32 wineries pour best blends in sold out central coast event
Within hiking distance of the Fiscalini Ranch‘s majestic Monterey pines, coastal oak forest and amazing bluff ocean views, Cambria hosted the ONLY wine festival dedicated to blended wines: BlendFest, Jan. 13-15. And with a second wine event at the end of the month, Cambria is heating up as a winter wine destination (More on that below).
The 3rd annual Paso Robles Wine Country BlendFest on the Coast was a blast, showcasing the scenic beauty of the central coast with the renowned wines of Paso Robles, only miles away. Over 400 tickets were sold over four blend-themed events, including the Grand Tasting, Winemaker Dinner and two Blending Seminars that pleased both Bordeaux and Rhone variety lovers.
BlendFest on the Coast partnered with Cambria and San Simeon lodging properties, Cambria Pines Lodge and the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon, who hosted the three-day event along with Stewardship Travel.
This year 32 Paso Robles wineries, pouring over 90 blends and hosts to local winemakers, winery personnel and wine enthusiasts from across the country, shared a passion for central coast red blends.
According to Christopher Taranto, communications director for Paso Robles Wine Country, the combined efforts were to create an event in the off season to get people out of the area to Cambria and San Simeon for a wine event that is both fun and a great consumer experience.
BlendFest is an event of our creation,” Taranto said, “to create a groundswell of excitement, travel to Cambria and San Simeon that turns people onto wine that they will take to their next trip to Paso but in the meantime have a great coastal experience.”
The event along with partner Highway 1 Discovery Route, offers wine lovers a chance to sip, savor and compare the artistry of blending and a chance to chat with winemakers and fellow blend enthusiasts. While we hoped to get tickets to the exclusive Winemaker Dinner, all 42 seats were snapped up pretty quick (Note: call, visit the Paso Robles Wine Country website early and check for 4th annual event by mid summer).
Taranto likes the winemaker dinner as it provides more of an intimate experience than the events later in the weekend.
“Each winery takes ownership of a table and leads a one-on-one dining experience with his/her guests, personally pairing the wines with the courses served by the restaurant,” Taranto said. “This is specially prepared meal and wine pairing: Real food and an honest experience with Paso wine. Each table had a different experience, reflecting the personalities of the winemaker and chefs.”
Seven winemakers met with guests at Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria for a four-course winemaker dinner and wine pairing, Jan. 13. Imagine Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery, Ancient Peaks Winery, Harmony Cellars, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Lone Madrone, MCV Wines and Niner Wine Estates winemakers all pouring and sharing how their wines pair well with chefs Robin Covey and Shanny Covey’s culinary creations. Put me on the list for 2018!
But before we settled in for a wine blending session, my wife and I decided to independently join in on a docent-led stroll through Cambria’s Fiscalini Ranch forest not far from the Cambria Pines Lodge. Our guide, Stephen Morgan, a long-time Cambria resident, walked and educated us on a 2 1/2 hour walk through the most gorgeous scenery.
He shared the area and ranch’s history, plant and wildlife, forest health and the most amazing vistas in and around the Monterey pines and oak trees. He also added loops through meadows and ocean bluff views that are better than the postcards advertise.
So after a rest and snack at our hotel, the Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach, we were ready to enjoy the ticket holders ($65) for our first event of BlendFest: The second session of the Grand Tasting, Jan. 14, from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. in the beautiful Cambria Pines Lodge on Burton Drive (The first session took place from 1 – 3 earlier that same afternoon).
The sold out BlendFest Grand Tasting event event gave 32 wineries a chance to meet with over 185 wine drinkers from across the country to meet, chat and discuss Paso Robles blends.
Sandra and her husband, Tom, drove in from Pismo Beach for a getaway. Tom had planned a weekend away and surprised her with tickets to BlendFest.
“This has been a great weekend as I have spent quality time with my husband, enjoying beautiful wines, great food and visit my daughter nearby.”
With wine and cheese tables, various gourmet food bites (The Pairing Knife–SLO) and plenty of water to season our palate, we enjoyed a two-hour stroll through the wineries’ latest Bordeaux and Rhone blends from the Paso Robles wine region.
Jaclyn from Whittier, CA, heard of the event from Paso Robles Wine Country events. And after a friend, who attended last year, recommended the event, she bought her tickets online.
