Twenty years of anything is quite an achievement, but when we're talkin' about twenty years of a friendship that's seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, it's a feat that calls for an all-out celebration. So twenty years to the day that my best friend Cassandra's family moved into a new neighborhood and began two decades of adventures with the some of the most hysterical people I have the honor of knowing,
we dragged ourselves out of bed at a 5am wakeup call and roadtripped to Paso Robles for a weekend of wine-tasting and shenanigans on the Californian coast.
The best part of the entire weekend was by far our bungalow that overlooked the cliffs in Cambria flanking the Pacific Ocean. We started and ended each day walking to the edge of the cliffs, listening to the waves crash and waving to sea otters popping their heads up from the rocks as they played and excitably pointing to dolphins leaping by. In the evening, we scrambled to change into our warmest sweatpants and watched the peaceful sunset before racing back to the house for homemade lasagna and birthday cake and raucous board games that had me laughing until my stomach ached (Loonacy is a crowd favorite).
It brought me right back to my own childhood when my family caravanned with the best of family friends to the North Carolina coast, where a humongous shared rental house was waiting for us to fill it with memories.
But of course, we cannot forget the wine!
Our itinerary included:
Epoch Estate Wines – very quiet, with plenty of outdoor seating and the cutest cat who walks around like he owns the place. Crisp, light, and flavorful wines.
Venteux Vineyards – ah, this one was a favorite! While the wines were intense, the grounds were anything but. Wide, open lawns conducive for rounds of cornhole, a basketball court, and a pool! We unpacked a picnic of croissant sandwiches and broccoli salad and then headed towards the lawn chairs for a snooze. (No literally, we passed out for a solid thirty minutes, it was flawless.)
Castoro Cellars – one of my top two for wine! There was a very lovely Zinfandel described as having "hints of blueberry and graham cracker crust," and all I can say is: YAS. Castoro was also quite the beaut: lots of greenery, outdoor seating in the shade, very garden party. We even witnessed a wedding!
After Castoro, we called it a day and headed back to Cambria, all the while sipping peach champagne in the limo (I'm telling you, we went all. out.) and reminiscing over fond memories.
That night, after a delicious meal, a couple of birthday celebrations, and a false intruder alarm (we still don't know if it was the supernatural, a human up to no good, or our wild imaginations), the "kids" retreated upstairs for a glorified sleepover. Airbeds, couches, sleeping bags on floors – seriously, I felt like it was my ten year old birthday party all over again! Especially because our phones stubbornly proclaimed "No Service" all weekend long. I can't remember the last time I've been so content to be so disconnected from the world.
On Sunday, we were woken up abruptly by stern adults (see! still kids!) and creaky bones (eh, guess not) and were pointed in the direction of coffee and breakfast before promptly being shooed back into the limo for a second day of wine tasting.
First, we hit up Opolo Vineyards – my favorite from the trip! The fact that its owner is Croatian and Balkans paraphernalia is plastered every which way you see was not a factor at all... nor was the devastatingly delicious cevapi that we can hardly find anywhere else. The surrounding vineyards provided a lovely accompaniment to a flight of lip-smackingly good and heady wines (by far my favorites of the bunch). Highly recommend!
Le Cuvier – a polished tasting room with a gorgeously rustic backyard that brought me right back to the rolling hills of Tuscany. Famous for its white wines, the Chardonnay was unlike anything we've ever tasted in the most wonderful sense. Accompanied by delightful bites to nibble on, if you wish.
DAOU Vineyards – the most picturesque of them all, it overlooks lush vineyards as far as the eye can see. Heaters and blankets warm you right up when the breeze settles in. DAOU was by far the most expensive tasting, clocking in at $35 per flight, but I can be convinced to live with that pricetag for another glimpse of this view.
Finally, our last stop was Kiamie Wine Cellars – suuuper casual and relaxed, it was where we picnicked with tortellini salad and fresh fruit on the second day. The yard is crowded with bohemian patio furniture, picnic tables, folk music and dancing, dogs running around begging for treats, and get this, a penned off area for their llama and goat. We watched as the goat sprinted this way and that playfully and stared down the llama as it glared at us from afar. Such a hoot!
I rounded up a few favorite items from Uncommon Goods, a company that believes in sustainability and being friendly to the environment without sacrificing uniqueness or style. After spending last weekend immersed in the loveliness of being connected not to WiFi but to the seashore and the winding hills and sprawling vineyards, I'm reminded now more than ever the impact that our small purchases can have and that we have to be conscious of how our actions can affect the beauty of our planet.
If I were to go wine tasting again (um, actually, it's a question of when) (probably in a month), I'd want to wear a simple T-shirt dress with this flowy kimono and literary quote scarf to protect from the downright CHILLY Cambria evenings. Or, if it's a warm day, I'd switch out the scarf for this pretty little thing. Ooh, and this embroidered wallet. I handed over my credit card and ID to Cassandra all weekend long because I couldn't be bothered to lug around a huge bag, but this wallet would do the trick in simplifying bulk while staying cute.
For picnicking (which was an absolute pleasure under the sunshine), I'll be ordering myself this stunning blanket (imagine the Instagrams!), this nifty wine plate to keep my hands free and of course a charming basket to store all the goodies in! If wine-tasting isn't on your itinerary, you can still check out the coolest, cutest products to gift on birthdays as well (mine's in 11 months if you'd like to send me something from this right here). Or for Father's Day – dads are always such a toughie!