Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Paso Robles Gets Posh

Allegretto Vineyard Resort in Paso Robles is one of those places that packs a lot of surprises upon your arrival. It's really only a hearty stone's throw from the 101/46 interchange (assuming an NFL quarterback is throwing the stone), but is more removed from its busy nearby world than you might imagine. Part of that is the building turns inwards on a magnificent courtyard named, not immodestly but not inaccurately, either, the Piazza Magica. Inside it, or from one of the rooms that have little porches onto it, it's easy to imagine you're in Italy or Spain, statues, stone, already mature plantings. Even better, they wisely didn't put the pool in the courtyard, making it more private in its location behind the hotel on a rise ringed by green, and thereby saving all the guests the happy, if often over gregarious, joy that is a pool in use. (One word: kids.)

Throughout the public areas, expect so much art, from some many different regions and eras, that you might feel a bit overwhelmed (they even hope to offer art tours of the resort soon). At times it seems too inspired by nearby Hearst Castle. So, yes, it's a tad over the top, but that's why we go to resorts and note just mere hotels, no? This is the first resort the Ayres chain has opted to do, and Paso of all places could use it as its wine country grows in number and acclaim. Think rooms with ridiculously high ceiling space (14 feet? more?), very fine linen, lovely wood floors. Walls built to keep the others staying there out, even the slightest whispery hint of them.

It's worth a walk of the grounds, too, especially if you're interested in bocce--there are two courts--or simply the glory of light in a serene place--the Abbaye de Lerins (their names are a bit precious) is no less gorgeous despite that name, as the day's light plays through its stained glass, making magic on the walls opposite. Best of all, you can have it to yourself often for some moments of quiet contemplation.

If you'd rather contemplate grapes, that Vineyard part isn't just for show in the resort's name. The tasting room just off the lobby offers the Allegretto line, from grapes on this property even (it's 20 acres total) and some in the famed Willow Creek district. They even do a Tannat, which wins them wine geek points.

That rustic Tannat is a particularly fine pair with the luscious lamb I got to enjoy at Cello, the farm-to-table focused restaurant on site that's whipping up some impressive dinners. Perfectly cooked and well crusted with herbs, it was a carnivore's delight. Not that the pescatarian won't feast, too, what with a ridiculously rich crab pasta featuring snow crab claws, jalapeno, and Allegretto Viognier butter. (There are even raw vegan zucchini noodles--the place aims to please eaters of all sorts.) Whatever your desire, expect there to be some wine cooked into the meal somehow, which seems more than fitting.

Don't pass on the cocktails, either, complex creations like a then seasonal (it's taken me awhile to write this!) Campfire that begins with the bartender setting a mini-slab of applewood afire and corralling the smoke into your cocktail glass. To that he will add Whistlepig Rye (nice brand call), Averna (way to be on the Amaro bandwagon), plus a housemade vanilla and chai tincture, heavy on the chai. It was something.

As is the whole Allegretto experience. I can only imagine how wonderful it will be once it has some ghosts in it, as it's the kind of place that deserves a happy haunting.

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