California is chalk full of amazing wine regions. One that has shot up the list of “best” in the state is Paso Robles. Paso, as it’s known, sits about three hours north of Los Angeles or south of the Bay Area, making it accessible for everyone. The town is quirky, with shops, art galleries, hot springs, and quality restaurants. (And don’t forget the most amazing art display, Field of Light.) But it’s the wineries that gets most people to come.
Like most wine regions, it can be overwhelming deciding where to taste, especially if you only have time – or tolerance – for a single location. In cases like this, I balance quality of the wine (by reviews) with an “it” factor. Is there a winery that is unique, beyond just the wine? Well, here in Paso, there is a winery that checks both of these boxes: Sculpterra.
In 1979, Dr. Warren Frankel and his family moved to Paso Robles from Los Angeles. There, they bought a tract of land and planted pistachios. These were followed by twenty acres of Cabernet. The Frankels intended to sell their grapes to wineries, never thinking of making their own wine. What Dr. Frankel really wanted was to have a space to display art, sculpture specifically. As a young adult, he had visited Oslo, Norway, where he marveled – as I have – at the Vigeland Scuplture Park. (Note: definitely visit Oslo and the park in particular if you have a chance.) Inspired, the concept stayed with him, and when he moved to Paso, he finally had land to build his own sculpture garden.
Dr. Frankel built a workshop on the grounds, and hired John Jagger, and subsequently Dale Evers, to create unique sculptures for the gardens surrounding the tasting room. The two have designed and created more than a dozen truly awe-inspiring pieces. It is this combination of award-winning wine and award-winning art that brings visitors to Sculpterra, and that brought me.
Art greets you the moment you drive into the winery. A magnificent gate adorns the entrance – there is even a small parking area for those who want a photo – that tells you you’re in for something special. It was designed by another artist-in-residence, Bob Bentley, whose iron works can be seen all over the grounds.
Entering the tasting room, one is greeted again by art. The chandelier in the main room of the shop is truly incredible, and is surrounded by artwork. Here at Sculpterra, the experience is being immersed in the meeting point of wine and art, and each glimpse around the property offers just that. Outside on the patio, another art installation is up, while models of some of the more famous sculptures adorn every flat surface in the tasting room itself. I am transfixed.
While art seems to be the focus, the tasting itself is spectacular. While Dr. Frankel never intended to make his own wine, his son decided to study wine-making, and transformed the vineyard into something special. Today, Sculpterra has 265 acres (including 27 of the original pistachios), growing twelve different varietals. For me, the highlights were the 2019 Repoussé, a red blend, and the Grenache. The latter is shockingly light, and will make an amazing sangria, while the former is rich, but not overly tannin-heavy, an issue that I have with many red wines. With each wine came a portion of Dr. Frankel’s story.
After several wines, a wander through the gardens is in order. Sculptures surround the tasting room, so it is important to stroll the entire grounds. Jagger’s “Puma” is the largest single-stone sculpture outside of Michelangelo’s “David,” while Evers’ “FOCUS” uses the human form as part of a bow and arrow and sits at 24 feet tall. The others are no less impressive, and it is truly an impossible task to figure out which I like best.
Best, more sculptures are planned, so a return trip will give me even more amazing artwork to admire!
For another unique take on the region, check out the giant “photo album” installation, with enlarged old photos put into an iron frame and sorted by subject. This history of Paso is just one more reason to visit, and is like nothing else I’ve seen.
Good wine can be found all over Paso Robles. But for a wine-tasting experience that is truly different, consider visiting Sculpterra. Here, wine and art blend seamlessly together for an incredible – and unique – experience that you’ll remember forever.
Thank you to Sculpterra for hosting my tasting. My opinions, as always, are my own.
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