Chelsea Madren aka OC Food Diva: Johnsonville's The Sausage Dome Champion, World Food Championships E.A.T. Certified Food Judge, KCBS Certified BBQ Judge, Brand Ambassador, Culinary Researcher, Food & Travel Critic, Food Competitor, and Recipe Developer
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Paso Robles, California: Cheese, winery tour, and wine reserve tasting - Day 2
As the morning sunshine
starts to peak through the windows, the aroma of bacon and eggs slowly start to
rise through the hotel as the kitchen starts to prepare the breakfast spread in
the Indulge Restaurant downstairs. The breakfast buffet opens at 7am. The
breakfast buffet includes bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes,
danishes, muffins, English muffins, toast, fresh fruit, cereal, oatmeal,
yogurt, coffee, juice, soda, and more.
Savings Tip: Hot
breakfast buffet is complimentary to hotel guests.
After breakfast, a great way
to plan for a day in the wine country is to procure some food items that will
complement your wine tasting. Only a few wineries have an on-site restaurant so
being prepared with a picnic lunch of sandwiches, cheeses, bread, and/or
charcuterie is a great way to enjoy your time and savor the flavors of the
wine. Vivant Fine Cheese is located in Downtown Paso Robles and opens at 10am
daily. The staff can assist you with picking out the best cheeses to pair with
your wine tastings and prepare a picnic lunch to take with you. Here are some
cheeses you might want to pick up:
Central Coast Creamery’s Ewenique is a hand-crafted sheep’s milk
cheese. Each wheel is aged a minimum of four months. It has an ivory-white
color with earthy and sweet flavors. It tastes like a combination of aged
parmesan reggiano and Swiss. It pairs well with buttery white and light red
wines. Goat Cheddar is made from 100% whole goat milk. It is a semi-hard white
cheddar cheese with a smooth, velvety texture. This would pair well with a
Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay.
Alcea Rosea Farm’s Templeton Gap
is a soft-ripened cheese that is aged three to six weeks. The texture varies
from velvety creaminess to a spreadable nougat. The flavor is rich and buttery
on the palate. It would pair well with a wine with berry notes like a Cabernet
Sauvignon or Syrah. Marinated Chevre is fresh chevre marinated in Olea Farm
EVOO, spices, and organic herbs grown at Alcea Rosea Farm. The fruity notes of
the olive oil complement the tanginess of the cheese. It is beautifully
packaged. This would pair well with a Sauvignon Blanc.
Once you have your food items
situated, you’re ready to take a drive in Paso Robles wine country. Once you
leave the downtown area, the road opens up to rolling hills, oak trees arching
above the road, and vineyards as far as the eye can see.
JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery is a beautiful
place to stop for wine tasting, lunch, and a winery tour. The tasting room and
restaurant stands out like a contemporary ranch house amongst the surrounding
vineyards. Row upon row of vines stretch across the land and hills like fine stitch
work. If you decide to stay for lunch, here are a few suggestions from the
A great way to
try the wines while enjoying a meal is with a flight. The White Wine Flight
includes 2014 JUSTIN Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 JUSTIN Rosé, and 2013 Landmark Overlook Chardonnay. The Sauvignon Blanc has a pear nose. Green apple
and peach flavors are experienced on the palate with a light, clean finish.
Rating: 3.5/5. The Rosé has a blackberry and cherry aroma. Strawberry and
grapefruit flavors are experienced on the palate with a nice, clean finish.
Rating: 4.5/5. The Chardonnay has a white grape and pear aroma. White grape,
pear, floral, and mineral flavors experienced on the palate. Rating: 2.5/5
Lamb Tartare is topped with garden greens, preserved lemon aioli, and crostini.
This was a fantastic take on tartare. The lamb was sweet and minced perfectly.
The use of shaved egg yolk added a richness to the dish without the mess of a
runny egg yolk. The fresh greens from the garden paired nicely. Rating: 4.5/5
JUSTIN Fries are
tossed with truffle salt, parmesan, and JUSTIN fine herb blend. The fries were
light and crispy. The truffle flavor was just right so the parmesan and herbs
could shine as well. Rating: 4.5/5
tossed with Alle-Pia sausage, wild mushrooms, bitter greens, smoked butter, and
parmesan. This was an excellence lunch dish, light yet satisfying. The sauce
had a rich creamy texture. The flavors of the succulent mushrooms and lean,
meaty sausage balanced perfectly with the sauce and pasta. Rating: 4.5/5
topped with caramel, cocoa nibs, and served with lemon balm ice cream. The brownie
was served warm with rich, decadent chocolate flavor. Caramel sauce made the
dish more luxurious. The lemon balm ice cream was refreshing with unexpected
herbal notes. It was different and made a nice contrast to the brownie. Rating:
After lunch, a
walking tour is a great way to burn some calories. JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery
offers tours of their facility. Be sure to call ahead for a reservation as the
tours are limited to 10 people per tour. Our tour guide, Larry, took us around
the winery, showing us the machinery used to mill and press the grapes during
harvest and the large stainless steel tanks used for the fermentation process. He
then walked us through the caves where the different wines are aged in French
Oak barrels. You will also be tasting wine along the way – Rosé, Merlot, Petit
Syrah, and Reserve. You’ll also notice that scattered around the vineyard are poles
with metal boxes on top. They sort of look like large bird houses. They are
homes for the owls who rid the vineyards of rodents and snakes. They let nature
take on the job of pest control so chemical pesticides are not used.
