The Paso Robles Wine Country wineries aren’t that much farther from the South Bay than Napa and Sonoma Valley’s wineries are to the north.

Covid has had a very different effect on me. Honestly I don’t care about the virus, people die all the time and the political leveraging of this is just obscene. What changed for me was watching TV and Movies. As a kid I was never allowed to be in the house. When I read or write articles, I am usually outside. I know this about myself, and until the Covid Lockdowns, I rather enjoyed being an “outsider”.

Getting Sideways

One of the movies I stumbled across was Sideways. Sideways is an off beat comedy about a road trip through the Santa Barbara Wine Country. The movie stars Thomas Haden Church who I enjoyed laughing with on Wings so I figured the movie would be ok. The movie itself is entertaining enough, but it got me thinking about a road trip through the Napa Valley. I hadn’t done that in a while.

In the movie the two main characters run around Santa Barbara Wine Country in a beat up convertible Saab. I used to run up and down Napa in a classic Mercedes convertible that collectors would laugh at and call a “driver”. I truly enjoyed the car and now it is sitting in Nante France at Le Museé.

Road Trip Time

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Since the joke in the Napa wine business now is that all 2020 vintage wines will be sold under the Kirkland label and have a “smokey finish”, I thought a road trip to Santa Barbara might be just the ticket. Using my idiot phone I looked up routes to Santa Barbara and had two options to get there. The 101 out of San Jose, or run through Livermore and join the 5. I know what you are thinking but Livermore and Central Valley wines make great marinade, not drinking wines.

Looking at the far more scenic route on the 101, I realized that we would run right through the Paso Robles Wine Country. While discussing the trip with my partner, she discovered a documentary called Tin City. It was about this little group of eclectic wine makers that all work together to create great wine. This we couldn’t resist.

Warehouse Wine

Mènage á Trois, Three Wineries One Small Space

Tin city is a group of metal warehouses with a couple of small eateries, a brewery and a bunch of small batch wine makers like Levo and Karma. It has matured a bit since the documentary was filmed but it is still equally fun and eclectic at the same time. On the way into town we stopped at the first big winery we found online, Eberle. It’s founder and namesake Gary Eberle was out front holding court with locals. We sat back and listened eventually meeting the winemaker Arnout from Benom wines.

We stayed that night in a hotel and had a nice dinner at a little Italian restaurant on the square. It wasn’t quite as good as our favorite pasta house in Orinda, but it was pretty good. The Paso Robles town square reminded me of Sonoma Town Square 30 years ago. The next morning we set off for Tin City only to find that nothing opened until later in the day. In the mornings, they were busy making wine. Clearly not a very commercialized operation. We were already enamored with the place.

Tin City Bridge at the Cider House Paso Robles Wine Country
Tin City Paso Robles Wine Country

While walking around we met Brett of Levo wines who had us taste some grapes going into his next vintage. I was surprised at how small and delicate the grapes were. When I think of grapes, I think of those giant inbred table grapes that taste like sweet water. Wine grapes are very different. Wine grapes have flavor, crunchy seeds and still a delicate skin that didn’t stick in my teeth.

So if you want a nice overnight adventure and don’t want to use a poop app to navigate the city, maybe you need a road trip down the 101.

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