An all-star cast of master sommeliers, wine industry leaders and hospitality professionals are coming to SLO County this week for a new three-day event called Wine Speak Paso Robles.
The inaugural event Jan. 9-11 is largely trade focused, with winemaker and hospitality-oriented seminars, but a grand tasting Wednesday at Atascadero Lake Pavilion is open to the public.
Amanda Wittstrom-Higgins, vice president of operations at Ancient Peaks Winery, founded the event along with Chuck Furuya, a master sommelier and partner at DK Restaurants in Honolulu, to raise the region’s profile, share techniques and advances and elevate the county’s hospitality offerings.
“By featuring a diverse range of topics, wines, regions and panelists, we want to kickstart dialogue and conversations that will move the Central Coast forward,” the founders wrote. “Simply put, Wine Speak is all about sparking innovation through collaboration.”
Other master somms participating in the event are Fred Dame, vice president of prestige accounts at American Wine & Spirits, chairman of the board of GuildSomm and former chairman of the Court of Master Sommelier; Nunzio Alioto, former chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers; and Greg Harrington, founder and winemaker at Gramercy Cellars.
“The world of sommeliers is tight-knit,” said participating winemaker Daniel Daou of DAOU Vineyards & Winery. “When one recognizes a region, it gains a lot of traction, and that’s the goal of Wine Speak Paso Robles.”
Featured winemakers will represent both neighboring and far-away regions, including Walla Walla, Napa Valley, West Sonoma Coast, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Paso Robles and Victoria, Australia.
For hospitality professionals, a full day of offerings include Hawaiian Airlines representatives sharing the company’s lauded Aloha culture in a seminar on “The Philosophy of Aloha: Building a Great Customer Service Culture.”
The “Taste of Paso Robles” grand tasting will feature 25 local wineries pouring reserve and library offerings along with wine-friendly small plates from local chefs. Tickets are $85 and available at winespeakpaso.com.
“We are excited to offer these public events so that wine lovers from near and far can join the fun and meet some of the luminaries in our industry — all while enjoying amazing wines and food,” Wittstrom-Higgins said.
Keynote speakers were also announced for the sixth annual WiVi conference and tradeshow March 21 at the Paso Robles Event Center.
Author and television host Leslie Sbrocco will kick off the event — the largest gathering of winemakers, growers and vendors south of San Francisco. Total Wine & More CEO and co-founder Robert Trone will also speak about his perceptions of the region’s wine.
And it’s not all wine at WiVi in 2018: Hometown favorites Adam Firestone and David Walker will share the story of building Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in the midst of the the area’s wine boom.
In addition to sessions on viticulture, enology and sales by industry leaders, the event offers 45,000 square feet of exhibit space with product demonstrations and networking opportunities. Register at wivicentralcoast.com.
Sally Buffalo writes about wine, beer and spirits. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.