Enjoying Your First Wine Festival Experience

Paso Winery insolence + wine

Enjoying Your First Wine Festival Experience

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A few weekends back, we took some friends of ours wine tasting for the first time in Paso Robles’ vast wine growing region. Those friends are what you would consider unexperienced when it comes to the practice of wine tasting. Having said that, they’ve been wine tasting before, they just didn’t know what they were doing or where they should go for their day-drinking activities. 

We’re here to help you be comfortable with your wine tasting adventures, and are happy to offer a bit of advice, especially if you are new to wine tasting and are heading to Paso Robles for its annual Wine Festival, May 19–22, 2016. 

Wear Comfortable Clothing

Depending on where you’re wine tasting, you might find that it can be a bit of a fashion show. There’s no need to go out and purchase a new outfit and there’s certainly no need to dress out of your comfort zone. If you feel naked without your high heels, consider wearing platforms or wedges—you don’t want to ruin a brand new pair of shoes if you find the only way into the tasting room is through grass or a dirt parking lot. Avoid wearing white or anything light in color. Flowy maxi dresses are comfortable and you can easily add or remove layers throughout the day while casual rompers will ensure you won’t have a wardrobe malfunction and can easily be dressed up with some fun necklaces and a hat to shield you from the sun. DON’T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN! Oh, and leave the perfume at home. Wearing perfume ruins the wine tasting experience for everyone around you, and some tasting rooms will actually ask you to take your tastings outdoors. 

Plan Your Day

Most tasting rooms open at 10 in the morning and close around five in the evening. You shouldn’t expect or want to visit 10 wineries in a single day for obvious reasons. Since we aren’t in the business of being drunk by noon, we suggest take your time at each winery you visit, at least 45 minutes. That being said, if you taste a wine or two and do not enjoy what you’ve had so far, feel free to move on to another winery and find something that you do like. Don’t be afraid to skip over any varieties of wine that you know you aren’t fond of. Our usual modus operandi: skip the whites, go right to the reds.

Experience as many AVA’s as possible

In the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA)., there are 11 different sub-AVAs. AVAs come into being because of commonalities an area may have, be it temperature, soil types, geography and average temperatures. That being said, we suggest avoiding going to wineries right next door to one another, unless your goal is to become wine wasted. By spreading yourself out throughout a weekend, you’ll experience what a wine region really has to offer in its regional differences. In Paso Robles, for example, there are specific areas that are known for excelling at certain types of wines: zinfandel, Italian-style reds, Rhone blends, Cabernet or Bordeaux-style blends and of course, non- traditional wines. Out on the west side of Highway 101, rhone-style varietals thrive on the steep hillsides and chalk rock-infested soil. If you’re after Cabernet Sauvignon, head east of Highway 101; you’re likely to also find some fantastic Spanish varietals, too!

Don’t Forget To Eat

These days, so many wineries have restaurants and cafés to showcase their wines and take more of your hard earned money. I like to pack some snacks to get me through the day before a fancy dinner at a local gem. Fruits, cheeses and nuts are always a good idea. Most wineries have a picnic area, so don’t be afraid to make some sandwiches and a salad of some kind.

Ask Questions—Make Informational Purchases

Tasting room attendants are there to help expand your knowledge when it comes to their winery and the specific region. After taking a sip from your glass, ask the attendant what you’re tasting, what it could be paired with and how long it’ll continue aging (and how long you have to enjoy it in its current state.) Think of the tasting room attendant as Google for wines, if you enjoy specific styles or characteristics of wine, lean on them to send you to your next winery on your wine stop. If you don’t particularly enjoy anything at that winery, don’t feel obliged to purchase anything and if you’re drunk, just skip purchasing any wine. 

Warming Up

If you are headed to the Paso Robles Wine Festival from the San Francisco Bay Area, may we suggest you stop at one of the two wineries that are right off of Highway 101 South? Halfway between Greenfield and King City is Scheid Vineyard’s tasting room, located on Hobson Avenue a stone’s throw from the highway. The tasting room attendants are friendly and knowledgable, and you might just walk out of there with your first bottle of the weekend. We came for a quick afternoon of tasting and left wth a bottle of 2012’s Triple Layer Red.  

Should you find yourself hungry on the trip down or back, and just can’t wait to get to Paso or back to the Bay Area, take a quick detour into King City and catch lunch or dinner at the Cork and Plough. It’s American cuisine with locally-produced meats and produce. There is an extensive wine menu and there are some fancy, creative speciality cocktails. Easy to find at the east end of Broadway (King City’s main drag)  

If you have just passed the tiny town of San Miguel, and just can’t wait to get to Paso Robles itself, pull off at San Marcos Creek Vineyard. Less than 1/4 mile south of the San Marcos Road exit, this is another easy-access tasting room. Our favorite bottle to take home: NV Estate Red Table Wine, good enough to enjoy while contemplating the coming summer, but oh what it does to homemade spaghetti sauce! 

But Don’t Forget to Keep Your Mouth Fresh and Your Teeth Stain-Free!

One of the biggest challenges when spending a day of wine tasting is keeping your mouth fresh and your teeth as red wine-stain free as possible without ducking off to brush your teeth! This is a perfect use for chewing gum! Lately our go-to gum has been new Extra® 35-stick pack, and we go back-and-forth between Extra® Gum Spearmint and Extra® Gum Polar Ice® flavors. The packaging, made from 100% recycled materials, holds up well to all of the abuse it gets from living in my purse! Just chew some between tasting rooms, and you’ll arrive with clean teeth and a palate ready to take on some more wine. We got our Extra® 35-stick packs at Walgreen’s, where it was hanging out at the checkout counter.   

Suggested Paso Robles Wine Tasting Itinerary

McPrice Myers—Rhone-style blends

Peachy Canyon—Zinfandel

Broken Earth—Spanish varietals

August Ridge Vineyards—Italian style wines

Chateau Margene—Pinot Noir (grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, Monterey County)