Paso-bilities Part II: More Wine, Coastal Hikes & a Hollywood Castle

While hubby and I really enjoyed our day tasting in Paso Robles Willow Creek AVA, no visit to California is complete without exploring the natural beauty and culture of the area. Here’s a highlight of the best of our trip:

Coastal hikes. The beauty of wine tasting in Paso is that the area extends west six miles from the Pacific Ocean, so it is in the perfect location for visiting other cities and coastal regions. Driving west from Paso we took California State Highway 46, which takes you past many of the wineries to the coastal town of Cambria. The road narrows and wineries are replaced with gorgeous rolling green hills, dotted with grazing cattle and jutting rocks. It reminds me a bit of scenes from Ireland or Scotland.

Beautiful scenery on California Highway 46

Driving north on Highway 1, we ventured past Cambria, San Simeon, through Big Sur to Carmel-by-the-Sea, which sounds like the setting for a 17th century fairy tale. We stopped for a short hike to McWay Waterfall in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and then an inland hike on the Ewoldsen/Canyon Trail up through a redwood forest to a coastal vista. From Carmel, we visited the “gem of the California State Park system” Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, where we explored the many different coastal trails (cover photo, shot with my Nikon). While we didn’t spot a whale on our trip, we did see seal lions, sea otters, giant kelp, lace lichen, cormorant (black sea bird), native cypress and pine forest.

A seal napping and giant sea kelp swirling in the waters at Point Lobos State Park. Shot with my Nikon camera.

Hollywood Castle. Visiting Hearst Castle transports you back in time to Hollywood in 1947, where the hottest celebrities of the day gather for a weekend of cocktails, dinner, a movie screening, and breakfast on the terrace. In addition to showing us the grandeur of the Castle, the tour includes a glimpse of a home movie, where celebrities like Charlie Chapman, Cary Grant, and Joan Crawford enjoy an enchanted weekend “glamping” in the heart of the central coast. Definitely worth the 45 minute drive from Paso.

The lush and opulent setting of Hearst Castle

More wine, please. Nature is great and all but let’s get serious about the focus of the trip — wine. We visited several more wineries on our trip, although Denner Vineyards (in detail here), was my favorite overall.

Tablas Creek. Located in the Adelaida District AVA, Tablas Creek is the pioneer California winery to pay homage to the French Rhone region. In fact, the winery is the result of a partnership between the Perrin Family of Chateau de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, focusing on the limestone, climate, and terrain of Paso. They even let you handle examples of the local limestone rock during your tasting. Multiple tasting bars line the perimeter of the tasting room, flanked by large window displays of french oak foudres (very large barrels). It brings the winemaking process directly into the tasting room experience, which I love.

We sauntered up to the bar late on a Saturday, at the same time as two members and their friends. Instantly we became part of the group’s tasting. The enthusiasm of the members for Tablas Creek made our experience more personal and memorable.  Additionally, we were able to taste some awesome wines due to their excitement. This included one of my favorites of the tasting, the one string 2013 Roussane, a robust and complex white varietal, with notes of pear and honey with a spicy finish. We loved the laid-back atmosphere of a winery that is serious about wine-making, with a philosophy that incorporates the land, local agriculture and traditional techniques. We look forward to many more TC experiences.

Tasting the 2013 Espirit de Tablas, a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache and Counoise; sample of local limestone; potted Grenache Noir from Tablas’ nursery

Caraccioli Cellars. Caraccioli specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown in Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.  The Santa Lucia Highlands AVA has a cooler climate than Paso, more idea for growing Burgundy varietals. Located just south and east of Monterey, Santa Lucia benefits from higher elevation and the cool maritime breezes and fog that roll from Monterey Bay. Caraccioli Cellars has a modern tasting lounge in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea. We first experienced their wine while having an indulgent Valentine’s Day dinner at L’Aubergine. The two string sparking brut rose is made from Pinot Noir, and has a balanced notes of strawberry and cranberry balanced with a mousse finish. Caraccioli Cellars inspired me to add Santa Lucia Highlands AVA to my California travel wishlist (take note hubby).

Our nine-course Valentine’s Day dinner at L’Aubergine featured duck breast, oysters, lobster, nori and chocolate truffle and abalone (not in that order).

All in all, our trip was amazing. I would repeat it in a heartbeat.

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