Last weekend was the annual Paso Robles Wine Festival. We joined 92 other Paso Robles wineries to pour in the park on Saturday morning to pour wine for the roughly 4200 attendees. Of course, it was hot. You can just about set your calendar in Paso Robles to the fact that the first hot weekend of the year will coincide with Wine Fest, and this year didn't disappoint. It was a little cooler than last year (around 100 instead of 106) and the heat broke on Sunday afternoon, which proved to be a very welcome and unexpected early respite. Still, it didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits. The Tablas crew (cru?) at the park included eight of us so we would have time to go out and taste ourselves, as well as to get into detailed conversations with anyone who was interested without neglecting other guests:
The Wine Festival as a whole had a very nice vibe to it, and we were busy the whole time. We poured about 2000 tastes of wine over the four hours, which amounted to nearly seven cases of wine... the same amount we poured in 2008. Even better, I heard mostly good things about the temperatures at which other wineries were pouring their wines (which was not the case last year). We were swapping wines in and out of the ice all day, even the reds, which is essential. The thought of tasting warm red wines on a hot day... ugh. There were a few instances of the cool kid syndrome where wineries brought much less wine than they would need and poured out in a few hours, but overall, I think that anyone who attended got to taste all the wines they would have wanted to if they took even a little care.
I hope the Paso Robles Wine Alliance was happy with the results; they've done a tremendous job of turning what used to be a giant party into a fairly focused tasting where attendees are overall quite responsible and interested even at the end.
On Sunday, we again used the excuse of having thousands of wine lovers in town to launch the new vintage of our Rosé (in this case the delicious 2008). We reprised our salmon tasting, and chef Jeffrey Scott did another amazing job of putting together an amazing spread of dishes to pair with Rosé, including cured salmon, fresh cheeses, two salads (heirloom beets and burrata in one, fennel in the other), and strawberries with balsamic vinegar and basil. The chef at work:
We have for the last several years planned our event for the Sunday morning of Wine Festival weekend, in the hopes of convincing people to begin their day out west of town and work their way back toward civilization. As we're typically much busier in the afternoon than the morning, this helps ensure that our traffic is steady all day, and it has become an annual event for many of the members of our VINsider Wine Club (for whom the event is free).
I saw a phenomenon this year that I wasn't expecting, and would love some feedback. While we did sell wine in the morning, we sold only about 40% of our daily sales to 60% of our traffic in the first two hours of the day (which coincided with the salmon event). And I spoke to several VINsiders who said that they'd come out for the salmon but weren't even going to go and taste, as it was too early in the day for them. Later that weekend, I read an article in the New York Times magazine where Suze Orman is quoted saying (I'm paraphrazing here) that she never gives things away for free because people just don't value what they don't pay for. This was truly a phenomenal event, with amazing food and wine, and available to anyone for the price of a tasting fee (which also got the purchaser a full wine tasting and a tasting glass). Are we doing something wrong if some people come out and partake but don't buy (or even taste)? Maybe this is overkill? I'm not sure, but we'll reevaluate before next year.
I'll leave you with two more photos that give you a feel for the family side of the event, and of Tablas Creek. First, a quiet moment near the end of Saturday's tasting in the park, where Neil is relaxing next to my older son Eli, who just turned four and was taking everything in with very wide eyes:
And finally, one family shot on Sunday, where both kids (Eli and his little brother Sebastian, age 20 months) came out and mingled with the guests at Tablas Creek, many of whom have known them since they were born:
I have the complete photo album, with more photos both from the park and from the salmon and Rose tasting, posted on Tablas Creek's Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=81506&id=27438997414&l=d9b54a4ad8