“Get off my mountain!” It was said with a broad, toothy smile and a twinkle in the eye. Some visitors to the Margarita Adventures zip line need a little encouragement to take the leap of faith off the side of the hill and ride the steel cable known as “The Renegade.” But those who do are rewarded by with a thrilling experience on the Santa Margarita zip line…and wine tasting at the Ancient Peaks Winery. Is there any better experience on the planet than an adrenaline fix followed by a soothing vintage?
When we first heard about the Zip and Sip, we thought this was either going to be the experience of a lifetime – or a really bad decision. We had just been on a zipline experience in the Andes Mountains of South America that left a lot to be desired on the safety side of the equation. However, the more we thought about it, the more we knew we had to do this. And we’re glad we did.
The Santa Margarita Ranch sits at the very southern end of the Paso Robles AVA wine region and is hemmed in by the Santa Lucia Mountains. The topography makes for a very unique location – both for the Margarita Adventures zip line and for the Ancient Peaks Winery.
The ranch traces its roots back to the early Spanish missions (one is located on the property). In recent years, as vineyard land in Napa and Sonoma has become prohibitively expensive and remarkably scarce, other regions have been developed for viticulture. And the Paso Robles AVA is absolutely exploding. And it is all the better that the area around Santa Margarita had an established history.
We rolled up to the wood-framed building on Main Street bright and early for our Santa Margarita zip line adventure. We were asked to sign the legal wavers before boarding a mini-bus up the mountain to the zip lines. During the drive, we heard all about the history of the ranch, including how Robert Mondavi planted the grapes before ultimately relinquishing control to local ranchers.
On top of the mountain, a gentle breeze blew in our faces. We geared up and were given a safety briefing. This is not the same experience we had in South America. The folks at Margarita Adventures take safety very seriously: all new equipment, built in redundancy, double cables, helmets, sturdy leather gloves…and the list goes on. Some of us don’t do well with heights (me), so it is reassuring to see people who know exactly what they are doing. And before I knew it…
“Get off my mountain!” Deep breath. Two steps. And then I was flying out across the valley floor over trees and the grape vines of the Ancient Peaks Winery. This is what they mean when they say “adrenaline rush.” On the far hill, the staff unclipped me and I turned to watch Laura come flying over.
We repeated the experience four more times on cables of various lengths (and varying degrees of speed), including the final “Pinot Express.” The Zippin’ portion of our morning was a rush!
But we anxiously anticipated the Sippin’. The drive back in the mini-bus featured wildlife spotting (deer, eagles) and more history lessons on the ranch. Back on Main Street in Santa Margarita, we walked across the street to the Ancient Peaks Winery.
There are few wineries we visit where we love absolutely every wine. Ancient Peaks Winery is such a vineyard. We sampled 11 wines and loved them all – both the whites and the reds. Their Blanco (Muscat 62% and Chardonnay 38%) is a light, ethereal bland with a dreamy floral bouquet and a crisp minerality with soft peach flavors. This was so good we bought several bottles to take with us.
In reds, there are a number of truly exceptional wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon is a beautiful trio of sweet nose, full fruit flavor and a mellow spice. We’re partial to Cabs and this was a delight. But Ancient Peaks Winery truly excels in blends.
The Renegade (71% Syrah, 24% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot) is a dry, bold vintage with solid black fruit flavor and a touch of tar from the Petit Verdot. It is absolutely beautiful and we were sure to pick up a bottle to take home to remember the trip. The flagship is the Oyster Ridge (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petite Sirah, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec) blend – a rarefied and complex blend of blackberry, black cherry, tannins and a touch of clove. This is a wine to save and savor.
After our zip line adventure, our only thought was: why isn’t everyone doing this? The sip and zip concept is the key to a perfect day in Paso Robles!
Santa Margarita Zip Line Adventures
Address: 22719 El Camino Real, Santa Margarita, CA 93453
Hours: Tours at 10:00, 12:30 and 3:00pm every day, with additional time slots on the weekends.
Additional details: Reservations are required. There are also weight and height limitations.
Ancient Peaks Winery
Address: 22720 El Camino Real, Santa Margarita, CA 93453
Hours: 11:00am-5:30pm daily (closed major holidays).
Cost: A 5 wine tasting is $15 (stemware included, $10 is waived with the purchase of a bottle).
We were the guests of the Margarita Adventures and Ancient Peaks Winery, with the support of Travel Paso, for our Santa Margarita zip line adventure. As always, all opinions of the tasty and thrilling are our own.
Lance Longwell is a travel writer and photographer who has published Travel Addicts since 2008, making it one of the oldest travel blogs. He is a life-long traveler, having visited all 50 of the United States by the time he graduated high school. Lance has continued his adventures by visiting 70 countries on 5 continents – all in search of the world’s perfect sausage. He’s a passionate foodie and enjoys hot springs and cultural oddities. When he’s not traveling (or writing about travel), you’ll find him photographing his hometown of Philadelphia.