January 7, 2013 by Paul Lanning
A ridiculously fun tradition has emerged at Cass Winery in Paso Robles in recent years: the New Year’s Day “Hair of the Dog” event. Staffed entirely by volunteers, the winery opens up to the community for tastings (including some off-the-menu items when the owners venture into the Wine Library), homemade chili and cornbread (free, all you can eat, and phenomenal), black-eyed peas, some phenomenal sweets, and great fun.
The tasting menu is large to begin with…but it gets larger when the “tastes” become nearly half a glass each, and the winery owner comes to sit at your table and talk with amazing passion and energy about the wines…and then brings out one or two that aren’t on the menu, just so you can sample them too. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon was one such wine…we tasted the 2009 version (an award winner in its own right) as part of the menu, but then the 2006 was quietly brought out for our table to sample. Wow…what a wonderful cab. I left with a bottle of both the ’06 and the ’09 so I can do a similar taste comparison with friends in the near future.
One of the best experiences is the opportunity for a private barrel-tasting session with one of the winery’s two owners. My party had the opportunity to head back to the barrel room for previews of the 2012 Viogner, 2011 Mourvedre, and 2011 Grenache, complete with stories about each of the wines, the winemaking process, and more.
“Hair of the Dog” is not your typical drop in for a taste-type event. From the moment you walk in, you’re encouraged to stay awhile. The agenda is simple: eat, and eat, and eat some more…don’t rush…stick around and enjoy yourself…and learn a little bit about the winery and just what sets this place apart from a lot of other wineries that dot the map throughout the region (and the state).
One of the winery’s two partners is a longtime contractor in the region, and as he heads toward retirement from that business he hopes to build a bed and breakfast area on the property in the coming years, with bungalows available for guests who want to experience the winery and the Paso Robles area in a much more intimate way. Count me in as one wine enthusiast who will be first in line for an extended stay at Cass when the time comes!