“At Her Table” closes Estrada Avenue in Atascadero

Sunday, I decided to go to “At Her Table,” which shuts Estrada Street in Atascadero, CA. It was a beautiful sunny day with a lovely 73 degrees. Parking was super easy, and I only parked a few blocks away from my destination. As I walked down the hill to Estrada, I saw artists busy painting a mural. These artists are part of the Equity Mural Project, and below, you can see the artists in action.

Right across the street is the shop Anna and Company. She was busy greeting every person that crossed the road and has become a beacon in the town of Atascadero. She is a businesswoman that made her dream come true! She also helps other women by sharing her platform with them. One of those women is Lori from Innerpiece Collection. Lori is a crafter of handmade, one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Jessicakes was right outside Anna and Company, reminding us all about the importance of some indulgence. Her slogan "eat dessert first" does not fall on deaf ears. We all deserve to treat ourselves to the finer things that life offers, and sometimes it is a sweet indulgence that is due.

Michelle Barrera is the founder of “enjoyslo” and "At Her Table." She strengthens the connections between women owners of restaurants, women chefs, and women winemakers and owners. For the entire month of March, she and her crew have put together special dinners so people can get to know these women in our community that is doing great things. It is our chance as a community to show gratitude for Michelle's contributions and commitment to bring together the talent of these women to showcase.

Natalie Hawkins was outside performing while I walked around and met some of the other women-owned businesses that took over Estrada on Sunday. My list is not a complete list of all the women-owned businesses there; this is only a partial list of the ones that I met or took photos of while I strolled the avenue.

Hambly Farms
Criu Hospitality
Villa Creek Farm
Seven Angels Cellars

Bon Niche, a woman owned vineyard and winery.

This month is Women’s History Month, and I yearned to take the opportunity to acquaint you to Melani, the proprietor of Bon Niche, a vineyard and winery established in San Miguel, California.

I phoned and left a voicemail for Melani to implore her for a meeting. We quickly went to texting. It’s just so much easier. She informed me the day I proposed to come out to meet her would be a decent day, and she was going to be toiling in the vineyard to hang/rehang, and repair drip lines.

On my route to her vineyard, she added that she had the gate closed so the pig wouldn’t get out of the gate. I didn’t challenge her but speculated to myself, and maybe she implies that she wishes to keep the pigs out of her vineyard. NO! The little pig is her pet pig, and his name is Gilbert. I got to pet Gilbert, and it was my first time being so close to a pig. It was so cool to see how he could articulate his little snout-like elephants manipulate their trunks. Not to the same extent, but still fascinating in its own right.

I knew after a tremendous morning in the vineyard she would be hungry, and what better way to get to know someone. Sharing a meal is a fabulous way to share stories and adventures. As I entered the gate, I was welcomed by Melani and Barley, her three-legged poodle. He has his own Instagram. Melani has a very angelic face, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that she is a nurse. Immediately, one can perceive the tenderness that illuminates out of her heart. I was, however, struck to know that she is in the Navy!

Melani has traveled worldwide. It is when she lived in Naples, Italy, she fell in love with farming. The older couple that she lived near became fast friends, and she felt as though these people were extended kin. Her time in Naples planted the vine that would not stop maturing. The vision in her soul tendrilled her imagination and was taking form.

She was coming to Paso to assist when she could do so at Tackitt Vineyard; Leon (the owner of the vineyard) is like a favorite uncle to many young vineyard enthusiast. He is perpetually disseminating his knowledge with people that yearn to comprehend. Melani was one of those exceptional pupils that hungered for more proficiency. She understood she had to discover all perspectives of owning a vineyard and winery and what that encompassed. She also proceeded with taking many classes from anywhere that she could. The bottom line is Melani is a Bad Ass!She is the embodiment of a modern farmer. She is accepting care of the land she loves, living sustainably, and caring for her animals in the same manner.

She and I had a pesto chicken sandwich with avocado. Melani readied her Viognier and rose. The two wines were slightly chilled and outstanding with the chicken pesto and avocado sandwiches. The previous owners of Bon Niche wanted to find the RIGHT person to buy their winery, and they could not have done better. She cares for the land that gives these beautiful grapes. She works hard to make sure that she is creating a SIP-certified product. Melani takes the commitments of caring for her soil and her vines seriously. She has started employing cover crops in the rows, which allow more nutrients to stay in the ground, as well as creates homes for micronutrients and beneficial insects. She has some Nigerian goats that work in the rows and is starting her little flock of babydoll sheep. Currently, she has three, with one baby born in the spring.

