My first trip to Paso Robles was in 2016 on a press tour and I remember it was one of regional discovery. We visited some great wineries and winemakers, we had some unique experiences and we really got a glimpse into the diversity of the region.
I wrote about it here and here where I talked a lot about the people and the wine, but I didn’t focus on the experience of food and wine. Not to take away from any restaurant that we went to or dining experience that we had, but it takes a really great hospitality experience to make writers take note. This conference that was one of the things that resonated for me. Like the region – the experiences are diverse.
My time at the Paso Wine Writer’s Conference in 2022 expanded into the terroir, the people, the diversity, and the hospitality of the region. Here’s a few of my favorites:
A few columns ago, I wrote about the memorable wine, spice and food dinner at LXV Winery. This dinner was the first at the tasting room as these are usually held at the winery, but they were kind enough to haul all the ingredients and work in a skeleton kitchen so we could have the experience. It was a conference highlight for me!
Another highlight was a family style dinner made by Chef Jeffrey Scott from Vineyard Events at Denner Vineyards. We were treated to burrata toast, yellow fin tuna crudo and pacific king salmon rillets paired with the 2020 Denner Theresa and 2021 Epoch Estate Wine.
This was followed by a Modern Cassoulet with the 2019 Denner Ditch Digger, the 2018 Epoch Estate Sensibility and the 2019 L’Aventure Estate Cuvee.
We followed with a tasting of Artisan Cheers and a Citrus Olive Oil Cake with 2019 Maha Understory and the 2018 McPrice Myers Sel De La Terre.
Another over the top experience came from Daou Vineyards with executive Chef Elaine Rivera-Glenn featuring ingredients sourced from the estate garden, Daniel Daou’s home garden, Mighty Cap Mushroom and Caliwala Bakery.
From the toast outside overlooking the gorgeous mountain, to the talented musicians who greeted us with lovely music inside to the fire dancers who performed, it was quite a show. They brought us a line-up of new and vintage wines to try with caviar and crème fraiche made with estate olive oil and Gioia Burrata with aged Balsamic to veal ossobuco to tiramisu.
Then there were the smaller scale things like amazing wood fired pizza when we went to the Tin City Winemakers’ Lunch at Hubba Wines. I must give a shout out to the great food at Opolo Vineyards, Robert Hall Winery and Vina Robles Winery and Vineyard for great lunches as well.
I believe Paso Robles is on its way to creating that experience for consumers. As Lettie Teague reported in an April 22 column in The Wall Street Journal, Napa is pricing itself out of market for normal consumers. Here is a community of winemakers and wineries who have decided there is runway for another region to have an opportunity and they are up for the challenge.