Nearly 20 wineries flank Highway 46 that runs east from Highway 101 in Paso Robles, creating everything from Albarino and Chardonnay to Tannat and Zinfandel. And once a year, the Esprit du Vin event brings them all together at a rotating member winery location to share their wines with fans from near and far.
At the 18th edition of Esprit du Vin on January 19, 2019, wine lovers gathered at the brand new Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery Facility and Event center to taste wines, experience pairings of specially selected cheese, and enjoy the food, music, and fun of the event.
Event Center Debut
It’s dusk when we pulled up to the Event Center, a couple turns off Highway 46 East. The first thing we noticed was the lighting of the building and the neon signage. It’s obvious a lot of attention went into this detail, and we’re excited to see the inside of the center. Will it carry through what the exterior conveys?
As we walk under the curved archway, which reminds us of a wine barrel’s curved staves, we can see that the interior is filled with thoughtful design elements. Skylights also mimic the shape a wine barrel, and the rich plank wood gives the cozy feel of a wine cellar, not an event center. Marble floors, expansive windows, and seating areas outside each space add to the beauty and function of this place.
Later in the evening, we learn from Bruce Blair, Hospitality Manager with Riboli Family Wines, that the San Antonio Winery is the oldest in the state, plus it’s been in Paso Robles for 30 years. Founded in downtown Los Angeles in 1917 by Santo Cambianica, his nephew Stefano Riboli and wife Maddalena joined the business. It has since grown into multiple vineyards from Paso Robles to Napa Valley. The winery was named 2018 American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. Its original winery, tasting room, and restaurant in LA stand strong, and the tasting room and bistro in Paso Robles offers a range of wines and food options to enjoy.
“It’s been the Riboli family’s dream to open this facility,” said Blair, as a place for the community to gather, use, and enjoy. If tonight’s sell-out crowd is any indication, their dream has come true.
- Allegretto Vineyards and Wine: 2015 Tannat
- Barr Estate Winery: Malbec
- Bianchi Winery: 2015 Syranot
- Brochelle Vineyard: 2016 Zinfandel
- Broken Earth Winery: Cabernet Sauvignon
- Eberle Winery: 2016 Syrah
- Eos Estate Winery: 2016 Reserve Roussane
- Glunz Family Winery & Cellars: 2015 Zinfandel
- Graveyard Vineyards: 2016 Malbec
- Lusso Della Terra Cellars: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pear Valley Estate Wine: 2015 Tempranillo
- Penman Springs Vineyard: 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
- Rails Nap: 2015 Aner red blend
- Rio Seco Vineyard & Winery: H22 Zinfandel
- Robert Hall Winery: GSM
- San Antonio Winery: 2015 Stormwatch Bordeaux Blend
- Tobin James Cellars: 2014 Reserve Petite Syrah
- Villa San-Juliette: 2015 Grenache Reserve
- Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
Cheese and More
Sprinkled around the edges of the large event spaces, each winery table displays the wines it is pouring tonight. Most are pouring at least two, and some offer several.
Each winery has chosen a cheese to pair with at least one of their wines based on its characteristics. Our mission tonight is to capture all the pairings so we can share them with you. One added benefit is learning about new cheese shops to visit, like Le Vigne Winery, Vivant, and Central Coast Creamery.
A couple standout cheeses on their own are Westminster Rustic Red Cheddar, Bishop’s Peak, Gruyere with edible flowers, and Mimolette.
A few of our favorite pairings are Pear Valley’s 2015 Tempranillo with aged gouda, Villa San Juliette’s 2015 Grenache Reserve with Westminster Rustic Red Cheddar, Vina Robles Vineyards’ 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon with Mimolette, and Graveyard Vineyards’ 2016 Malbec with cheddar crusted with coffee and lavender.
In addition to wine and cheese, several local caterers and specialty food shops offer everything from tacos, paella, and ribs to quail eggs and mini cupcakes.
Food vendors: Su Casa, Thomas Hill Organics, Hurricane Kitchen, Miss Oddette’s Creole Kitchen, Foss Farms, Farmhouse Sweets, and Jeffry’s Wine Country BBQ.
Music and Raffles
Burning Bad & Cool is tonight’s band, and they rock it. These three gentlemen on electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and bass can play and sing. Big time. The crowd loves them and there’s some dancing in front of the stage as the evening progresses.
Soon after the event starts, Audrey, the president of 46 East Wineries Association, welcomes us all. This event is a fundraiser both for the wine association as well as for the charities they support. One of their favorites is the Conservation Ambassadors Zoo to You program. We attended the prior year’s Halloween Poker Run and can’t wait for this year’s event. (You can see the fun in the link at the bottom of this article.)
One of the crowd-pleasing aspects of Esprit du Vin is the raffle. Tonight, eight raffle tickets are drawn for the prizes that include wine, overnight stays at local hotels, and much more.
Fun for All
The crowd is lively and upbeat, and it’s easy to make new friends, like David and Julie, and Steve and Susan, all from Paso Robles. And it’s an eclectic crowd, with some in their 20s and all ages beyond, and dressed in everything from jeans to dresses and suits.
Until Next Year
Esprit du Vin is meant to be a fun, casual wine event, and it succeeds.
You can taste the wines from your go-to favorite wineries, or branch out and try new wineries or new wines. It’s a great opportunity to build a tasting list of wineries to visit in the year ahead.
Thanks to the entire team at 46 East Wineries for hosting this well-run event, the wineries and caterers for sharing your creations. And to the Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery for your vision, passion, and generosity.
Cheers to all.