Take a Crash Course in Grape Growing

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Cindy Newkirk and Donna in the Crash Course schoolrooom

On a baby boomer trip to California wine country, it’s easy to discover the nuances of wine making during a visit to a tasting room. Winemakers love to talk about their wines. But what about the grapes? How often do you walk through a vineyard to learn the intricacies and challenges of growing grapes? Why not take a crash course in grape growing? Boomers will be in the know after experiencing one of the Crash Courses from Steinbeck Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles, CA.

When Alan and I visited Paso Robles on our coastal California sports car road trip, we experienced a Steinbeck crash course first-hand. After 5th generation grape grower, Cindy Steinbeck Newkirk, invited us to jump into her vintage jeep, we sped up a hillside for a panoramic view of Steinbeck’s 500-acre vineyard. As we surveyed the scene, Cindy told us, “I want to create greater wine appreciation through the eyes of the vineyard.”

The fast paced, small group courses (4 to 6 participants at $40 per person) last 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours, ending in the tasting room, a refurbished blacksmith shop. According to the Steinbeck website, 6 modules (or crash courses) are offered, covering a variety of topics:


  • Sustainable Wine Growing – vineyard practices, planting a vineyard, conservation efforts and the challenges of nature in wine growing.
  • Home Tours and the History of the Paso Robles Region – tour both ranch homes while learning about agriculture and the wine growing history of Paso Robles.
  • Economics of Vineyards and Wine – economics of planting vineyards and growing grapes, the California wine grape market, sustaining a family farm in California.
  • Taste of Steinbeck – (September and October)  learn the logistics of picking 2,000 tons of fruit annually, quality factors of machine and hand harvested fruit, while taste ripe fruit from 13 varietals.
  • Farm Equipment and Modern Mechanization – equipment used in farming wine grapes, mechanization versus hand work.
  • My Father’s Vineyard: The Wisdom of the Vine – Scriptural perspective on life in the vineyard, including analogies from the vineyard that bring the Scriptures to life.
Antique wine press in Steinbeck tasting room

Our crash course ended in a tasting room filled with Steinbeck history. An 1875 wine press sat in a corner while the walls were decorated with antique musical instruments, including an 1885 coronet. Wine bottles rested on a table that had once been a forge. As we tasted 2006 The Crash, a red blend commemorating a B-52 crash that took place on the family farm in 1956, Cindy explained, “We wanted one wine that says Steinbeck in a glass.”

Take a Steinbeck Crash Course when you’re in Paso Robles. Let us know if you think The Crash lives up to its name.

Do you have a favorite Paso Robles winery experience? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.

This travel experience was provided by Steinbeck Vineyards and Winery.

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