October 16, 2007

Just Paso the Time

By Robert Farmer

I love little insidery things – tidbits that make me feel like I might have just a little more info than the next guy. Whether it’s true or not is usually not important, so long as that’s the way I feel. So it was six years or so ago when I made my first real trek through California’s central coast wine country and learned that the locals refer to Paso Robles simply as “Paso.” I didn’t ask and they didn’t tell. It was just something I picked up listening to them talk. Simple? Sure. Rather meaningless? Perhaps. But the upshot of the story is “Paso” is also shorthand for a great wine-producing region. There’s no better chance to find out for yourself than during Harvest Wine Tour, taking place later this month October 19-21. The jam-packed weekend features more than 100 individual events at about 90 wineries, and only the most energetic visitor will catch them all. Instead, plan ahead and map out your best personal itinerary, which might include anything from jeep tour to a grape stomp, or a food-wine pairing and a cooking class. Point is, there’s tons going on and it’s all part of the party in Paso. Now you’re on the inside. Check out for more.

September 24, 2006

The Smell of Home

By ML Hilton

(NAPA, CA) -- Something didn’t happen to me. It was something that was obvious in its absence. Normally, when I leave Napa – and I love to travel – the return over the Butler Bridge (the Southern crossing) heralds the end of my journey, and causes a stab of “why did I leave.” Usually it is the smell that triggers it. The smell that changes from the Bay Area’s urban road odors of hot concrete or wet pavement to the sweet breaths of loamy earth that fragrantly hangs around the Napa River’s broad reaches, sloughs, and southern flood plain.

I know I am home when those smells hit my nose. It has been an aroma that has comforted me for two decades.

After my last trip this past week to the San Luis Obispo wine country, I still smelled it on Friday night as I pulled in dusty from a hasty two-day road trip. I guess the epiphany was that I didn’t feel like I had been away.

I cut my teeth on Napa wine (after a brief acquaintance with Boone’s Farm and Mateus). Napa wine country has been my home for all most all of my adult life. I admit, I am prejudiced – home is best.

But, the place I call home has seemed to grow. Philosophically encompassing more of California wine country than just the eighth of an acre where the post office delivers my mail.

This came to me, as I sat having lunch at Tolosa winery on Friday. It was a blessing of the grapes ceremony, celebrating the fact that they were finally starting to pick their Pinot Noir, and celebrating their ties with the historic mission in San Luis Obispo.

It was during lunch that I looked out over the rolling hills of the Edna Valley, closed my eyes, flared my nostrils and realized . . . I just didn’t feel that far from home.