36th Paso Robles Wine Fest packs downtown park


PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance welcomed 2,383 visitors with interest in wineries, vineyards and a day of music in the park to the 36th Annual Paso Robles Wine Festival over the weekend.

The Grand Tasting on Saturday, May 19 featured 74 area vintners pouring tastes and 14 local catering companies and restaurants backing them up with hors d’oeuvres. There were 87 tickets sold specifically to designated drivers according to data collected by the Alliance. 

Paso Robles City Council member John Hamon, stationed at the event’s information booth for a stint, said festival attendance routinely pushes the capacity of area hotels, leading some civic leaders to discuss the need for more accommodation. Although just under 88 percent of ticket buyers were from California overall, some came from a as far as Alaska and Virginia with a few counted from the UK and Mexico.

Organizers estimate that about 75 percent of the visitors are from outside of the Paso Robles area, drawing connoisseurs from metropolitan areas north, south and east.

On a warm but not unusually hot day, Rosé varieties and chilled white wines got more pours, but there were those who came just for their Merlots and reds.

Winemakers and vineyard owners coming to the annual event to work the crowds and see old friends said that the trend has been to grow more grapes for Rosé in recent years.

At least one couple, Jack and Janet Fleming, made this their 28th year attending. Though they now hail from San Diego, they said, they’ve come back to the fest through several moves to other regions.

“Wine people are nice people,” Jack said. “It hasn’t changed too much except for how much there is to try, and the price.”

Prices may have gone up with inflation, or quality, through the decades, but Chris Taranto, communications director for the Wine Country Alliance, said there is a natural cap to how large the festival gets.

“The idea is to have an enjoyable walkable festival,” he said, noting that they only represent wineries and growers in the official Paso Robles Wine Country American Viticultural Area and that the city’s Downtown Park was comfortably occupied with booths for the 74 wine businesses taking part.

“It’s not a giant elbow-to-elbow event,” Taranto said. “Everyone can stroll and have fun between the two bands and six artisans with unique crafts.”

“The Money Band” took over the main stage for the afternoon, with the Paso Robles City Hall and Paso Robles Inn in earshot, playing covers from the 1950s onward.

The two-man band “Guitar Circus” played from the gazebo with audience requests invited via text message.

More details about the events are available at: www.pasowine.com

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