The Cider Maker

Neil Collins

A winemaker by training and cider enthusiast by passion, Neil Collins opened Bristols Cider House to have a little taste of home. A true jack-of-all-trades, Neil has both the professional experience and the personal taste buds to introduce you to what makes these places more than just a watering hole. Get the scoop on the origin of some unique label art, best Burger Sundays, hard-to-find sparkling wine and more. For the traveler who loves discovering innovative local spots armed with the best inside knowledge, this is the itinerary for you. Pull up a chair and drink in the knowledge of this local expert.

Breakfast at Los Robles Café

Eat: Los Robles Café makes the best chile verde breakfast burrito on the planet – actually all of their burritos are delicious! Big favorites include breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros and chilaquiles along with phenomenal al pastor tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas and fajitas.

Maverick Tip: You won't find a more authentic Mexican breakfast in the area than at this family-owned restaurant. The café specializes in Mexican and traditional American food and the family’s goal is to share their delicious recipes with the world.

Wine Tasting at Brecon

Damian is an international award-winning winemaker, producing exquisite wines. Previously Norman Vineyards, Brecon Estate has the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in Paso Robles. Their tasting room is beautiful and the outdoor patio beneath the oak trees is the perfect spot for enjoying a picnic and winetasting.

Drink: My favorites are the Albarino (a lovely white wine grown in the vineyard atop the hill) and the Cabernet Franc (the first wine made under the Bregon label and a beautiful expression of this grape).

Maverick Tip: The Brecon Estate tasting room is truly an architectural work of art. Designed by Aidlin Darling Design, the building’s interior design work is the handiwork of co-owner Amanda Grindley. They recently won the “2016 Best of Winery Architecture” in California Home + Design and were a finalist in Interior Design’s “Best of Year Awards.”

Wine tasting at Tablas Creek

Drink: Tablas Creek is very near and dear to my heart as I’ve been the winemaker and vineyard manager here for more than 18 years. My biased opinion aside, there’s no arguing that they’ve had a profound effect on the Paso Robles wine industry. They imported vines from France (Rhône varietals) and they’re 50% owned by Chateau de Beaucastel (French winery) and 50% Haas family.

Maverick Tip: Everything here is farmed organically and the wines are simply amazing. Open daily for tastings, they also offer great winery tours (complimentary with tasting purchase) at 10:30am and 2pm and the tours run about 45 minutes.

Lunch at Bistro Laurent (Le Petit Marcel)

Eat: My absolute favorite lunch spot! Bistro Laurent is the only true French restaurant in town, and they serve an incredible lunch at their restaurant, which they lovingly refer to as “Le Petit Marcel.” The French onion soup and croquet monsieur with pomme frites are to die for and Marcel’s rice pudding and apple beignets are a must try!

Drink: Laurent is a top-tier chef serving simply fantastic bistro food. They also have a brilliant wine list.

Maverick Tip: Enjoy a beautiful, classic French bistro lunch that’s reasonably priced. They’re open for lunch Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30am – 2pm.

Wine tasting at Paix Sur Terre

Drink: Neil worked with owner/winemaker Ryan Pease (Neil’s assistant winemaker at Lone Madrone) and to taste these wines is a treat. Pease makes beautiful southern Rhône-style wines: Mourvedre based wines, a Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc.

Know: Jon Blythe is the artist behind the label artwork for Paix Sur Terre.  Ryan and Jon have known each other since childhood, and Ryan has always respected and enjoyed Jon’s abstract art.  When deciding on a label, he wanted something that would allow them to stand out from the crowd, and Jon’s artwork accomplishes just that. For each new Paix Sur Terre wine, Jon produces a new piece of art.

Maverick Tip: French for “peace on earth,” the Paix Sur Terre label is owned by winemaker Ryan Pease. Producing only 600 cases annually, he usually sells out between February and June, so if you’re in town, I highly encourage you to seek out his wines. Pease is also the winemaker at Grey Wolf Cellars where you can taste Paix Sur Terre anytime.

Spirits tasting at KROBĀR

Drink: Whatever your pleasure – gin, whiskey, brandy – KROBĀR is the place for great spirits. Joe and Steve have done their research with truly unique results. I’ve collaborated with them and used their gin botanicals in my cider.

Know: For years, my dear friend Joe Barton has been working with his family and making wine at Grey Wolf. Steve Kroener owns Silver Horse Winery and, like me and Joe, has made wines at Grey Wolf. These guys got together and blended their names – KROener and BARrton – along with their affinity for great spirits to create KROBĀR, home of mighty fine Paso hooch.

