A lesson in Wine, a lesson in Driving.
This is the travelogue of a 9-day road trip out West with 5 German guys, a Honda luxury minivan, and three imperatives:
1) Stay one night in a Las Vegas hotel suite
2) See the Grand Canyon & Death Valley Nat’l Parks
3) Visit vineyards in Paso Robles, CA
My German friends are prudent travelers, skilled cartographers, and expert drivers. I cannot stress enough how accomplished I felt during these 9, haste free days.
Born and reared in the Midwest, I’ve learned to welcome in all four seasons. I’d never been to California until 2 weeks ago, and I swore upon arrival that I’d never seen so much GREEN. Pun always intended. A friend from the Bay Area laughed when I gushed over her home state, reminding me it was recently rainy season and that CA becomes vastly drier than what I was seeing.
Point in case, Death Valley & Joshua Tree National Parks. In Death Valley, I walked out onto the Badwater Basin, where I ground salt deposits between my fingertips. A wild but not rabid fox trotted up to our car begging for food with his sweet little eyes (I will never feed a wild animal). We drove to a Ghost Town, and then on to Vegas.
I never knew you could drink for free if you gambled. I found this troubling and so after I won $25, I went to sleep in one of 3 beds, in our suite, at the Venetian. Springtime travel deals, holla. I’ll go back to Vegas when I can afford Joel Robuchon’s restaurant at the MGM Grand.
Grand Canyon came next, a 5-hour trip, without question, worth taking. Though deep and shadowed, it’s a Wonder of the Natural World which photographs nicely.
…Near the end of the vacation, we drove from L.A. to Paso Robles along the 101. As I remember, it was about 72 degrees and sunny all day through. The vineyards stay open for tasting from just 12-5, and since we chose locations on both the west and east side, we were limited to three tasting rooms.
1) Linne Calodo 2) Clautiere 3) Kaleidos (at Thacher)
Linne Calodo’s tasting room looked like an Aspen ski lodge! We got a tour and tried about 5 wines, my favorite was the Problem Child: Zin-Mourvedre-Syrah blend or their table blend, a $28 compromise. The newest Wine Spectator has a photo of the tasting lodge.
Clautiere… has wigs. Vibrant, neon wigs. And so much character as the husband-wife winemakers ditched the L.A. art scene for Paso. You know the 2 Cocky Sisters wine we carry? That label has an origin, and it’s a 6 & 1/2 foot tall painting that is even better in person. Try a cold shot of the late harvest Roussane 🙂 and the shotglass is yours to keep.
Kaleidos winemaker Steve Martell gave me firewood… so shall read my first tattoo. His Rhone blends and friendly doggies and warm demeanor was the perfect cap off to our day in Paso. We followed him up to a hilltop which overlooks his humble acre or so of vines, and yes I saw the silver bullet trailer he so long lived in. Don’t miss these wines! And do what I did and drink a bottle someplace memorable (on the Pacific shoreline in a lifeguard’s tower with a cute boy on either side of me), and straight from the bottle. But open it earlier in the day.
Photos to come!