, both east and west. Shirley appreciates having a variety of sources from which to choose his grapes. “It’s nice to hedge my bets in terms of cooler and warmer vintages.”
With its picturesque hillside setting, Justin is a great place to visit. Its new owners recently completely remodeled The Restaurant at Justin as well as the upscale, three-suite B&B, dubbed the Just Inn. Both sport a luxe-contemporary look that’s distinctly Californian.
Don’t Miss: Vina Robles Winery
Swiss businessmen Hans Nef first fell in love with Paso Robles in the 1980s. By the mid-1990s, he started planting vineyards to produce wines in the European style, under the Vina Robles label.
This was a bold thing to do: Paso was hardly known for fine wine. Nef decided to focus on wines that would allow the terroirs of his various vineyards to express themselves.
One of those vineyards, Adelaida Ranch, sits 1,700-feet high in western Paso Robles. The well-drained limestone soils result in intense, tightly focused wines. At Adelaida, Nef focuses on Bordeaux varieties. Perhaps the winery’s best bottling is the Mountain Road Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which winemaker Kevin Willenborg calls “our highest expression of Cab, balanced now yet structured for years of aging to come.”
Yet Vina Robles also embraces the varietal blending movement, crafting innovative mixtures—both red and white—that are complex and balanced. Their 2011 White4 blend, a compound of Viognier, Vermentino, Verdelho and Sauvignon Blanc, is probably unique in the world, and defines to perfection the blender’s art.
Also unique along California’s Central Coast, Vina Robles’s new Amphitheatre opened in the summer of 2013. From May to November (winter comes late to Paso Robles), visitors can enjoy live concerts, with music of all genres along with gourmet food.
Paso Robles’ Top Varieties
Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style red blends
From Paso Robles, the wines are fruity and balanced, with a younger generation of winemakers bringing exacting standards.
Syrah and Rhône-style red blends
Among the best in California. Heady, rich wines often exhibit spice, cocoa and currant note
Coastal valleys boast pure and ageable Pinots. Arroyo Grande Valley’s are big and deep.
When grown near the coast, the wines are packed with savory acidity, frequently exhibiting tropical fruit flavors.
Unoaked Viognier, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Grigio and others from Edna Valley are some of the best in California. They combine acidity and fruit-driven power.
Explore the cool-climate wonders of the Edna and Arroyo Grande valleys.
California’s main coastal freeway, U.S Highway 101, serves as the artery that connects Los Angeles and San Francisco. Barreling through Pismo Beach at 65 miles per hour, travelers hardly can be aware that some of the Central Coast’s most coveted wine regions lie just a mile or so east.
These areas, the Arroyo Grande Valley and the Edna Valley, are exceptional examples of cool-climate growing regions.
As always in California, geography shapes climate destiny.
Just to the inland north of the Arroyo Grande and Edna valleys, Paso Robles can be baking hot in summer.
However, when you drive south through the dramatic Cuesta Grade and cross the coastal mountains, the hills level off around Morro Bay. Suddenly, just around a bend, there it is—the Pacific Ocean, massive, blue and coolly pristine.—Steve Heimoff
An Ocean of Difference
The prevailing westerly winds that sweep across the Pacific bring in moist, cool air year-round, providing summertime’s “natural air conditioning.” In July, the average high in Arroyo Grande Village is just 75 degrees, with nighttime temps falling to the low 50s.
The Arroyo Grande appellation does, however, extend far enough inland to get very hot. Here, warm-climate varieties like Zinfandel and Petite Sirah are grown. Yet, there are few wineries, and quality has not been definitively established.
The region is young as far as grape-growing goes. Edna Valley became an AVA in 1987; Arroyo Grande in 1990.
For the previous century, both areas were viticultural backwaters. Their rolling fields were planted to row crops or were pastureland. But a few pioneers, sensing the possibilities, eventually succeeded in putting both appellations on the map.
In the Arroyo Grande, one of the first was the French Champagne house of Maison Deutz, which planted 300 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay close to the coast starting in 1982. Back then, people believed that sparkling wine would be a big seller in America, especially as the Millennium approached.
However, Americans did not fall in love with sparkling wine as an everyday drink, preferring to reserve it for New Year’s Eve and weddings. Maison Deutz gave up, and the property passed into other hands. But the grapes remained.
