Pin It
Favorite

Summer means concerts and good grub at Vina Robles 

I remember the first time I saw my favorite radio personality in the flesh. It’s always a shock, isn’t it?

Garrison Keillor had just taken the stage at the Hollywood Bowl. His long running NPR show, A Prairie Home Companion, has always been recorded before a live audience. For the first time in my life, I was actually in that audience.

It was a sun-dappled May afternoon, and my mom had reserved a special terrace box for my birthday. We giggled at the sight of Keillor’s bug eyes and high pants, which revealed a flash of legendary red socks.

click to enlarge WORTH AN ENCORE:  This summer, pair Vina Robles’ sizzling mushroom and sausage pizza was with the winery’s luscious estate cabernet sauvignon. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VINA ROBLES AMPTHEATRE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF VINA ROBLES AMPTHEATRE
  • WORTH AN ENCORE: This summer, pair Vina Robles’ sizzling mushroom and sausage pizza was with the winery’s luscious estate cabernet sauvignon.

We bought a half a chicken from the concession stand and let the juices drip down to our wrists as the show unfolded. A little known band that had just released a little known song called “Wagon Wheel” took the stage later in the evening.

If I pull apart that warm, magical memory, it’s hard to say what made it so stupendous. Was it the hilarious manual sound effects brought on by the Prairie team? Bonding with my mom after years of teenage turmoil? The homespun bluegrass music unfolding under the setting sun (way before banjos jumped the shark)? Maybe it was the juicy chicken with its super crispy skin.

Every component came together to make the moment shine. When A Prairie Home Companion rolled into Vina Robles Amphitheater last year, I entertained the thought of reliving this experience. It would probably be the closest I would get to that perfect spring day.

This culmination of sensory elements—music, food, entertainment, and the wonder of the outdoors—is exactly what Vina Robles Amphitheatre has been bringing to Paso Robles for the past two years. If you haven’t yet been, I suggest you do. And come hungry.

“I grew up going to concerts, and food has always been a part of my life,” said Terri McKeown, director of food and beverage at the venue. “I remember the smell of hamburgers on the grill; the scent of oranges being squeezed for fresh OJ. I watched the corn dogs being hand dipped and fried. All of these sights and smells of summer meant concerts.”

There’s a reason you can actually see Vina Robles’ pizzas being cooked in an Old World wood oven behind the concession stand window. Not only is it smart business sense (you smell pizza, you want pizza), it also represents what the winery likes to call “European inspiration, California character.”

click to enlarge SUMMER GRUBBIN’:  At Vina Robles Amphitheatre, live entertainment blends with local food and killer wine. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VINA ROBLES AMPTHEATRE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF VINA ROBLES AMPTHEATRE
  • SUMMER GRUBBIN’: At Vina Robles Amphitheatre, live entertainment blends with local food and killer wine.

Ah, yes. Sounds pretty inviting, doesn’t it?

Simone Michel, director of customer relations and marketing, likes to remind folks of that the winery-turned-venue is proudly family-owned and operated. Perhaps it’s the family’s Swiss lineage that brings that relaxed, European vibe.

“Melding the arts with wine and food has always been a classic pairing for us, and we have been embracing that since the opening of our hospitality center in 2007,” Michel said. “The Vina Robes Amphitheatre has provided us the opportunity to share and expand this experience. Being family-owned and operated, we also have the opportunity to hand select all our vendors and products.”

This is big news, people. How many 3,400-seat venues offer locally barbecued pulled pork and seasonal, grown-in-your-own-backyard veggies? On that note, how many large venues compost leftovers and encourage recycling? Just try to find a trash can at Vina Robles Amphitheatre. It can’t be done.

“We partnered with Paso Robles Waste to start a composting program. This was the first of its kind in the area,” Michel said. “We have no trash cans on our plaza; only compost and recycling cans. Our motto is: You eat it, you compost it. You drink it, you recycle it. Everything that comes out of our concession stands is compostable.”

Then, there’s the wine. Without it, we would not have Vina Robles Amphitheatre.

click to enlarge BREW YEAH:  Not into wine? Cold local beer is on tap at Vina Robles. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VINA ROBLES AMPTHEATRE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF VINA ROBLES AMPTHEATRE
  • BREW YEAH: Not into wine? Cold local beer is on tap at Vina Robles.

The venue is, at its core, a winery. Michel knows that you can’t serve exquisite Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon alongside a ho-hum hot dog. It’s just not done. Especially not in Paso Robles Wine Country.

“Winemaker Kevin Willenborg ultimately makes wines that he likes to drink: balanced and accessible, with bold fruit, solid structure, and nuanced complexity,” Michel said. “These wines are very food friendly.”

Let the California Mid-State Fair offer up deep-fried Nutter Butters and chocolate-covered bacon! Vina Robles has cornered the market on fine food and high-caliber entertainment under the stars.

Case in point: Michel likes to pair the venue’s crispy all beef corn dog with Vina Robles Roseum Huerhuero rosé. Stein’s “Famous Pulled Pork” sliders (local to North County) go gangbusters with Vina Robles WHITE4. The winery’s sizzling mushroom and sausage pizza topped with seasonal veggies? It was made to be washed down with Vina Robles’ bold estate cabernet sauvignon.

The venue’s Terrace Club even offers show-specific wine recommendations to premium seat patrons. While the regular concessions menu is set in the beginning of the season (with the exception of pizza selections), this special menu changes each night, reflecting what’s ripe now.

North County favorites Firestone Waker Brewing Company, Jobella Coffee, and La Migliore Italian Bakery, along with SLO purveyors G Brothers Kettle Corn and Apple Farm, have partnered with the venue to bring even more local flavor to the menu.

“We try to give back to the community and land on every level,” Michel said.

- DATE NIGHT IS BACK!:  Take in a concert and munch on locally sourced gourmet grub at Vina Robles this summer. For a listing of upcoming shows, visit vinaroblesamphitheatre.com/concerts. -
  • DATE NIGHT IS BACK!: Take in a concert and munch on locally sourced gourmet grub at Vina Robles this summer. For a listing of upcoming shows, visit vinaroblesamphitheatre.com/concerts.

Ali Walsh of Migliore Bakery in Paso Robles knows firsthand how true this statement is.

“We make our bread fresh each day. Vina Robles picks it up that morning and then serves it that very night,” the small-business owner said. “It just doesn’t get fresher than that. It’s brilliant.”

These local provisions—paired with a summer concert lineup that includes the likes of Willie Nelson, Allison Krauss, Social Distortion, George Thorogood, and Ringo Star—means deliciousness comes with the price of admission.

Hayley Thomas is dreaming of chicken and NPR at hthomas@newtimesslo.com.

Tags:

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Search, Find, Enjoy

Trending Now

© 2017 New Times San Luis Obispo
Powered by Foundation