For better or worse, here I am—trapped in paradise. As long as I continue to live in this vital, inimitable spot on the globe,

I will continue to seek out the unique…the delicious…the innovative products, services and traditions of San Luis Obispo County.

Stay posted for a few of my favorite things.

About Me...

My photo
A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

SLO Barrels - Day 2!

Excess is good. Once in a while. Otherwise, life's daily routines risk becoming too rigid, too unyiedling, too...mundane. Thank goodness for the unique, varied geographic pockets in San Luis Obispo County that cooly bestow our local South County grapes the benefit of foggy morning influence and fresh maritime breezes. These temperate coastal conditions bequeath optimal conditions for varietals such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling, giving way to a lovely balance between acid and sugar, equilibrium and harmony. Ultimately harvested, fermented, and lovingly crafted, these exigent grapes make their way into the bottles and tasting rooms of varied wineries throughout the southern region of San Luis Obispo County, providing wine lovers with a miscellany of tasting junctures.

Sunday, May 2, granted the optimal sunny day to experience many of these marvelous SLO County venues. Heading out early on the last day of the San Luis Obispo Vintners Association's 20th Annual Roll Out the Barrels event, my stomach growled but my palate was fresh. I headed south on Highway 101 towards the ocean, stopping at the charming "Historic Schoolhouse in Avila Valley," which is home to Salisbury Vineyards.

Before tasting several of their new releases inside their 100+ year-old restored schoolhouse (which also houses a fine art gallery), passholders were treated to a pancake breakfast, topped off with mimosa's made with Salisbury's 2008 Pinot Naturele (white Pinot Noir).

My next stop took me just a few miles farther, into the heart of See Canyon, where Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards nestles next to See Canyon Creek.

Located just minutes from Avila Beach—in the middle of a picturesque region where oak trees and See Canyon apples thrive—this winery is home to innovative creations such as Apple Merlot and Apple Chardonnay.

They fired up a huge barbeque, opened up the barrel room, and let guests roam about the beautiful picnic grounds. Fantastically-adorned squawking peacocks also raucously roamed about, often taking cover under the grapevines.

Next I drove to the touristy center of Avila Beach, where I discovered Alapay Cellars.

Their festive early "Cinco de Mayo" treats such as fresh salsa made with cactus, tamales and gorditas, were paired with a flight of their "heavenly" and enjoyable limited release wines such as Viognier, Pinot Noir and Lagrein.

Alapay's lively and hospitable tasting room is located just around the corner from the stunning sand and surf at Avila Beach.

Another family-owned boutique winery beckoned, and I made the modest drive over to Pismo Beach Winery. Located just a few miles from the ever-popular Pismo Beach Pier, I enjoyed many of their handcrafted wines (Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, to name just a few) in their cozy tasting room.

In the barrel room, I munched on delectable sweet potato fries and killer lamb kabobs provided by Matteo's in Arroyo Grande, while co-owner/winemaker, Martin Friedman treated passholders to barrel samples of the 2009 Barbera.

Just a few miles inland transported me to the quaint, historic Village of Arroyo Grande, where I found the tasting room of Phantom Rivers Wine tucked away in a charming old house on the main commercial drag. Nibbling on chocolate-covered strawberries and sipping on their selections of the day (I particularly enjoyed their lighter-style 2006 Pinot Noir, Mar Vista Vineyard), I couldn't help but think: what an amazing, decadent event.

But the day wasn't over yet. I made a point of stopping at Corbett Canyon's wine facility in Arroyo Grande, where Sinor-La Vallee Wines set up shop for this weekend tasting event. They offered a flight of their luscious Pinot Noir vintages; my favorite the 2005, Aubaine Vineyards (saving it for a special occasion).

Last, but not least, was my forray to Stephen Ross Wine Cellars located in a semi-industrial area of San Luis Obispo City. Although this tasting juncture occurred at the end of a long weekend and I failed to snap a picture, I can't forget the promising barrel sample of their ageing 2009 Pinot Noir, and I know that I'd like to revisit their tasting room again when I have time to focus.