Today, the resulting Laetitia Vineyard & Winery is the appellation’s biggest producer, crafting high-quality Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in addition to sparkling wines.
Not far away, Talley Vineyards belongs to a farming family that arrived in the valley in the early 1940s. They successfully grew beans, cauliflower and broccoli, but in the early 1980s, added grapevines.
Brian Talley, the third generation, recalls how his father planted every variety he could find, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Riesling, because he wasn’t sure what would work.
It turned out that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay flourished.
Today, Talley’s bottlings are among the best in California. The winery has done more than anyone else to boost the area’s reputation among serious connoisseurs.
Following the Mission Trail
Grape-growing in the Edna Valley dates back to the Spanish missionaries. Its modern era began in 1973, when the Goss family planted their Chamisal vineyard, named after a white-flowered plant that grew on the chilly, windswept plain.
The winery went through a transition, briefly becoming Domaine Alfred before reverting back to Chamisal Vineyards. About the same time, the Niven family began their Paragon Vineyards. That little startup launched a family of wineries, including Baileyana and Tangent.
Nowadays, there are only three wineries in the Arroyo Grande, and about 13 in the Edna Valley, making these two of the smaller coastal appellations. (The Arroyo Grande, however, is about twice the size of Edna Valley.)
A Tale of Two Valleys
Both valleys are cool, with Arroyo Grande being slightly warmer, although it depends where you are with respect to the air flow. The grapes and wines of choice remain Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
In general, Edna Valley offers the purest fruit. Few wines grown in California possess such a telltale signature of varietal typicity and juicy acidity.
Indeed, Edna Valley is a hotbed of the unoaked wine movement, especially in whites; they’re so rich, they hardly need barrel influences.
Tangent has enjoyed wild success with stainless steel-fermented, screw-topped Albariño, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. Edna Valley wines also are often values—their affordability, deliciousness and low alcohol make them sommelier favorites.
Edna Valley does have one outlier, Alban Vineyards. Winemaker John Alban, having fallen in love with the wines of the Rhône Valley while a student at UC Davis, began planting Syrah, Roussanne and Viognier in 1990, followed a year later by Grenache.
Giving Rhône a New Home
The wines have enjoyed tremendous critical acclaim, which has sent their prices soaring. There are only a few “cult” wineries in California known for Rhône varieties, but Alban surely tops the list.
Talley and Laetitia account for nearly all the production from Arroyo Grande Valley, although a few wineries are lucky enough to be able to buy fruit from Talley, and occasionally from Laetitia.
Arroyo Grande Pinot Noirs tend to be firmer, darker and slightly heavier than those from Edna Valley, due to the extra warmth and, possibly, heavier soils. They also tend to be more expensive. But an Arroyo Grande Pinot, well-stored, will reward aging.
Most wineries have tasting rooms, although beyond tasting, there’s little for the tourist to do in either Edna or Arroyo Grande valleys. The Nine Sisters—distinctive volcanic cones that dot the landscape—are favorites among photographers and rock climbers. Nearby Morro Bay, with its eye-catching, 581-foot volcanic plug rising from the sea, is a big tourist draw.
Of Beaches and B&Bs
Down the coast, Avila Beach is one of those old, slightly funky beach towns that retains an air of sleepy opulence. It boasts many high-quality resorts and spas. The most charming village in the region, Arroyo Grande, offers hints of old California with B&Bs, wine bars and restaurants.
The area’s top wine-oriented event is the two-day World of Pinot Noir (WOPN), held every March (and co-sponsored by Wine Enthusiast). Activities center in and around the upscale Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach, poised on a bluff overlooking rocky crags and white sand beaches.
WOPN (pronounced “woppin” by adherents) has become the premier Pinot Noir festival in California, attracting top producers from around the world.
The Restaurant: Artisan
Chili Bean Salad
½ pound dry brown tepary beans (or any white bean)
1 onion, halved
1 carrot, halved
2 celery ribs, halved
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock
2 sprigs each thyme, rosemary, oregano
Salt and pepper to finish
1 poblano chili, roasted, seeded, peeled and diced
½ pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
¼ red onion, diced
1 ear corn, roasted and shucked
6 tablespoons vinaigrette
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup lemon juice, fresh
3 lemons zested
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
3 garlic cloves, microplaned
1 tablespoon coriander, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon cumin, toasted and ground
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pick through the beans and discard any rocks or other foreign matter you may find. Rinse the beans thoroughly and soak in 2 quarts of water overnight. Drain the beans and reserve. Heat a six-quart dutch oven over high heat. Place the onion, cut side down, carrots, celery, garlic and olive oil in the pot. Char the vegetables until they become blistered and deeply caramelized.
