Stepping out of the car and onto the dusty road, looking out over the acres of pregnant grapes only days from harvest, my parched palette anticipates relief and my spirit feels at home.
Although I have lived in major cities all my adult life, I grew up in a relatively small city, where a rural lifestyle wasn’t too terribly far away. Summers in Wisconsin were ripe with fresh berries and watermelons. Baby carrots picked away by rabbits and children because they are much too sweet for their own good. As the summer progressed, tart apples which held the promise of early fall sweetness dangled and dared the brave to test their progress.
Stepping onto a winery is reminiscent of my childhood, even though our family garden can’t compare to acres of vines, the earth’s intimacy moves from my toes to my nose. Immediately we’re whisked away for a tour of the vines. With harvest around the corner, the grapes balance delicately; positively heavy with potential. Each cluster holding itself together, ready to erupt. We learn that each grape type has an absolutely uniquely shaped cluster and that if you look closely, you’ll see the subtle differences; even in their infancy, grapes are competing for individual recognition, as in wine.
But as we ride through the rows of grapes on the “Green Hornet”, the elegant yet humble origins of wine hanging from vines prodded and shaped by tender caretakers. No doubt, the growing of grapes, the tending of the land, the care of the vines requires a humility that few consider when swirling a glass of wine.
Suddenly the pretension slips away and the simple truth reveals itself: wine is only the product of earth’s natural bounty in perfect harmony with man. Like a marriage, wine and man need one another to reach their full potential. When a grower honors land, the vines and the grapes and a wine maker cherishes the grape’s experience, the wine returns the favor with a bloom of promise.
It seems so ridiculous to do anything but simply enjoy wine; forget the swirling, the glass choice, the food pairing. Just. Enjoy. Is this bottle an experience you’d like to repeat or not? Regardless of nuanced food choices or glass choice, there is one truth in drinking wine: its best done in good company.
Paso Robles is the perfect combination of family charm and treasured grapes. This is wine country as its meant to be. The people there are just that- people. They aren’t touring the country doing talk shows – these are the heroes of the bottle. Men and women who love the promise, the hope of the grape that they do it year after year. Each wine feels like an old friend, each winery like a friend’s home. Wrapped in the comfort of engaged perception, with a warm sun shining on the backs of friends..wine feels less like a hobby and more like a necessity.
Even Paso’s farmer’s market reflects the passion of the grower and the bounty of the earth. Everything is in perfect balance. The colors are bright without over abundance of food enhancements. Each shape is in the perfect shape – the shape it was meant to be.
After tasting, and sipping and sampling my way through Paso, I return to our temporary home, the vineyard. Ignoring the dust on my shoes, I kick away the gravel on my way to the porched bathed in California’s golden sun, I pluck a fat fig warmed from the afternoon sun right off the tree. Its luscious interior beckons me to peel away the skin and ravage the interior. Grabbing a glass of red wine and the two dance together in perfect harmony. For the most part, the earth has been kind to me in Paso Robles. Were it not for seasonal fall allergies, I might be lulled into thinking that I’d reached nirvana.
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