Saturday, April 02, 2016

The latest edition of "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron's free newsletter is available.  This issue covers good places to see "Spring Flowers."  Check it out by clicking here.  You will learn about beautiful gardens at wineries in Sonoma County, a botanical garden not far from the Anderson Valley wineries in Mendocino County, and spectacular daffodils near the Shenandoah Valley wineries in Amador County.  Also featured are gardens in San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area.

If you would like to take a private wine country tour that includes some of the gardens mention in the newsletter, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours & Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or Rick@BlueHeronTours.com.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Return to Paso Robles

After more than a year, we returned to Paso Robles for a couple of days. Having tasted on the west side of US-101 a few times, we decided to visit the East Side on this trip. 

We tasted at Robert Hall, Cass, Still Waters, and August Ridge wineries. As in the past, tasting room staff were friendly and attentive. Like the West Side, you'll find a lot of Zinfandel (red, not pink), Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rhone varietals such as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne. A few wineries, such as August Ridge, specialize in Italian varietals, e.g., Nebbiola, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Dolcetto. 

Many wineries welcome picnickers. Cass has a cafe with very good food. The staff pour your wines as you wait for your food to come from the kitchen. You can then get a glass to accompany your meal. We had the burger and short rib chili, both of which were delicious. 

The East Side is less visited than the West Side, so you might want to head here if you visit Paso Robles on a Saturday to avoid some of the crowds. 

If you want to visit Paso Robles from San Francisco, Blue Heron offers private tours that can also include Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, and the Hearst Castle. For more information, call (866) 326-4237 or e-mail Rick@BlueHeronTours.com.

Edna Valley Winetasting

I recently visited the Edna Valley for the first time. This wine region is located about 15 minutes east of Pismo Beach and 15 minutes south of the city of San Luis Obispo, about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angles, near US-101. 

Being close to the Pacific, the Edna Valley is best known for cool-climate grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We also tasted some good wine made with Alsatian varietals, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Blanc, as well as Syrah. 

We visited four wineries:  Claiborne and Churchill, Kynsi, Chamisal, and Wulff. At all of the wineries, staff were friendly and helpful. Visiting on a Wednesday in early January meant that we often had the tasting rooms to ourselves. Tasting fees ran between $10 and $15 per person and were usually refundable with the purchase of a bottle or two. 

The only downside to visiting the Edna Valley is the lack of places to eat. Sexton winery has a deli, but it was closed when we visited. Many wineries will let you bring food and picnic. It's also easy to head into one of the towns for lunch and then continue winetasting after eating. 

Being just off US-101 makes the Edna Valley a good place to stop if you are driving from San Francisco to Santa Barbara.  It's also not too far from the Hearst Castle in San Simeon; although the Paso Robles region is closer. If you like good Pinot Noir, check out the Edna Valley when you visit San Luis Obispo County.