Rio Seco Winery and Hearst Castle: A Celebration of “Stuff”

She said…

On our way down the coast we have stopped at Rio Seco Winery in Paso Robles, California for a couple of nights. The owner of the winery, Carol Hinkle, bought this property with her husband in 1996 for a little retirement project. It had been used as a movie set (“Junkman” was filmed here in the ‘80s and one of the buildings on the property was burned to the ground in the process), and as a marijuana farm. There are bullet holes in the walls of what is now the tasting room from a DEA bust in 1990.

In 1996 this property was just empty fields. At that time there were lots of grapes grown in the Paso Robles area, mostly reds, which thrive in the hot dry climate, but most of them were sourced out to Napa to be used in Northern California wines. There were only four wineries in the valley when the Hinkles started planting wine grapes here. Today there are over 300 wineries, and still, 66% of the grapes grown here are shipped north. Carol calls herself a farmer, but the grapes she grows here are all used in wines that are created here on her property under her own label.

As is usually the case when we stay with a Harvest Host, we spend way more money on wine than we would on camping, but now our cellar is full and we’ve done some Christmas shopping to boot, plus we’ve established new relationships on our journey.

It seems odd for two people who have just spent two years getting rid of stuff and who celebrate a minimalist lifestyle to invest their hard-budgeted coin to go see somebody else’s collection of stuff, but we had driven past Hearst Castle several times and Shannon had never been, so we decided to go have a look.

William Randolph Hearst inherited a fortune along with his first newspaper, and so had the potential of becoming an entitled elitist, but while he inherited his father’s work ethic, he also inherited his mother’s sense of beauty and style, and he emulated her commitment to bettering the world he lived in. He was interested in people with new ideas, and many of the long lists of famous people who visited the castle were guests there before they became famous.

In this present day, where it is becoming cool to diss people with privilege, and equality and egalitarianism sometimes means equal stuff instead of equal opportunity, it is easy to look at William Randolph Hearst’s “little something on the hill” and pooh-pooh it as a rich man’s folly. But were it not for the Hearst family we would not have kindergarten, the PTA, and the University of California system. Thousands of people would have been without jobs, and millions of people would never have had the opportunity to view some of Europe’s finest art masterpieces. And who’s to say what ideas were generated over drinks in one of the grand halls that ended up improving the lot of mankind?

We all have different gifts. Some people have deep pockets, some can do the heavy lifting, and some need to be carried. It takes all kinds to keep the world going around.


Leave a Reply