Paso Robles doesn't have one climate. Instead, it encompasses a diverse cluster of microclimates and a correspondingly diverse array of wineries. The grapes that ripen on their vineyards here vary widely in flavor and harvest date, and the resulting wines are predictably eclectic even though they all hail from the same region.
With First Crush Wine Experience, wine enthusiasts can sample the region's bounty—and even stomp on its grapes. Hands-on, multi-day tours let participants follow a bottle of wine from vine to finished product and on some trips, participants get to custom blend their own bottle of wine. The company's seminars, meanwhile, focus on topics such as honing the palate to help wine drinkers better differentiate between wine and wine-flavored Gatorade.
The rolling hills of this 40-acre vineyard are home to 20 different varieties of grape, each possessing a unique flavor and subtle nuances that make them perfect for blending. The orderly rows are overseen by owner Hoy Buell, who also owns the nearby Greenheart Farms, which enjoys a reputation as one of the largest rose producers in the world. Buell brings more than 30 years of horticulture experience to his vineyard, using his technical knowledge of plant care, grafting, and cloning to help create the wine blends for which his vineyard is famous. After they’ve been harvested by hand, winemaker Paul Ayers works with the grapes in small batches to ensure quality. Ayers carefully monitors each step in the wine making process, from hand-sorting the grapes, to punching down the fermenting seeds and juice, to constantly acting out scenes from the wines' favorite TV shows as they stay locked in oak barrels to age for up to two-and-a-half years.
Guests can roam the vineyards with a guide or enjoy the view from the tasting room overlooking them. There, accompanied by artisan cheeses, guests can sip established varietals like Rhones or Zinfandels, or try the winery's signature blends such as the 2007 Profundo––a gold medal winner at the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and ripe with black-cherry cola, oak, and mint notes.
Hundreds of reenactors from several western states descend on Kearney Park for a living-history lesson that commemorates the 150th anniversary of the civil war. Wander through a civilian town and military encampments housing battle-weary soldiers as live music from the period drifts through the air and artisans craft non-anachronistic wares. Time-traveling visitors may stumble upon Abraham Lincoln for a chat about emancipation or about how he plans to decorate his beard for Halloween as a collection of stagecoaches gleams in the sun nearby.
Moravia Wine's Howard Hammond is the patriarch of the family vineyards. For Howard, farming is a family tradition that stretches back to the late 19th century, when his Danish ancestor, Hans Jacob Jeppesen, arrived in America aboard a Norwegian vessel named "Moravia." Today, Howard, his wife Barbara, and a new generation of Hammonds carry on that tradition at the family's vineyards, a 400-acre estate in West Fresno. There, they produce Moravia wine inside a World War II-era farm and equipment barn. The barn's interior has undergone major changes to accommodate the production process and frequent tasting events. But its exterior still uses the original brickwork, maintaining the building's character.
A Double Gold Medal award winner for its 2007 Lucas Vineyard zinfandel at the 2010 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, Ramos Torres Winery produces several Central Valley–grown wines under the direction of Oscar Ramos, who holds a degree in enology and a minor in enosophy (the study of wine's thoughts). An in-store wine tasting will let you and a beverage buddy tiptoe your taste buds through a selection of five Ramos Torres varietals and fermented concoctions, which may include the 2008 Vino Tinto, a careful blend of cabernet sauvignon, petit sirah, petit verdot, and alicante bouchet. The 2009 Conversations blends apricot aromas, muscat blanc, and the citrus sensations of orange muscat—tailor-made for sipping atop a bucking bronco. Tasters are then challenged to select between a bottle of the Vino Tinto and a bottle of Conversations.
Raisin Hell Ranch wrings gasps and screams from horror-seeking psyches with three scare-generating attractions. VIP pass-holders skip sprawling queues at all three attractions, ignoring lines with the insouciance of an entitled princeling on their way to spine-tingling seasonal scares. Inspect the foreboding stalks of Scarecrow's Revenge, dropping into a cornfield populated with carnivorous strawmen thirsting for the human vitality that prolongs their unlife and helps them win the ranch’s annual blood drive. Chupacabra Feast sets guests' fear-resistant equipoise against hordes of goat-hating hellbeasts. After eluding external creeps and internal fear of candy corn, guests escape to the Black-Out Maze's 2.5 miles of lightless twists and turns, staying on edge thanks to spooky noises, roving monsters, and claustrophobic dead ends.
For more than a eight years, the Fresno Home Show's organizers have canvassed the Central Valley to collect and concentrate the knowledge of scores of building, décor, gardening, and landscaping professionals. Homeowners can bring blueprints for home projects and consult with vendors or chat with experts.