The wine was so enjoyable. The Viognier and Cabernet Franc were my favorites. The Viognier has a nice crisp acidic finish. The first indication of the perfumes coming out of the glass were green apples, ginger, and just a hint of honeysuckle blossoms. It was so excellent with the pesto. It essentially expanded the flavor of the basil. The perception of the avocado was essentially muted. I did purchase a bottle to take home of that deliciousness! I have to concede that I am a HUGE devotee of an extraordinary Cabernet Franc, and Melani has crafted one. The aroma that hit me first was vanilla, and Melani shared that this was barreled in a Hungarian oak barrel. I didn’t get any fruit or flower bouquets until the second swirl. After the second swirl, violets, cranberry and raspberry, and blackberries were apparent in the wine. It is tannic and acidic and divine! Another bottle that I had to acquire for home exploration.

Paso Robles Historical Society Museum

If you are looking for a place to feel like an extended lost family, go to the Paso Robles Historical Society. The architecture is fabulous, and yes, we will get to that in a few minutes. The Paso Robles Historical Society is all about the people who work there. These are all volunteers, dedicating their time to make everyone who walks through the doors feel family. You know the kind of family you want to see, not Bruno. Your favorite aunt, the grandma that loves you just the way you are, or that fun cousin. I am serious, and these ladies could write a book or even teach a class on hospitality. In the museum, you will see a cheerleader's uniform, and one of the ladies that is a volunteer there wore that uniform!

There are a variety of exhibitions that are on display. One of the displays still on view is the Amphorae Project, from the Wine History Project. Recently, the Wine History Project teamed up with 15 local wineries that utilize amphorae to make wine. One of the wineries is Indigene Cellars, owned by Raymond Smith, a black-owned business right in the heart of Paso Robles. The Wine History Project is reaching back into history at least 6,000 years old and showing us how our collective ancestors utilized clay for the maceration of grapes. Make sure to visit to get a detailed breakdown of the history and how the amphorae spread across Asia Minor to Egypt and Europe. Learn about the other wineries involved here in the county and the upcoming events that will center on the exhibition, including a lecture from Dr. Patrick McGovern, an Archaeologist and the Scientific Director of the Bimolecular Archeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Two of the ladies who volunteer (which all the people who work there do…volunteer their time!) research the properties, and people live and work in Paso Robles. Nancy and Jan are two of the ladies that conduct research. Every person you meet treats you like family, so you will be in good hands if you ask about research. I am not confident that you will have to ask if there is a separate cost involved with the research they conduct. I do know they appreciate all donations. So please be as generous as you can when you visit in person or online.

The architecture is somewhat unique and was done in the Neo-classical style. It was designed by William H Weeks, and R. O. Summers of San Jose oversaw the construction. On January 12th, 1908, the first cornerstone was laid, and it was opened by June 19th, 1908. The funding was from the Carnegie Grant, one of 2,509 he would fund. This one in Paso cost $10,000, but he would spend 2,83,6987.00 in California alone. He financed the building, but each area had to spend the money for books, maintenance, and employees. Indiana had the most Carnegie libraries with a total of 165, followed by California with 142.

Villa San Juliette

In the not too distant past, I visited this unparalleled and bespoke beauty of a winery that is literally in my backyard area. Villa San Juliette is on the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail, and in the town of San Miguel, which is a part of the Paso Robles AVA known as the Estrella District. Villa San Juliette is also SIP certified. Which means they are Sustainable In Practice, which is great for our environment. They have biodiversity, and practice no till, as well as utilizing cover crops. Owl boxes provide homes to owls which feed on rodents, thus allowing for natural pest control. Not only does SIP regulate the environmental aspect of sustainable practices, but also humane practices for those employed at VSJ. Legacy wineries are those that take care of the soils, water, vines, and people that care for the ground on which they cultivate.

