ATASCADERO — Wine enthusiasts flocked to Atascadero through the week for Wine Speak Paso Robles on Jan. 7-10, where vintners from across the wine regions of California, Washington, and Australia came to mingle with local sommeliers and vineyard owners for the second annual industry event.
Amanda Wittstrom-Higgins, Ancient Peaks Winery’s VP of operations co-founded Wine Speak with master sommelier Chuck Furuya last year and, she said, they’ve called on an extensive list of his connections to promote the region.
At the Grand Tasting event in the Atascadero Lake Pavilion, on Jan. 8 the pair took turns giving the other credit for the events’ success while approximately 200 attendees sampled reserve vintages from Paso Robles region wineries and sampled pieces of bread, desserts, tacos and small plates from bakeries and restaurants in Santa Margarita and Atascadero.
“The first Paso Robles wine I had was in 1988,” explained the Hawaii-based Furuya, “that's when I knew there was something a little extra that they were doing here….the wines and the geography are amazing of course but the people make the place. The people of Atascadero have been so genuine and helpful and kind. They embraced us all coming in and taking over for a couple of days with open arms. It’s been a crazy [positive] experience for us.”
More than 30 wineries and hospitality-tied businesses participated in the event with panels covering everything from “The State of Zinfandel” to “Creating Your Perfect Blend.”
Wineries at the Grand Tasting included: Alta Colina, Ancient Peaks, Anarchy Treana, Hope, Benom, Booker, Brecon, Calcareous, Caliza, Chateau Margene, Clesi, DAOU, Denner, Eberle, Epock, Falcone, Jada, J. Dusi, L'Aventure, Law, Linne Calodo, Niner, Onx, Rotta, Seven Oxen, Tablas Creek, Thacher, TH Estate Wines, Turley, Villa Creek, Giornata, Halter Ranch, Hearst Ranch, J. Lohr, and Jack Creek.
On Jan.10, while many of the out-of-region attendees had booked flights home, attention turned to the hospitality industry itself with a focus on communications and branding.
“It’s been a great event all about bringing the best wine minds in the ‘New World’ together to share their experience,” Furuya said. “Look around the room right now and you can see real masters exchanging ideas.”
Wittstrom-Higgins also noted that proceeds from a silent auction of large-format bottles went to bringing a new generation into that exchange, with eight young women from across the country given scholarships to attend the educational seminars through the Dream Big Darling nonprofit foundation.
In all she said, most aspects of the event had been larger and enjoyed more success than the first year, now that word has spread in industry circles.