New York City was introduced to Paso Wine Guy last week, in a boisterous dinner at City Winery in the heart of Manhattan. Even the most impassioned jam-band renderings of 70s rock tunes in the main room could not compete with the booming good cheer of Paso Robles' new spokesperson ? his voice every bit as fruity, full-bodied and potent as the country reds for which this Central Coast California wine region is known.
Although Paso Vintners admitted that they looked to Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World" as inspiration for their new campaign and "Face," it does an injustice to the county to simply chalk this up as a gringo knockoff. Because, while some characteristics are the same ? the ultra-suave, charismatic, double-Alpha male with better hair than any silver fox has a right to ? there is an entire community backing up Paso Wine Guy, whereas the "Most Interesting Man" is one man, alone. Possibly the hardest-working wine region in California when it comes to touring, doing outreach and promoting their products, Paso has always worked hard to educate people about their singularly quirky pocket of the Central Coast.
The region can be tough to wrap one's brain around: French wine nobility cultivate vineyards next to fourth-generation cowboys, and for every sleek new wine bar, there's a cowboy saloon with moose heads hung on the walls. Old vine Zinfandel, classic California Bordeaux varietals and New World Rhone are all grown, and while some winemakers are fanatic in their preferences and purity, others are open to just about any varietal combination, dictating "Throw it all in ? even the kitchen sink."
Paso Robles is a region full of mavericks and innovators. Utterly unpretentious, it's the sort of place where people from other regions in California gravitate when they find themselves tired of the too-slick, too-pricey scenes in neighboring wine regions. There is a sense of community here that is not exclusive to outsiders: Show up as a visitor, be polite and friendly (as opposed to getting wildly drunk on a limo-tour of tasting rooms), strike up conversations, and by the end of the first day, you'll discover that you and some locals have mutual friends. From that point forward, Paso is happy to be your second home.
This spirit finds its way into the new Paso-promoting short films and even the live events now fronted by Paso Wine Guy. Though he may be able to out-shout a 5-piece rock band, he is easily overpowered by his own countrymen, who, after all, created him in their own collective image. This harvest season, look for him and his Paso friends stirring up the party in the vineyards and the town square, on-screen in a series of ever-more-hilarious video spots, and ? if you're lucky ? at a tasting party in your town.