As I go through all of the pics that I took during my vacation in Paso Robles -thousands! - which encompassed all of the Central Coast, I’m in the process of bringing together stories that I think are absolutely great.
During our visit we ran into Villicana a couple of times, and one of them was at the Festival. The Wineaux Guy™ and Alex Villicana always have an ongoing discussion about the hats that are the Wineaux Guy’s trademark. The hat that he wore at the Festival, was, in a word, epic. He picked it up in Mexico about two years ago when he went ocean fishing with friends. “It was six bucks and big,” he said. “I couldn’t just leave it!”
Now part of this ongoing conversation is due to the fact that he wore another semi-epic hat when we went to the Zinfandel Festival. We had become separated and when I wandered past the Villicana table, I asked Alex if he had seen Rod. Alex gave me a look and said, “You lost him?!? With THAT hat?!?” And it’s been an ongoing inside chuckle ever since!
We went to the Villicana tasting room the day after the festival to not only visit Alex and Monica, but also to pick up our shipments. Rod also wanted to share with Alex, Monica, and whoever was in the tasting room, a bottle of 2004 Villicana Cabernet Sauvignon that he had been keeping. The Cabernet was a roaring success. Its provenance had been carefully preserved, and the care that went into the creation of the Cabernet was very evident. The fruit had not faded, but it had developed nuances that only come with age.
Rod shared it with visitors, several of whom immediately joined the club. After hanging out in the distillery room Monica, tasting more wines, sharing the complete bottle, and picking up our wines, we prepared to go. As we walked out, Alex joked again about the hat.
While we had been inside the tasting room, Alex had mentioned that he had had a small skin cancer removed from his nose, and that was a concern, of course. We were packing our wines when Rod suddenly grinned at Alex, picked up the epic hat from the trunk of the car and gave it to him. Alex was stunned.
“Hey, man,” said Rod, “you need this protection while you’re in the vineyards. It’s yours.”
Alex’s grin was instant, wide, and infectious. And the hat looked good on him!
As we drove away, I commented on his generosity, and he just shrugged. The hat was fun for him, but for Alex, it could easily allow him to spend a little time tending those grapes that make the wines we enjoy so much.
Of course we had a great time while there – we enjoyed not only the regular wines, but also the Re:Find grape spirits that have become a roaring success for the Villicanas. This ingenious idea has earned them a lot of great press and interest, even from Napa!