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“[We] visited the Sealife Sydney Aquarium. We saw amazing animals and traveled thru numerous shark tubes, which gave us incredible opportunities to see various forms of sea life. We saw dugong, rays and beautiful lion fish. We also visited the Australia Zoo and held a koala! We also stayed at the Crocodile Hunter Lodge and saw many wild kangaroos running free. We had an amazing and spectacular time!”
– Jean Sarfaty, Retired, LAPD/Communications, and her husband, Ron, traveled to Sydney, Australia.
Letter From Paso Robles –
Wine, Cowboys and Small Horses
With the annual holiday season fast approaching, why not take a short romantic weekend and escape to the majestic rolling hills and numerous wineries of Paso Robles? Located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco and bordered by coastal Highway 1 and the 101, Paso Robles is a community of cowboys’ vintners, with more than 300 wineries and five Michelin-guide restaurants to choose from, but still managing to keep its small-town charm.
With its mild Mediterranean climate and surrounded by rolling hills, most of which are covered in row upon row of grape vines or olive groves and topped by picturesque wineries complete with tasting rooms, Paso Robles is a perfect getaway location. Whether you stay in the luxury Paso Robles Inn, also known as the Hot Springs Hotel (established in 1889), or the less expensive Melody Ranch motel next door, both are just a short walk from the city park, which is surrounded by restaurants and a multitude of wine tasting rooms with more than 400 bottles to taste. It’s nearly unnecessary to visit the surrounding vineyards, so park your car and forget about it.
For those a little more adventurous and wish to explore the surrounding countryside, book an Uber or hire a driver for the day, then everybody gets to wine taste. A good driver will show you the back roads of Paso Robles that lead to endless wineries, many with stunning views. Unlike Napa or Sanoma, there are no fancy parking lots with dedicated limousine parking spots and prices to match, just partly paved roads and nice, friendly people like those at the Eberle Winery, whose entrance has a replica of the bronze boar fountain found in the straw market in Florence, Italy. Rubbing the boar’s nose and tossing a coin into the fountain is good luck. All money collected goes to local children’s charities.
Things to Do and Things to Avoid
Most wineries charge a tasting fee, allowing you to sip guilt-free without leaving a tip! Some even waive the fee if you buy a certain number of bottles of wine. But a small tip is always appreciated.
- Try not to wear overpowering perfume, or vape or smoke in a tasting room; it just spoils the delicate taste of the wine, not only for you but for other people around you. – Some people visit a winery only to taste the wine and not for the alcoholic buzz, so please do not comment loudly on people who use the spit bucket or those who do not use the spit bucket! A general rule of thumb for wine-tasting techniques is to use the five S’s of wine: see, swirl, smell, sip and savor.
- All wines are not equal, and a varietal wine is made from a single grape variety and bears the name of that grape. For a wine to be considered varietal, it must contain at least 85 percent of the wine grape listed on its label or 75 percent for USA wine.
- Since white wine doesn’t have the same level of tannins as red wine, which leaves a thicker taste in your mouth, start with light, crisp white wines that leave your palate primed for sampling darker red wines. I think red wine is the smoothest to drink – either a merlot, gamay, pinot noir or grenache, as they are typically low in tannin; white wine, I find, is too acidic to drink in any quantity.
- Regarding cost per bottle, plonk is a term used primarily in Commonwealth English for generally cheap, low-quality wine. However, as some claim (this writer included), anything costing more than $20 a bottle has a greater chance of a better balance and taste. When opening a bottle of wine, you sniff the top to see if it is corked; this will smell like a wet dog, damp newspaper, or a musty cellar. Oxidized wine smells like walnuts, caramel, stewed fruit or even curry spice. Drinking it will not hurt you, but it tastes like drinking vinegar.
For non-wine drinkers looking for an icy cold adult beverage, visit the oldest building in Paso, the Pine Street Saloon. Once a stagecoach stop visited by cowboys, ranchers and outlaws like Jesse and Frank James, it is now famous for live bands and karaoke. The Backyard beer garden on Thirteenth has a great selection of local craft beers and hard-to-find ales from around the country. For something more flamboyant, visit Tettos, the only rooftop bar downtown, at the top of The Piccolo Hotel, serving specialty cocktails in its modern, upscale lounge.
There are three local restaurants in Paso recognized as Michelin’s New Additions to the California Guide; of the three, The Hatch, located just off the town square, with its wood-fired rotisserie and bar with small batch whiskey collection, is my favorite, with its excellent service and great food but do book ahead.
The wineries of Chronic, Castoro and Scuipterra, or the small downtown family-owned wine tasting room of Diablo Paso, popular with horses and humans alike, are the perfect places to buy a bottle to take home, as gifts or to share with friends over the holiday season.
Seasonal greetings to one and all, and may Santa be good to you and yours!