The 2008 Paso Robles Wine Festival is in the books. I've poured at the last seven festivals, and this one was one of the hottest. Both Saturday and Sunday topped 100 degrees (an unwelcome change from the past few years, which were beautiful) and I think it deterred some of the local crowd. In the four hours of the event, we poured about 7 cases of wine, two fewer than last year. We still felt busy, but it was the kind of busy where you're always talking to new people, but you do have time to talk. In some past years, it was all we could do to pour wine into the outstretched glasses in front of us. The slight decline in audience was not unwelcome.
There were still some wineries pouring appallingly warm -- even hot -- red wines. One friend (who's not in the wine industry) questioned this and was told that this was the temperature that it was supposed to be served at. I can't fathom this. The event gives you ice for free. Why wouldn't you make sure that your wines were served at an appropriate temperature? We were icing even our red wines, and serving the whites and the Rosé very chilled. This is your opportunity to make an impression on hundreds of potential new customers. I can't think of much that's more unappealing than sipping hot red wine on a 100 degree day.
Overall, there was a typical mix of more established and newer wineries at the park. There were a few big names missing; Justin again chose to pass on the event and, most notably, Tobin James elected to sit this year out. I think they, more than any other winery in Paso Robles, are associated with the party atmosphere that the park has cultivated over the years, and I imagine that some of the efforts that the PRWCA has been making to make the event more upscale are probably unwelcome. For us, the net effect is probably good. Over the weekend, we saw about 100 fewer people at the tasting room (from about 600 last year to about 500 this year). But, those 500 people who came bought the same amount of wine as the 600 did in 2007. Pouring less wine but selling the same amount must be a good thing! Plus, while still small compared to an event like the Hospice du Rhone, there was notably better trade and media presence at this year's event than in years past.
On Sunday morning of the event, we again welcomed Chef Jeffrey Scott out to Tablas Creek for a cured salmon tasting and the official launch of the 2007 Rosé. A photo from this year's event, with Chef Scott in the foreground serving a fresh sheep's milk ricotta cheese he found to go with the salmon (definitely more elegant than cream cheese):
Our goal is to get people out to the vineyard in the morning: effectively, to encourage them to start their day as far from town as possible and work their way back in. This helps us even out our traffic on what's usually our busiest single day of the year, and get more people out to us when their palates are fresh and their trunks empty.
Plus, it's always a good time, with delicious food.
I thought it might be fun to share some family photos from this year's Sunday event. It's one of the events each year to which we always bring the kids, as it's in the morning, outside, and very low-key and relaxed. First, me with Eli (age 3, in front) and Sebastian (age 9 months) on my back:
Eli spent most of his time making sure there was enough ice in the chillers that we were using for the Rosé:
A nice photo of Meghan with Sebastian: