Cloudy skies, threatening to drop rain any minute, did not stop people from filling the Downtown City Park for the 37th annual Paso Robles Wine Festival Grand Tasting on Saturday, May 18.
Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance Executive Director Joel Peterson noted that ticket sales were on pace with the previous year. PRWCA organizes the Wine Festival each year and this marks Peterson’s first since being named its leader at the end of 2018.
“I’m excited. We got a little bit of weather which is unusual for Paso Wine Fest, but couldn’t ask for a better group of wineries to be a part and volunteers,” Peterson said. “We are going to have a good time. People are bundling up. There is plenty of wine flowing. I think we are serving our mission, which is to show off the best that Paso Robles has to offer.”
It wasn’t the usual warm spring weather typical for the mid-May celebration of Paso Robles wine, but it didn’t matter as people came prepared for the elements many carrying umbrellas or jackets.
A group of 16 people mostly from the Salinas area, said they’d been coming to the Grand Tasting for years and were not going to stop just because they might get a little wet.
“We’ve been coming every year almost since 1997,” said David Cariaga, who is a retired Monterey County Sheriff’s Deputy. “Even though I don’t drink it’s still a party.”
Festival-goers, except for a minor spritzing of rain in the middle of the four-hour showcase, didn’t need the umbrellas or jackets to protect them from the rain that began falling hard after the conclusion of the event.
More than 70 wineries were spread out across the City Park and at many of the tables the winemaker or winery owner was the one actually pouring the wine into the commemorative wine glasses. The ability to meet the person behind the wines and casually speak with them is one of the major draws to Paso Robles Wine Festival.
Jason Haas, owner of Tablas Creek and his winemaker Neil Collins, were both front and center pouring wines and answering questions for most of the afternoon. Haas said it’s important for him to be at the event to support the wine region.
“It’s just a really fun event,” Haas said. “We know that this is how so many people every year discover Paso Robles. I feel like it is all of our responsibility to make sure that those people who are coming to discover the region fall in love with it.”
Two first time Grand Tasting attendees, Jacob Gams and Jamie Guglielmo, were enjoying the wines, the people and the music. Gams just graduated from California State University, Monterey Bay.
“I just graduated and we thought it would be a nice little treat for us to come down here,” Gams said. “Coincidentally, there was a wine festival going on so we thought why not celebrate in style so we got tickets to the wine festival. My fiancee got the tickets for me as a graduation gift.”
The couple had mapped out what wineries they wanted to taste from at the festival, but the plan changed once they got inside.
“We had certain spots that we definitely wanted to hit first and now we are just kind of enjoying everything now,” Guglielmo said.
There was plenty to take in besides the wine as two bands performed throughout the afternoon at opposite ends of the park and small bites of food were available as well.
In addition to the Grand Tasting, the celebration includes winemaker dinners on Thursday, followed by a reserve tasting and auction Friday night in the City Park, a wine seminar Saturday morning and more than 100 wineries were having special events on Sunday.
For information on the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, visit online www.pasowine.com.