Of Art and Vineyards – Allegretto Vineyard Resort


Allegretto Vineyard Resort is not just a beautiful resort with a focus on wine.  It is not merely the first true, inclusive luxury destination in Paso Robles. No, it’s also a work of art, a hotel as intimate museum, a spectacular destination that could be in Europe, could be from another time – but is instead a very modern take on a stunning Italian villa, in central California.


Allegretto Vineyard resort is elegant, dreamy, an homage to Mediterranean style that is centuries old. Open for just under a year, the resort contains lush gardens and fountains, incredible artwork, a chapel – perfect for weddings or yoga retreats, depending on your needs – called the Abbey, two labyrinths, a pool with a view of the vineyards.


There are twenty acres of vineyards here, and guests can stroll them, if so inclined, or relax by a fire pit, read in a lovely courtyard, experience a spa that features aroma therapy,  zero-gravity chairs, and an infrared detox sauna.


But in the end, it’s the art of the place that makes a trip here an experience like no other, with a new “find” around every corner, from paintings to sculptures to massive crystals. Crushed marble from Israel, Indian arches, a stunning Buddha, a Roman goddess – you never know what you’ll find as you ramble through the property.

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The luxury and opulence of the resort is hardly formidable: somewhat miraculously, it feels comfortably homey as well as lush.


The concept of the resort comes from creator Doug Ayres, whose family-owned line of 21 chain hotels are perfectly comfortable in their own right, but not properties that would lead you to envision Allegretto Vineyard Resort as part of that chain.


The resort was a one of a kind personal vision by Ayres, after he visited this Central Coast wine region and fell in love with it. He wanted to establish – and has very much succeeded – a destination resort that fits perfectly with the area’s wineries, tasting rooms, and Tuscan-like scenery, and one that is infused with a sense of serenity. Guests frequently check in for a few days stay, and if a room is available, ask to extend their visit.


Featuring 171 rooms and suites, each beautifully appointed in muted mauves and browns – the color of the earth and wines, these rooms are warm and appealing. We loved the large marble shower and our vineyard view. F23C6951

The resort’s dining is exceptional too, featuring locally sourced, and in some cases, locally foraged ingredients. An outdoor patio with a view of one of the resort’s fountains is a charming place for lunch; or try drinks and coffee by the massive fireplace just off the lobby. The interior of the restaurant, Cello, resembles a wine cave, again the reds and browns predominate in a comfortable,  stylish room.  In the evening, there’s often live classical music.


Executive Chef Eric Olson is meticulous in his preparation of Northern Italian cuisine. Olson visits area farms to ensure that he’s working with organic and sustainable providers; has built his own bee box, and scours the area for wild-growing natural ingredients from milk thistle to seaweeds, elderberries, edible flowers, and acorns. Olson has his own chef’s garden and a large compost area. The vineyard on the resort’s property, and its 200 plus olive trees, also make fine resources for the chef’s kitchen.


At lunch, we loved the light angel hair pasta with Roma tomato and fresh basil; the thyme-seared scallops on butter lettuce was everything you could wish for in a salad.

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“All the seafood is brought in whole, from halibut to salmon, to control freshness and origin,” Olson notes. “We create our pizzas going from gas to wood burning ovens to prepare them in a timely fashion while preserving technique. I look to prepare dishes that are unique and will educate our culinary team and our diners.”

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Formerly with Ojai Valley Inn, Olson’s creativity and flair in the kitchen is even more evident at dinner, with dishes like the stunningly presented sustainable abalone, arranged within the shell, and paired with lobster sauce; gluten free flat bread with edible flowers and fresh garlic; risotto with shrimp, scallops, and foraged mushrooms; and coconut gelato with bread pudding.

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Pastry chef Carol Anne Phiopott makes all her pastries and desserts from scratch. Her key lime pie is the best I’ve tasted – even after multiple visits to Key West, home to the dessert. “It’s my own recipe. I lift egg yolks and lime dust together,” she notes.

Other stand-out desserts include lemon mascarpone cheese cake, chocolate berry tart, honeycomb and fruit.

