Wine tasting insanity in Paso Robles

September 5, 2022

Dell Franklin

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


My family is up here again for their annual visit, which means renting a big house at the beach and entertaining grandchildren while attempting to stick to a daily agenda that defies any real wayward straying. I understand. Agendas must be created and obeyed, especially by folks from Southern California, and if there is one agenda not to be trifled with, it is wine tasting out and around Paso Robles in 100 degree heat.

My nephew, over 40 and a recent dad, maintains an agenda of leaving the beach with wife and 3-month-old for six entire afternoons in a row to taste wine. When I questioned these missions, they claimed to savor the wine and lunches and scenery and their dedication to vineyard culture, all while portraying a mien indicating I had no clue as to the depth and meaning of their passion.

I was over at the big house for dinner. My sister is a splendid cook and I am weary of nearly a year straight eating my own cooking. While there, of course, I sampled some wine. I guess it was pretty good. The bottle from which my glass was filled—a cabernet–cost $75. While sipping it I was asked how I liked it, and I said, “Pretty good, but I’m used to drinking only my rose.”

Everybody—brother-in-law, sister, nephew, two nephews’ wives—looked at each other. Not one of them offered to ask where and what kind of rose I was referring to, possibly in hope of not insulting me, and better yet not allowing me to explain that if one has low expectations in the wine world one can be just as happy savoring a bottle of rose from Trader Joe’s and feel as content as a deluded wine aficionado driving many miles into a furnace to sip something that cost enough to buy me 15 pounds of chorizo.

In any case, as I put my wine glass on the table beside me — a sort of trunk with a raised section — the glass tipped over and spilled its entire contents. Immediately, the women and nephew were on the floor sponging it up.

They did not blame me, but instead the table, but I should have known better. I should have been more observant of the table before placing my glass with such an expensive wine in it on any table, and said so, apologetic. But still, they were very understanding and my nephew laughed and said, “You’ve just spilled twenty bucks worth of wine,” and then testified that he was opening a bottle that cost him $120 that day and wanted me to sample it.

Wanting him to feel good about himself, I allowed this. I sipped the wine. I couldn’t tell if it was any better than the $75 bottle but did mention that it was smooth, yes, and stated that perhaps such a fine expensive wine shouldn’t be wasted on me.

Then I felt forced to explain how when one lives their entire life with low expectations easily satisfied—especially with wine—one learns to feel happy about any minor improvement in his agenda, like, say, drinking a $5.95 imported French bottle of rose from TJ’s after years of imbibing a local $3.95 bottle, a genuine treat when sipped after dinner with a $10 cigar on a sun deck at dusk.

“I’m telling you, you people think you know how to live, but you could take a lesson or two from me if you had any sense and can get over yourselves.”

Of course, this missive was aimed primarily at the nephew, not my sister and brother-in-law, who only went wine tasting a few times (they all belong to wine clubs), primarily because they were too busy fussing over the tots.

Anyway, dinner, as usual, by my sister, with the brother-in-law helping and as usual coming close to causing a minor friction, was magnificent, and I suppose went well with the $120 bottle of wine.

During this festive occasion, I drank my wine slower than the grownups who continually praised the grandchildren. When the $120 bottle was soon emptied, other bottles were opened–white and red—and I had some more red, and didn’t ask what it cost and couldn’t tell whether it was any better or worse than the wine I’d already drank.

All I know is that it ended up giving me a headache and impaired my sleep that night, though when I came over for dinner the next couple nights, I conceded to drink their wine offerings without complaint, nor any mention of my headaches and sleep impairment.

I’m trying to make the best of things.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This will date me terribly, but remember when we did not use the trigger term ” homeless”…it was Hobo and Wino. Well, if you were a ‘wino” hanging around, , we knew the ripple was your buddy. The wine industry has managed to up-sell and create a culture around it’s over priced product. It’s trendy now, but will diminish in time. Soon “puff and go” parlors will replace them . Shadows of the opium dens that were so popular during the old West. Nothing is new.

Dell Franklin has probably done more over the years than anyone on the Central Coast to make such a solid, persuasive, rational argument for restoring Cayucos to its natural state and returning every bit of it back to the Chumash People.

Ripple was 69 cents for a 4/5 litter, a choice for the honest drinker or kids needing to barf. Who really goes wine tasting? I call it wine drinking and some shamefully do so much that they disguise their abuse with travel and different circles of friends. I knew San Francisco where there were many honest wine drinkers, their pint bottles of Gallo Port and they’d lay around the sidewalks. This area was near the College Barber where my brothers and I routinely got our 50 cent hair cuts. If I remember correctly, near 4th and Howard, the sidewalks were better then.

Back when you could buy 4/5 of ripple I guaranty it wasn’t a liter it was 4/5 of a quart.

$2 buck chuck white zinfandel won out of 300 entries at the 2005 LA County Fair. A North County winemaker I know served $2 chuck merlot at at a winemaker’s dinner to rave reviews. It’s all alcohol. I like alcohol. I just don’t need to hide behind some unsustainable water-wasting pretense to justify it.

Internal body temperature 98.6. No wine tasting allowed if the environmental temperature exceeds the internal temperature. State law.

I got wine snob friends as well. Once a host insulted us for bringing a local $20 zin to their party. Wine is like art to me, can’t appreciate it.

All I know is I like scotch and wont stick my nose up to anyone who offers a glass whether red, black, or blue.