Vines on the Marycrest, Paso Robles Winery

Vines on Marycrest

I had the privilege of meeting Victor Abascal the owner and winemaker at a tasting a Khoury’s in Las Vegas.  His story is an entertaining one.  His background was as a sound engineer until he became obsessed with wine.  He and his wife Jennifer own and run Vines on the Marycrest in Paso  Robles, California with Jenni managing the farm during the week while he continues working as a technical engineer.  On the weekends though, you can expect to see him at the winery.

Vines on the Marycrest Tasting Room

Vines on the Marycrest Tasting Room

After meeting him at Khoury’s I was intrigued and researched the winery.  I came across a wonderful article written by a friend of his talking about his journey in the wine industry.  It’s worth a read http://erikaschickel.com/Articles/Article004_Dinosaur.html

To synopsize…He got hooked on wine reading a Wine Spectator..then had to learn more. While running in the neighborhood he grew up in he realized this land that he climbed fences and rode his bike on as a kid, was perfect for growing grapes.  So he planted some!  The property was actually owned by the Catholic church and the nuns freaked out thinking someone was growing pot!  Turns out they knew his parents and allowed him to let the vines go dormant over the winter so he could relocate them.  He found another property, continued with his journey and eventually purchased land in Paso Robles. The name “Vines on the Marycrest” comes from his first vineyard.  That property the nuns kicked him out of was Marycrest Manor in Culver City.

Vines on the Marycrest

Vines on the Marycrest front View

It was not too long ago that they were doing tastings out of their home.  Now they have a stunning tasting room with a patio for enjoying the great outdoors and perfect for live music.

Vines on Marycrest band

Vines on Marycrest band

They were having live music on this night at their new tasting room.  We watched Victor move about quickly working with the band on the patio, setting up mics then coming through the tasting room inside and adjusting speaker levels.  The man was in his element, good music, sound gear and his own wines…he was clearly enjoying himself.  In the meantime, Jenni was managing the bar and took very good care of us.  We enjoyed the music as it filtered in from outside and tasted through their wines, many of which are named after music they find inspiring.

Enjoying conversation with either Jenni or Victor while having a glass of their wine is really a joy.  Don’t miss a stop at this beautiful tasting room, and remember to tell them we say hello!

Vines on Marycrest Audience

Vines on Marycrest Audience

Springtime in Wine Country – Santa Barbara to Paso Robles

Santa Barbara
Stearn Wharf Sign

Stearn Wharf Sign

Drawn to the coast we began on the beach in Santa Barbara wandering Stearns wharf and then tasting at Municipal Winemakers on Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail in “The Funk Zone”.  Au Bon Climat called and we strolled up the beautiful State Street with bougainvillea petals blowing on the breeze to taste there. Jim Clendenen’s wines lived up to the hype in my book. Then it was just a beautiful drive up 154 to Los Olivos past Lake Cachuma to taste at Qupe/Verdad/Ethan in Los Olivos see some of the amazing wines Bob Lindquist creates.  A relaxing tasting on the back patio at Carhartt slowed our pace and had us waxing poetic on the glorious fragrances of Brooke Carhartt’s wines.  Dinner of small plates and a wine wall where I could enjoy tastings or a glass at Avant Tapas and Wine ended a perfect day one.

In the morning we caught the marine layer drifting through as we headed north into Foxen Canyon stopping for a great tasting at Zaca Mesa.  The property here is beautiful.  This is the winery that turned out both Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist as well as numerous other amazing winemakers.  After our tasting here, we headed North to Arroyo Grande and enjoyed a tour at Talley.  As we toured the winemaker Eric Johnson stopped by on a couple of occasions to say hello and answer questions.  Now it was on to our final destination of Paso Robles.  We tasted at Booker which is off of 46 West and were greeted by the winery dog who is the spittin’ image of our dear Mojo from Miramonte!

Day 3 began at Bella Luna, a tiny winery south-east of Paso, where Sherman, the winemaker was pouring their Italian style wines. Staying on the East Side we drove on to Sculpterra with their amazing sculpture garden live accordion music and lovely wines.  We made our way back to the West side of the 101 to Vines on the Marycrest where they were hosting a “Songwriters at Play” event.  The sun filtered through the tasting room windows and the music filtered in from the patio while we enjoyed a great tasting and conversation with Jennifer while Vic the winemaker and a sound engineer busily took care of cables, mic stands and making sure the sound system in the tasting room gave us the best mix.  Our day ended strolling downtown where they were having a wine and art event.  We were drawn into the Parrish Family Vineyards elegant tasting room where enjoyed tasting the Parrish Family wines with a cheese pairing from Vivant cheeses and I was treated to a wonderful conversation with winemaker David Parrish regarding yeast!

Another beautiful morning saw us enjoying a drive in on Vineyard Drive from the south. Shale Oak is a newer winery in Paso and I had been lucky enough to stumble across them on Cellar Pass.  The peacefulness of this spot in the morning with its stunning architecture topped by it’s eco friendly stance made for a beautiful start to the day.  We added a little adrenaline to the morning with a drive out Peachy Canyon Road.  The twists and turns put this West Virginia girl right at home.  We stopped at a small winery called Stacked Stone.  Winery owner and winemaker Donald Thiessen saw us pull in and came out to open the tasting room to pour for us.  The property is in a lovely wooded area landscaped with “stacked stones”.  Back up Peachy Canyon we headed toward one of the highest limestone plateaus on the West side of Paso Robles 1200 feet above the Salina Valley.  Here at Lloyd’s Lookout sits the Calcareous Winery and tasting room.  The views are amazing.  We enjoyed a tasting followed by a lunch pairing with food by Thomas Hill Organics.

Mid day saw us heading North and East to San Miguel and tasting at family owned and run Locatelli.  Raynette Gregory the co-proprietor poured for us.

From this small family owned winery, we headed further east to the big new tasting room on this block, Nigel Lithgoe’s Villa San Juliette.  The drive out is lovely with expansive views of the East side hills and the property itself is impressive.  Photo’s to come!  From here we were a little wined out…so time for a little pacific coast palate cleanser.  We headed to the coast and dinner at Moonstone beach.  We finished dinner and drove partway back to Paso to pull off and wait to watch sunset.

Our final day started with tour at Tablas Creek.  We are loyal members here and took a tour before our tasting.  The place has grown so much since our last trip here.  We saw Bob Haas arriving for the day, and while we did not see winemaker Neil Collins, we did get to hang with his dog Millie!  From here we had a little time before our tour at neighboring Halter Ranch and made a stop at Adelaida to taste the wines, the almonds, see the sheep and alpacas and meet Addy the vineyard cat.  We headed back to Halter Ranch to do our tour and tasting, and fell in love with the place.  The new winery here is state of the art and stunning.  We ended our trip here on a high note.

So that is the quick view, watch for detailed posts and pictures from these amazing wineries over the next few weeks.