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.

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.

Thomas Hill Organics

Suppose you want to eat like a local in Paso Robles, the place to be in THO. You will find people having business meetings in the afternoon while they enjoy their lunch with friends and co-workers, as well as winery owners gathering with their friends and family. It’s the place we all continue to visit because the food and atmosphere are so lovely!

When I first moved to the area, it was the first place the locals wanted to share with me. So, I am sharing it with all of you. Debbie Thomas is the owner of Thomas Hill Organics, and she is seemingly ALWAYS there! The menu is seasonal, so it is constantly changing to reflect the flavors of the area. Debbie obtains the freshest fruits and veggies for the plate and the finest cuts of meat. What is even better is the fruits, vegetables, and meats are from local farms! This truly is a farm-to-table experience. Chances are Debbie can even tell you the farm each item came from and who the farmer is. You will probably see the farmer there in the restaurant too. How great is that?

The evening before my interview with Debbie, one of my girlfriends and I had dinner at THO. Both of us had a great meal and included some picpoul paired with our delightful food. We always have a great meal, and the service is just right too. The timing is impeccable. Knowing when to come to the table is almost an art form itself.

Beet salad

I sat down with Debbie, and both of us had a beet salad. I had it the evening before, and it was too good not to have yet again. It was tough to keep myself from eating it as I asked questions.

I asked her what she would like people to know about THO. She humbly told me that THO has a European Alfresco atmosphere, which you can see and feel as soon as you walk inside.

Wine wall
Art wall
Bar area

Then, I asked about Covid…What kind of impact did it have on your business? It was a financial, emotional, and massive hit to our small business. We could only keep a few people and did our best to ensure we were here after the shutdown. Luckily, our town is so supportive, and there were times we would have lines around the block to pick up food. I feel so grateful to our local people and all those people that brought extra people with them to buy our lunches and dinners. We were even making fried chicken. It must have been something people needed at the time. They may have seen it as comfort food, but it brought in the orders. Again, I feel grateful, supported, and so humbled.

I also asked how BLM impacted her establishment, and she said that she has always had a diverse staff. We welcome everyone. No one has or ever will be turned away from our establishment because of the color of their skin. We employ people of diverse backgrounds because we all learn from each other.

Are there other things you want people to know about THO? Debbie told me that the space could be rented for rehearsal dinners, brunches, and after-wedding parties.

Their wine list is mainly from this area. She has personal relationships with the winery owners and was the first to start purchasing Daou’s wines.

Our food is seasonal, so our menu changes with the season. So even if you are a regular, you have a new menu every season.

Perfect little alcove on the patio
The scent and sound of water is always welcome