What do you expect on a weekend that combines a Holiday for sweethearts, a 3-day break from work, and a festival of sorts? Record breaking crowds of wine tasters on Paso Robles’ westside, of course!
Each year over President’s Day Weekend, the Far Out Wineries of Westside Paso Robles host a benefit to raise money for The Wellness Community who provides cancer support and education for patients and their families. For a nominal $25 donation, participants receive free tasting at 16 local wineries and often receive special discounts or reserve tasting priviledges. Last year, their efforts raised nearly $20,000! From the looks of this year’s event, it would be safe to say that number has most likely increased.
Despite the cold, rainy weather and knock-you-over winds, Far Our Wineries saw record-breaking attendance not just of the annual Passport Weekend, but of ANY festival or holiday weekend. Whether it be library tastings, barrel sampling, foodie food treats and pairings, or discounts, this year’s Passport Weekend brought in visitors from all over California and the entire West Coast. Wineries were seeing hundreds of tasters (and over a thousand at a few locations) come through the door between Saturday and Sunday. And although the attendance boost for what is normally considered a “slow” time of year is preferable for many winery locations, that doesn’t mean it comes without its very own list of challenges.
From the visitor’s perspective, one sees full parking lots and crowded tasting bars, but experiences wine country tourism at its finest: Chattering crowds discuss winery recommendations, tasting notes, dinner options…From the tasting rooms’ perspective, well, it means extra planning, buffed up staffing, lots of story-telling, and a whirlwind of back to back wine pouring and attempting meet the individual needs of tasters (and staff members alike).
Knowing the toll such a weekend can take on winery staff, wineries often show their appreciation for personnel by providing lunch and other incentives to show up and work hard. Where I worked over the weekend, we were enticed to work the hectic festival with gourmet deli sandwiches by SLO Baked Bakery…roast beef, turkey, Po-Boy, and even a vegan option awaited us in the kitchen…all prepared on freshly-baked organic artisan bread. Another treat for employees? The opportunity to buy rare library wines, take home a nice bottle for rocking our sales goals…and did I mention previously a little champagne toast to celebrate the days’ end?