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And a fine time of the season it is

By Christina Waters

Noting that Silicon Valley now stretches a good 50 miles south of Gilroy down scenic Highway 101, we found ourselves in the endless vineyards of Paso Robles last week. Gorgeous place, and no longer just another strategically placed cow town. No indeed. The premium wine tasting available in this oak-lined stretch of the Central Coast is awesome, and includes top names like J. Lohr, Peachy Canyon, York Mountain, Laura's Vineyard, mighty Meridian, Tobin James, Wild Horse, Treana and even Bonny Doon Vineyards. That's right, the maverick of the Santa Cruz Mountains, winemaker Randall Grahm, has gotten himself a bonny tasting room on an atmospheric stretch of country road that connects Paso Robles with the seaside kingdom of Cambria. So while you're on your way to Hearst Castle, you might want to stop by the Sycamore Herb Farm, on Highway 46 West, which houses (among other things) the tasting room. The place is amazing, completely aside from the presence of a fully functional Bonny Doon Vineyards tasting room. The Herb Farm--a miniature fantasy farm complete with Nubian goats, free-ranging chickens and beautiful cats -- specializes in, like the name says, herbs. You can buy them in pots for your own garden, picked and dried, or already incorporated in delectable sauces, mustards and salsas. The farm store is delightful--a major cut above the usual tourist trap--and the tasting room not only pours Grahm's greatest enological hits, from Ca' del Solo to the award-winning Cigare Volant, but packs a line of Ralph Steadman illustrated T-shirts as well. Pick up a case of Bonny Doon goodies while you're there. And if you're in Paso Robles next weekend, stop at Sycamore Herb Farm (805.238.5288) for the 3rd Annual Garden Harvest Festival, free, from 11am-4pm. Wine tasting joins lots of herb demos, container gardening, harvesting and preserving herbs, mulching demos, pruning, willow weaving, pumpkin carving--lots of old-fashioned, country-style fun along with live music, apple cider and delicious food possibilities.

Reisling Match

On the subject of one of America's top winemakers, Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon Vineyard are hosting a star-studded "You Gimme Riesling to Live" event, tomorrow night (Friday, Sept. 29) at 6:30pm at the winery, located at 328 Ingalls St. in Santa Cruz. A veritable Weltschmerz of extraordinary German Rieslings, the lavish tasting is joined by a sumptuous meal prepared by David McMillan of An Original Occasion in Los Angeles. The match of delicate, floral Rieslings and edgy Asian-influenced dishes is exotic. Consider a dozen Rieslings matched with sashimi of yellowtail over gingered savoy salad. Chawan mushi with sweet shrimp. Shaved air-cured foie gras with tangerine marmalade. Warm truffled trout and potato salad with caviar and poached quail egg. Auslese glazed pork loin finished off by a dessert of caramelized mango and candied ginger clafoutis. All this, and Rhône rascal Grahm, for $125 per person. Dash for the phone and plead with Colleen Pitcher (831.425.3625) for a last-minute reservation.

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From the September 28-October 4, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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