It had been nearly ten years since my last proper winery tour when the Cute Gardener told me he wanted to take me to Paso Robles on a recent weekend. Now I know why a proper wine tour should only take place once or twice a decade because it certainly is a whirlwind journey not meant for the weak or easily light-of head. One full of beautiful twists and turns through countryside where it’s easy to fall into a romanticized sense of wonder stoked by tasting various libations of the lovely and efluorescent grape.
On Day One, I realized rather quickly why tasting rooms offer nibbles like peppery thick crackers, pungent cheeses and mammoth fresh walnuts to guests. Even though you think you are only imbibing a sip of wine per glass, the sips easily add up to make full glasses when you have a boyfriend with a master plan to visit as many wineries as possible in an afternoon. Mine, armed with his notes, was an expert at taking me to the places where he knew the wine was good to avoid useless tasting, and I enjoyed seeing the wine world through his palette as we visited places like Bella Luna with the cute dogs who came out to greet us and Olea Farm where pieces of bread dipped into various pools of creamy olive oil provided much needed soaking up of the system between stops.
By nightfall, we had consumed our share for the day and bought many bottles of wine. I was happy that I had been gifted with the beginning bottles of my own private collection, which had a special underlying direction of finding some whites that I actually liked, as I am usually a prototypical bold red girl.
To top off the vibe of decadence that had come to permeate the weekend, we chose to dine at Il Cortile in Paso Robles and were smart enough to waddle from our hotel room directly to dinner to try and work off a little of the day’s damage. We had a deal: since I was prone to his planning on the whole wine tour, I was to pick the meal for us that evening. In the dimly golden-lit dining room of the charming and bustling small restaurant, I set about ordering a feast meant only for the truly adventurous.
Beef Carpaccio special with black truffles started us off. Translucent red disks slathered in a rich pool of sauce that we lavishly dipped bread slices in before eating the meat. This dish filled me up accompanied by the Giornata Barbara bottle we sinfully shared and I wondered why I was so full after not actually eating much during the day; that is until I was reminded that all those sips of wine still have caloric content.
A pappardelle with braised wild boar was next. Perfect little homemade ribbons of pasta swirled delightfully around chunks of tangy boar meat, easily becoming my favorite item of the dinner.
A whole lobster special with spaghetti pomodoro was simple and light, or would have tasted light had we not already been gluttonously inclined.
A pork osso buco with parmesan risotto was absolutely fall off the bone tender. By this time, I hit a wall and could not possibly stuff another bite of the delicious meat into my mouth so the poor Cute Gardener had to take over.
And even though we declined dessert, the chefs still sent us a complimentary piece of lemon tart that was really creamy and sublime. I don’t know whether they were sending it to us out of respect that we had ordered such a daring meal or if they were as amazed as I was that we could actually finish the meal and were sending us a congratulatory nail in the culinary coffin.
Needless to say, the bedtime that evening moved down a couple hours more than normal.
The next day, as we finished our whirlwind wine tour, I shied away from the tastings and only had a bit here and there on our journey, choosing instead to revel at the properties we visited and the unabashedly beautiful lands of the vineyards and ranches. I found myself oftentimes in reverie over cute little barns that were transformed in my head into personal artist studios, and old-fashioned homes with wrap-around porches that one could easily and comfortably become a hermit in for the rest of days.
It was a worthy trip we discovered as we unloaded the bounty later at home. The Cute Gardener had accumulated over 30 bottles to add to his custom made wooden wine cellar.
And I scored a nice little starter collection of my own.