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¿Qué Pasa? Paso Robles 4

by Jon Rusciano

By the next morning, we had all burned out on the standard tasting visit scene in the immediate realm of Paso’s main wineries.  The guys were up for a change in our program.  Earlier, I had posed the question to them about traveling out to Creston for a vineyard visit to Eden Canyon Vineyards with Danny Villamin and his ever vigilant and loveable watch-dog Lucy.  The day seemed right for the adventure, so all agreed to make the 30 minute drive into the desert highlands….after breakfast at Joe’s Place, of course.  By now, with my friends penchant toward heavy tipping for great service, we were virtual “rock stars” in the eyes of the ladies who attended us.  The food this morning was…superb as usual. 

After returning to our Paso residence for a brief period, we started the journey.  I did not need any guidance from Ms. Garmin, because I remembered the way from my trip years before.  It was basically just drive and drive out Creston Rd., taking a right on Hwy 41.  The place was almost as I had found it before, except for the missing blueberry farm across the highway.  Pulling into the driveway, we were greeted by Lucy, who initially gave us the obligatory couple of barks, to earn her keep, and suddenly excitement became overwhelming, causing her to chase her tail, stopping only when she had succeeded in grasping it in her teeth.  What a great dog! 

We had exited the van and started our stretching, when Danny came walking up to greet us.  His daughter, Elaine Blackaby, who handles wine making and sales of the product could not join us that day, having other important obligations in Las Vegas to attend.  And, that was OK.  Danny is a non-stop “one-horse-wonder” who plants and maintains the vines, year round.  He is a hoot, proudly expressing his “old world” values and ethics, those all of us guys grew up with, and truth be told…the only possible redemption for this troubled planet upon which we all exist.  He invited us to walk up the mountainside to inspect the vineyards, his new watering station and the adjoining property he has acquired and cleared.   Danny will not terrace and plant vines here until the winery’s budget will allow a new water well to serve the new acreage.  Water is at a premium in these parts.  His determination is unwavering. “Baby steps” are such important ingredients to the success of such an enterprise.

We walked with Danny and Lucy back to the building where the wine making and barrel storage occurs.  He opened some bottles of past vintages, and we sat beneath their shaded shelter for more conversing, and consumption.  Their Estate Cabernets of every year I have tasted to date, from my first exposure to the wonderful 2007 vintage and library offerings dating back to 2005, to the most recent 2011 issue, have remained the “best bang for the buck”  I have experienced anywhere in California.  Considering the consistent quality of their vintages, a Wine Club membership, with the “futures” discounting through Elaine or on-line, is money well spent.  Even though the neighboring blueberry farm has halted production, the essence of blueberry continues in the wine, as if the bees which pollinate their vines have found another nearby source of its pollen.  Coupled with flavors of chocolate/caramel, clove/cinnamon spice and the licorice and tobacco essence of a French Bordeaux, these features make their wine quite unique and pleasing.  Isolated from the main Paso Robles vineyards, Eden Canyon has been able to utilize complete European plants, without grafting the indigenous American root systems.  Phylloxera has not contaminated their vineyards, possibly due to the extreme high-desert environment that their root systems endure.  Whatever the case, the Villamin family remains very careful with the foot traffic allowed around their vines.  We all should pray for the successful continuation of this “oasis” vineyard.

By around noon it was time for our departure.  As we drove back to Hwy. 41, we opted to turn left instead of homeward.  This took us across Hwy. 101 and onward to the Pacific coastal community of Morro Bay.  It was waaay past lunch time, and we were famished.  Bob was enlisted to utilize his trusty cell phone for an internet search of the best seafood restaurants facing the harbor.  We opted for The Galley Seafood Grill and Bar.  It was a very nice place with beautiful views of the water and boat traffic.  Its lunch menu offered starters of crab cakes, jumbo prawns and Mexican shrimp cocktail.  Entrees included pan seared scallops, Flat Iron steak, rack of lamb, Maine lobster and calamari steak.  We all tried different items, without a complaint.

We departed without dessert and found our way back to Pacific Coast Hwy.1, then headed northward to connect with Hwy 46, our route back to “home.”  As we neared the winery district, we were compelled to stop into Turley Wine Cellars, to complete the tasting that we passed on the very first afternoon of our visit.  We were greeted by our host, Donna, and commenced tasting every offering they had available. 

First on the list was their 2012 “Juvenile” Zinfandel, which offered a dark cherry flavor, blended with a heavy clove spice.  The next was the 2012 “Old Vine” Zinfandel with a musty cherry nose and some biting minerals on the tongue.  We followed with the 2012 “Pesenti” Zinfandel, an expression soft caramel and cherry with a peppery finish.  All of these were decent, but in my opinion, not worthy of purchase at the prices offered.  The star of the group was the 2102 “Ueberroth” Zinfandel.  It was bold, with a taste of dark berries, sage and exotic spice.  Some of us concluded our visit with a purchase of Ueberroth bottles, along with 2012 “Dusi” Zinfandel, unavailable for tasting that day but one we were assured by Donna that we would love if Ueberroth was our selection.  Trusting her judgment, and upon returning home, we found it to be correct.

We returned to our Paso residence for a bit of rest and relaxation before our walk into town for the final top rated restaurant on the list.  Dave and I opted to go for a walk, exploring the neighborhood surrounding our abode.   Following our napping and checking into the college football scene on television that afternoon, we readied ourselves for dinner.  This evening we would try a restaurant named Artisan.  We had one of the bottles left from the first day grocery store invasion, and I brought along a bottle of Howell Mountain’s famous 2012Outpost” Zinfandel from my stash in Houston.  Artisan was a California Bistro, featuring an array of wood fired pizzas, grilled wild king salmon, Seafood Capellini and Lamb Tagine, along with typical chicken and beef favorites.  The food was good but the service was terrible.  Our waitress was around 8 months pregnant, which was not yet a hindrance to her mobility.  She reminded me of a 1970’s flower child who felt it more important to converse at great length with talkative customers than deal with the needs of those of us who did not have interesting childbirth tales to share.  The Outpost was heavenly, however.  The newest vintage is compelling.

Lily’s Yogurt just happened to be on the way home, so again we were drawn inside to revisit our captivating discoveries of the night before, or experiment further.  The walk home was chilly, made even colder by the gobs of heavenly goo we ingested.

The next morning we were able to fit in another visit to Joe’s for a grand breakfast before heading back to San Jose to catch our noontime flight.  The wine discoveries we made did not favorably compare with many of the previous adventures we had taken together, yet a more relaxed pace and the beautiful scenic country served to make our trip memorable in different ways.  We agreed to return to Paso again in the future, allowing wine to be the publicized excuse for traveling, yet secretly realizing it is a great place to just hang out with friends and “Eat at Joe’s.”

Eden Canyon Vineyards

The Galley Seafood Grill and Bar

Turley Wine Cellars

Artisan Restaurant

Lily’s Yogurt
(no website available)

Joe’s Place
(no website available)

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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