Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I Am a Fat Cat

I always wanted to write a book named Fat Cat. I got the idea about a million years ago when Larry Gelbart told me that sometimes he felt like a fat cat sitting in the sun. Alas, Larry has now gone to the great catnip in the sky but over the weekend, I was able to visit Fat Cat Farm in Paso Robles, California.

Fat Cat Farm is part of what, for lack of a better word, I must call a total destination. You head west on Highway 46 west (from Highway 101 and Paso Robles) and look for the big red mail box on the right hand side of the road, right near the new and totally swank vineyard Niner Wine Estates.

By all means, go to Niner (try the sangiovese rosata), but turn left at the red mailbox and park at a jungle of garden and farm houses that represents the newly opened wineries and gardens and nurseries that have replaced the old Sycamore Gardens, which burned down a few years ago.

Anyone who plants hollyhocks and dill next to each other has to be an interesting person, so it's a pleasure to wander behind the tasting rooms to the rows of nursery tables laid out with herbs and flowers. It feels neverlandish here (not in the Micahel Jackson sense) with an ethereal piece of Provence, Tuscany and the California countryside. There are four or five different kinds of lavendar, as well as gift items and garden tools. Classes and a petting zoo for kids are going to begin by fall. Next year you will be able to buy myriad tomato plants in spring (tomato planting season is just about over here). And yes, numeorus cats roam the property so you can sit and pet...or just purr.

THe vineyard tasting room is Lone Madrone,2485 Highway 46 West (805-238-0845; www.lonemadrone.com) which is the private label owned by the winemaker who aslo blends for Tablas Creek, one of the most highly rated wines in the area, if you look at point systems. The tasting room (open daily, 10:30AM- 5PM)is a cozy bungalow that sells crafts, foodstuffs, apple cider and wine, fine rhone reds are the specialty.

To round out the experience, there's a small tasting room devoted to Kenneth Volk's wines. Volk is one of the pioneer vinters of the area with a property in Santa Maris, south of Paso Robles. Just don't drink and drive.

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