Once we were back on the coast, it was really hard to think about leaving it again. Being there on the water, with the waves crashing in, the breeze wafting in to cool things down, and the sea life to enjoy, made me question our plans. They weren’t very solid at this point anyway. We’d originally planned to head to Lake Havasu and Nevada right after my daughter went home from L.A. but we’d changed our minds after seeing my parents updates from Santa Barbara.
I started to think maybe we should just head up the coast, and stay near the beach all the way up. But we’d just done that in October and it’s much more expensive to stay on the beach. Everything is more expensive, from diesel to groceries to overnight spots. I kept going back and forth in my mind, and Harold is so accommodating, he’s happy to go wherever I want.
If there’s one thing that has the potential to drag me inland, away from the sea, it’s the promise of some great wine. Paso Robles has some great wine, and lots of it. We’d been through there in October, and had a fantastic time hitting up the wineries on the west side of town, but there were so many places we’d not been able to get to, so we decided to head there next, and put off the decision of which way to go, for a couple of days.
The last time we were here, we’d stayed at Stacked Stone Cellars. They are one of three wineries in town that are part of the Harvest Host Program. For a small yearly fee, you gain access to wineries, farms, and other unique places where you can stay overnight at no charge. You are expected to make a purchase, in support of the place you are staying, but that’s no hardship at all. We’d be buying the wine, or produce anyway.
This time we decided to try Tobin James Cellars on the east side of town. This winery is right off Hwy 46, that cuts east-west across town and inland towards the Bakersfield area. I asked if we could stay two nights instead of one, and they were fine with that. The RV parking is very easy to get into. It’s a big, hard packed field across the road from the winery. The south and east sides of the field are wooded and there is a hill teeming with ground squirrels that drove one of my dog’s crazy (Teddy of course, Toonie is even smaller than the adult squirrels and mind’s her own business) but were so much fun to watch. They only came out of their holes in the mornings and spent the rest of the day underground.
We noticed there was a crows nest up in one of the trees and knew there must be babies up there but all we could see were the parents. One morning, as we were sitting out with our coffee watching the squirrel families feeding on the hill, one of the crows swooped down and grabbed a baby. He flew to a mound ten feet over and started ripping it apart.
I’m sure the baby was dead super quick, and I know it’s just life, but it was so horrible to watch. Then I grew angry at the other mother squirrels on the hill that weren’t immediately rounding up their kids and getting them inside. This one bad mother was way down the hill, munching on the best stuff while her babies, who were quite close to where the crow perched, skittered around in confusion and fear. I wanted to go running up there, scare them all underground, and scare that crow away, but knew that was the wrong thing to do. The crows need to eat, and the squirrels need to as well. Thankfully, that was the only kill we saw.
Tobin James Cellars, built on the site of an old stagecoach stop, has a good sized and busy tasting room, in the style of an old wild west saloon. There is one long bar all along the back of the large room and another square bar in the front. There were about six servers looking after us all and the bars were lined with people. Everyone but us seemed to be local. We enjoyed all their wines but ended up buying a bottle of their 2011 Zinfandel “Ballistic” and one of their 2010 Petite Sirah “Black Magic”.
In October, we’d stuck to wine tasting at the smaller wineries on the west side, up in Peachy Canyon. This time, we visited the larger wineries along the highway, and then made our way back along Union Road.
Harold and I have a really hard time not buying wine from every winery we go to. When you have to pay $5-10 for a tasting, but the charge is waived if you buy a bottle of wine, and you really like their wine, it’s hard not to. The problem is, we can only bring back four bottles to Canada and we like to keep our better, pricier wines for home, when we have people over who will appreciate them.
So we made a pact this time, to only buy a bottle if we absolutely love it, and we did pretty well with the first few wineries. By the time we got to the wineries on Union Road though, I was already in chatty Tracey mode, and loving all the wine. By the time we got back, we were well over our four bottle take home limit, but that was a worry for another day.
Our two favorite wineries on this trip, other than Tobin James, were Rio Seco and Falcon Nest, both on Union Road, which parallels highway 46. Rico Seco is the third winery in Paso Robles that is part of the Harvest Hosts program. The owner was manning the bar this day and she showed us around outside to where she allows the RVs to park and it is just so lovely there. I can’t wait to come back. She told us they also have a guest house there that they allow people to book and stay at.
Falcon Nest is right down the road, with similar beautiful terrain as Rio Seco. Run by an Italian-American man and his Hawaiian wife, these were, hands down my favorite wines of the area. The big difference between their wines and all the others is the aging. His wines are all from 2003 while all the other vineyards are 2010 and up. His were just a superior quality.
Once again, we had a wonderful time in Paso Robles. With my OCD tendencies, I feel the need to get to all the wineries here eventually, and it’s just not doable in a few trips. If you were to visit a winery a day, it would take you six months to see them all. Guaranteed to keep us coming back again and again.