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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

4 June 2016

Paso Robles wine day

More wine!

More wine!

6 May 2016

Much better! More wine! Good wine!

The countryside around Paso Robles is beautiful, rolling green hills and sun-dappled wooded valleys, scattered with vineyards becoming vivid green as the vines grow into the summer. It’s exactly what wine country ought to look like.

My favourite winery was the one I thought I’d like least. At the entrance to the Halter Ranch property is the original white board-clad ranch building, porches and balconies and all, that dates back to the 19th century and – trivia moment – was used as a set for the film Arachnophobia. You drive past this, over a brand new covered bridge, through electronic gates, and up to a great bit brand new winery, with a huge and shiny tasting room that has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking their valley full of vines. So far, so off-putting.

Whalebone winery, with cat

Whalebone winery, with cat

But the servers were very friendly and informed, and the wines were excellent. There’s clearly a load of money invested here, but it also feels like wine is their passion – they have more than a dozen varieties planted in their vineyards, and it used to be more but they’re winnowing it down as experimentation shows which grapes work and which don’t. They only use their own grapes, a real contrast with most of the other wineries we visited who use some of their own and buy more to supplement it. Heck, VBJ winery back in Sonoma even had us taste a prosecco that they get shipped over from Italy because they don’t make their own. Er. Aren’t we meant to be tasting your wines?

I enjoyed our tastings at Whalebone, Brecon and Peachy Canyon (good name!) but Halter Ranch was my favourite – definitely need to watch for their wines appearing in the UK in a few years.

Of course, we then had a couple of hundred miles to drive to the final stop of our holiday, Ventura. So that’s what we did. In Ventura we struggled a bit with finding the hotels (turns out they were all in the harbour area, a couple of miles away from the town centre) but settled eventually on the XXXX. This was a proper old faded flower of a hotel, still with perfectly good rooms but very few mod cons. The lady at reception had an awful lot of books and files to sort out paperwork in, and did at one point sigh “one day we’ll get a computer!” Looking around, there was indeed no computer. No. Computer. At least there was a free supply of ice and a bucket for our celebratory bottle of bubbly we had dragged all the way from Sonoma to have on our last night!

At some point between Paso Robles and Ventura we crossed an invisible line from northern California into southern California. The town was different. There were palm trees, and lots of low-rise buildings with hints of Hispanic influence. The people were different too, a lot more tan and a lot less clothing, and a tendency to very made-up hair and sunglasses. Surprising how noticeable the change was.

The vines

The vines

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