Michael Perlis: Our wine journey

As we were preparing for our latest trip to Paso Robles, my wife and I were talking about our mutual interest in wine [okay, her interest, my obsession]. The question came up as to how we got to the point we are now. So, I started thinking about it.

It actually started about 30-years ago [geez, really?]. As a staff accountant at a small CPA firm, I had the opportunity to travel with one of the partners of the firm. He was a wine aficionado and introduced me to ordering whatever plonk the airlines were pouring, as well as his habit of visiting wine shops in whatever city we happened to be in. In addition, wine with dinner on these trips became de rigueur.

Leaving California for San Antonio, Texas, for a few years in the mid-80s might have put an end to my early interest in wine, as might have a disappointing visit to the wineries in the hill country north of San Antonio. Fortunately, a chance meeting with a wine broker who imported wines from Europe managed to keep the wine fires burning, as we would taste his latest finds in his office and purchase more to enjoy later.

But, it would take coming back to California to really get things going again. Frequent trips to the nearby Santa Ynez Valley and the occasional trip to Napa or Sonoma helped to renew my interest. Still, it was two Central Coast experiences that set the stage for taking things to the next level.

We used to drive up PCH a lot, and frequently stopped for a bite at the Hamlet at Moonstone Gardens, right outside of Cambria. In the garden area is a separate building, where they used to hold winetastings, that were conducted by Calvin Wilkes. Wines tasted were not just from the local area, but from all over the world, with a lot of education provided by Calvin to go with it. We visited Calvin often, first at the Hamlet at Moonstone and later at his own store in Cambria. Eventually, he moved on, and we only see him rarely at the restaurant he and his wife have in Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula called Fifi’s. But, I like to think that at least some of the lessons stuck with me.

Although we often drove up PCH to go up to the Bay Area and also Monterey, coming home we usually opted for the quicker less scenic Highway 101 drive. One such drive had us making a pit stop where the 101 and 46 meet south of Paso Robles, and we visited our first Paso Robles winery – Castoro. At the time, I remember they were selling their 10th anniversary bottling, a blend of most of the red grape varietals they work with, very tasty.

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This sparked our interest in the area, and although we have visited many of California’s wine regions [Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara County, Amador, Lodi, etc.], we always seem to come back to Paso. We are big fans of the Paso “style” [big, fruit-forward wines] and have raved about the Zinfandels and Rhone varietals coming from this area long before they became the “in” thing.

If you’ve read my sporadic columns before, you can probably see where this is going. Yep, it is time for another seemingly interminable series about our latest visit to Paso, visiting some old favorites as well as some new friends.

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Stay tuned.

Michael Perlis provides outsourced controller services to businesses that do not need a full-time controller. He balances this with his interest in wine: reading and writing about it and, of course, drinking it. He is still trying to figure out how to combine these two pursuits. Feel free to contact him about either at mcpfinancial@aol.com or michaelthezinfan@aol.com.