Villa San Juliette, is a beauty, and takes you to a bygone era of mystic, and aristocracy. Once entering the grounds with the beautiful wrought iron gates, and wind swept silver leaves of the olive trees that seem to beacon the driver and welcome one and all. The rest of the world seems to melt away as one drives up the way to the winery. The vistas are impeccable! There could be several groups of people all around the classically landscaped setting, but there is plenty of room to stretch out with your own party or enjoy a table top inside the winery.

While I was there alone enjoying the scenery and crab cakes with a salad. People can also rent the venue for special occasions. What a great place for a wedding or even a baptismal after party. Since Villa San Juliette is part of the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail, they often do special events along the trail. Make sure to check out the seasonal delights that occur every month on the trail.

If I had to chose only one wine from Villa San Juliette, it would be their 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, it is crisp, and refreshing. It was the perfect pairing for the crab cakes and the salad I enjoyed while I was visiting. The balance in the flavor profile was impeccable. It had a subtle citrus note that was not overwhelming, and a structured acidic spine that left me wanting a little more. Go sip, savor and play at Villa San Juliette!

Hartley Farms

In the small town of San Miguel, Ca, you will find Hartley Farms on the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail. A wine trail that is made up of 12 family wineries. Hartley Farms is an organic farm of stone fruit trees, wedding and event venue with several places to stay on the farm. This little oasis is unlike anything else on the Central Coast. A magical place that exudes personality. If you are looking for the “Family expereince” you have to go and have some fun there. Everyone is welcomed with open arms. You are family when you are there, even if you are the crazy aunt in your own family. The hospitality of Barbara, Dan, and the kids is unparrelled. They are fun, and you will have fun while you are there and question why you haven’t been there yet.

Photo by #destinycavalleto
Photo by #Charise
The bar photo by #markaki805photography

What is something you wish people knew about your destination?
Our venue is pretty unique – we offer peace & quiet on a 37-acre organic farm in the middle of the Pleasant Valley Wine Country. Between camp sites, and farm stays, most people find their cozy space. We keep attendance to a minimum so there is plenty of elbow room!

How many weddings are you allowed to do a year?
We limit wedding events to only 10 per year. Weddings are a super special, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we like to give each couple an entire weekend to relish it.

Photo by #KenzieKatePhotography

How many spots do you have left for 2021 and 2022?
2021 is all booked up, but we do have 0 available slots for wedding events in 2022. You can book for 2023, now!

How many people are allowed at your venue?
We can host up to 250 guests for a wedding.

Memories of weddings past #markaki805photography

How is your destination unique?
You will not find another venue that was designed just for a wedding & reception in mind. Most venues – weddings are an afterthought. We bought this property with the intent to build a beautiful, well-planned wedding venue. Between hand-paved walkways, waterfalls, an amphitheater under a 250-year old live Oak, and numerous nooks for romantic photos, you can’t find a more unique situation. In fact – it was a big reason we could not get a bank to finance it!


How long and what went into building this venue?
Well, we bought the property in 2005, but there was nothing here – no water, power, house, nothing. We had a lot to learn! A land with no water was not a great start, but to me it was a blank canvas. We drilled a well in 2007, and started planting. In 2008, we brought in power, but the banks still weren’t convinced it was a good investment. We added our orchard trees in 2011. The banks said “why aren’t you doing grapes – I don’t get it”, so still no funds. Dan & I pulled all our retirement accounts, and savings to put a small house on the property, 900 square feet – we HAD to get our land loan rolled over to a home loan! Finally, a small local banker, Cindy Smith with Bank of the Sierra, said “this looks great! we’d love to give you the loan!”. She saved the farm! AND we were able to build our main house. So, it’s been 16 years, but it’s far from being complete. We will continue to improve and grow indefinitely.


What are some things for people to do at your venue? If you were a visitor at your venue, what would you want to do?
That depends on what you want to experience. Many people think of Paso Robles as Wine Country, and it is. But we have so many other non-wine related farms and activities. For wine, I send guests to the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail – a co-op of 12 wineries in our region. All small, mom & pop’s type places where the winemaker is usually pouring behind the counter, and so much love goes in to making the wines, you can’t go wrong with any of them. The restaurants are hands-down, THE BEST around. We have the highest number of restaurants per capita to residents. So they HAVE to be good to stay in business! For non-wine stuff, check out local farms at FarmsteadED.com. Also, the Ravine Water Park is a fantastic attraction Memorial Day through Labor Day – water slides for the kids, cocktails & munchies for the adults. And if you rent a cabana, you can order it all to your lounge chair. Vina Robles Amphitheater, Sensario Light Display, Estrella War Bird Museum, San Miguel Mission are all other great places to visit.

