You could be in the Barossa or the Burgos province in Spain, as you climb the rolling straw-coloured hills leading to California’s sun-drenched Paso Robles valley.

Its diverse microclimate allows the grapes to develop sugar during the day while afternoon sea breezes – blowing in from the Pacific Ocean just 40 miles away – push through the Templeton Gap, cooling vineyards for the perfect Pinot Noir.

This stunning setting is home to the Paso Pinot & Paella Festival, an event that has been delighting local and visiting Pinot lovers for the past eleven years.

The brainchild of Windward Vineyard’s Marc Goldberg and Maggie D’Ambrosia, the Paso Pinot & Paella Festival started out as a charitable community event for the local Food Bank, attracting 125 locals in its first year to tipple Pinot and taste Paella at the winery’s corrugated iron clad cellar door.

As it turned out, a wine event that celebrated good fun, good food and good friends rather than swilling, spitting and sucking down XL5s full of adjectives, was just the ticket for the counter-culture weekend crowds that spilt into Paso from its neighbouring coastal villages.

The event has grown to welcome almost 500 punters each year, and is now held at the lusciously green Templeton Community Park, where old oak trees shade live music performers and those gentle breezes spread the smokey smell of BBQ pits and saffron that season the Sunday afternoon air.

Festival organisers say they have seen almost 450 different types of Paella at the event since its establishment in 2004, from seafood and duck, to snails and fungi.

This year’s event, the 12th Annual Paso Pinot & Paella Festival will be held on Sunday 7 June from 2 – 5pm and will feature 20 Paso Pinot Noirs from a group of local Pinot producers who comically refer to themselves as “The Beaune Rangers of Paso Robles”.

The Rangers’ wines will be matched with a choice of 20 different paellas from 20 outstanding local and national chefs, all pushing the Paella envelope as far as their culinary skills will take them.

An afternoon of frivolity and Pinot-induced “Dad-dancing” is encouraged, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting local youth arts foundations.

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