Deglaze with white wine. Reduce by half then add the beans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil then set to simmer. Simmer beans stirring occasionally for 2 hours or until cooked through. When the beans are cooked, drain and season with salt and pepper and cool to room temp.
Mix vinaigrette ingredients together in a bowl. Reserve. Place bean mixture, vinaigrette and remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Let sit for an hour. Add extra vinaigrette to taste and serve. Serves 6.
Adelaida 2011 HMR Estate Vineyard Chardonnay (Paso Robles)
The Chef: Chris Kobayashi, Artisan
The farm-to-table philosophy has taken seed throughout California, but few take it to heart with the same gusto as the family behind Paso Robles’ standout eatery, Artisan. Not only does chef and co-owner Chris Kobayashi maintain close ties with local farmers, ranchers and artisanal producers, his wine director/spouse, Shandi, dons dusty boots and overalls five days a week to tend their own plot of fertile soil at Five Dog Farm on the east side of nearby Templeton.
A few years back, the Kobayashis met the owners of Five Dog at the Paso Robles farmer’s market. Impressed with what Chris and Shandi did with their produce at Artisan, the owners offered the restaurateurs some of their unused acreage as well as the use of their tractor and well water. The Kobayashis hungrily snatched it up and have gone on to grow 100% organic broccoli, onions, tomatillos, and assorted lettuces, greens, squashes, tomatoes and herbs.
In nurturing their 450 plants, the Kobayashis and their pitchfork-wielding restaurant staffers have learned a great deal about what grows in the Central Valley microclimate. Fostering farm-fresh ingredients has upped their passion for doing justice to the region’s edible bounty and allows them to share details with patrons about everything on their plates.
Earlier this year, the Kobayashis moved their restaurant to a new, larger and more high-profile corner spot across the street from Paso Robles’s town square. But the move wasn’t about sizing up—the new space will seat the same number of people as the original. It was about designing a space custom-made for guests to get a succinct taste of what their eatery and their hometown is all about.
Outfitted with eclectic interiors featuring cork floors, reclaimed barn wood and a wall of farmhouse windows, it offers outdoor seating and an expanded bar serving culinary cocktails that, like Artisan’s entire menu, are produced using local fruits and vegetables. There’s no better spot for visitors looking for authentic regional flavor and flair.
Favorite Farm-to-Table Finds
Abalone: Employees visit The Abalone Farm in Cayucos to witness the abalone lifecycle from infancy to harvest. Artisan’s abalone tostada appetizer comes adorned with carnitas and avocado.
Honey: The Central Valley holds many beekeepers, including SLO newcomer The Humble Bumble and Stoltey’s Bee Farm in Atascadero. Plus, the uncle of one of Kobayashi’s line cooks is a beekeeper.
Olive Oil: Artisan prefers the French New World transplants at Olea Farm in Templeton for flavorful dressings and high smoke-point cooking oils.
Rabbit: A single-shingle operation, Paso’s Bella Sage Rabbitry provides meat that shows up in paella and as a pâté.
Mulberries: Likening their bright flavor to Fruit Loops, Kobayashi uses them for desserts and entrées with darker fowl like squab. They come from Paso’s Windrose Farms.
It’s Beach Time
Build Sandcastles—Or See A Real One
Fans of California’s rocky, wave-crashed coast exult in the sheer beauty of San Luis Obispo’s far western fringe. Mountains plunge down to the sea and white-sand beaches hug hidden coves.
Winding along the coast, Highway 101 provides the main way in and out. Dubbed El Camino Real (“the royal highway”), the route dates to the Spanish conquistadors. While nature treks, beachcombing and swimming are the outdoor activities of choice, you won’t want to miss the area’s other attractions.
Hearst Castle at San Simeon remains one of the most famous tourist stops in California. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst spent more than two decades building the rambling, ornately styled mansion that he filled with antiques from Europe. Today the property is open to the public as a State Historical Monument, although the Hearst family still owns it and the surrounding land.—Steve Heimoff
Romancing the Seals at Piedras Blancas
Just four miles north, thousands of elephant seals congregate along the shore at Piedras Blancas. From vista points you can observe three-ton males vociferously competing for mates as well as females with their pups.
