Over the past few years, starting in 2010, there’s been a confluence of two really great things, both of which make each greater than the sum of their collective parts and both of which are uniquely Paso Robles in location and style: burger Sundays at Lone Madrone winery with chef Jeffery Scott.
As simple as it sounds, yes, it’s just burgers and, yes, it’s at a winery high atop the mountains west of Paso Robles and, yes, there’s music, but taken together, they come to more than that. It’s become quite the popular Sunday go-to event for locals interested in truly gourmet burgers and Paso’s finest wines and ciders all wrapped up in a festive but laid-back atmosphere.
Lone Madrone is the personal winery of Neil Collins, the winemaker in the team that carefully and patiently built up Tablas Creek Winery over the years. In this case, that’s like his day job, his straight gig; Lone Madrone is where he gets to play by his own rules, where experimentation and creativity run free and the results are remarkable. As an added bonus, he happens to be a lover of fine ciders, and makes his own, Bristol Cider. When the summer days get hot, and they can get quite hot around Paso, a chilled cider can make for a tempting addition to the burgers.
Chef Jeffery Scott is one of the most well known and in demand caterers on the Central Coast who combines his own personal skill at creating exquisite food with the ingredients and culture of Paso Robles region. He brings a creativity and skill set that most people might think wouldn’t include something as barefoot-in-the-Summer and carefree as burgers, but it’s that same talent that slyly elevates these to a higher plane. They’re not the burgers of your childhood (unless your parents were trained chefs, that is). They almost always consist of two options: one with beef, the other with lamb. I recommend taking a date so you can get one of each and sample off each others’ plates. Each time I’ve tried them, they’ve always been different with toppings ranging from grilled onions to various pestos, relishes, vegetables and surprising and compelling cheeses. Chef Jeff is a certified Matrie Fromager and, putting it mildly, somewhat enthusiastic about cheese.
But above and beyond all this, the music, the setting, the drinks and the food all combine to make something unique, to my experience, in Paso, and I’ve been coming here a long time: a real community event, with a LOT of locals in attendance, and almost everyone there having some sort of long-term tie-in with either the food or the wine or both. Lone Madrone is a family run operation, and it’s easy to pick up on that vibe and be taken in by it. Don’t worry about fitting in; people there are welcoming, they talk to each other and are quick to treat you like one of their own. Something about combination of the wine, the burgers (made with those wines in mind) the sun and the music brings it all together and makes for one of the best ways to slowly close out a Sunday.