Alexandra Pellot, the venue’s mixologist, dries her own fruits and makes her own syrups from scratch.


Careful sourcing is also a feature of the fine wines the vineyard resort creates: a Viognier with notes of minerals, citrus and honeysuckle, the hardy Spanish grape of the Tenaught,  a favorite here but rare on the coast, featuring spice notes, blackberry, and notes of chocolate as well. We were also impressed with the light rose petal notes in the Zinfindel and the cocoa and Bing cherry flavors in the Cabernet.



A wine tasting room has just opened on site, for guests to enjoy sips from these vintages and more, both from wines created from the resort’s vineyard, and from the region.  With dinner we were able to taste a delightful Leticia sparkling Brute as well as a dry and fragrant Jack Creek Pinot Noir.


Off property, we tasted at Villa San Juliette, whose capacious grounds and fountains made a lovely match with the resort’s ambiance. The Villa opened their tasting room in 2008, according to host Melanie Porteny. Created by Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, Villa San-Juliette’s tasting room is set amid the gardens of a 168-acre estate.

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The winery grows 11 varietals. We tasted a 2014 Pinot Gris redolent of almond, apricot, and lemon; an airy 2014 Sauvignon Blanc; and a rich Syrah with butterscotch notes. Winemaker Dan Smith, mixes 90% Syrah with 5% each of petite Syrah and Grenache to create the Syrah. Along with our tastings, we were treated to a bountiful cheese plate.


We also strolled Tin City, a section of Paso Robles once given to industrial use, now with its warehouses recreated as wineries, distilleries, and breweries.

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We visited Barrelhouse Brewery, a terrific neighborhood hang out, producing 4500 barrels a year last year, and twice again as much this year. Outdoor picnic tables make a great spot to listen to live music on weekends.

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Open since 2013, Barrelhouse is the creation of Jason Carvalho and Kevin Nickell, lifelong friends and business partners. “We’re not looking to be found in every 7-11. What’s most important to us is to be part of the community,”  we were told. We loved Big Sur, their crisp double IPA, and their Sunny Daze Citrus Blonde Ale.


A drive to the coast for some beach walking in Cayucos, and then it was time for dinner.


In the heart of downtown Paso Robles, Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Lounge is another find, a beautiful restaurant that offers Central Coast resources as delicious as they are perfectly prepared. Produce comes from area farmers, breads are crafted by local bakers, and the local wines are perfectly selected.


We tasted a 2014 Adelaida from Anna’s Vineyards along with Central Coast Brewing’s Monterrey Street pale ale to accompany an incredible seasonal dish of fried green tomatoes, dipped in gluten-free, house-made, Panko.

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Next came a cold cucumber soup, with Dungeness crab and sun gold tomatoes; zucchini from Haussler farms prepared with romesco and mint, and line-caught California King salmon served with crispy potatoes, Blue Lake beans, and olives, grilled with lemon. For dessert, the chocolate torte with cherries, and brown butter cake were both exceptional, and well paired with a Halter Ranch Vine de Paille and Rockso Porte.

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Sitting on the charming brick patio, this was a meal we lingered over, listening as owner Debbie Thomas explained that she doesn’t believe in heavy sauces, and neither does head chef Tim Veatch. “Let the fresh local ingredients shine,” she says.


Thomas started an organic farm eleven years on top of a hill which she named Thomas Hill Farms, leaving a career in marketing in Pasadena. From the farm’s abundance of produce, the restaurant was born. “I was ahead of the farm to table curve,” she laughs.


Returning to Allegretto Vineyard Resort, we were struck by the gorgeous play of colored lights on the fountains, the quiet of the vineyards, the serenity of a windswept night. Contemplated any time of day, both art and vineyards are pure delight.

You’ll want to taste, see, savor, and be transported by these Paso Robles finds as soon as you can – and then arrange a return trip to the sublime.

Allegretto Vineyard Resort

2700 Buena Vista Drive  Paso Robles, California, 93446

Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Lounge

1313 Park St.  Paso Robles, CA 93446

Villa San-Juliette

6385 Cross Canyons Road  San Miguel, CA 93451

Barrel House Brewing Company

3055 Limestone Way   Paso Robles, Ca 93446





Moonscape at FM Fine Arts Gallery


 Such a fine moonscape curated by Karrie Ross at FM Gallery.

