Paso Robles Grape Escape: Croad Inn
Hankering for something a little different for your next Paso Robles escape? Focus on the westside, with a down under vibe. Visit Croad, not just a winery, but a beautiful vineyard, inn and tasting room. This is truly a Kiwi-inspired oasis with wines bearing Maori names: owner Martin Croad hails from down under in Plymouth, New Zealand.
He’s an electrician who moved to California 30 years ago and stumbled upon a ramshackle vineyard property off Highway 46 in 2004 that he and his wife, Patti, who hails from Phoenix, AZ, set about rehabbing. The vineyard is mostly Rhones, with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre and dry-farmed Zin.
The décor is basically New Zealand meets Arizona/southwest, and Kokopelli shows up in all kinds of unexpected places. Every touch is calculated to create an air of unique ambiance. There’s a wedding and event center, too. This place has it all.
Located at 3550 Vinedo Robles Ln, Paso Robles, Croad Inn is easily accessed from Oakdale Road. You can’t miss the stacked stone entry sign, and then you’re on a country road winding past grazing horses and pomegranate trees, eventually reaching the impressive gate that leads to the final climb through vineyards to the winery, Inn and tasting room. The Inn cuts an impressive figure at the pinnacle of the hill, with only Martin’s private residence holding higher court. The views are spectacular.
There are three expansive suites on the second floor, all with spectacular views. The lower level includes an expansive family style gathering area. complete with full kitchen, dining area and living room with couches and chairs for relaxing or watching TV. Views from the first floor overlook the beautiful courtyard with Spanish style fountain, and out upon the vineyards that seem to go on forever to the east.
It’s not quite your typical B&B, but they do serve breakfast that you can enjoy at your leisure. Fresh baked muffins, fresh fruit, lots of yogurt, cereal, bagels, cream cheese, bread, oodles of jams, butter and a toaster – what more do you want? oh, yeah, fresh hard boiled eggs.
Best to make this a two-night stand, as there is so much to see and enjoy. When you check in, they will provide a platter filled with cheese, nuts, and fruit that you can enjoy at the tasting room, at the Inn, or in the refrigerator in your room. There’s a two night minimum for Friday and Saturday stays.
And you’re really close to town as well. The locals always take Vine Street into the back side of Paso, avoiding the highway and the traffic lights that have accompanied the growth in popularity of the region. Can you believe there are nearly 300 wineries in the area?
Fortified by your morning fuel, it’s time to head out winetasting. Take a right on Vineyard Drive and your choices are myriad. You can visit Hammersky, Jada, Proulx, Whalebone and Thacher without too much traveling. Save some time on the backend of your day to taste at Croad before you get ready to go to dinner in town.
Another great lineup of wineries for tasting would be Halter Ranch, Adelaida Cellars, DAOU, Calcareous and Villicana: the cool thing about the latter is they also have a distillery, RE:FINED, where they make amazing vodka, gin and limoncello out of the saignee local wineries produce when concentrating their Rhone reds. That juice would normally go bye bye, down the drain or into holding ponds. It’s a cool recycling story that you can get behind. Or into. Delicious distillates!
The Croad tasting room is open daily from 11 til 6 p.m., and features winetasting for $10, refunded with two-bottle purchase. They offer something a little different, called “Kiwihour:” enjoy 1/2 off glasses of wine between 2 & 3 p.m. everyday, and sit outside in the ample seating options to drink in the view.
The estate dry-farmed Zinfandel is pretty much Martin’s pride and joy, and it’s darned good. All the wines have Kiwi names and are boldly flavored. You don’t find Cab Sauv combined with Zin very often, but you will here. The Cab-Syrah is pretty tasty but my personal favorite is the Mourvedre.
I’d recommend Thomas Hill Organics and Il Cortile for dinner: both are excellent, with the former specializing in locally sourced fresh ingredients prepared by the incredibly skillful Executive Chef Chris Manning. The man is a master of duck, and prepares salads and vegetables in crisp and clever combinations. The restaurant, which has a lovely patio area, has a killer wine list and the servers are great at recommending pairings.
Must-have dishes at Thomas Hill include the burrata, raw kale salad, pan seared scallops with farro, linguica, broccoli rabe, oyster mushrooms and tomato & eggplant salsa, and the pan roasted breast of duck & confit of leg over Belugo lentils and Montana huckleberries.
At Il Cortile, Executive Chef Santos MacDonal, whose career began at “Giorgio” in Malibu, followed by stints at Via Veneto, Locando de Lago, Koi, Bridge and L’Angolo Cafe in Los Angeles, prepares duck carpaccio with gorgonzola sauce, balsamic reduction and caramelized onions, as well as lamb carpaccio with shaved celery, piave cheese, citrus dressing and white truffle oil. Oh, but don’t miss the homemade pappardelle with wild boar ragu or the tortellini filled with imported parma cotto prosciutto in a creamy truffle sauce.
Laura Ness’s trip was sponsored by Parker Sanpei PR.
BY: LAURA NESS, WINE JUDGE & WINE WRITER
Laura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France, where she had the unmatched pleasure of tasting Sancerre in the medieval town of Sancerre – splendid!— and then a Saumur, after visiting the Chateau de Saumur in Chinon. The concept of terroir came alive in those incandescent moments. She regularly judges wine competitions and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Chardonnay Shootouts. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in concert with Appellation America. You can usually find her sipping and smiling in Mendocino, Livermore, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Paso Robles. Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, and has weekly wine columns in several Bay Area newspapers. She blogs, irreverently and sporadically, at myvinespace.com.