Villa Creek Winery in Paso Robles, CA, has been one of my favorites for almost two years, since my first encounter with their marvelous Rhone blends and selected Spanish offerings as well. So when I got a chance to go to this year’s New Wine Release party, I decided to build a short trip around that.
As I wrote back in May, the owner/grower/winemaker at Villa Creek — Cris Cherry — is both talented and extremely gracious in sharing his knowledge and the fruits of his labors. As an added attraction, I also received an invitation for a small dinner gathering the night before at this winery, hosted by Cris and his wife, JoAnn. To my regular readers, a brief warning: this is NOT a post about vegan food, although my intake of non-vegan elements was measured and somewhat limited. For my omnivore friends: enjoy!
This is a very busy season in and around Paso Robles, with more than 200 wineries in the area all picking, processing, and celebrating the newly matured grapes. Therefore, it took some exploring via online resources to find a quality hotel or B&B for Friday and Saturday nights, but I was lucky to locate and book at Wild Coyote Winery and B&B. The private casita they provided (Hopi) was spacious and extremely comfortable. The custom-made breakfast cheerfully delivered to the room was an added treat.
The drive down from San Francisco takes 3-4 hours, depending on stops and traffic, but it wasn’t too bad. I arrived mid-afternoon and settled into the casita before heading out to the Friday night dinner. Taking advantage of the winery’s suggestion, I arranged for a van to pick me up and then return me to the B&B after dinner. In that manner I was able to remain safe and worry-free when enjoying all the wines that night. Furthermore, the roads in the area are curvy, mostly unmarked, and difficult to navigate in daylight when sober. Those favorable conditions would not hold late that night, so it worked out very well. The dinner was held outdoors in a covered area at the winery. After appetizers were served, we were then treated to a superb dinner. Here’s the menu:
As you can see, there was a full complement of new wines and some from the library. The food, service, wines, guests and ambiance were all delightful. Cris said a few words to the group at the long table, and the rest of the time we just enjoyed.
Saturday morning I had a brief visit and tasting at Linne Calodo, with Erica’s hospitality. She even let me taste a few Syrah grapes that were picked at 7:00 that morning. They were a lot sweeter than I expected, and she also showed me how the color of the seeds in the grapes connoted ripeness. In the afternoon it was back to Villa Creek for the release party. Chef Tom did another outstanding job feeding over 100 people that glorious afternoon. I met new people, as well as got a chance to talk more with some nice folks I met the previous evening, too. The photos are below. I was particularly taken with the paella grilling rig on the back of Chef Tom’s truck. I’m also eager to try Tom’s technique for grilling/roasting white globe eggplant slices. The texture and flavor were excellent.
Knowing I had one more meal left in Paso, I paced myself during the afternoon to leave room for a small supper at Il Cortile, an excellent Sicilian-style restaurant downtown. Although there were no reservations available online for that evening, I stopped by shortly after noon and asked the manager if she could fit me in at any time. She gave me a table for one at 5 PM, which worked nicely. It was just enough time and food for a succulent and crispy grilled octopus appetizer, followed by a half-portion of a simple pasta with tomato sauce. The wine was a glass of 2008 Masi Rosso del Veronese, and the Corvino was a good match for both dishes.
Next door to the restaurant is a photographer’s studio. His truck caught my eye as I waited for the restaurant to open. It’s a cool, retro-looking panel truck — but it was the rear wheel that I thought made the picture of the day.