May 30, 2019


We could not have asked for better holiday weather. It's about 1:30 in the afternoon on Memorial Day, May 27, and I'm relaxing with my daughters and stepdad, George, on the lawn at Tolo Cellars in Paso Robles. Thanks to the plump clouds overhead, we've got ample shade and dappled sunlight as we sit at the tables we've placed just so. I'm trying to get the timing of our anticipated picnic just right. If I pull the assorted cheeses and Spanish meats out of the cooler right now, they'll get too warm and greasy to be fully appetizing.

My family has been coming to Tolo for more than a decade for our picnics, so I've learned a thing or two about low-stress meal packing. But I can't take too much credit today. Costco did the heavy lifting for me this time—in its fridge cases I'd found chorizo, serrano ham, and salchichón packaged together, and also a tray of five lunch-sized cheese wedges. Super. Easy. I leave the picnic fare on ice for just a little longer. My husband, Bret, and my mom are still inside the tasting room picking just the right bottle—well, bottles plural we're going to be here awhile. My daughters can't wait much longer. They're tag-teaming their questions about the timing of lunch, and their intensity and frequency are only increasing. I shoo my younger daughter away from the grocery bag of chips and crackers and march into the tasting room.

Once inside the adorable red farmhouse I slow down and take in the cozy room with its long tasting bar and stone fireplace. Forgotten is the urgency of whatever it was I was supposed to be setting up outside. I accept a sip of the grenache rosé my mom is currently tasting and then sidle up to Bret and steal a sip of his red blend. Bret bought our first bottle of Tolo—a 2001 Asíni, a zinfandel and sangiovese blend—as a Valentine's Day gift early in our marriage. And we've been trekking up to the tasting room with my parents a few times a year ever since Josh Gibson, the winemaker and proprietor, opened it in 2005. Today my mom and George are in town celebrating their wedding anniversary, and they had no hesitation in picking the place that would make for a special outing.

Every time we make the drive up to Tolo, we fondly retell the stories of our older daughter taking her first steps on the lawn right here and of having our younger daughter's first birthday party over there on the porch. Today, our girls want us to tell them exactly where those steps were taken and how many times they've climbed the trees beyond the porch. We bring a bottle of the 2015 Asíni and the rosé out to our picnic. The grenache rosé is new and technically not released to the public yet, but my mom and stepdad are club members and get all the special treatment. My girls unpack the jars of olives and artichoke hearts while I open the main courses. We fill our plates, and my mom fills our glasses. We sip and savor. Today is about more than perfect weather, delicious wine, and easy picnicking. It's about being family, celebrating milestones, and building on the outings and rituals that keep us together.

We raise our glasses and propose a toast: To Mom and George, happy 25th anniversary! To Tolo, thanks for the memories!