Wobegon in Wine Country
PHC staffer Kate Swee is on the Radio Romance Tour with Garrison, Fred Newman, Aoife O'Donovan, Sara Watkins, and The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band and will update us periodically from the road.
Upon our entrance to the Vina Robles Amphitheatre — just opened in May 2013 — we were greeted by a beautiful, European-style fountain, the grounds' lush green grass nourished by many a sprinkler. (Which in the heat, we almost wished we could run through without looking unprofessional!) The sweltering 100-degree afternoon of Paso Robles (or just "Paso" to the locals) didn't provide the best conditions for taking long walks through the Winery's 30 acres, however, the brand new venue and the extended rows of vineyards on either side of nearby Highway 46 at least made for a more than pleasant view.
The buildings of Vina Robles are reminiscent of classic California Missions, burnt-sienna tiled roofs covering the stucco and stone walls of each structure, dotted with large, arched picture windows looking out onto the expansive property. California Live Oak and Blue Oak trees stood out against the yellow-tinted summer grass — the "Golden Hills of California" to which people refer in songs and novels. Numerous wineries occupy the long desert road adjacent to the venue, including Eberle, Templeton, Martinelli, Bianchi, Robert Hall, J. Lohr, Mitchella — and that's just within walking distance. More than 25 different varieties of grapes are grown within the city's limits, with over 250 bonded wineries in the area — a veritable wine epicenter for California's mid-section.
The Vina Robles Winery was established by Swiss natives in the mid-1990's, their motto stating: "European Inspiration — California Character." Grapes grown on the property itself included Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and I could just make out the various colors of grapes enveloping the hills behind the concert hall. The sun soon disappeared beyond the horizon, quickly transforming the day's heat into a breezy, sunset-tinged night. Although "The Song Had Ended," we left knowing that "The Melody Lingered On," and we were off again for our last concert on the West Coast: San Diego!