Q&A with Katie Hayward of Uncorked Wine Tours
Katie, also known as ‘Captain Katie’ in the wine tour business, owns Uncorked Wine Tours and is one of the most upbeat, bubbly personalities on the central coast. She loves to adventure and travel with her husband, Tyson, and when they are in town you are almost guaranteed to find them on one of the many wine trails. It’s another story about the good people here in wine country. Learn more in the Q&A below.
Matt: How long have you been in the area?
Katie: I have been on the Central Coast my entire life. I was born at Twin Cities hospital in Templeton, grew up in Atascadero, and then headed to Cal Poly. I have always loved the central coast and when most of my friends wanted to get out of the small town when we graduated high school, I decided to stick close to home and go to Cal Poly and graduated there in 2004. While I love to travel, the Central Coast will forever be my home.
Matt: Which came first, your love of wine or the start of Uncorked Wine Tours?
Katie: I would have to say I have always been interested in wine but it truly became more of a passion when I started Uncorked Wine Tours. Being in the industry and around the winemaking process all the time you learn a lot. I feel like the more I learn about wine the more intrigued I am, and the more there is to know. I even decided that I would complete my sommelier exam which I passed in 2012.
Matt: When did you start Uncorked Wine Tours?
Katie: My first official tour with Uncorked wine Tours was in July of 2010. I will be celebrating 6 years in business this year. It is amazing how quickly it has gone by! I’m so thankful for all of the local support I have received over the years and all of my repeat customers that continue to Uncork wine country with us every year.
Matt: How many vehicles are you currently running?
Katie: I currently have 7 vehicles in my fleet and can accommodate both large and small groups. All of our vehicles have comfortable forward facing seating which is very important on the winding roads of wine country. They also have large windows so you can enjoy the view and pop tops so you can have more head room when getting in and out of the vehicle.
Matt: Any plans on more growth down the line?
Katie: I think there is always room for growth as long as it is done in the right way. My focus in growing Uncorked is to maintain our personalized service and also the quality of the tours. This beautiful area has changed a lot since I was a girl and continues to become more incredible with the growth of the wine industry. It is amazing to me that this is now a vacation destination. While I have always known that the Central Coast was a hidden gem it is becoming a known fact throughout the world, which is essential to the growth of the local wine industry and of Uncorked Wine Tours.
Matt: Did you feel there was something missing in wine tours locally? Or did you just feel there was plenty of room for more touring companies?
Katie: Yes, I did feel that there wasn’t a touring company that focused on customizable tours. The main focus of Uncorked’s tours is the fact that our guests can customize their experience. With the large number of wineries in the area and the increasing number of breweries and distilleries there is so much to taste and see. We like our clients to be able to pick and choose where they go and with my sommelier background and knowledge of the wine region I really add value to their itinerary. I have definitely seen a lot more touring companies and driving services popping up in the last few years which I think is good for the industry, but there is also a lot of “companies” that don’t have the proper licensing and insurance which is a little disconcerting.
Matt: How far will you drive?
Katie: We generally just pick up and tour around in SLO County, but we are open to other opportunities that may arise for our services to farther destinations or for people that may need a driver and a larger vehicle for their group to get to their destination.
Matt: Do you do more than just wine tours?
Katie: Yes, we do offer different experiences outside of just a wine tour. We offer wine and beer tours, sampler tours which include anything from olive oil, coffee, cheese, beer, wine, etc., we offer a sipping and zipping tour which starts the day off at Margarita Adventures with zip lining and then continues on with a wine tour for the afternoon (this is one of my favorites packages we offer). If you can experience it or taste it we can include it on the tour we are all about each guests experience and customizing the perfect day for them.
Matt: Have you noticed any trends in wine from the wine tours you have given?
Katie: I think the biggest trend throughout the years that I have noticed in the wine industry is that instead of just a standard tasting at the bar the wineries and tasting rooms are turning this into more of an experience. They are doing pairings with the wines such as cheese, small bites, chocolates, you name it. They are also offering tours of the facilities and vineyards. And during the nice months offer food trucks or catered lunches with music to allow the guests to stay longer at each destination.
Matt: What would you say is the most toured wine trail or area of Paso Robles based on your company tours?
Katie: I would say that the Westside of Paso, down 46 West to Vineyard Drive and Adelaide Rd is our most frequented route.
Matt: How about you personally, do you have any favorite wineries right now?
Katie: That is a question I am asked very often and my response is always it depends on my mood, the day, the weather, the experience I am looking for, who I am with, if I am eating, etc. It is really hard to find a bad wine in Paso!
Matt: What do you love most about this area we live in?
Katie: I love the diversity of climates and activities. You can drive 20 minutes and be at the beach, drive inland and be on a ranch or just drive down the many back roads of wine country and enjoy the rolling hills of oak trees and vines. The music scene around here has also been growing along with the wine region, and it is incredible how many concerts are at our fingertips to enjoy! I can’t think of anything better than sipping on a fabulous wine and listening to music on a beautiful summer evening.
Matt: Favorite activities when you’re not working?
Katie: I love to travel whether it is a short weekend get away to Carmel or sailing around the Virgin Islands. I think that you learn a lot about yourself and the world when you are out of your comfort zone. I am also a fitness junkie and love anything active: hiking, biking, walking my dog, taking classes at the gym, etc. And I love to cook healthy meals and play around with different ingredients and recipes.