The last couple of months have flown away in a whirlwind of 9-5 days. Yes, that’s right, am back working a regular office job albeit a temporary one! Exciting as it has been to have a daily routine again, my love for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen have taken a backseat. The result? No new posts here for quite some time now!
As I work on remedying this, I thought I’d share moments from our recent weekend trip to Paso Robles (short for El Paso de Robles or ‘Pass of the Oaks’), a wine region not too far from where we are in the South Bay. A few weeks ago, we had a much needed public holiday on a Monday and decided to make the most of the long weekend. We packed our bags, got into our car and drove through the mad holiday weekend traffic to get to our destination – a lovely little cottage set in the vineyards at Berardo Winery. Run by a couple with Italian roots, that showed in the Italian grape varietals they grow, it was in the best spot possible. Our backyard opened out to the vineyard. The patio was just a few feet away from the vines themselves. We couldn’t have asked for a better view and a better deal!
The day we got there, we kicked off our wine tasting adventure at the vineyard itself where our hosts John (who we later learned was a retired dentist) and Marilyn, poured us quite generous tasting samples and even gave us a complimentary bottle of wine of our choice to take back with us.
We spent that evening roaming around the rather non-descript downtown area and had dinner at a restaurant that was trying too hard to be innovative with it’s menu. The wait for our food was so long that we skipped dessert and went over to the ice cream store next door. The ice cream was alright, nowhere as delicious as Italian gelato of course!
So while food was definitely not the highlight of our trip, a couple of wineries we visited did more than make up for it. The next day we visited a lovely place called ‘Tablas Creek‘ – a sister winery of the Château de Beaucastel in France. There was even a French lady who helped us with the tasting. We were in luck because one of the customers standing next to us was a very curious student of oenology. For us, this meant more tasting samples than was the norm and more information than a standard wine tasting!
After that, we made our way to a fewmore wineries including one where there were a couple of live musicians on the grounds. The one thing about vineyards in Paso Robles – most of them are definitely low key. This is perfect if you’re looking for a simple affair of just tasting the good stuff and collecting some bottles. If you’re after appearances, then this is not the place! Although, am sure there are a few wineries that fit the bill of being posh with snobby staff but we made sure to steer clear of them.
Our self catering home was fitted out with a small barbecue on the patio overlooking the vineyard. So, for the second evening, we got some sausages and pre-marinated meat from the supermarket. A simple salad on the side, bread and the free bottle of wine came in handy to round off the meal. We spent the evening sitting out there, gazing over the vineyards (and taking about a 100 pictures of the vines!) until it got dark.
The next morning, we set off on our way back home but not before making a couple of stops along the way. We had bought tickets to visit the Hearst castle at San Simeon. It is the meandering giant of a home that William Randoph Hearst, the newspaper tycoon on whose life the story of ‘Citizen Kane’ is said to be based, built on top of a hill.
Hearst even had a personal zoo which he filled with exotic animals flown over from all over the world. To this day, you can still see some of the last surviving species roam around the surrounding ranch lands. We spotted a few zebra in the fields on our way to the castle and were later told that these indeed are descendants of the original zebra Hearst had kept at his personal zoo!
The property is so mind boggling and large that there are various different kinds of tours available and you could easily spend a day or two taking in all the sights. We went for a simple 1.5 hour guided tour which included some of the outer rooms of the mansion and a walk around the gardens.
It is a truly beautiful piece of architecture (although it was never quite completed) with an outdoor terrace looking out over the ocean – a truly breathtaking spectacle.
Before getting to San Simeon, we also stopped on the way to take a look at an elephant seal colony. Thousands of seals come to land twice a year to rest, breed and molt. From a distance, you would easily mistake them for big rocks strewn all over the shoreline but on closer inspection, you realize these are actually giant mammals just sunning themselves, an incredible sight!
Our way back home was marred by slow moving traffic thanks to accidents along the highway turning what would have been a breeze of a drive into a painstaking one. Thank God we had enough bottles of wine on us to drown our fatigue in!. Our slowly depleting stock reminds me that another trip to beautiful Paso Robles better be on the cards before it’s too late!