May 1 – Blogathon #1
We stayed at the Melody Ranch Motel but it was at the Vinoteca Wine bar (www.vinotecawinebar.com) in Paso Robles that we found the tunes. Dawn Lambeth & the Usonia Jazz band, which includes both her husband and his father, plays up-tempo American Standards to an appreciative crowd. This last translates to mean that we (husband and I—of a certain age ourselves) were the youngest people there. No. Wait. The nice bartenders were younger, and also, Dawn and her husband Marc Caparone. It was no matter. I danced around husband as he sat resolutely in his bar stool facing the band. The band played my favorite song for me, “Can’t Get Started” and truly impressed me by doing the original Bunny Berrigan version. Special guest with the band was the great keyboardist Carl Sonny Leyland. Bliss.
Marc and his Dad, Dave Caparone, also make wine. In fact, Dave, though a good trombonist is really a wine man. He began making wine in 1973, and by 179 had opened his Caparone Winery (www.caparone.com) one of the oldest, smallest, artisan wineries in Paso Robles. His 1986 Sangiovese was the first grown in the United States. And bottles from a more recent year were on hand for our swilling-pleasure. This velvety red started with the taste of melting chocolate and finished with a divine spread of raspberry as it swirl before heading reluctantly down my throat. I was now officially in love. Husband was happy for the outcome and instantly ordered up a couple more glasses.
Dave Caparone told me how he managed to create such a taste-sensation of a wine. Seems a young Italian dude wrapped three roots from a respected producers of Brunello di Montelcino and hauled them off to the new world (San Francisco). They were planted somewhere (okay, I’m a little fuzzy on the deets). In 1982, Dave obtained some of these Sangiovese Grosso cuttings and has produced wines from them ever since. They also produce small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Nebbiolo and Aglianico.
Other highlights of our stop in the area included dropping off stepdaughter at The Madonna Inn, and dinner at Chico’s Café in Paso. The Madonna Inn is all flowery, and pink, like a David Lynch dream on Pepto-Bismol. We handed the lass over to her maternal grandmother while quaffing our first crocktail of the day. There we left them catching up and discussing cousin’s boyfriends, in their pink tufted banquet. And got the hell out of there.
Chico’s is a local’s secret in Paso. Right on the town square park, lines formed all for other venues, but Chico’s was nearly empty. What nonsense! My seafood pasta, filled with fat fresh mussels, salmon, scallops and shrimp was utterly sublime. After my first bite, I turned towards the kitchen and yelled, “Compliments to the chef!” Everyone laughed and started talking to each other. We had a (real) happy meal.
By the way, legend has it that outlaws Frank and Jesse James’ Uncle Drury James was a co-founder of the town of El Paso de Robles and was part owner of the original hot springs hotel, where Jesse and Frank hid out for a couple years in the late 1860s.