Jam line up #HartleyFarms #merkaki805photography

How did Covid impact your business? How did it affect you personally? What did you learn from it? Who and what helped you get through it? What do you want people to change because of this pandemic?
Oh Lordy. It was bad. We will be recovering financially for years because there was no grant or even low-interest loan available for wedding venues with no employees. I learned a lot about people – and not all of it good, sad to say. But it brought me closer to family. If there’s anything I would want people to change, it would be to take a breath, and be a little nicer – maybe a lot nicer. Everyone is struggling.

What can people do at home to help make the world a better place? Recycle, can your own food, and compost. All things people can do in the country as well as a big city.

Enjoying life on the farm. #merkaki805photography

Book your wedding, special event, or vacation https://www.harleyfarms.com

Special thanks to https://www.kenziekatephoto.com/ https://www.lisamalloryphoto.com http://www.newrevolutionphotography.com/ https://www.truephotography.com/event/charise-patrick?view=gallery#4 and Destiny Cavalleto and #merkaki805photography https://www.facebook.com/meraki805photography/


I happened to meet Neeta at a wedding of a mutual friend. I was taken aback by her beauty and wit. I had to try her wines. I already read some information about her vineyard being planted. Her vineyard is in the Willow Creek AVA and will be using the “James Berry Vineyard” farming method. She is also using regenerative farming methods—all the more reason to get to the tasting room and encounter the LXV experience. The name of her vineyard is Armaa.n (which means “Dream”.

LXV Tasting

My friend and I made our reservations and proceeded to our reserved table. Our friendly wine connoisseur checked in with us after each tasting to see our thoughts as we enjoyed each wine. I must say…I had my little wine book out taking notes about two of the wine, but I had such a phenomenal experience I put down my notebook. This was enjoying the moment as it was. We were laughing and talking with people at other tables. I just wanted to enjoy the flow of the evening.

Spices paired with wines

The spices with the wines are divine. No one else in United States pairs wines with spices. I needed to talk to Neeta herself to find out more about her winery. The first question I asked of her was about what she would want people to know about her winery. She said that the deconstruction of each wine and pairing of the cheese and spices is a team effort. Everyone plays with spices in the spice lab looking for balance between the wines and the spices.

Sexy wines deserve a sexy place

Neeta wanted it to be clear that she was not the first Indian winery owner but one of the first. Hospitality, storytelling highlight who we are. As soon as one walks in the door, they are our guests, and we show how much we care through our hospitality. The wine, the spices, the company of the other guests at LXV is a testament to the fact. It was an outstanding experience!

The answer to what obstacles she had to overcome was great…she said, “go with your gut.” There were many naysayers when she told people of her vision, but she believed in the dream! She knew it was something that people were going to love.


Neeta loves education, and for a while before Covid, club members had wine tastings. Once Covid began closing places, the tastings moved to Zoom. They also allow private vineyard tours to members. I asked her how Covid affected her business. She said that it made her think deeper about what is essential, what is valuable, and it made her pivot. It showed her that the foundation of the business was and is strong. She did not have to give up any of her team because the community believed in what she was doing. Covid showed her how solid the relationships are between the employees and the members, how everyone went out of the way to help and made the connections with everyone that much stronger! I also asked her about BLM and how it has changed her business. She says that she was happy to see that it has brought more attention to minorities in business. She wishes the conversations about race were more respectful, and the quality of the discussions was better. I believe we all could do better by being better listeners. One of Neeta’s favorite aspects about owning a winery is the conversations she has with people all over the world about wine and terror. Wine is a language that brings people together no matter what their native tongue is. To learn more about Neeta, her vineyard and winery please visit the website at http://www.lxvwine.com/

Studios on the Park, Paso Robles, CA

Exhibition of art made by local artists

Sarah Ambrose and I corresponded before visiting Studios on the Park. My questions and her answers are as follows…

– What category do you fall under in Sustaniably sip, savor, play, and stay?