Maverick Tip: Make a weekday appointment to taste these spirits, or stop in at any time Friday-Sunday from 12pm-5pm. Joe and Steve also have some cool projects in their pipeline, including Bitter Project (sweet vermouth, "LIT" white wine aperitif, cocktail bitters and bitter liqueur).

Dinner at The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar

Eat: Treat yourself to the fried green tomatoes as a starter, and if you’re dining on a Monday-Thursday, check out their rotisserie menu – daily specials off the rotisserie or from the smoker. Another delicious perk: bread pudding for dessert. Talented Chef Mateo Rogers oversees the kitchen, complete with a dynamic wood-fired rotisserie.

Maverick Tip: In the heart of downtown Paso, The Hatch is one of my favorite dinner destinations. Long-time dream and creation of Maggie Cameron and Eric Connolly, this neighborhood restaurant is a friendly gathering place to enjoy simple foods, beautiful wines, and classic and craft cocktails. They also serve Bristols Cider House as well as locally made beer and wine.

Cider tasting at Tin City Cider Co.

Drink: Tin City Cider is a collaboration between winemakers Curt Schalchlin, Mikey Giugni, and Andrew Jones. Curt – owner and operator at Sans Liege – is known for his critically acclaimed Rhône varietal wines. Mikey’s passion for wine and the ocean resulted in Scar of the Sea, his winery/cidery that emphasizes where the grapes and apples are grown. Andrew, winemaker of Field Recordings, spends his days planning and planting vineyards and has stepped foot in just about every Central Coast vineyard. Together, they produce Tin City Cider, a carefully crafted cider made with the best California apples.

Maverick Tip: Tin City Cider, the only cider house in Tin City, produces hard apple ciders in cans and does all secondary fermentation in cans as well. Mikey Guigni, owner and cider maker, does great work at Jack Creek Cellars in addition to creating innovative ciders.

Wine Tasting at Field Recordings

Drink: When it comes to winemaking, this winery really pushes the envelope. They made a hopped Rosé and package many of their wines in cans, which is truly cutting edge. Their Rosé is super fresh, and their wine line-up includes wines made from vineyards throughout Paso Robles and the Central Coast and include Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, as well as some unique blends.

Maverick Tip: The Field Recordings wines are a catalog of single-vineyard sites producing wines with a sense of place and personality. In addition to the single-vineyard wines, multi-vineyard blends are put together under the Wonderwall, Alloy Wine Works, and FICTION labels.
Make sure to put these guys on your list as they’re always doing something different and are worth a visit!

Wine Tasting & Lunch at Lone Madrone

Eat: Our Burger Sundays feature live music and a whole lot of fun! From the beginning, our goal has been to create a place where people can gather together and enjoy themselves.

Try: Give a call to the tasting room to set up a private tasting with the winemaker (that would be me!). I love private tastings and taking people through the experience of enjoying some of our older wines.

Maverick Tip: I started Lone Madrone with my wife and sister, and it’s always been a very family-oriented business. Even our kids are involved! The winery sits on the Paso’s west side in the Adelaida District. I’ve worked my entire career – nearly 25+ years – on the west side of Paso and the wines I’m making here are a deep expression of Paso’s spirit. Fun fact: Our tasting room was once an old horse barn.

Wine Tasting at Deovlet

Drink: I recommend these guys because they’re doing something a little more contrary to other Paso winemakers: They’re focusing on Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, and they probably make the best sparkling wine in the area! Their wines are a little bit lighter in style than what you’ll traditionally find in Paso. Their wine list includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, as well as a Blanc de Blanc extra brut made in the traditional méthode champenoise. Santa Rita Hills “La Encantada” Pinot Noir is the flagship wine and the first wine ever made by winemaker Ryan Deovlet.

Maverick Tip: The winery started in 2008, and the west-side tasting room opened in 2015. They make wonderful, small production wines, with only 1,800 cases made annually.

Dinner & Cider Tasting at Bristol’s Cider House

Eat: Visitors will often be able to enjoy the incredible cooking of Chef Jeffrey Scott. When I started Bristols Cider House, I wanted to create a neighborhood pub feel in a great place where people could hang out and enjoy some delicious food, wine and cider. Tagline: “Inspired by thirst. Rooted in tradition.”

Maverick Tip: We often feature live music and incredible food. There’s also chess, backgammon and loads of games to play while you’re enjoying a flight (or pint/bottle) of Bristols' ciders or Lone Madrone wines. Adam Eron Welch’s art adorns the Cider House walls as well as all our cider labels. Most of the ciders are named for pirates, as Bristol – my hometown in England – is a port city with a history of pirates and pirate ships. Arrrgggg! Fun Fact: When I first opened Bristols Cider House two years ago, it was the only cider house between Los Angeles and San Francisco.