Helmed by photo instructor Hal “Bull” Schmitt, Light Photographic Workshops simplify Adobe programs with single-day, eight-hour sessions designed to turn Photoshop neophytes into pic-enhancing masters. The course will delve into Lightroom’s powerful, easy-to-use sliders, tools, and basic editing functions for removing apparitional pic crashers. Though not required, students are welcome to bring their Lightroom 3–equipped laptop to the class to follow along with the lesson plan or a notepad and quill pen to take notes. Upon completing the course, each student takes home an instructional DVD with more than 8 hours of material for multimedia reminders of the class’s subject matter and a 40 percent discount on their first fine art, photo, or fine-art gallery canvas wrap print order through Light Workshops. Students are encouraged to bring either a bagged lunch or lunch money to save personal computers and fellow students from accidental ingestions.
At Ostrich Land, visitors quickly learn that ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand—they'd much rather bury them in a bowl of food that you hold out in front of you. They're also not fond of waiting their turn, and at any given moment, you might have four beaks dipping into your supply. The experience is a far cry from throwing bread at ducks or pigeons. These birds are the world's largest: they can reach up to 9 feet in height and weigh 350 pounds. At top speed, they hit 45 miles per hour on their massive, two-toed feet.
Having been raised around people and trained to eat from outstretched bowls, the park's 50 ostriches and emus welcome spectators from their savannah-like enclosure. They're also celebrities in their own right, with bit roles in the film Sideways as well appearances in a Santa Maria Times video feature and a tongue-in-cheek homage in an episode of The Simpsons. Dispensing the animals' supper is only one way in which guests can get close—a stop inside the gift shop reveals shelves of ready-to-cook ostrich and emu eggs, ostrich feather dusters, and savory ostrich meat shipped in from a separate farm not affiliated with Ostrich Land. Also in stock are vials of emu oil, a substance with anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties that can soothe the skin.
The impressionist painters who inspired winemaker Bion Rice raised shimmering mirages in which soft-edged daubs of paint seem to grant motion to ballerinas or swaying river rushes. At Artiste, Bion draws inspiration from their work, attempting to raise distant landscapes with grapes rather than rough brushstrokes. Cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes call up the sun-steeped fields of the Napa Valley, and chardonnay grapes carry one away to the Russian River Valley on straw-hued sweetness. Bion calls the blends “impressionist cuvees,” and he produces small batches of them, their corks sealed beneath thick, hand-dipped cloaks of crimson wax.
The bottles are labeled with colorful impressionist paintings, and in a tasting room and studio, the harmonious relationship between wine and art is even further cemented. The whisper of brushes on canvas drifts from paint-dappled tables, where guests bring to life sweeping forest vistas or criminal lineups of pine trees. A rotating array of paintings lines the walls, including works from artists such as Aldo Luongo, an Argentinian artist whose contrasting colors and rippling brushstrokes seem to gaze up from a clear lake. Wine glasses chime together, punctuating the lilting rhythm of classical guitarists or the constant weeping of trombone players during live music events.
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.