“I love Grey Wolf’s Soulmate because it is so smooth. I have had a great time tasting through about half of the wineries on our food, wine and romance weekend at the Cambria Pines Lodge. It’s great place to stay.”
Lorna from Santa Barbara was sent information to BlendFest by a co-worker and decided to make the weekend a Christmas gift to her husband.
“We are making this a romantic wine and food getaway,” Lorna said. “We went to the winemaker dinner last night at Robin’s and it was phenomenal. We ate foods we wouldn’t normally eat like duck liver sauce and bay scallops in a cream sauce. All four course were awesome. Go to Robin’s and eat there. The food is great.”
Winemaker Michael Barreto of Le Vigne Winery brought Bordeaux, Italian and Rhone-based blends to BlendFest.
“The wineries at BlendFest are creating and pouring the best possible wines they can make,” Barreto said. “BlendFest is a good way to taste the best blends that Paso wineries are pouring–in essence their best wines they make. Besides BlendFest is a great way for folks to see the central coast. This is on a three-day weekend in Cambria so there is plenty of time to taste, visit other wineries and still time to enjoy the area. It’s a great weekend event.”
Bret from Minnesota happened to be in the area on vacation two weeks ago and had never heard of a blending event before.
“We are wine drinkers back home and love blends,” Bret said. “We’ve been sipping and tasting but I prefer our first one: Zephyr from Zinaida. “It had a lot of flavor, complexity and was very soft. I know I’m gonna tell people back home about this blended wine tasting and how unique it is. But this feels like a natural event for me.”
Matt from Temecula had been planning an anniversary trip to the central coast and it happened to be the same weekend as BlendFest.
“We had gone to the Paso Robles website and found the information on BlendFest,” Matt said. “It seemed like a good idea to spend our 15th anniversary at the event.”
Matt’s wife Kerry said they were cab and cab blend lovers and this event seemed like a natural one to hang out in.
“We also plan on going to other wineries as the Grand Tasting is our only BlendFest event,” Kerry said. “We are headed to Justin, Daou, J. Lohr and Halter Ranch from here.”
Allison from Torrence heard about BlendFest because they are members of Hearst Ranch wine club and heard about the event through their social media.
“BlendFest is a great way to sample a bunch of great wines, there is a great vibe and good food,” Allison said. “Plus, we are staying at the Cambria Pines Lodge. This is so worth it because I don’t have to drive. We come and stay at the lodge a couple times a year and the rooms are great–plus they will take in our dog. They are so dog friendly. We always take in a tour in the area, watch the elephant seals, take a day and wine taste in Paso Robles.”
Emcee David Wilson, host of Grape Encounters Radio, not only supported the event but added a lively, personal and, at times, educational element which kept the 48 of us often laughing and relaxed. David celebrated with us the joy of wine and all “the fun that drinking it, and in this case, blending it, seems to stimulate!”
The great part of the blending seminar, also hosted by the Paso Robles Cab Collective, is that Wilson and three area winemakers shared their thoughts on the characteristics and properties of seven Paso Robles wines. During the two-part blending seminar, they also shared some ideas on how blending each wine into another changes the overall taste and aroma, providing tips and general tasting notes of each varietal.
Working in teams, guests choose to create their own Bordeaux-style blend, led by members of the CAB Collective. In a very short period of time, even wine newcomers became wine apprentices for the morning. Most of us had never considered creating our own blends from five varietals (Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Cab Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot). With just a little math and chemistry, all of us were on our way to creating brand new blends of our own creation.
Wine lovers just like us sat at five tables of eight. They were from all over the spectrum. And like Tim and Nellie Perry of Inland Empire, we met individuals who made us feel very relaxed and comfortable.
“On the morning of the event, we were second guessing ourselves and thought,’Is this really our thing?'” Tim said. “We’re wine lovers, but definitely not experts. What does a Mortgage loan manager, and a Construction supply sales manager know about wine blending? However, despite being nervous or fear we would feel out of place, it ended up being the exact opposite for us.”
The winemakers walked around the room, offering suggestions, answering questions and encouraging risk-taking at each table. Even the most timid created a blend fashioned around their preferences. It was really cool to taste the diversity of blends even at our table of eight. We truly created #drinkwhatyoulike and shared our creations with each other.
