ATASCADERO — Local wine enthusiasts are invited to join vintners, master sommeliers and vineyard owners at the industry-oriented Wine Speak Paso Robles on Jan. 7-10, with events in Atascadero for the second year running.
Events kick off with the “Taste of Paso Robles” Grand Tasting at Atascadero’s Pavilion on The Lake, on Jan. 8, where organizers promise a more intimate tasting environment with industry luminaries while enjoying offerings from Paso Robles region wineries and local eateries. Local chefs are preparing small plates and cheeses to go with reserve and “library bottlings”.
Amanda Wittstrom-Higgins, Ancient Peaks Winery’s VP of operations co-founded Wine Speak with master sommelier Chuck Furuya last year and, she said, they’ve called on an extensive list of his connections to promote the region.
More than 30 wineries and related businesses are participating, with tickets for the Grand Tasting running $85 for the public. Wittstrom-Higgins promises they’ll more than get their money’s worthwhile learning about the new and innovative as well as solid classics.
A fourth generation local, Wittstrom-Higgins noted, she has a few connections of her own, including friendships with management at the Carlton Hotel, where a casual tasting is being held on Jan. 9.
When she first started the collaboration with Furuya, she added, they’d had different concepts in mind, with the sommelier working out of Hawaii being — of course — interested in the Central Coast wines and herself thinking of connections to area hospitality.
“Chuck was able to pull a lot of strings. He’s a really big deal as far as investment in our region,” she added, noting that a few introductions by former Mayor Tom O’Malley cemented the event’s place as a recurring City of Atascadero event showcasing the Paso Wine region. “We’re interested in elevating the region as well for locals to see what we’re offering to the world as well as visitors...The City has been wonderful in helping get that established. There will be workshops in City Hall, which is a venue we never would have thought to hold it in unless it had been offered.”
In addition to the “Taste of Paso Robles” Grand Tasting, set for Jan. 8, the “BYOB” Casual Tasting at the Carlton is scheduled Jan. 9 with winemakers bringing their favorites and the public invited to join. The “Paso Paired” Luncheon is also set for Jan. 9, featuring four acclaimed local wines,” paired by longtime sommelier and SOMM Journal editor-at-large Randy Caparoso with dishes from Chef Cheyne Jackson of The Range. Legendary master sommelier Fred Dame of DAOU will be the keynote speaker.”
Tickets for those events are all available through the website: WineSpeakPaso.com.
New this year to the event, Wittstrom-Higgins noted the involvement of the professional development charity “Dream Big Darling,” which she is also the co-founder of. Eight women from across the country interested in developing their skill in the wine industry are being given full-ride scholarships to the events, plus a development retreat in Santa Margarita.
Wineries expected at the Grand Tasting include: Alta Colina, Ancient Peaks, Anarchy Treana, Hope, Benom, Booker, Brecon, Calcareous, Caliza, Chateau Margene, Clesi, DAOU, Denner, Eberle, Epock, Falcone, Jada, J. Dusi, L’Aventure, Law, Linne Calodo, Niner, Onx, Rotta, Seven Oxen, Tablas Creek, Thacher, TH Estate Wines, Turley, Villa Creek, Giornata, Halter Ranch, Hearst Ranch, J. Lohr, and Jack Creek.