Sep 17, 2010

Paso Robles Wine Festival

This annual event tantalizes thousands of wine enthusiasts by boasting world class wines, culinary delights, seminars and much more. Having never been, an invitation from our good friends, Larry and Jeanne, moved us from the “some day” column to the “let’s check it out” side. Prior to starting our day though, we made a pact among ourselves…one, we taste at no more than three wineries and second, we don’t drive any dirt roads (some of us are anal about our cars and a dusty road is taboo).

Our first stop was the renowned Opolo Vineyards. A very popular winery that draws a lot of people with its club and functions. Wines were special enough though for us to join their wine club.

We also partook in their afternoon barbeque of whole roasted lamb, carne asada and carnitas tacos. As we sat atop hay bales and enjoyed our lunch, we were treated with the splendid views of the vineyard that surrounded our picnic grounds.

The next stop was Starr Ranch Vineyards. With the paved driveway having a huge impact in our decision to stop, this winery proved to be very tempting. At the gated entrance of the winery, we see this freshly asphalted road going up the hill and over…we're tasting here for sure. We happily motored through the gate, up the landscaped hill and began our descent toward the tasting room. Oops…the road suddenly ended and became a dreaded dirt monster. With no place to turn around, we bit the bullet and proceeded the short drive down the road to the parking area. But we are glad we did. Adjacent to the tasting room (a remodeled barn) is a wonderful shaded picnic area that would enhance any lunch…even a treat of bologna sandwiches.

Greeting us at the door was Judy Starr…who provided a brief summary of the history of her vineyard and the featured varieties available this day. Her daughter and friends eagerly hosted the tasting bar and made sure each visitor had snagged a plate of delicious pupus being served.

Our last stop was at Kukkula Vineyards. What drew us to this winery was the name…could it possibly have originated from the Pacific? Actually, Kukkula is the Finnish name for “the hill” and refers to the location of this family’s 75-acre property as well as the owner/winemaker Kevin Jussila’s Finnish heritage.

The featured tasting room was very cool and unique…the kithen/great room of Kevin and Paula’s personal residence. As we sat at the breakfast bar, we were treated to a spectacular view that overlooked their vineyard and adjacent valley below. The new tasting room and processing plant is currently under construction.

We had a wonderful afternoon in the sun, the best of company and a nice sample of some of the finest wines Paso Robles has to was time to head on back to the “Ponderosa” for some relaxation. We are sure that a future festival will again draw us back to explore another "unknown" creator of those tasty elixirs of the vine....only that time we will select only those at the end of dusty trails!!