– We fall under the Play category. Prior to COVID-19, we would’ve fallen under sip just because we serve wines every weekend. However, we are no longer doing that right now so play it is!

The grand piano

What kinds of activities do you offer?

– We usually host all sorts of activities. We have the Kids Art Smart program that invites students to come in to art classes every morning and learn about art as well as create their own. We also do First Saturday “Art After Dark Paso” evenings where we have a reception for the new exhibition and have music and wine. We also have adult and kids classes that happen throughout the day and week. We also have exhibition discussions, lectures, movie tie-ins, etc. that are tied to our atrium exhibition. However, we are currently not doing any of these due to COVID.

How are you all practicing sustainability?

– Practicing Sustainability: We try as much as we can to not have any waste. We recycle any materials we can and we reuse wine glasses so that we don’t have any cup waste (I hate saying this but this will change due to COVID).

Studio of Thornton and Landon

Is there something the city or county can do to help businesses?

– Honestly I am not sure what the counties can do more other than to just help drive people to come to SLO County and Paso Robles. This town is so unique and many take every precaution they can to maintain sustainability of our town.

Is sustainabilty a big factor for your business?

– As far as getting people in the door, we are focused more on tourism and how we can get people from all over to come in. Again, sustainability changes wouldn’t really bring people in our doors just because we already do what we can (no paper receipts, wine glasses, recycle paper materials used, and so on.) I would say that many of our wineries and restaurants though do a great job showing off their sustainability, which in turn gets people to come to Paso. Tablas Creek Winery is one that specifically comes to mind as they have an absolutely wonderful sustainability program. They are a winery partner of ours and we love when people come by Studios and hear about the way they treat their land and grapes. Halter Ranch being another one of those.

Special bags and books, oh my!

What are some things locals can do?

– I do think that everyone and anyone who has a business in Paso need to support each other and lift each other up in order to maintain our area and keep driving in new people, whether it be sustainability issues or what have you.

If you want to see all the new activities happening at Studios on the Park, https://studiosonthepark.org

Kitchenette of Templeton

Recently, I sat down over coffee with Jenn Volpi of Kitchette and ask her some questions about the resturant, and how everthing is going. I started off by asking her what she would want people to know about Kitchenette that not everyone would know. She told me that they buy their food from sustainable vendors, like Dragonsprings Farm, local grass fed meats, and the farmer’s market. She also said the employees are all like family, and it is a family-oriented place with a fun atmosphere.

Bob Ross sets the relaxed vibe at Kitchenette, thanks to #sacredarmortattooart for the drawing.

The kitchenette has not only an exceptional breakfast, brunch, and lunch menu but also coffee and locally crafted Kombucha and cider. Jenn said one of the hardest things about Covid was how hard the business was hit and laying off staff. She spoke of how incredibly hard it was to locate and obtain items usually easy to find. Jenn said eggs were some of the hardest consumable to locate. She says Covid made her appreciate every aspect of her business that much more. Thankfully, the community rallied around Kitchenette, and we made meals ready to go.

Hip, small town vibe.

Jenn says that diversity has always been important. We have workers of various races and backgrounds. Even though this is a small town, we have a great cross-section of people employed here, and we all get along very well, which makes us like family. Having a family-like atmosphere is essential to me, and it makes life more enjoyable for us and everyone that enters our restaurant. We want people to come in hungry, and when they leave, they are happy! The Kitchenette helps support local farmers, and we are a part of the fabric that makes up this beautiful little community. We welcome everyone to come in for a meal and an opportunity to mingle with the locals if you want to see the latest daily specials https://kitchenettetempleton.com. Check them out and follow them on Instagram.

Specials for the day of the interview.

Dharma Yoga Loft

Dharma Yoga Loft is located in Paso Robles, California. This place has become a strong community of fellow yogis that believe in the power of breathwork. Breathing is one of the systems we can control, and we can help regulate our breathing to meditate, and focus on right here, right now.


