California's Central Coast has plenty on pour and in store for today's discerning traveler
Paso Robles, the other California wine country, with over 200 wineries is quickly stealing the wine limelight from neighboring Napa and Sonoma.
Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the heart of California, the natural beauty of the prime central coast clearly explains why early aviators flew in, silent film stars flocked and folks like Hearst built a castle here.
Santa Barbara couple Robert and Sherry Gilson and first time hoteliers, used this beautiful country as a canvas when creating their equine-inspired castle--a sixteen room, luxury boutique hotel, the first of it’s kind in the heart of downtown Paso that in equal measure appeals to a wave of discerning foodies and wine connoisseurs hitting the Central Coast.
The equine design is woven seamlessly throughout the property, where no two rooms are alike. It is especially celebrated in The Pony Club, a classic European spot with a zinc horseshoe shaped bar, where locals and guests pony up to the bar to enjoy the most celebrated wines of the region. Many of the guests on deck are the vintners themselves. Be careful with your vino critiques.
Others pop in to experience the precise cheese pairings courtesy of Danika Bowler from Vivant, a purveyor of local and rare cheeses who delivers their cheeses right off the truck each day to many of the local wineries. It’s a classic example of small town sophisticate. As Robert says, “The cheese people are really out there.” The lovely Danika, also a golf fanatic is, yet in a good way.
A ride in the horse drawn carriage by Cheval’s own Belgian Draft horse Chester is intended to slow down the visitor’s usual urban pace. Chester will take you to the door of one of the three most noted restaurants in town. Bistro Laurent and Villas Creek are the two long standing restaurants that set the bar and the foodie culture firmly in place a decade ago to complement the divine local wines.
Bistro Laurent is a classic upscale French Bistro. On this site, duck breast with red wine reduction sauce is paired with Paso Cabernets and French Bordeaux’s, while Villa Creek is California to the core with local, sustainable and organic foods, from excellent fish to charcuteries and fillets as well as squash enchiladas for vegetarians at the table. Go for Villa Creek’s own label, especially their red Grenache. It’s easy to slip in one too many tipples here. Good news, you’re but a wee causal walk across the street to Cheval.
The pleasures of country living do not stop with Cheval. Artisan, the new restaurant in town, is also making some serious culinary noise, reining in the far flung discerning foodie and vintners enjoying their Kobe steaks, Dungeness Crab Cakes, Colorado Lamb Chops and their own wines.
Cheval also provides easy access by day to the many local wineries. Aside from the obvious Tablas Creek, there’s a mix of wineries to hit while coasting through Paso, from the hidden gems of Pipestone with their local and sustainable Rhone style wines (Viognier, Morvedre and Syrah) harvested from their feng shui vineyard or perhaps Poalillo’s estate acres and flagship Zinfandels where they serve up three Zins alongside their Syrah, Petite Sirah and Chardonnay. If you’re a superficial siren and in to looks, Cass winery has one of the best looking tasting and barrel rooms on the coast and the couple have a great romantic story that is sure give you chills.
There are many tour operators in Paso or Hotel Cheval can arrange one of their private drivers for your vineyard adventures. It is well worth the venture as the wines are incredibly expressive, and sexy. If you’re not afraid of a big bold red, which I adore, there are plenty on pour. They are big, yet incredibly elegant. You’re palette is forever pleased; yet wildly surprised.
Clearly a can’t miss in Paso is Justin, one of the first and finest, has an excellent winemaker on site to give you an in depth tour and a deeper knowledge of their vines, wines and this booming region.
If you’re looking to reign in the romance or embrace the local charm, dine on site at Deborah’s Room, their picturesque restaurant on the stunning vineyard property where top noted chefs from around the country take their turn in the kitchen. Aside from the vino cuisine and setting, the statuesque Deborah is prolific when it comes to her wines. She’s the perfect hostess and one of the premier women of wine in the area.
Of course, no stop to Central Coast is complete without a stop at Hearst Castle, a stunning journey back in time complete with home videos of Hearst, Chaplin and friends enjoying the opulent property. It is otherworldly.
Once back at The Cheval Castle, youtoo can relax like a star in your own right, whether sitting by the fire in the closed in courtyard with a locally chilled Viognier in one hand and your lover in the other or perhaps simply drifting off to sleep on their dreamy 400 thread count sheets.
All told, romance reigns on the Central Coast and at Hotel Cheval, whether you’re there for your honeymoon, a romantic rendezvous or a wild wine adventure, you are sure to fall in the love with and be inspired by the Central Coast--just as Hearst was.
To Stay - Hotel Cheval: www.hotelcheval.com
For fine wine & dining-
Villa Creek: www.villacreek.com
Bistro Laurent: www.bistrolaurent.com
Justin Winery: www.justinwine.com
PHOTOS & TEXT BY KAREN LOFTUS - email@example.com
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
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