Ten miles south of Hearst Castle, the coastal town of Cambria began life as a 19th-century mining boomtown. The community (population 6,000) retains quaintness and charm, although it’s been gentrified with hotels and B&Bs. Don’t miss Robin’s Restaurant, which serves everything from pizza to pad Thai.
Surf’s Up in Five Cities
Highway 1 meets the main 101 Freeway at San Luis Obispo, some 40 miles to the south. From there, it’s a straight shot to the “Five Cities”—a collection of seaside towns dominated by bustling Pismo Beach. Here’s where Southern California beach culture truly begins, with ample sightings of surfboards, flip-flops and bikinis.
More Activities and Adventures
Pismo’s wide white sands are perfect for summer family gatherings, and the modest surf attracts the boogie board crowd. Nearby Oceano Dunes, in addition to offering surf fishing and horseback riding, has 5½ miles of off-road vehicle use. Port San Luis Beach and Harbor welcomes RV camping, with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean.
The area population has soared, buoyed by an influx of retirees and those seeking second homes. Although the bars and restaurants are funky, you’ll find luxe at upscale resorts such as The Cliffs and Dolphin Bay.
Recipe courtesy bartender and Cal Poly graduate Josh Christensen, San Luis Obispo, CA
Whisk together ½ cup granulated sugar and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Fill a shaker with ice and pour 2 ounces London dry gin, ½ ounce fresh lemon juice and ½ ounce of the reserved simple syrup. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Pour 1 ounce red wine over a bar spoon and into the glass (preferably Folkway Revelator—a red blend made in Arroyo Grande). The wine will float atop the cocktail. Serve immediately. —Brandon Hernandez
And Don’t Miss:
During the 19th century, ranchers pastured their cattle and sheep on Paso Robles’s rolling, scenic hills, and the animals were tended by cowboys on their faithful horses. Although today’s Paso has become an urbane region of wineries and fine dining, cowboy culture remains a valued part of its heritage.
The centerpiece of that tradition: the Paso Robles Fairgrounds located on the edge of downtown just blocks from the 101 Freeway. Old wooden buildings, horse stalls and rodeo stands refuse to cater to modernity. From spring until fall, it hosts boots-and-saddles events such as the Cattlemen’s Western Art Show, Horseman’s Reunion, San Luis Obispo County Quarter Horse Association Show, National Stock Horse Show, and the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association Show. The big event comes in July with the California Mid-State Fair. It features country music stars as well as competitive horse shows, rodeos and plenty of barbecue.
Want to release your own inner cowboy? Here are three ways to do it:
Go shopping at the Boot Barn, the area’s leading purveyor of all things cowboy, from stylish boots and silver buckles to sexy Stetsons.
Relax at the Pine Street Saloon. Housed in one of Paso’s oldest buildings, it celebrates its frontier roots. “We’re a country bar through and through,” says Ron French, one of the owners. Each year, during the Pioneer Day Parade (October), the Saloon opens its doors to cowboys who lead their horses in for a drink
Dine at F. McLintocks Saloon & Dining House. Best steaks, chops and oak-pit BBQ in town.
California Cowboy Barbecue in Paso Robles
A Central California fixture, Austin Hope is the vintner equivalent of a local boy who’s done exceptionally well. A graduate of Cal Poly SLO, he cut his teeth under Caymus’ Chuck Wagner in the Napa Valley. Subsequently he returned home to his family’s vineyards in Paso Robles where he helped found Treana. That winery’s signature blends gave way to a variety of Hope Family Wines labels—Candor, Liberty School, Treana, Troublemaker and, of course, Austin Hope.
Habitués within Hope’s inner circle also appreciate his advanced skill sets that go beyond viniculture. He’s as enthusiastic about showing people a good time as he is about showing off his fruity wares. When entertaining, Hope loves to be outside on a beautiful Paso Robles evening, savoring wines from his vineyards and local contemporaries, and enjoying family and friends.
Recreate the Region
For edibles, Hope makes a beeline for his trusty BBQ, grilling up a robust menu including a “Cowboy Paella” westernized with the addition of hanger steak, pork tenderloin, chorizo, jalapeños and kidney beans. He also pulls a recipe card for Troublemaker Burgers made using a custom blend of 25% each prime chuck, Wagyu short ribs, prime hanger steak and beef rib cap fat he developed as “the ultimate burger for grilling” with Bryan Flannery from Flannery Beef.
