Went up the California coast to the Paso Robles/San Luis Obispo/Cambria area with partners in crime blithescribe and mortgaged</lj> for a weekend of wine tasting, beer tasting and food sampling. Of course I came back with more than I expected: spicy olives, "atomic" mushrooms, "frog balls" (spicy, pickled brussel sprouts), habanero-stuffed olives, various spreads, chutney, etc. And lots of Port. Some Tempranillo, Petit Syrah, Zinfandels (it was Zin-fest afterall) and, of course, beer. (Willing to share with those who drop by (while supplies last)). (Wish I had more money to spend!)
The weather was a little cooler and we had a rain/hail storm come in overnight Saturday, with lots of wind Sunday morning to whip those trees around and churn up some whitecaps out on the ocean. Lots of fog in the evening (not much fun to drive through) and a longish drive there and back again, but well worth it. Good food, fun new wineries, great beer, wine, food and good company. What more could you ask for? (Ok, maybe a few more days...and more friends to share with.)
Highly recommended wineries:
Mitchella: great people, nice atmosphere, great cheese and chocolate pairings and the vintner is a real Port enthusiast.
Lone Madrone: good Zinfandels, good food (Beef Bourguignon -yum!), and an interesting floor show (funny and somewhat brazen chickens).
Laetitia (Barnwood) and Clairborne & Churchill (on the way up and back respectively) were both phenomenal.
I did get to visit both Firestone Walker brewhouses (the one near Buellton serves lunch and dinner and is a little quieter than the SLO location (former home of SLO Brewery)).
The only regret I had is that I couldn't be two places at once and had to miss the AHA Rally at Stone Brewery in Escondido (but I don't want to become Dr. Manhattan -then I wouldn't enjoy anything on this planet!). (I am expecting a full report from the C.o.W. members who did visit though...)
Edit: Also recommend Midnight Cellars and Dark Star.