Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A little slice of heaven (photo heavy)

Creston, California -- a little slice of heaven just down the road.

I got to spend yesterday with a good friend/coworker, traveling the back roads of our county for a special Industry Afternoon, hosted by several wineries of the "Creston Wine Trail."  The Creston Wine Trail is a relatively little-known area around the funky, cute town of Creston, a locavore's heaven if ever there was one. It's probably what Paso Robles was like 25 years ago -- small, intimate, with uncrowded tasting rooms and fantastic wines and locally grown and raised food.  

If I was recommending this area to someone who wanted to "get away from it all," I would recommend the Creston area. It really does feel like a little slice of heaven as you are driving through the gently rolling hillsides and green fields.

August Ridge Vineyards

One of the greatest parts of my job is that doing things like this is such an important part of it.  In a tasting room your main job is as wine educator; informing people not only about the wines you are pouring, but about wines and the region in general. It's always nice to spend a day like this in the company of knowledgable and competent peers, because I always learn so much about our region and wines it is capable of producing.  There's also always a lot of shop talk about number of punch-downs and pump-overs, specific yeasts and their benefits, as well as talk about where the industry is headed.
Unofficial mascot at Shadow Run Vineyards and Winery

We stopped at several wineries as part of the tour, as well as an olive-oil producing tasting room which also featured locally grown-and-harvested lamb for sale. I am not a lamb person, but my friend David was, and so he talked meat with the operations manager while I sampled some of the incredible flavored olive oils, vinegars, and other products.

Another huge perk to working in the wine business is that we generally receive anywhere from a 30 to a 50 percent discount on any bottles purchased at other wineries when we visit.  And tasting is always free. This allows us to sample other wineries' fare and then make good recommendations to our customers, depending on what they are looking for. I know that just from my afternoon spent on the Creston Wine Trail that it is something I can now wholeheartedly recommend not only to customers, but also to friends and family who visit and want to get off the beaten path of the most popular 20 or so wineries that everyone seems to visit when they come to Paso.
My two favorite wines from Chateau Margene -- Pistolero Chardonnay and Mooney 2012 Pinot Noir.

Not only were these wines great, but you also got the chance, at each venue, to sit and chat with the owner (who is usually also the winemaker) and get to know the character of both the wine and its maker at the same time.  It means that by the time you leave, you feel more like a neighbor or friend than just a customer, which I think is an important (and unfortunately, rapidly disappearing) part of any wine country experience.

Mmm. Delicious salad and marinating possibilities!

I came home full of great food and with a bag of new wine purchases, as well as olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which means not only will I be making some great food, but now have even more options on what I can serve it with. Yes, for us it was just another day at work, but sometimes here in wine country a day at work can also be a little slice of heaven.


  1. !!! I want to go on that trail! sounds like absolute heaven. There is a certain type of fun that comes with industry events because it's getting the customer experience without annoying customers :) not that your or my customers are ever annoying, of course.

    1. Oh, you are so right. I think when you are in the hospitality business, you are very conscious about doing what it takes to be a good customer when you are on the other side of the counter. Plus the conversation with a peer group is on a whole other level...sometimes above my knowledge level, so I just shut up and learn from what's being said. I almost did not go to this event, but am now SO glad I did!

  2. Sounds like a great day to spend it working.