Forks and Corks Paso Robles was our excuse to head south for the long weekend. As it turned out, there were a number of high points, but this event was the opposite. Thumbnail review: too few forks, too many corks.
The idea was that various Paso area eateries and beverage producers would set up shop and pour, ladle, or assemble various libations and food items. It was held at Halter Ranch, a winery we had enjoyed in the past. More on that in a moment.
View Paso Robles area wineries in a larger map
As the organizers quickly learned, it takes far less to pour tastes of beverages than to assemble and distribute food items. One line for a food item (sliders from Pappy McGregors) was 30 minutes long. Since the event only ran from 4 to 8 (and we didn’t arrive until 5), spending 30 minutes in a line is a bit much to ask. Other queues were shorter, but still significant. By my count there were 11 food booths and 36 purveyors of various alcoholic beverages. The rule was “anything with a cork.” There were breweries, artisanal vodka and rum makers, wineries (of course) and a tequila shop. (Click here for the complete list of participants.)
We did enjoy the crostini topped with smoked sirloin with a stone fruit confetti and finished with blue cheese sauce and camelized onions from the Pairing Knife. These folks describe themselves as “a vineyard to table mobile kitchen. Roaming from SLO to Paso Robles, we bring the food and wine experience of the Central Coast to you. Join us for the perfect pairing.” No matter how you slice it, Executive Chef Jessie Rivas knows his way around a kitchen.
Our friends Doug and Sabrina Kruse from Jack Creek Cellars were there — in fact, we got the announcement from them. (We are long-term members of their wine club.) Unfortunately (for us) they were tasting everything except their excellent pinot noirs. Sigh.
We grabbed a few snacks and wandered the hot, dusty grounds. We decided to sample the latest from Halter Ranch Vineyards. We had been warned in advance that there had been several winemakers since our previous visit, so we were prepared to be disappointed. In that respect, we were not disappointed. Halter Ranch has moved toward the tannic, oaky, big red styles, forsaking their previous approachable vintages. That’s why we are forced to continue to revisit wineries. In many of them, change and turnover are the only constants.
But we did discover two winners: Caliza and Barton. Barton Family Wines, it happens, is the second label of Grey Wolf Cellars. Well, that’s not exactly correct. Grey Wolf Cellars is the sign you’ll see as you drive west on highway 46. But from the website it looks like Barton is actually the primary label. We’ve driven past the Grey Wolf sign many times but were put off by the name. We’d suggest the Barton folks either replace the Grey Wolf sign or add a second notice that Barton Family Wines is also at this location.
We visited both Caliza and Barton on Sunday, so we’ll postpone reviewing their wines for a future article. But we won’t return for the second Forks and Corks Paso Robles event next year.