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Here in the large state of California, there's something of a rivalry between the southern half (“SoCal”) and the northern half (“NorCal”). San Francisco and the Bay Area have culture and cuisine, us southerners have surf and turf. Which one is superior makes for interesting dinner banter.

But there's actually a big expanse smack dab in the middle that offers up the best of both worlds. The Central Coast is an incredible thing to behold, quaint and largely untouched.

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The first time I went to Paso Robles was with some close blogger friends of mine. We got to meet artisans face-to-face, experience the intricacies of food crafting, and taste some AMAZING wine. I'll never forget the vintner who poured me the most incredible glass of white wine and explained how to pronounce it. “Viognier,” he said. “Vee-ohn-yay.”

I laughed and repeated loudly, “Vee-ohn-yay. Vee-ohn-YAY!”

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My friend Sara is related to a winemaker in the area, and it's no small coincidence that when I asked to try her family's favorite varietals, Viognier was in the package that arrived at my door. The grape's oily, drought-resistant tendencies make it well-suited to the hot coastal region. Popping it open took me back.

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A family that we camp with has property in the hills of Paso Robles, and it's a favorite escape for us. We get the kids settled with the dads and us girls run off for some wine-tasting. Me sticking largely to my whites, the rest of the group branching out into reds and dessert blends. The area offers up a huge variety.

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It pays to know the people who own those acres of sweet grapes; on occasion I've had the opportunity to pick and smash and toast to a new release of that season's bottles. It's something of a tradition to have a party around the event, roasting meat on a spit as the sun goes down.

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This is the point where I'm losing most of you, I know. I get emails from readers like, “It's cool to see what you're doing, Chelsea, but the rest of us don't have that kind of access.”

Oh, but you do!

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I am so excited that my friend Sara's family is opening up their vineyard to the public THIS WEEKEND in their 5th Annual Release Party! There will be all of my favorite experiences: meet-and-greets with the winemakers, tours around the vineyard, family-style tables with delectable delicacies. If you get a chance, ogle their setup at the event. Farmers have the most efficient ways of processing things. They help put my small farm into perspective. Producing food for the public is a serious undertaking, and the way it all comes together is awe-inspiring.

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You may even be able to nab some of the crew's newly-released Viognier. This is the first year they're offering it, and it was worth the wait. Even if you're not a wine drinker, you should seriously go and just sniff it. Sweet and exhilarating, they say it's best in its youth.

Much like myself. Amiright!?

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If you live in California, get thee to the Record Family Estate. STAT. Even if you can't make it this weekend, consider signing up for their wine club and staying in the loop about their upcoming events.

If you do, you can make a toast my way. Vee-ohn-YAY!