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Paso Robles, Cambria, Carmel, Oh My!!!


Through our travels Nancy and I have discovered gems not discussed by friends or those I love and care about... and so, I want to tell you the amazing places to go in the above three towns that will most certainly make a very special vacation.

To begin, we're driving from Las Vegas and so coming from the east our first stop on the highway 46 is Tobin James winery. For those of you not familiar with Paso Robles and Tobin James winery it is the Napa Valley 30 years ago. The difference is that the wineries are more spread out and in many cases encompassing much larger swaths of land. The focus is on varietals not usually within the wheelhouse of most wine lists outside this region.

When tasting wine at Tobin James enjoy the fun and drink in an atmosphere resembling a party that never ends orchestrated by employees that love what they do. Putting aside the mostly pedestrian wines just purchase the Tobin James, Zinfandel, "Once in a Blue Moon", and you will have added a major component to your wine stash, cellar, or whatever you want to call it. Beautifully hand crafted with rich berry, subtle herbs and black pepper with notes of the earth it was so expertly crafted from finishing with a nuanced complexity so rarely displayed from zinfandel. This wine is the real deal!

Speaking of the real deal we have found the place to stay in Paso Robles, The Allegretto Vineyard Resort (www.allegrettovineyardresort.com.) The display of one of a kind art integrated into a Spanish villa formula combined with an almost gothic castle like feeling means just one thing... this resort will not disappoint. A swimming pool, hot tub, and a wonderful restaurant (Cello Ristorante and Bar) will literally take you places you've never been. The bedrooms have twenty foot ceilings either with a patio or a fireplace depending on your preference and the time of year. The rooms look out to a courtyard with sculpted fountains lit in an array of colors next to fire pits framed by vineyards as far as the eye can see.

Paso Robles because of the climate and soil mirrors the southern wine growing region of France known as the Rhone region. Varietals such as Petite Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Roussane, and Petite Verdot are found either as stand alone varietals or blends that add dimension and complexity to the standard California varietal landscape of Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon blanc, and Chardonnay. While these grapes are found in abundance it is the Rhone varietals that have become the backbone of some of the greatest wineries in the region.

When in Paso Robles you must go to one of our favorite wineries, Herman Story. Ask for Russel P. and tell him Jack and Nancy sent you. Big and bold Rhone varietals sculpted into perfection... his wines are released twice a year in the Spring and the Fall. His team of perfectionists craft their wine with such precision and love that you know from the moment you taste any of these amazing wines that quality of product enhanced by attention to detail has led to a world class wine. The winery is named after Russel's grandfather as an honorary tribute to a very special person that helped form the persona behind the brand.

Moving on to Cambria enjoy Linn's for lunch. We had the oven roasted turkey sandwich with a homemade cranberry sauce on ciabatta bread with organic romaine lettuce. This, along with the New England clam chowder was the perfect introduction to the culinary scene in Cambria. When you go to Cambria and you enjoy the food from Linn's please ask for Daniel Gnenett or the general manager Aaron Linn. Sit outside in the patio and enjoy the gracious service with quality product creating an ambience not to be forgotten.

We stayed at the Fireside Inn on MoonStone Beach in Cambria. Ask for room 128 so that you have a patio and corner room with a fantastic view of the ocean. Within a short hike you'll walk across boardwalk planks that skirt across the sand, home to an abundance of squirrels with your destination being the vistas of tide pools, elephant seals, and of course the majesty of the Pacific Ocean. The negative ions from the crashing surf neutralize free radicals, revitalize cell metabolism, purify the blood, and enhance immune functionality. All this by just taking the time to walk down to the beach!

Next was dinner in Cambria at a very small romantic restaurant, Madeline's restaurant and wine tasting room. We shared the Madeline salad with roasted beets, Granny Smith apple, goat cheese, hazelnuts in an apple cider vinaigrette. I had the veal chop and Nancy had the filet. The veal chop was outstanding...Pan seared with crispy shallots, rosemary butter, garlic mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. Of course with every great dish their has to be a great wine paired with it. In this case we had the Weatherborne Pinot Noir 2013 from the Santa Rita Hills near Santa Barbara. Big, rich, with stewed cherry and plum, cedar and a whiff of green tea on the nose finished with layers of earth and spice with fine tannins and bright acidity.

Driving up the coast on the one is a magical carpet ride. The first sense of spring with yellow mustard cloaked around wild grass over rolling hills imparts a sense of humbleness as we take in the complete picture. On one side is the ocean and the other is the brushstroke of colorful flora that beckons us to the sensory experience unfolding before us. And so as we proceed north on the one our sights are clearly set towards one of our favorite towns on earth, Carmel.

We're staying at the Pine Inn located on Ocean Ave. and Lincoln St. in the beautiful town of Carmel by the sea. Ask for room 1 which has a large sitting room, fireplace, king size bed, and a classic design of yesteryear with silk tapestry wall paper and hand carved oak in an intricate fashion giving a bold flavor to the room highlighted by a marble bathroom with all the amenities. The perfect location means that culinary delights are just around the corner.

We had our Valentines Day dinner at the Bistro Giovanni located on San Carlos and 5th Ave. Ironically we were served by the daughter of the owner Mr.Giovanni and were so grateful to meet this wonderful restaurant icon. It seems in our travels that we have been truly blessed to have very special interactions like that become apart of our journey which adds to the flavor of the trip creating another memory we will never forget.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ™ "The Magic of Cooking" Kitchen tools for the discerning chef. Please go to www.pazazshop.com to purchase these amazing kitchen tools.