A Vintage Vineyard Experience

Paso Robles’ WineYard takes client on a hands-on journey through the vineyard

By: Bryce Longton

The afternoon sun warms the soil beneath Cindy Newkirk’s dusty boots as she gestures toward the faded black-and-white photos of her family tacked up on the barn wall, otherwise known as the WineYard. She’s already been out in the vineyard for eight hours, checking on the water levels and worrying over the weather. It is almost harvesting time and you can hear the pride in her voice as she describes each step of the seedling-to-grape process.

Unlike most traditional wine tours that come with the requisite showing of a temperature controlled barrel of a 95’ Cab Cindy walks clients through a step-by-step journey from an empty plot of land to a fruit-laden vineyard. The tour begins in the WineYard with an in-depth lecture on soil ripping, plotting and root stock. The vineyard has been in Cindy’s family for over a hundred years and she is steeped in the wine culture. From the intricacies of pruning to pesticides, Cindy is a wellspring of knowledge and explains things easily, without relying on too much wine jargon. After the lesson Cindy takes guests on a tractor tour through the Steinbeck vineyard (no relation to the famous Steinbecks), pointing out the differences in plots and plucking varietals for clients to taste.

“What’s your favorite type of wine?” she asks as the tractor bumps over the dirt swaths between vines. Soon there are clusters of merlot, cabernet and zinfandel grapes scattered about the tractor. We stop on a hill to survey her land and marvel at the view. You can see her parent’s house from here, on an adjacent hill. She says that when her parents were just married they used to sit on that hill and dream of the house they would build there. And now Cindy sits on this hill and muses about the future of the WineYard.

Located half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the WineYard is in Paso Robles known as “Paso” to the locals and it is an ideal spot for those craving an intimate wine-tasting experience.

Paso, and nearby San Luis Obispo are both burgeoning cities with plenty to attract tourists. In addition to wine tasting (www.pasowine.com) and vineyard touring you can visit Hearst Castle, take long walks on the beach, and if the season is right (from October through February), you can see the migrating Monarch butterflies at Pismo Beach.

Places to stay include The Carlton in Atascadero and The Villa Toscana in Paso.

The Carlton offers excellent fine dining at their restaurant diVine. The best item on the menu: the prosciutto-wrapped petit filet. If you are an adventurer go ahead and order the wasabi creme brule it comes highly recommended from the dessert chef, and it’s amazing.

The Villa Toscana looks like it’s been plucked from a village in Tuscany, complete with intricate ironwork throughout the property. A popular spot for weddings, the Villa fills up quickly from May to September if only for the grand entrance the brides can make down the spiraling staircase onto the lawn.

The Carlton and the Villa Toscana offer a 10 percent commission to travel agents.

Cindy at the WineYard offers a 10 percent commission on any bookings you make through her (www.thewineyard.com). Currently her prices are $35 a person, which includes an educational presentation and a jeep ride through the vineyard small groups (no more than six) only. She is also willing to customize packages and can add in a sunset picnic in the vineyard, or coordinate tastings with nearby wineries, for example.

The Carlton Hotel

diVine Restaurant
The super comfortable bed
Jacuzzi tub
The Carlton Bakery

The light on the alarm clock is very bright. Bring an eye mask if you like it dark

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Wi-Fi, easy access through a password supplied by the front desk

The Villa Toscana

Gorgeous views
The eggs benedict for breakfast
Unique rooms
Resorts & Great Hotels 2005
Retracting televisions in the suitesthey literally disappear into the furniture

Only has eight suites and one villabooks up fast

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