TEMPLETON — Twenty-five regional Pinot Noir producers, up from last year’s 20 packed the Templeton Community Park on Sunday, June 2, for the 16th Annual Paso Pinot & Paella Festival.
Some things haven’t changed, which is why organizer for the event, Heather Goodman of Windward Vineyard’s explanation of the pairing holds up, “Pinot is known as a delicate grape, which isn’t what people think of when they come to Paso, but Pinot can survive and thrive here, and it makes versatile wine...And paella is a versatile dish, it goes well with all of the Pinot styles.”
But the addition of five new vintners and two new chefs gave the event more selection for 2019, even if the number of attendees was still technically capped at 500 for it to be held on the SLO County Parks’ property. As always chefs and wineries volunteered their time, food and tastings for a good cause with proceeds benefiting the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation (PRYAF).
Mindy Dierks executive director of PRYAF since 2014 said the event reliably brings in $25,000 of their $500,000 annual operating budget to give local students a foundation in the arts towards higher education.
Recipes grew ambitious this year as tweaks to the Spanish seafood recipes joined other flavors comfortable in the Mediterranean climate zone.
People’s Choice Award runner up, for the second year in a row, Chef Andre Averseng of Paso Terra squeezed lemon onto each serving to keep things crisp, while others relied on wild game, saffron and fennel for spice.
Cello @ Allegretto won first place people Choice award with Chef Ben Lugo, with second going to Jeffreys Wine Country BBQ — Chef Jeffry Wiesinger (who transitioned from catering to brick and mortar after last year’s event) and third place to Paso Catering Co. with Chef Trish Jacobs.
Jacobs noted their recipe is not a one-off, as they frequently cater to large wine country events with the dish as a staple.
The “Paso Wine Man,” actor come pitchman and troubadour, Casey Biggs returned to the festival for his fourth outing as emcee, a role for which he showed great poise and versatility, again praising the work of PRYAF as being close to his heart, although the Rose made with from Pinot Noir grapes earned accolades from him as well this year. Having debuted the Paso Wine Man Band at the event last year, Biggs traded in his guitar for a crooner’s blazer and channeled Sinatra and Bobby Darin with the Paso Wine Man Jazz Band for this outing.
Started as a production of Windward Vineyards to promote their vision of the region as a Pinot friendly environment, Windward’s Maggie D’Ambrosia said they’d relinquish the responsibility if the varietal got more respect, and another organizer wanted to step up but the charity aspect of the event is quite important to them to continue.
“It was the most beautiful out of all our 16 years,” she added, with a light breeze tussling the hair of nearby guests waiting for a pour.