Two weeks, two trips, and a purchase

The Gap With the movie "Sideways" ruining our hopes of ever retiring in Los Olivos, Santa Ynez Valley, we have had our eyes on Paso Robles wine country for a while. Hoping to buy some land, we exchange a few emails with a realtor who proves to be quite useless. Dan's online searches are more informative but very wide! Where is Santa Margarita? San Miguel? Indian Valley? Templeton? And why does it have a gap? What on earth does it even mean?? We have no clue! We finally decide that it might actually be a good idea to visit the region and earmark the areas we like so we can focus our search. On a whim we decide to drive down the next day. Well, not super whim since we do make hotel reservations.

The Ditchdigger Bistro Laurent is right off of the main town square and we arrive just in time for lunch. Mmmm… croque-monsieur for Assana and something equally french for Dan, complete with pommes frites. Yumm. Off to the wine country. Our waiter recommends his favorite wineries and we decide to start with them. Turns out this dude has really good taste! We love everything he recommended to us! Our favorite is Denner Vineyards, both their wine and their story: turns out mom and pop make a trip down to Chile to recruit their son who was running a winery down there. They show up with a plan and presentation, pitch it to the son, and succeed. Son moves back to the US and starts up the winery. Their DitchDigger is mighty tasty!
Also on our favorite list is Turly Wine Cellars. They bring a quirky sense of humor to wine and winemaking. Jada Vineyard, owned by a cardiovascular surgeon dude from Florida attempts to do some cheese matching with the wine, though they kind'a miss it!

Linne Calodo tickles our fancy with their fabulous wine, beautiful [and brand new] tasting room, and their most adorable foopity poopity dog. Another favorite stop is Pasolivo: An adorable orchard right in the heart of Paso wine country. We do some tasting and purchase a few bottles of heavenly olive oil. One of their tastiest oils is labeled "The Surprise." What surprise? Turns out they enter their [what they thought] kalamata olive oil into a competition. They win, but also learn from the experts that the olives are not kalamata! What are they? Who knows! Its a surprise!

Beverly Hills of Paso As we drive we make a note of roads we like: [aptly named] Vineyard Drive, Peachy Canyon, Willow Creek Road. Our bed & breakfast, Orchard Hill Farm, happens to be right on Vineyard Drive, and pretty much across from Denner. The inn is cute, though there is no privacy! The innkeepers, Doug and Debbie Thomsen are super nice and sweet. We learn a lot from them: that the locals call Paso Robles just "Paso." We learn about The westside. And that the area we like is the most desirable area in the westside and is considered the Beverly Hills of Paso wine country (Debbie actually laughs at us when we showed her the map of areas we like.) We also learn that we should not commit to one realtor since they all have what is called "pocket listings," listings that are not quite public yet but that someone knows someone who knows someone, etc. Lack of loyalty is against our grain, so we'll see how this will work, but it gives us courage to dump the current one.

For dinner, Doug & Debbie recommend Artisan, a fabulous fusion restaurant in downtown Paso. Doug stops by at a very inopportune moment to tell us that unfortunately they have no availability for dinner. Then Debbie stops by to reiterate! Again, not much privacy. We take our chance and stop by Artisan anyways and boom! Right before we walk in someone cancels their reservation and we end up with a great seat by the window.

Chester Our short trip wasn't long enough. There is so much to see, so much wine to taste, and so much more to explore. So we head back down for the annual Olive Festival. This time we stay longer, and we decide to stay in town. We are staying at Hotel Cheval whose mascot is an adorable gigantic horse named Chester. Chester used to live and work in New Jersey in an Amish community. Since moving to California, he goofs around in a pasture all week long, and works Friday and Saturday nights as the designated driver for the hotel, driving guests to and from restaurants. Not a bad life! And talking of restaurants, this time we do have reservations at Artisan.

We arrive just in time for Friday's weekly free concert in the main square. We don't stay for the music, but it is nice to walk around and people-watch. Interestingly enough average age is higher than expected for a rock concert in the square, and most people were drinking wine, verses beer. We like. We also love the friendliness of everyone. During one dinner service at Panolivo, our waitress tells us all of her, her boyfriend's, and her parents' life stories!

The Walnut Orchard The Olive Festival is a bit anemic, but it is still fun to walk around and taste some yummy olive oil. We also meet Jim Irving, our new realtor. Originally we contacted Jim in regards to one of his listings: a thirty-nine acre walnut orchard we had noticed while exploring Vineyard Drive. That deal wasn't feasible for us, so we are now working with him to find some land. We spend a few hours checking out some local properties. Dan particularly loves the forty-acre oak-studded lot in Indian Valley. Too bad it is so remote. Assana falls in love with a much smaller parcel - just shy of sixteen acres - on the west side, about ten minutes outside town. It is a perfect lot for our dream house! That is a whole other story... and you can read more about it on its own site.

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