Oh dear me, what kind of karma do I have? Apparently the best. I’m sitting at a dining table, in a one bedroom cottage, set apart from a large estate, perusing an antique piano turned into a display case, a couch and two armchairs – that all recline – a beautiful modern kitchen area with everything you could possibly need for a welcome stay – from coffee maker to teapot, corkscrew to sweet and salty snacks and a large fireplace, television, another seating area…and that’s just in the front room. (Ed’s taking a nap in the bedroom so we may get there later.)
I am just starting this article and it’s slow going as I find my eyes drifting to one of many windows where the sun has begun to set behind the patio, garden and vineyards. If this isn’t my heaven then I don’t know what is.
The sun has now set, but before it grows too dark I see little bitty lights in the tree on our patio. I’m itching to go out and sit at the table and open a bottle of wine. But we’re in Paso Robles. And since Grapestake Cottage is so inviting, I forget for a minute that I have winery appointments. I made a quick evaluation of our calendar and decide that on at least one of our nights, Sunday, we will be bringing in a pizza, opening one of the many wines we’ve purchased to enjoy on the patio, watch that sunset again, and then retreat inside when it gets cold to flip on the fireplace, take our shoes off, don one of the provided terry robes, put some popcorn in the microwave, put our feet up and get cozy.
We also made sure to set some time to get to know Nancy and Owen Belletto, our hosts, a wee bit better. “It all started with a tractor” was the joke Owen made when we first met, and that tractor – and everything that came after – was the turning point that soon meant building a cottage, an incredible garden and…vineyards.
The name Grapestake has a meaning as well. I learned that Owen used 40-year-old wooden grapestakes – now grapestakes are all made of metal – to repurpose them as fencing for the cottage just as he had seen in some homes in Carmel. After meeting Owen, and seeing the amazing property, I could easily visualize him as he “spent countless hours cutting, sanding and measuring” just for the beauty it would provide for guests…
As we were told to “please feel free to wander the vineyard and grounds” we did. But as I didn’t want to run into any gophers, I waited until our set interview time with Owen and Nancy to learn more about the Bellettos and their home. I learned that when they chose the property that the estate home was already built, which had formerly been a B and B and required no more work, a stipulation Nancy required before moving in.
That requirement was really more of a model, as within a short time the gravel parking area become the base of the cottage, the grounds now included olive trees, and the same designer that had built the home was called upon to build Grapestake Cottage – however in the original plans the cottage was only built to house Owen’s tractor. But Owen needed a bathroom near the tractor…but why just have a bathroom without a bedroom…and Grapestake Cottage began to really take shape, literally.
All in all there are 8 acres on the property under vine, 7.5 of those acres are Syrah – they are estate growers for Justin, and were named the grower of the year in 2016 – and the remaining .5 acres are for Grenache and is reserved for Owen’s winemaking alone. Owen has a background in agriculture – the pair met while in studies at UC Davis – where they were starving students for a short time, enjoying wine tasting in nearby Napa valley back in the days when it was free to taste.
Fast forward to present day in Paso. They have met welcoming and charming people in the Paso wine industry. Any local winemakers, they feel, are very free with answering any wine question put to them without a nuance of elitism.
“Paso Robles is where Napa was 30 years ago,” Owen began. “insofar as how people are treated.” And a good way to explain why so many wine people may prefer tasting and touring in Paso over Napa. It’s not just the difference in the cost of wines, but also in how Paso treats its guests.
As far as how they treat their own guests, and circling back to how we felt our accommodations were far and above the standard, Nancy explained, “I’ve traveled with Owen on many trips and have often been irritated by asking to pay for items like water bottles and snacks. So we put a lot of thought into what a guest would like that we would also appreciate.”
To see the photo grids from all of our Paso winery visits from this trip click this.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 15k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com