This multi-artist show, My Own Private Moon, combines individual artist visions of the moon into a phases of the moon exhibition that is poetically beautiful.


Above, Peggy Silvert Zask.

“The Moon theme was suggested to me about a year ago…the connection I had with water, the moon, science interaction, global warming, axes changes, and the human element spurred me on and extended my vision,” Ross says.

Her focus was to create a traveling show and she has ideas for just such an event planned.  But for now, through the 26th of September, the moon is in the heavens of Los Angeles.


Above, another lovely moon indeed from Peggy Silvert Zask.

On view are works by 22 Los Angeles based Artists: Roxene Rockwell, Dens Richardson, Ron Therrio, Ted Meyer, Stevie Love, Peggy Sivert Zask, Ada Pullini Brown, Dave Lovejoy, Bryan Ida, Wini Brewer, Susan Lizotte, Bibi Davidson, Jill Sykes, Scott Dienhart, Cathy Weiss, Sharon Suhovy, Joe O’Neill, Ashley Bravin, Lena Moross, Francisco Alvarado, Barbara Nathanson, Karrie Ross.


Above, Jill Sykes bucolic beauty. Below, the work of curator and artist Karrie Ross.


Below, the work of Francisco Alvarado.


Below, Lena Moross’ moon.

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Above, the delicate colors and creatures of Winnie Brewer’s moon. Below, Bibi Davidson’s vibrant red but sad man in the moon.


Below, Ron Therrio.


“The artists were specially selected for their diversity of style and medium, therefore the title of My Own Private Moon,” Ross says. “The artists had complete freedom other than the fact that the moon had to be the most dominant. Each artist chose a phase and then were invited to also create a full moon.”

A catalog of the images and artists statement connections with the Moon are available on Amazon.

FM Gallery is located at 834 La Brea Ave. in Hollywood


Transcendence through Rhythms: Artist Pam Douglas at TAG Gallery



Meet New York-born Pam Douglas, who began her career as an artist by absorbing the abstract expressionist art exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art. “I saved my lunch money to go to the museum. In college, the art studio was a revelation to a kid who never had access to art supplies. Growing up, anything unrelated to survival or grades that would get me a scholarship was considered an indulgence we couldn’t afford,” she recalls. “But discovery after discovery lured me to spend my college years in that studio even if becoming an artist wasn’t practical.”

Today her beautiful mixed media works pay respect to Zen artists of the first millennium such as Lao Tsu, who used their instincts as much as their brush, artists for whom “paintings were poetry. I found my inspiration in ancient Asian paintings reflected through contemporary sensibilities,” Douglas says.

Now based in Los Angeles, she feels the landscape here “opened my visual ideas to horizontals, having grown up in New York City, cold and poor, in a lifestyle trapped in vertical boundaries. To me, my feeling for exploration and taking chances on creative impulses is very much a product of Los Angeles.”


Douglas’ committment to poetic exploration is firmly a part of her exhibition at TAG Gallery in Santa Monica’s Bergamont Station. Rhythms was inspired by what could’ve been prosaic for many: a visit to the doctor’s. While Douglas was hooked up to an EKG, watching the lines form on scrolling paper, the rhythm of her heart inspired this new series of paintings.


She conceptualized ideas about current political and social situations, asking herself what makes the heart clench, and what makes it release? Using newspaper headlines, EKG lines, and elements from rope to string, sand to paint, she created a textural landscape that includes finely representational elements such as birds and hands as well as abstractions. Her palette consists primarily of black, white, and shades of red, a riff, perhaps on the old riddle “what’s black and white and ‘read’ all over – the newspaper.”

From the rhythms of the EKG to sound waves and the rhythms of nature, daylight, and night, Douglas has expanded her subject to something otherworldly and profound. Douglas has long been fascinated by the rhythms of the world, including the most eternal rhythm, life and death.