“The best part of the event for us was the assignment they gave us,” Nellie said. “We were told to individually blend our own wine from the bottles on table (Of course this was after tasting seven different wines,… yes I said seven!) and then our table group voted on whose wine blend would represent the table for the contest. To our surprise, my husband’s wine blend was chosen to represent table No. 4!”
I agree, this was a blast! We too met people from all over the state at the blending seminars and easily made new friends who had similar interests and fascinating stories. All of them. What a great way to spend a few hours. The bonus was the gorgeous coastal setting of San Simeon just minutes away from Hearst Castle.
“At the end, we learned that it is okay to step outside the box,” Nellie said. “Go ahead and play with the wine. It’s okay to mix a few together and get the exact wine you are looking for.
“The extra bonus at the BlendFest event was the delicious BBQ lunch provided by (Higgies World BBQ) served afterwards. So delicious! All in all, it was a such wonderful and fun event that given the opportunity we will definitely do again and maybe invite friends to come along.”
I have to agree. All those who signed up for the two-part blending seminar had the same interests and varying abilities. After a brief education about the Bordeaux varietals on the table, we tasted were given about 40 minutes to create our own unique Bordeaux blend. Later members of each table voted on the top blend. Winners of each table then were judged and the winning table awarded an all-inclusive passport for visiting and tasting privileges at all 22 CAB Collective wineries.
Central Coast Wine Enthusiasts Next Events
Cambria Art & Wine Festival, Jan. 27 – 29, 2017
One of the best things about a weekend getaway to Cambria on the central coast is the close proximity to all of the incredible wineries in the area.
Grapes grown in the unique coastal climate have a flavor unlike any other, attracting wine lovers from all over the world.
From Friday, Jan. 27 through Sunday, Jan. 29, patrons can learn about local wine and local art all in one place. Festival highlights include shopping specials, wine tasting, wine pairing, raffle prizes, live demonstrations by artists, an art show/silent auction and more! Click here to purchase tickets, and don’t forget to book your stay, too, in Cambria area lodging!
Art & Wine Festival starts with “Farm to Easel” event at the Cambria Farmer’s Market at 2:30 p.m., Jan. 27. For more information, check out the Cambria Art & Wine Festival details page. And keep up with the recent added venues as well. The event Kick-Off Party offers a five course wine & food pairing at Madeline’s Restaurant. Entertainment, preview of the Art Show/Silent Auction and special raffle prize packages will be held at the Veterans’ Hall.
Cambria Art & Wine Festival tickets can be purchased online (recommended) and are also available at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, 767 Main Street, Cambria, CA, or call 805.927.3624. Depending on the event(s), tickets range from $25-$105.
Bonus Cambria wine lover event
Wine Pairing Dinner, Jan. 28
Pacific Coast Wine Trail is hosting their Wine Pairing Dinner in Cambria at Indigo Moon Restaurant, during Cambria Art & Wine Festival weekend, on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 6:30 p.m. Join Cayucos Cellars, Chateau Margene, Cuatro Dias, Harmony Cellars and MCV Wines for an elaborate five-course meal! All-inclusive tickets cost $100 per person, and they must be purchased in advance. For reservation questions, call Harmony Cellars at 805.927.1625 and book this and other Pacific Coast Wine Trail events.
Next Event for Paso Robles Wine Country
Vintage Paso Weekend, March 17-19
Enjoy the wine that put Paso Robles on the map: Zinfandel, the first variety planted in Paso in the 1880s. Vintage Paso is a weekend dedicated to raise awareness of Zinfandel. Events include a Zinposium, March 17: Master Sommelier, Peter Neptune, will lead you through a tasting of Zinfandel and Zin-blends at the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom in Downtown Paso Robles. Later on Friday, join 18 Paso Robles wineries for a Zinfandel walk-around tasting, complemented by a fantastic dessert selection for the Z After Party.
Other activities are planned so be sure and check winery activities page for up-to-date information as more than 140 wineries plan to participate. Join fellow wine enthusiasts for a selection of wine and chocolate pairings, winemaker dinners, vineyard tours, laid-back barbecues, barrel tastings, live music, and so much more! Tickets will be available on the Paso Robles Wine Country website.
Cambria’s Moonstone Beach at dawn along the boardwalk.
Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “DeLoach Vineyards on the table.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, Instagram, Twitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.