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.
The Midnight estate vineyard was planted by the Hartenbergers in 1996 on 30 acres of hillside and hilltop terrain nestled near the Santa Lucia mountain range of Westside Paso Robles. This area, known as the Templeton Gap, is a prime growing location characterized by cool maritime influences and calcareous soils.
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.