Lots of places we’ve visited in California have rich and often strange stories to tell. Rio Seco Winery is such a place. It’s a wild tale you won’t want to miss!
We discovered Rio Seco through Harvest Hosts, a subscription membership program that signs up wineries, farms, ranches and other unique destinations across the country who allow RV travelers to camp overnight on their unique properties.
Harvest Hosts is the culmination of years of travel by Kim and Don Greene. Visiting over 80 countries together during the last 25 years. They’ve also logged over 200,000 miles in various RVs over the past decade.
Those experiences allowed them to meet members of the RVing community around the world, and on their journeys across Europe, they discovered networks that allowed motorhomes to park overnight at wineries and farms for free. It was a great idea who’s time had come for the US.
Rio Seco is one of Harvest Host’s first member properties and is a beautiful winery on 64 rolling acres of quiet, pastoral farm land and vineyards. They also have a crazy backstory to their history as well.
They were one of the first wineries in the Paso Robles wine region and once owned by a Hollywood movie producer, H.B. Halicki. The big red barn, now the winery and barrel room building, was originally constructed to accommodate the catering needs and food service for the actors on the set of an obscure 1984 movie. Maybe you’ve heard of it – The Junkman?
Don’t feel bad if you haven’t. Known mostly to car movie aficionados, The Junkman was the sequel to the 1974 cult classic, Gone In 60 Seconds.
As sequels tend to do, The Junkman apparently felt compelled to dial up the wreckage a notch from the first film and actually holds the Guinness World Record for wrecking over 250 cars, trucks, motorcycles and planes in one movie. Most of them were from Halicki’s personal collection stored on the ranch that later became Rio Seco.
Today, there is little evidence of the carnage from the past. The red barn is still there, but instead of storing tools and car parts one is now greeted by Tom (2), the second of two Tom’s on the Rio Seco owners staff and a number of tasty wine offerings, along with a collection of sport memorabilia and bobble-head dolls.
That’s because owner Tom Hinkle was a long-time Major League Baseball scout. Tom and his wife Carol came upon this property on Paso Robles’ eastside in 1996, planted vineyards, and opened their tasting room in 2000.
We’ve spent two days at Rio Seco and on Sunday, the morning of the second day, I stepped out of our coach with a cup of coffee to the smell of grape vines on the breeze and the deafening sound of utter silence. I could actually hear my pulse in my ears, but nothing else – crazy! It was then I realized we were the only ones on the whole property!
There is a lot more to the Rio Seco saga, such as the shoot out with former owners who used the property for growing and distributing pot. They were raided by the Feds and as evidence, there are still several bullet holes in the walls of the red barn tasting room – pointed out to us by Tom (2).
You can find those stories on the Internet and more about Rio Seco Winery, but we’d prefer to leave you with the gentle sounds of the warm breeze through the vines and old oak trees, the smell of fertile farmland and laughter of people enjoying the wine and camaraderie of their tasting room and sitting out at the tables around their outdoor pizza oven.