Just outside Paso Robles, California is a Tuscan-inspired villa sitting atop a hill, overlooking a vineyard-covered valley. As the front gates swing wide, you ease your way up the winding, tree-lined driveway toward the meticulously maintained villa. It feels like you’ve suddenly been transported to Tuscany!
The Canyon Villa is home to Wills and Kath. He’s a world-class chef. She’s the queen of conversation and cheer. She greets you as you drive up to the front walkway with a smile and effusive glee! From the second we saw her, we knew we were going to love our two-night stay.
The villa offers four guest rooms with en suite baths. Ours was on the second floor, with a balcony overlooking the property and several nearby vineyards. Their brochure very accurately describes it as a sweeping vista with a commanding sunset.
Kath walked us through a few procedural things, showed us the courtyard, filled with restful calm and cheery little birds. A large family of quail lives in a copse of pine trees. Hummingbirds flit about and sip from the fountain that offers a peaceful backdrop of babbling water and sparkling reflections.
We took our bags to our room and gasped at the opulence of the bed, plush bath towels and European amenities. There was even a little spritz bottle of “pillow spray” that sent out a soft lavender mist to ease you off to dreamland at the end of the day.
We’d asked for recommendations about which wineries to visit over our relatively brief stay. One was the stunning Dauo Winery, the other was the boutique TH Winery (more on each in coming blogs). Once again, asking a local to point us in the right direction landed us at a couple of gems we probably wouldn’t have known to try and may have missed.
At 5:30 each evening, it’s Wine Hour. Kath uncorks a white and a red from a nearby winery and Wills emerges from the kitchen with a curated plate of cheeses, meats, and snacks. Wills makes his own grissini, crackers and other nibbles — even homemade pickles. The next hour is designed to dazzle your senses and leave you filled with fun stories of your hosts (and fellow guests). It was a first glimpse of Wills’ skill in the kitchen. We cancelled our dinner plans in town (we had enjoyed a big lunch at Dauo) and watched the setting sun from our balcony.
Our first morning, Greg popped downstairs early for a steaming hot cup of their custom-blended coffee (it has a little hazelnut in it!) and brought a cup to me while we dressed for the day. Breakfast is served promptly at 8 a.m. We chose to eat in the courtyard, but the sumptuous dining room beckons if the weather doesn’t cooperate. . It takes one bite to know why you would want to get up that early when you’re on vacation. The three-course breakfast features fresh, warm croissants, a dish with fruit bursting with bright summer flavors and an egg dish. The first day it was homemade granola and Greek yogurt with berries followed by a fluffy, shrimp quiche. Day two was more fresh-from-the-garden berries, this time in a paper thin and lighter-than-air crepe, then a frittata with Italian sausage. We were overjoyed that we had added a special dinner for the second evening of our stay.
Even before we arrived, we’d chatted briefly with Wills about a menu for our dinner. He made sure we didn’t have any food allergies or issues and we made sure he knew we were thrilled with the idea of giving him free rein to set the menu. It was dubbed a “Celebrazione della Dolce Vita,” a celebration of the sweet life. Sweet heirloom tomatoes purchased that very morning from the local farmers’ market popped with sweetness as the cool chill of burrata melded with the tang of balsamic suga in the insalata di pomodoro.
From the fresh, homemade lobster-filled ravioli to the braised veal over tagliatelle, we couldn’t stop oohing and ahhing. Each bite burst in your mouth with a magical combination of perfectly matched flavors. As the sunlight faded, the lights on the umbrella over our table were lit and dessert was served. The warm chocolate torte coated my mouth with rich, deep flavors and perfectly thick, gooey texture. Three housemade gelatos offered up a refreshing, cool palate cleanser making each bite seem like the first bite.
There’s a show on the Food Network called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” I would venture a guess that if any of the chefs on that show had eaten at The Canyon Villa, Wills’ food would be featured on the show.
It felt wrong to take a camera (or phone) to meals when you knew the food would be such a special treat, so we ended up not taking a single picture. It’s OK, the villa’s website shows off some of what you might find on your plate if you are brave enough to take the plunge and escape into a hidden world of luxury and elegance at the Canyon Villa.
There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Take the time to pamper yourself while you’re traveling.
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