Cedar plank Chilean sea bass with saffron
Bryan Flannery’s troublemaker beef burgers
Austin’s grilled artichokes
BBQ grilled vegetables
Earthy and modern, Hope’s style presents an interesting mixture of clean lines, sensibility and rustic Paso Robles charm. Simple and utilitarian, his house sits literally in the center of a vineyard, and is built around one grand room combining the kitchen and the living area. With bright blue accents and bold black-and-white photos that scream rock and roll, the living room is inviting and alive. It spills out onto a large patio with a barbecue grill, fire pit, pool and hot tub, making for an easily traversable indoor-outdoor celebratory segue.
When not traveling to promote his brands, Hope’s usually jet-setting to music festivals like Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits or Coachella, or sitting in a dark bar watching the next up-and-coming band. When choosing a soiree soundtrack, he calls on some of his favorite young-bloods: The Neighborhood, Alt-J, Miike Snow, Mumford & Sons, The Civil Wars, Florence + The Machine, The Black Keys, Rodriguez, Phoenix, Thievery Corporation, The Sheepdogs, Rihanna, Randy Rogers, Band of Heathens.
In selecting some for his fête, Hope sources from within along with a little help from his winemaker friends in
this incredibly fertile and versatile growing region.
Treana 2011 Marsanne-Viognier (Central Coast)
Linne Calodo 2011 Contrarian (Paso Robles)
Austin Hope NV
Treana 2010 Red (Paso Robles)
Linne Calodo 2011 Cherry Red (Paso Robles)
Austin Hope 2011 Hope Family Vineyard Syrah (Paso Robles)
Cedar Plank Chilean Sea Bass with Saffron
Soak 2 untreated cedar planks in water for 1 hour prior to cooking. Place 2 large sea bass filets on each of the planks. Season the filets with fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper and saffron. Drizzle generously with local olive oil. Place the planks on a barbecue grill over medium heat and cook approximately 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Austin’s Grilled Artichokes
Prepare a steamer. Add 4 artichokes and steam until al dente, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool, then quarter the artichokes. Cut the tips of the leaves off and scoop out the insides of the artichoke. Put the quartered artichokes in a large zip-lock bag and add 2 tablespoons of local olive oil, 2 tablespoons of local balsamic vinegar, the juice of ½ a lemon plus salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, grill the artichokes over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes and serve. Serves 4 to 6.
Star Trek‘s Casey Biggs
Casey Biggs, known to Trekkies as Damar, leader of the Cardassians on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, has found a more down-to-earth role as Paso Man, the iconic face of Paso Robles wine. He lives in Paso Robles with his wife, chef and cookbook author Brigit Binns.
“Hop in your car and hit the 26-mile stretch of Route 46 from Paso west. You’ll pass stunning vineyard vistas, and when you reach the crest, there is a breathtaking view of the coast and the Pacific.
Every Christmas Eve we put ourselves in the hands of sommelier Ian Adamo and chef Laurent Grangien—and rub elbows with local cowboy royalty—at world-class eatery Bistro Laurent in downtown Paso. For casual nights out, I like to join the crew at wine-bar 15c in Templeton. The region’s best wines are front-and-center, along with a revolving menu of wine-friendly snacks. We also hang out at brand-new Paso Underground for small-production wines from four passionate young winemakers including Aaron Jackson and Edmond August.
We love the farmers market in Templeton—chefs Chris Kobayashi (Artisan) and Julie Simon (Thomas Hill Organics) are often browsing the impeccable produce there on Saturday mornings. It’s strictly local and seasonal, and it’s where we pick up all our fresh vegetables—plus a bone from Charter Oaks Meats for our dog, Stella. What could be more fun than soaring like an eagle over the oaks and golden hills on the zip line at Ancient Peaks in Santa Margarita before sipping their terrific wine? And—I may be biased—but there is nothing like the fire at Refugio, where my wife Brigit teaches rustic outdoor cooking classes.”
—Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen
- 1The Mix Masters
- 2California Cool
- 3SLO/Paso Robles: Food
- 4SLO/Paso Robles: Travel
- 5SLO/Paso Robles: Entertaining
- 6Your Paso Robles Tour Guide