“Ten years ago I prepared to die. I was to have life-threatening spine fusion surgery followed by weeks in intensive care followed by three months in pain unable to walk or drive. In that time, I took my hands off the steering wheel of my career and everything others expected of me. The experience led me to contemplate the fragile line between life and what lies beyond,” she explains.

“My art saved me. On days when I could hardly stand, I propped myself at my painting table, so immersed in the painting before me that my physical disabilities became background noise. The work itself often dealt with transparencies at a time when reality itself was not solid. I also worked with circles, the symbol of universal continuity. The form is a nod to Zen painters who focus on the symbolism of the circle. In fact, I revisited my earlier studies in ancient Asian art and philosophy, and those ideas continue to influence my thinking.”

Her consideration of the circle of life and death have occupied her creative output ever since, she says. Some of that is clearly apparent in Rhythms.


Sometimes a literal interpretation of that idea is apparent as in “The Plus of Our Time,” where Douglas has cut newspaper headlines in the shapes of birds, placing them to flock across an EKG grid.

“That’s an example that veers closer to concept, though in other pieces the pure abstraction of movement or progression is more evident,” Douglas explains.

Her style is essentially conceptual abstraction, which Douglas says differs from abstract expressionism that derives from the artist’s emotional impulse at the moment of painting.

“That isn’t to say that I don’t improvise or paint from feelings, but in my work I reach for an additional layer of significance,” the artist says.

Along with her subjects, her work has evolved in terms of materials as well.


“Long ago, I explored the effects of staining on raw linen in paintings whose subtle, monochromatic palette was meditative. As time has gone on, my work has reached for bolder expressions,” Douglas asserts. “Both Rhythms and my 2014 series The Long Thread transcend two dimensions and the usual definitions of painting. Rope, twine, thread, even sand are used to draw on canvas, or transparent plastic, or raw silk. The textures that evolve from those combinations suggest depths beyond the obvious, as I hope the works themselves do.”


Thematically, the focus of all of Douglas’ art is transcendence. In Rhythms, she bridges contemporary issues with a visceral response, and an interpretation that “transcends the specifics of the moment and delivers an emotional catharsis or level of understanding that links topical concerns to a more universal consciousness.”

Douglas feels strongly that the nature of the artistic process itself invites this sort of exploration, “because every act of creation ventures into the unknown, bringing into form something that hadn’t existed before. Artists inhabit that source as they work, and the most impactful works usually arise from that artistic transcendence.”

Douglas has recently exhibited throughout the Los Angeles area, in shows at Artcore Annual Competition and Exhibition at The Brewery; Hillcrest Center for the Arts; Lampourage Gallery at The Brewery; and Arena One Gallery; as well as shows at TAG Gallery at Bergamot Station including a solo a year ago. She has also exhibited through a 6-month installation at The California African American Museum, and at LACMA.


“An artist is a vessel to manifest images, sounds, movements or stories that may not be visible to others until he or she brings them into this plane,” Douglas attests. “The clearer the artist, the more those images are recognized as true or give an insight into some aspect of truth.”

Experience Douglas’ insight at TAG through September 24th. An artist’s panel – Douglas shares the TAG space with artists Shelley Lazarus and Andrea Kichaven – will take place September 17th at 3 p.m. Don’t miss the chance to connect with Douglas and her emotional heartbeat.

TAG is located at 2525 Michigan Ave. # D3 in Santa Monica.

September Art Swirl


Like falling leaves from autumn trees elsewhere in the country, in Los Angeles, the vibrant colors of art in a wide variety of permutations is fluttering down on the City of Angels. Here’s a brief look at some recent shows:

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The light-filled sculptures of Brad Howe and the astronomy-as-art acrylics and mixed media work of Susan Woodruff create an exciting show in Properties of Light, at La Ciegena’s George Billis Gallery.


The pairing of these artists has created a visually uplifting exhibition, reflective and immersive. Entering the gallery, there’s an immediate sensation of walking onto another planet – one in which glowing light suffuses the almost sentient stainless steel sculpture of Howe, and Woodruff’s abstract cosmos-evoking works. Afterward, you may want to go watch 2001: A Space Odyssey again. A beautiful show.


