An Overnight California Wine Country Experience
Photo courtesy of the California Travel & Tourism Commission
A long country road weaves its way up and over the rolling hills like a ribbon, the green grass of the ranches giving way to the brown earth of the vineyards. The grape vines in the fields flow over the land and look like cornrows, meticulously pruned and groomed, the spacing between them exact and consistent as they climb the hillsides.
All around me I could see the tractors in the fields and large buildings of the wineries, some very new and modern and others old and wooden and dark. Up ahead I saw the white farmhouse with the grape vines streaming out its backdoor. I slowed down and turned onto the gravel road and headed toward it.
Visiting wine country is a long-standing tradition for anyone who lives in or visits California. All fifty states now boast wineries thanks to the interests of tourism, but none compare to the cultural identity that the wine industry brings to California. From the beautiful scenery to the rural lifestyle to the enjoyment of the evolving beverage itself, wine here is a way of life. Most experience it by day-tripping into the grape-growing regions, stopping and picnicking at a variety of wineries to get a wide sample of its offerings. But I was looking for a more immersive experience. I wanted to spend the night.
Despite the day-trip mentality surrounding wine country, it was not hard to find wineries that have accommodations on site, be it in the form of a guest house, bed and breakfast, or modern inn. Here in Paso Robles, the Summerwood Winery is a prime example.
Its fully functioning grape-growing and wine-making facilities are complemented by a small inn of nine rooms, outfitted in a remodeled farmhouse. Each room has a private balcony for countryside gazing, a gas fireplace to make the cool nights cozy, and a free bottle of Summerwood wine. Also included in the rate (starting at $300 a night) is a wine tasting for two, a wine happy hour, and breakfast for two in the morning.
Standing out on the balcony, looking out over the grape vines and seeing the other farmhouses in the distance, I was very happy. An afternoon of visiting other wineries in Paso Robles was on my agenda, but as I stood there, I knew returning to Summerwood would be the highlight of my day. Because as I would learn, an overnight stay at a winery eliminates many of the drags of day-trip wine tasting.
With a room in wine country, you’re closer to “home” after a day of tasting, and more importantly, you aren’t leaving the area during the best part of the day — wineries close to the public at 4 or 5 p.m., meaning that most people never experience sunset in wine country.
My girlfriend and I entered the Summerwood tasting room just before closing to cash in on our free tasting. As guests of the Inn, we were treated to heavy pours. As the winery began to shut down, we asked the attendant to pour the entire tasting for us, so we could enjoy it at our own pace on the back patio. We sipped as the sun went down, looking out over the fields of grape vines, not another soul in sight.
We walked back across the street to the inn, where a complimentary wine hour with heavy appetizers, including salads, cheeses, breads, and veggies, had been laid out. We filled our plates, poured our glasses, and sat outside on the patio, surrounded by wine-barrel flower pots and tall palms. As night settled in, the stars came out and the white farmhouse began to reflect the moonlight.
Back in the room, our free bottle of wine and a fire was waiting.
In the morning, after a breakfast of farm-fresh eggs and organic oatmeal, we walked out into the fields.
There, we saw a worker tying up some of the vines, and we could see the tractors off in the distance in other fields. It was just another day at the office for these locals, but a moving experience for a traveler like me. There’s just something about staying on a farm, not just the relaxing nature of the scenery and the smells, but the idea that creativity is hard at work all around you. Those hands tying up that vine are contributing to the next generation of Summerwood wine, a batch I’ll surely be back to taste someday.
More by Will McGough
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