Monday, May 9, 2011

Cycling Through The Vineyards

This past weekend, I finally got to enjoy two months of planning for my honey's birthday. I know many people speak of living in the present, but my love of coordinating and looking forward to those plans being played out for the recipient is just as much fun. I recently decided that I liked the idea of giving experiences rather than gifts, so I set about researching bike tours through vineyards, nice hotels and delicious restaurants to give my busy boy a nice relaxing mini-vacation in the quaint little town of Paso Robles. It's about a three hour drive, and neither of us had been there, so it seemed like a fun adventure.

We arrived at our hotel moments before our guide, and we were promptly shuttled over to the first vineyard, where we enjoyed a light lunch under a bright red market umbrella. The guide was sweet enough to even have a brownie with a candle in it for my man's birthday. We were anxious to go so we both barely ate, and soon we were peddling across the rolling hills of the East Side of Paso Robles, considered the valley part of the region and giving it a completely different flavor profile from the West Side which was more on the coastal ledge of the area, and with a completely different soil. We rode past beautiful old farmhouses, livestock with their new offspring basking in the sun, flowers and fields of every different kind and of course, row upon row of grapevines.

I have to admit, a part of me was a bit frightened. Having a bike accident when I was twelve that put me in the hospital for a week, I could feel tension and panic creeping up when we headed down some of the steeper hills. But I kept reminding myself that I was not a 12 year old anymore and rode cautiously on and by the end of the day, I was letting the exhilaration of the hills fill me with the euphoria of riding in fearless motion.

That night, we made up for all of the calories we'd burned and then some by diving into one delicious Italian dish after another at Il Cortile in downtown Paso Robles. I had wavered back and forth between this restaurant and another with a more "famous" reputation, but by the end of the meal, we were in heaven. Everything was cooked to perfection, innovative and beyond satisfying. My thanks to all those Yelpers! that posted about this place.

Upon returning to our room, we discovered that in addition to our turn-down service, they had put on some great jazz music to welcome us back. It reminded me of our first date, when a coffee meeting led to dinner, and we found ourselves at a jazz club, listening to the late show, not wanting that first day to end. And luckily, after three years, I still feel that same way.
With bike helmet hair in front of J. Lohr Vineyards.


  1. What a lovely gift for your mate. I live about 5 hours north of Paso Robles. My husband and I love that area - Cambria, San Simeon, and the whole Santa Maria valley is just gorgeous.

    I think that we may have eaten at the same Italian restaurant you did. Is it right on the square with an outdoor brick patio?

    Happy to have found a fellow Californian here in blogland!


  2. Thank you for reading!! I can't wait to go back to this area. It was such a calming beautiful place, and there were kids lined up for Prom in the middle of town all dressed up and awkward, and cute. I can't wait to go back.

    The restaurant we ate at was just west of the park in downtown off of 12th and Park. It had a patio that was enclosed with clear roll-downs (I'm guessing due to the wind and chill) and it's only been there about a year. We debated going to Artisan but opted out, and are thankful we did.

    I did consider your region near Sonoma for his birthday, but the turn-around time to drive there (or fly really) just seemed to be too much for our quick weekend getaway. I'll definitely have to get up there soon though for a longer visit, and some great wine tasting.

  3. Jessica, what a fabulous gift idea, and the area you visited looks divine. I must say you are a good-looking couple. You look very happy together.

  4. Aww...Fiona. Thanks for the sweet compliments! Paso is a bit far from where you are but I bet you have some wonderful wine regions in your part of the world. The physical exertion and beautiful landscape made for such a fun, romantic weekend, that I would highly recommend it.

  5. How sweet! I love experiences over gifts as well. I love the picture of you two together, what a great couple :)