After the tour,
head back to the tasting room to sample and purchase your favorite wines. Take
a walk around the on-site vegetable garden where they grow the produce that is
ultimately going to end up on your plate in the restaurant – kale, different
varieties of lettuce, edible flowers, Swiss chard, and more. Lady bugs and
praying mantis are also natural pest controllers and are on patrol here as
A great way to
make a road trip more fun is to schedule a vacation during a festival. Paso
Robles has many throughout the year. One of the largest is the Paso Robles Wine
Festival and takes place at City Park in Downtown Paso Robles. At the Reserve
event, wineries share a single wine with the public from one of these
categories: library wines, reserve, white/rosé, or futures. There is also a
great mix of local restaurants serving up bites that pair well with the
different wines served.
Villa Creek Restaurant served up scallop in a mignonette on the half shell.
The scallop was sweet. The mignonette had the perfect balance of acidity for a
balanced bite. Rating: 5/5
Thomas Hill Organicsserved up Brioche Toast Points topped with cold
smoked king salmon, crème fraiche, chive batons, and white sturgeon caviar.
Since having the Cold Smoke Salmon Sandwich the day before, we knew that this
was going to be great. The salmon was buttery and so soft. The crème fraiche
added a little creaminess. The caviar added the right amount of salty flavor
for a balanced bite. Rating: 5/5
The Kitchen at
Niner Wine Estatesserved up Three Cheese Bisque with poblanos, chorizo,
and pimento. The soup was thick and creamy. It could have been a little spicier
to cut through the cheese flavors. Rating: 4/5. They also served up their
Future Cabernet Sauvignon straight from the barrel. It was very young with a
very light flavor and still a bit sweet like grape juice. Can’t wait to try it
once it is ready!
Seaventure Restaurant served up Prosciutto and Artichoke Flatbread. The
flatbread had more flavor than expected and overpowered the ingredients inside.
Maybe a tortilla with a more muted flavor would allow the prosciutto and
artichoke to shine through. Rating: 3/5
The Farm Winery served
up 2010 Cardinal. This wine comes from very old-vine Cabernet
Sauvignon. It has a beautiful dark ruby hue. The aroma of dark cherry comes
through. Blackberry, black currant, vanilla, dark chocolate and licorice flavor
are experienced on the palate. Rating: 5/5
Robert’s Restaurantserved up Beef Stroganoff. This would have been
better if the meat was mixed into the sauce. The sauce on its own was very
bland. Rating: 3/5
Paso Catering Co.served up Croque Monsieur (gruyere cheese and black
forest ham “sammies”). Served like an open-face sandwich with gooey gruyere on
the top and in the middle, it had the perfect flavor notes for pairing with
wine – buttery cheese and smoky, salty ham. Rating: 5/5
Panolivo served up Mini Desserts (Lemon Tarts, Vanilla Puff,
Chocolate Éclair, and Chocolate Cake). The lemon tart was slightly tart and had
an amazing crust. The chocolate éclair was filled with chocolate mousse and the
chocolate ganache was to die for! The chocolate cake was layered with light
chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and chocolate ganache. These desserts were
just amazing! A cup of cappuccino would have really hit the spot. Rating: 5/5
Jeffry’s Cateringserved up Southwestern Style Meatballs (made with
locally raised grass fed beef & ground pork, black beans, corn, tomatoes,
garlic, and onions simmered in a red pepper-tomato sauce) with Cilantro-Brown
Rice Salad (made with organic brown rice salad with cilantro-lime vinaigrette).
The meatball was pretty good but needed more seasoning inside the meat mixture.
The red pepper tomato sauce was excellent. It would be perfect on pasta. The
brown rice salad was good, but did not really pair with the meatball. The rice
salad would be better paired with poultry or seafood. Rating: 3.5/5
Apple Farm served up Burrata cheese with tomato confit, EVOO and
18 year aged balsamic vinegar. It was almost dessert-like with the sweetness
from the tomato confit and aged balsamic vinegar. The burrata added a
cloud-like creaminess. Rating: 5/5
A day of
merriment with fine foods and drinks, made for a relaxed nap back at the hotel.
After a light snooze, we slowly making our way downstairs. We opted for a late
dinner at Indulge as we knew there were a few more items that we wanted to try
on the dinner menu.
brioche rolls with honey lime butter were served. The bread was eggy and tore
with ease. The butter tasted more herbal than honey lime. A tad more honey
would bring the lime flavor forward. Rating: 4.5/5
Soup was reminiscent of butternut squash soup. It was rich, succulent, and more
on the savory side with a refreshing peppery zing. Rating 4/5
Free-Range Duck Breast is served with risotto of the day, and arugula salad.
The duck was cooked perfectly with golden brown skin, and tender on the inside.
You can tell when duck is cooked correctly as the fat between the skin and meat
will render. Although the skin wasn’t crispy, it was delicious! The risotto,
however, needed a bit more liquid in it as it was a little too dry. The arugula
added a refreshing peppery kick to the mix. Rating: 4.5/5
is a half-pound beef patty topped with lettuce, avocado, prosciutto, goat
cheese, and a sunny side egg atop a brioche bun served with French fries. The
patty was a good size and flavorful but the burger needed a sauce, maybe
chipotle aioli, sweet chili sauce, or balsamic aioli to balance out the all the
other overpoweringly savory ingredients. Otherwise, this is a really good
burger. Rating 4/5
Paso Robles’ food and wine culture was an amazing journey! Tomorrow, we head
out on a new adventure, but can’t wait to plan our next visit to Paso Robles.
To view more photos, please visit OC Food Diva's Facebook page.
Restaurant Hours: Dinner served
Tuesday through Saturday with seatings at 6pm, 6:30pm, and 7pm (reservation
only); Lunch served Friday and Saturday from 11am to 2pm; Brunch served Sunday
from 11am to 2pm