Not only is there a Yoga studio, but a beautiful outdoor oasis, that includes vacation stays. Jenna (the owner), also offers workshops, teacher instruction, surfing classes, sound therapy through sound baths, and so much more. Next year she wants to offer another 200hr Yoga teacher training, so make sure to look for that on the website https://www.pasoyoga.com

Outdoor alter for the day

I had the opportunity to spend some time with Jenna and ask her some questions about her space and her philosophy. I wondered how often she offered retreats, and she told me about five times a year, mainly in the United States. She explained that she would love to do one soon in Bali. She has one more retreat scheduled for this year. If you are interested in retreats, make sure to check out the website. I asked if there were any new and exciting classes, and she told me that she was looking forward to teaching another 200hr teacher training workshop in 2022. I then asked how Covid affected her business. She said it slowed down at first, and then she took to teaching online, and the community rallied around her and the other teachers to participate in classes. In the beginning, sales were slow, but thanks to a strong yogi community in our town, they are striving!

Picnic dinner on the grounds.

Jenna told me that Covid helped her see the importance of slowing down and how vital it is to practice self-care. It taught her about the appreciation of small things, like being outdoors, and how little moments in life need to be treasured. Those moments with family are so significant to our children and ourselves. She readjusted not only her personal life but also her business model. Jenna says that while most of her teachers are female, some males teach at the studio too, and she believes diversity is essential in business and our personal lives. Her instructors come from various backgrounds, religions, and colors. Yoga doesn’t care about your faith, and Yoga is about “uniting.” Uniting is something we could all use more of today. Instead of focusing on all the ways we are different, we need to appreciate how we are different. We are all human beings wanting a better life. Why not accept each other the way we are, and lift each other up!

Yoga cat

Jenna told me that her yoga studio is heart driven. It’s all about community, and this platform allows everyone to SHINE! We are a no drama studio, we share our love for each other and ourselves.

Sustainability is very important. Sustainability is not just about the environment, but also about so many other aspects of life that are impacted. No one can give from an empty vessel, you have to fill yourself up before you can give. When you change the inside of you, the outside will follow. It’s a journey of self discovery that never ends. We are given this body, and the only way for it to carry us through this life is to take care of it. Read and learn for your mind. Asana, good clean food for your body, water and tea to quench your thirst. Practice setting intentions for your day, say your prayers, meditate. Allow your spirit to shine. Jenna believes the best advice she can give people is to approach life holistically. Be good to yourself, family, and community. Give from a cup that is overflowing in goodness. Plant a garden, and reap what you sow.

Yes Cocktail Co of Paso Robles

A few weeks ago I attended a Mocktail-Cocktail making workshop at Farm Supply in San Luis Obispo. Lauren, the co-owner of Yes Cocktail Co was our speaker/teacher of the workshop. Lynette from Slo Co Farm trail participated in the event too. We paid for the event through Slo Co Farm trail, and the price was worth the experience. Each of us was given several plants, a big pot, soil, tags, lunch from Slo Provisions, and samples of Yes Cocktails mixture to take home. Can you believe it?

Lauren perfecting her set up for the day.

Lauren began cooking several differnt drink preperations, as she talked to all of us about cocktails and mocktails. Her packaging is elegant and straightforward. The ingredients in her cocktail mixture is all natural and made from scratch by her and her husband. They partner withe at least 20 differnt local farms to obtain their herbs and flowers. Lauren says that she was fortunate that making cocktails at home was popular before Covid hit.

Worshop handbook

A couple on their first date were at my table. She was very impressed that her date recommended doing the workshop. She was saying how much fun it was to do something out of the ordinary, so if you are going on a date look up slo co farm trail to see what workshops are available. If you are on your 101 date, you need to check it out too.

Workshop buddies

I asked Lauren how she got started, and she told me that her grandparents owned a liquor store, experimented with making lemonade drinks at her lemonade stand, and even had a happy hour. I also asked her how Covid changed her life and business. She said the time at home gave her some latitude and time to further experiment with making new recipes and sourcing ingredients. She also utilized the time to reestablish stronger connections with her family, friends, and neighbors. This time has made me appreciate how much everyone in our lives is valued and loved.

Lavender, Rosemary, Pineapple plant, lemongrass, cilantro, and mint are pictured here in our big terra cotta pot with tags made from corks.

Lauren says that after the mixers are open for a few weeks, an excellent way to keep the mixer fresh is to make the mixture into ice cubes. Add the ice cubes to your teas and other beverages.

Lauren crafting all of our drinks.