We had an amazing day today – it was our final day in beautiful Paso Robles. After terrific stops at a variety of places, the one place we hadn’t spent any time at was our host vineyard . . . Barr Estate Vineyard. This place was the epitome of class – we stayed in Tealy & Greg’s home and thoroughly enjoyed our stay. A great kitchen, patio with a pool and hot tub and all surrounded by grape vines was hard to pass up! We used their house as our base for touring the Paso Robles area and it was, for all three nights, the perfect place to retreat to for an evening of food and relaxation. With today being our last day in Paso, we decided to start it with the Barr Family. You see, they are in the middle of harvesting and processing their grapes. Their winery is the consummate family-run business. Father, mother, son and daughter – they all have a role in this operation, but at picking and production time, we learned that more hands are better than fewer!
So, when Greg’s son told us that they could use volunteer help starting at 7:00 a.m. in the morning, we figured, why not! Up before the dawn this morning and dressed and ready to go, our party of six was ready to donate an hour or two to their cause. After meeting John and Jimmy and a couple of other guys, we were told what we needed to do – help pick out leaves, stems, bugs, worms, lizards or any other foreign object from the harvested grapes so they could be further refined and ready for juicing. We had NO idea how much work went into this process. Yes, we’d previously been through numerous tours of wine making facilities and knew about the grapes coming in and the juice getting squeezed, BUT we never knew how much work was needed to get the grapes ready TO BE SQUEEZED! Each of the tubs that Greg dropped had a half ton of grapes in them. These were Malbec grapes that Jean and Elle Mae had kinda sorta helped pick yesterday – and with three people on the primary sorter and five people on the secondary sorter, the idea was to eliminate as many non-essential elements as possible. One hour disappeared in what seemed like 20 minutes and before long we were at two hours and there was still 5 or 6 tubs left to be sorted; however, with a check out time approaching and a lot of driving to be done, we bid adieu after two and a half hours. What an amazing experience to be able to help someone in their endeavor, but at the same time learn to appreciate one of the many aspects of wine making.
After getting cleaned up and packed we stopped at the wine making process to offer our thanks for the accommodations and the opportunity to volunteer and help them. We also asked if we could taste and buy some of their wines which Tealy was happy to oblige. When she opened the doors to their tasting room, we could tell that this was going to be a place to be reckoned with in the months and years ahead. Our first sample was their Albarino white wine and, while we will talk about this wine separately in a future blog, we want you to get a bottle of this wine and sample it. WOW, it was delicious, fruity, crisp and ready to drink. This wine was followed up by their 2008 Malbec which was absolutely magnificent. We can’t wait to share more about this delicious, structured, full-bodied wine in future blogs. The malbec was followed by their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and their special dessert wine. Each of these had their own special characteristics and traits that produced great noses and tastes and finishes.
We thoroughly enjoyed this part of our trip to Paso Robles. It wasn’t expected, but we both feel like we’d like to do this “volunteer” work again. There is something so amazing about the wine making process. It doesn’t just “HAPPEN” and as Jimmy, one of the great volunteers we met today confirmed to us, there is a lot of truth to the bumper sticker that says, “Will Work For Wine”! While we don’t think we’d ever go to that extreme, we do understand the passion that people have for making this product. For us, it’s an opportunity to learn and appreciate something we’ve come to enjoy. For you, two things: if you can’t get a hold of Barr Estate wines – GRAB THEM.
We made one final stop to visit an old friend before head north to San Francisco via Highway 1 – Cypher Winery. When we came this way years ago our first stop was Four Vines and we fell in love with their wines, especially their “Naked Chardonny – made in stainless steel tanks, this wine became, and still is just about the only white wine we enjoy. Not being fans of creamy, buttery Chards, this crisp alternative really grew on us. Anyway, long story short – the owners of Four Vines opted to go two different directions and hence Cypher was born. Cypher Wines are a little bit more edgy than Four Vines and host a crop that include names such as Heretic, Loco, Left Wing, Right Wing and the one we had with lunch today 0 Peasant. We enjoyed this wine along with a wonderful fresh sandwhich from Hwy 46 Farmers Market. While not carrying the same label as Four Vines – the wine was definitely a close member of the family. The was 48% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache and 24% Syrah. This wine had a great nose – full of flavor. Our glasses contained spicy black cherry fruit brought to life by a vibrant acidity that keeps this wine alive and makes the fruit dance with long, graceful mouth feel and a long finish of cedar, nutmeg, and caramel. We picked up one to bring home to enjoy with some ribs off the smoker or just about anything else. We miss our friends at Four Vines, but know where to find them – in the meantime, will make a visit to Cypher every now and then and stop in and catch up with Britta.
Heading north we stopped and said hello to the herds of Sea Elephants lounging in the sun, the beautiful CA coastline, Big Sur Park (Yes, Jean got to sing the “Big Sur Park for Me” song and relive a childhood memory) and finally San Francisco – all packed and ready to head home in the morning. We will miss CA and our new friends, but somehow are confident we will be back!
And finally, when you find the wine that you like or love, enjoy it responsibly (with friends or family) and please remember to recycle whenever possible!
Brian sorting grapes at Barr Winery
Jethro and Elle Mae working hard at the stem sorter