Paso Robles: Are There Cracks In The Foundation?

Big wineries versus small wineries. The west side versus the east side. Those who have been in the Paso Robles area forever versus the newcomers from Los Angeles. This vineyard versus that vineyard. Residents versus vineyards in regards to the water issue. Hell, even this winery versus that winery in regards to the water issue. On and on.

I know that Paso Robles will one day have subdivided AVA’s rather than the one AVA, Paso Robles, that we have lived with up to now but that’s not necessarily what I mean when I say the separation of Paso Robles.

Due to this blog which we’ve had since January of 2010 and my involvement in social media since January of 2009, I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds and hundreds of locals and tourists alike. Annie and I have been avid wine tasters since we met over seven years ago which is why we started blogging about this area but in doing so we have developed awesome relationships with many in the local industry.

From the locals we hear more “behind the scenes” stuff than maybe tourists do when they come to town. When people travel to the Paso Robles wine region we, the locals (wine industry folks, PRWCA, Travel Paso), want this area to provide a quaint, romantic, rustic, yet exquisitely comfortable getaway. It’s only when you live somewhere or are at least a very regular visitor of an area that you can see past the romance into what really is.

Not that there is not romance…you just tend to see more of the story.

Where I once saw a solid, thick foundation that Paso Robles had been built on I now see cracks. I see division. I see an ‘us versus them’ mentality growing. The “us” and the “them” that I am referring to go back to my original paragraph. There is no one “us” or one “them”. There are multiple issues going on and I wonder where these issues will leave Paso Robles in the future.

That is my concern. I love this area. I’ve been here for over 10 years and since moving here I have started four businesses (two still in operation), married Annie, had a son, bought a home, and developed some of the best friendships I’ve ever had. I owe most of this to the wine industry…so it troubles me to see the cracks in the foundation.

It’s possible there are always cracks in everything. Maybe I was naive (or maybe I still am) to the cracks before…blind to them. I am just seeing more of a divide in this area. I see it with a small handful of the wineries around now that seem to have a different vision of what Paso is. Maybe that’s changing things. It could simply be growing pains of a once unheard of, up and coming wine region.

I’m not writing this because I have the answers. Instead I’m writing this as a reminder of what makes Paso Robles great. It’s working together regardless of disagreement. It’s wineries supporting wineries. It’s winemakers supporting winemakers. We control the destiny of this area. If our hope is to preserve the rich history, the quaint feeling, the award winning downtown, and the culture of this unique little paradise we must tell that story.

It would be pretty amazing to see those that have this east side versus west side mentality grow up and realize it’s all Paso. Sure, the soil may be different and the west side gets more rain but screw that. The east side is Paso too and if you think they aren’t making great wines go over and try them again. The other thing I know is that many west side wineries get east side fruit…so go figure.

It would also be pretty awesome if we could come together to protect the water and take care of the environment. Who doesn’t have skin in the game on this issue? We all do. So figure it out and stop bickering about it.

It would be lovely if the conversation about big wineries and little wineries could end as well. Go taste and buy wine wherever you want…your choice. But to say big wineries are a problem or that a 200 case winery is insignificant is ridiculous. The wine business is like the animal kingdom…the weak will disappear and the strong will survive. And by the way, there are some BIG wineries making really nice wines. Don’t knock them until you try them. I also urge everyone to go and support the little guys too. We have some of the most outstanding small production wineries in the world right here.

Lastly, the newbies versus the natives. It’s all good folks. I was a newbie once. All the “L.A. folks” are more than welcome. I just give you this piece of advice…understand the local culture. Be part of this unique community, do not let yourself feel as though you are above it. I don’t care if you move in here with bags of money but no amount of money can make an asshole pretty.

So that’s my rambling for today. I just wanted to get a few things off my chest. I see things and hear things weekly but I try to keep my mouth shut and realize it’s just part of life. It would be unwise to name names and all that so I put it here and hope one or two people understand what I’m trying to say and work a little bit harder to fill the cracks in the foundation.

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