Other beauties are also available on Culver City’s art row – with so many galleries hosting openings in one night, the 10th, we joined the crowd in essentially trick or treating for art, and found one of art’s coveted giant Hershey bars (well, that was always what I coveted when I trick or treated) at Edward Cella, where Jun Kaneko’s Mirage drew gaping pleasure. A site-specific installation of nine separate large scale canvases, the titular piece unfolds into 63 feet of dazzling color vibrating in lines that shift from golds and yellows to oranges and reds. His ceramic works, some diminutive and one towering at 7 feet in height, exhibit the artist’s signature, meticulous, ceramic process in black and white.


Intriguing, Matisse-like works in thick, puzzle-piece like shapes was the order of the day at Zevitas Marcus,  where Andrew Masullo’s exhibition Pretty Pictures and Other Disasters, is all about bold color, straight-from-the-tube paint, that grabs the eye and the imagination.

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And at Honor Fraser, Ry Rocklen: L.A. Relics,  are diverse and clever. With mirrored backing, the artist creates two-sided sculptures that form incisive and delightful works based on his own personal possessions. A wonderfully whimsical show that also offers stirring insight into the every day world.


In Chinatown, check out Raven Servellon’s Velvet Sunflower at
Coagula Curatorial through early October. Intensely colorful, shaped from stenciled images on handmade cutouts, each minutely detailed pop-art piece encourages repeated viewing, as new images surprise, surfacing from the depth of these absorbing works.


Just down Chun King Alley from Coagula is Glenn Goldberg’s Somewhere at the Charlie James Gallery. Painted in pastels, these sweet images of birds, dogs, and other beings are designed, according to the artist, to make viewers feel lighter and happier. “A lot of artists put their finger on the problems of the world. I’m looking more to provide a gift or offering.”


As to his subjects, he notes that his choice of bird images are both designed to evoke the freedom of flight and the poignant limitations on their lives, while his dog images represent the idea of a “friendly, domesticated protector.”  This is lovely work, that both soothes the soul and expands it.


Over at CB1 Gallery in the warehouse arts district, Mira Schor’s War Frieze (1991 – 1994) and “Power” Frieze share space with a retrospective of Tom Knechtel’s work, The Reader of His Own Self.  Schor’s earlier work War Frieze is a strong companion to Power Frieze, with the former taking on the subject of the military, the recent, large scale works on paper with today’s political agendas.


While inspired by African sculpture both artistically and philosophically, Schor’s work also reminds one a bit of Modigliani – the long, long-figured works created on tracing paper in rolls also evokes Japanese scrolls.


“I’ve only worked in this degree of figuration and scale for the last year, except for figurative life size pieces I created in the 70s and 80s,” she says.


Knechtel’s retrospective ranges from the present all the way back to 1979. The beautiful and carefully drawn graphite works and prints tackle a variety of subjects including self-image; when asked which piece was his favorite in the collection, he laughed.

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“That’s like asking a mother which of her kids is her favorite,” he said. Overall each piece presents strong texture that seems tactile, regardless of subject.


Across the city in Santa Monica’s Bergamont Station, don’t miss Chilean artist Rebecca Puga’s lines and geometric shapes at Sloan Projects, a collection of her New Paintings in oil. “They are all related to specific spaces, to the time of day. I didn’t even realize this. When I saw the titles of paintings here, it occurred to me that these were all about ideas of space and time, and that brings meaning to our lives.” And to her abstract works.

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Also at Bergamont, at Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Tran T. Le’s In Transition and Trygve Faste’s Op-Tech each offer superlative abstractions. Le says of her work, “This exhibition represents me going back to my roots, being a Vietnamese American, and a woman, going through changes in my life, which include a divorce after eighteen years. The paintings are each very different, you can see the transition between each painting. The lines keep me grounded and help me meditate.”

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Lovely and lyrical work by both artists.

If this isn’t enough to keep you going through the next weeks, don’t worry, we’ll have more soon!

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Jack Burke, Genie Davis, and many thanks to George Billis, Coagula, Charlie James for supplementing our photos.