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Firestone Walker UDBA and Donati Winery's 2012 Immigrant 

I don’t care how many Firestone Walker Brewing Co. “805” handles pop up across the land. “What we drink around here” will always, irrefutably be Double Barrel Ale. If you’re really local, you might even remember what that delicious beer tasted like “back in the day.” From what I hear, the iconic Central Coast standard was a little smoother, with a more malty flavor. In essence, it tastes much like the Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale only available at the Paso Robles brewery visitor’s center and Tap Room restaurant. Whenever I get a chance to stop by that shining metallic wonderland, I always ask for a snifter of the stuff and savor every drop. For my husband, a growlette will do just fine! The thing about getting your beer that fresh is that you need to drink it pretty soon thereafter. Good thing that is never a problem in our house!

• Firestone Walker UDBAAbout $12; 1400 Ramada Drive, Paso Robles.

With its charming, old world tasting room, Donati Winery has its vintage appeal down pat. However, the space is anything but stuffy or “antiquated.” I recently attended a Valentine’s Day grilled cheese and wine pairing event at the Templeton institution that featured tons of signature stick-on Donati mustaches, Breakfast at Tiffany’s playing on the tube, and an avalanche of hot, gooey world class cheeses galore. The winery, which sources fruit from its family-owned vineyard in the Paicines AVA, opened the popular tasting room in 2007. Recently, a new lounge has been added to the quaint quarters, creating a unique, bright, and welcoming space for winemaker dinners, club events, and—as I so happily experienced—the sampling of fine grilled cheese creations. Although I was enamored with the entire lineup, I was particularly lovestruck by Donati’s 2012 Immigrant, a mix of 86 percent merlot, 12 percent petit verdot, and 2 percent cabernet franc. Perhaps it was the dark, complex fruit tinged with oak and spice flirtatiousness. Perhaps it was the strong Spanish chorizo; quince jelly; and semi-soft, aromatic Italian cheese nibbles that accompanied it. When it comes to love at first sip, why over-analyze?

• Donati Winery's 2012 ImmigrantAbout $40; 2720 Oak View Road, Templeton.

Reach Hayley Thomas at

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