First Crush Harvest Crush Encounters are full of fun and exciting activities throughout the weekend, but the meals are no doubt one of my top choices. We pick, crush, sip, stomp, play, and harvest, and by the end of it there is no better reward than a divine meal served in the vineyard.
This year, as you know, we are doing things a little differently and packing the weekend full of fun—this means more meals to enjoy. There will be a wine and cheese pairing, lunch in the vineyard, a winemaker’s dinner, and a champagne brunch. There are so many opportunities to experience the cuisine that Paso Robles has to offer, and we have reined up some great chefs to tackle every taste and desire of our “crush-tomers”.
Friday night kicks off with a wine and cheese pairing let by Danika Bowler of Vivant Fine Cheeses in downtown Paso Robles. We will first walk through the beautiful vineyards at Caliza Winery with owner and winemaker Carl Bowker, then have a wine and cheese pairing lesson on their gorgeous patio. Vivant Fine Cheese provides cheese to all of the wineries in Paso Robles, plus all around America. Their Fine Cheese Club is growing exponentially and the shop is always packed. We are excited for our “crush-tomers” to get to know Danika and the delectable cheeses that she has to offer.
Saturday is an all day adventure. We start off in the vineyard picking wine grapes by hand, learning all about harvest and Crushing and de-stemming our bounties. This leads into another great meal: catered lunch in the vineyard. Chef Alex Martin started Crush Catering in October 2011, but has worked at almost every restaurant in Paso Robles. He started as Sous Chef in the implementation of opening Matthew’s at the Airport alongside C.E.C. Matthew Riley. After 2 years at Matthew’s, Alex was presented with the opportunity to open Panolivo Restaurant in San Luis Obispo as Executive Chef. Alex always had an eye for baking and pastries, but never dived deep into it, but when working at Artisan Restaurant with Chef Chris Kobayashi, the challenge arose. Alex wanted to be a well rounded chef; and becoming Pastry Chef at Artisan was an amazing opportunity. Alex later went on to perfect his skills at Justin Vineyards & Winery as Sous Chef. Alex is also a two-time Pinot and Paella Cook-off winner and recently competed in the 2009 Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs Regional Juenes Commis Competition where he placed second. Alex won the 2011 Olive Festival Head to Head Cook-off in an iron chef style competition. Inspiration is brought to him every day by local farmers, winemakers, and guest chefs from around the world. He will be bringing out his famous paella as the main dish for lunch, but I don’t want to give too much away, so you’ll have to come to Harvest to find out the rest of the menu.
Saturday then turns into the stomping competition and an afternoon break for our “crush-tomers” where they can look forward to a winemaker dinner prepared by local chef Jeff Scott. Chef Jeff has worked in the area for a long while and has had the chance to cater many events along the Central Coast. He does an array of menus and can cater for parties of anywhere from 4 to 2000 people. He is very talented and will be pairing his menu with the wines of Croad Vineyards.
Sunday morning will kick off at Cass Vineyards and Winery where we will barrel taste with owner Steve Cass and winemaker Lood Kuntz. Then we will have a Champagne Brunch prepared by their in-house chef Jacob Lovejoy. Chef Jacob developed an appreciation for food and skills involved in preparing it at an early age. He grew up on a family farm and learned to use local produce and meats to prepare fresh seasonal dishes with ease. This passion led him to the Cordon Blue Culinary Program in Fresno, California. After graduating, Chef Jacob’s love for working with fresh and local ingredients brought him to the central coast of California. Working his way up and down the coast, Jacob ultimately because the permanent chef at Cass Winery, where his ideas and passion have grown exponentially to provide a unique experience for every new customer. Chef Jacob’s creations can be sampled daily at the Cass Café or at one of the winery’s many events held throughout the year, including the First Crush Harvest Crush Encounter!