Move over, Napa and Sonoma. There is a new wine country in California, and it is Central Coast.
We love Avila Beach, and this year, we discovered an entirely new batch of wineries we hadn’t visited before. However, if you travel just a little farther north, there is another great little land of wineries called Paso Robles, and we spent an evening there on our vacation to take in the tastes of Route 46. What follows is an utterly true account of the night I was accidentally a mess in Paso Robles.
Route 46 (or the ‘wine route’) is a stretch of state route that connects the 101 to the Pacific Coast Highway (the famous Highway 1 with the beautiful views) and features a number of wineries and vineyards. Last year, we tried out a couple of wineries there, and this year, we were prepared to sample even more.
Unfortunately, by the time we arrived in SLO, made our way to the Enterprise Rental, and picked up our car (additionally, we ordered a compact, and they gave us a Grand Marquis, otherwise known as Coolio’s car), we were pretty strapped for time. We had been hoping to have lunch at this little sushi place we love in downtown Paso, but there wasn’t enough time to eat and hit the wineries before they closed at 5pm. We thought we would be okay…
So, we checked in at our first stop of the afternoon, which was the Paso Robles Inn, where we were staying for the night. This is a delightful little hotel with smallish, but clean and comfy rooms featuring fireplaces.
The first stop on our wine tour was Four Vines Winery, which has recently been renamed as Cypher. We loved the names of the wines here – we sampled about five or six wines, including Anarchy, Heretic, Peasant, and ZinBitch. With each tasting, you got a free glass. (Zinfandel is the Big Deal in Paso – the Zin fest was about a week after we visited, so we really like trying all the different wineries’ takes on the wine. At this point, Michael would like me to use the word ‘varietal,’ but that word makes me feel like a douchebag. Sorry!)
A few extra samples may have been poured as I commiserated with the girls of the winery over the painful, boring process of singing vocals on “Freebird” on Rock Band (everyone loves to play bass or guitar on this one, but you end up doing about four solid minutes of tambourine if you’re the singer, true story). And then we found out that the owners of the winery have pitbulls. Needless to say, we bought our first bottle of wine on the trip (the Anarchy), and decided this was a winery we could fall in love with.
Next it was off to the Hunt Wine Cellars, whose owners have a large, friendly great dane, and are also Steeler fans… So, when we paid for 5 tastings, we wound up getting close to 10. I will attribute this stop as the start of the trouble.
We bought two wines here, one of which was from 2001, the year I graduated from high school, and we talked about bridges and rivers and Troy Polamalu! By the end of things, I was still feeling quite good, and chipper, and like I didn’t need to stop for that snack after all!
Grey Wolf Cellars was where things began to get a little messy. It started because the nice woman working there was fascinated with our tale of wine vending machines. If you don’t live in Pittsburgh, allow me to fill you in briefly.
Since you can’t buy wine anywhere but a state store, the ‘compromise’ in progress presently is that certain grocery stores can have a wine vending machine and a selection of beer in their cafe area. You have to swipe your ID, and everything is on camera, much the same as an ATM. There is only a small selection of wine to choose from, but it does enable you to pick up a bottle of something while you’re grocery shopping.
Well, people in California (where you can buy booze any old place, up until 2 or 3am) are amused by this. Highly amused. Here is a tip, if you are going wine tasting in California from Pennsylvania: if you tell people that you have to buy your wine out of a vending machine, the kind souls behind the counter will probably take pity on you and give you more wine, to try to compensate for our state’s ridiculous blue laws. To normal people in California, it is simulatenously hilarious and heartbreaking that we have to use a vending machine to get wine at a grocery store. So we started telling this lady about the vending machines, and she called in another girl who was working there. Both of them were laughing and asking questions, and as that went on, the wine kept coming…
…and then we got to the wine named after our dog. I’m not making this up, there is a rosé wine at Grey Wolf Cellars called “Little Red.” That was Lucy’s name when we adopted her from the rescue, and she still wears a tag on her collar that states such.
And even though I always associate rosé wine with my high school friend’s mum, who kept a box of it in her fridge at all times, I fell in love with this named-after-Lucy variety. It’s not a true rosé anyway, it’s actually a bit darker than that, but of course we had to buy it. They also gave us these really nice pens, and furry paw print stickers, and I bought a nice magnet for the fridge.
From there, things went steadily downhill. For whatever reason, the fact that we were wine tasting on empty stomachs was having NO effect on my husband whatsoever, whereas I had transformed into the little drunk girl who was calling her parents to tell them all about the wine we were tasting, even though my parents have probably never even heard of a zinfandel that wasn’t white.
However, since we are the budget-conscious people we are, we were determined to get the most out of our night in Paso. We could not spend money on a hotel and take the time to be in Paso for a full day and night and only go to three wineries! That would just be unheard of.
At this point, I would like to fully express my apologies to the poor girl who was working at Midnight Cellars just before closing.
We rolled into the parking lot in our “Fantastic Voyage” rapper car, me a little wobbly, but still with the mindset of, “We’ve only been to three wineries, there’s no way that I’m drunk yet!” Michael was somehow incredibly still stone-cold sober (which is a major change from the usual course of things, when I’m the one in the marriage who can hold my alcohol), so I decided I would let him do the talking.
Except that… one of the wines on the menu was called ‘Eclipse.’ And so I made a comment about the Twilight book series, which I so very much love to snark on.
….And the poor girl said, “I just read the first book, it was pretty bad writing, but I really enjoyed it!”
And this is when Michael tells me that I *supposedly* went on an anti-Stephenie Meyer tirade, involving great phrases like, “Look, that’s what she does, she reels you in on that first book, and everyone says the same thing, but by the third book, it’s just absolute shit, and you’re going to hope all the characters just get killed by the Volturi already. Except Jacob. What nice abs that boy has.”
In my mind, the story goes like this:
Girl at winery: Oh, I liked Twilight!
Me: Oh, I know, the first book has some promise, but it just goes downhill. Please, allow me to tell you how bad the remaining three books are, so as to save you the headache and drama of reading them.
Girl at winery: Oh, girl from Pittsburgh, you are so wise and charming and not drunk at all, thank you for the warning!
Me: Oh, it is my pleasure! I do what I can to bring assistance to those who may soon need it! And now, because I do so ironically love this bottle of wine you have called Eclipse, allow me to purchase it and tip you quite well, since we are now friends!
But I think it really went like this:
Me: Don’t read them. They are absolute shit. That poor RPatz is going to be typecast forever. And then, in the fourth book, GET THIS, you find out, THEY WEREN’T REALLY WEREWOLVES AFTER ALL!!! What the hell is that all about?!? And the third book, it took me like three months to read because my eyes kept falling out of my head because it was SO BAD AND AWFUL RUN FAST.
Michael: (whispers nicely to me) You are kind of offending her, honey, she liked the book, so just back off.
Me: (panics) Umm YES WE WOULD LIKE TO BUY THIS BOTTLE OF WINE CALLED ECLIPSE, HAHA JUST LIKE THE BOOK, HAHA BUT SO MUCH BETTER, HAHA THANK YOU!!! ::lets husband handle math of credit card receipt and hangs head in shame::
Somehow, I later found myself in a castle winery that was closed, but whose doors were open. I was quite excited to find this painting, which had been in my house for several years in college. I consistently misidentified it over the course of the evening as a painting at the Scaife Gallery at the Carnegie Museum that I also love, that features similar themes and color.
And this is how I learned that the little pretzel sticks they give you in between tastings do not substitute for things like, say, a hamburger.
So clearly, next year, I will be better prepared.