At the end of the day...the weekend...after I'd worn out my palate and my pocketbook, I realized I got what I bargained for: variety, self-indulgence and new discoveries right in my own backyard.

Here's to sundry memories.

Looking forward to Roll Out the Barrels 2011!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

SLO Teaser

17 winery visits over the weekend. As my brain and palate are currently on overload (I don't yet have the ability to process the past two day's tasting experience or pen any words just yet), for now I'll tease you with a few snippets from Thursday night's "Barrrels in the Plaza," the kickoff event of the weekend's 20th Annual Roll out the Barrels. Transforming the public open space of the Mission Plaza in downtown SLO into a foodie and wino's dream (steps from the historic 1772 Mission), San Luis Obispo Vintners Association member wineries, paired with local restaurants and caterers, offered 600 guests a 2-hour feast of local wines and food bites. This culinary extravaganza set the stage for the weekend's signature event—whereby passport holders roamed Edna Valley and South County, visiting member wineries for free tastings, culinary delights, and significant wine discounts.

Although gusty winds and cool breezes brushed by us on Thursday, that didn't stop the fun and festivities as we lined up at each food and wine station, talked amongst ourselves, and delighted in the opportunity to sample wines from 24 wineries paired with tasty tidbits from local food purveyors. As my sister and I made the rounds, some of the highlights included Ciopinot's mussels that fared better than well with Claiborne and Churchill Vintners 2007 Pinot Noir, Edna Valley AVA; Amy Bakes Cupcakes strawberry n' creme shooters that harmonized perfectly with Pithy Little Wine Company's 2009 Malvasia Bianca; and The Neon Carrot's mushroom bisque that paired oh-so-nicely with some of Chamisal Vineyard's Pinot Noir (sorry, memory lapase on the vintage).

This preview event set the stage for the excessive wine and food affair that transpired over the weekend...details coming soon!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

SLO Barrels - Day 1!

Blue skies smiled brightly on hundreds of wine tasters over the weekend of May 1 & 2. The San Luis Obispo Vintners Association's 20th Annual Roll Out the Barrels event, allowed passport holders the bargain opportunity ($55) to visit their 24 member wineries (from Santa Margarita to Arroyo Grande) for complimentary wine tastings, scrumptious food pairings, live music, and special discounts throughout the weekend. I took full advantage of this savory affair, and late Saturday morning I arrived at my starting location of Cerro Caliente Cellars in SLO City, where I picked up my wine glass, wristband and passport. Then the day's festivities began!
Tucked away in an industrial neighborhood not far from where I live, this family-owned boutique winery, where all of their full-bodied wines are vinted, cellared and bottled on location, Cerro Caliente treated their guests to a barrel sample of 2009 Viognier. Six other wines followed, all nicely paired with savory (and sweet) treats: Gazpacho and shrimp accompanied the 2009 Chardonnay; lamb kabobs fared well with the 2006 Pinot Noir; coffee rubbed pork provided a nice bite with their 2006 Rhone Blend (Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre); buttermilk venison nicely matched the 2006 Zinfandel and their signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend—Multi-Viscosity; the chocolate dipped strawberries and Death by Chocolate Brownies melded oh-so-sweetly with their Dolce Vino dessert wine, a brandy-fortified Cabernet Franc. My favorite pick: their 2006 Rhone blend—a smooth, nicely-balanced complex concoction with notes of berry and black pepper.

But this was only the beginning. Where to next? Just a few miles south, the rolling, sustainably farmed vineyards of Tolosa Winery were calling my name. Amidst this picturesque setting, passport holders enjoyed a taste of Tolosa's house flight, as well as their new releases of 2009 Viognier and 2007 Syrah (sorry, no tasting notes but I do remember enjoying them). Visitors were able to sip and relax on their patio and savor Bello Forno's wood-fired oven pizza. With stunning rows of Pinot Noir vines thriving in the background and live music playing in the foreground, this outdoor event was a welcome respite on this brilliant spring day before heading to the next destination.

My inner compass guided me a few more miles down the road to Sextant Wines. Celebrating their rustic new tasting room and delicatessen in the heart of Edna Valley, Sextant's menu included eight splashes of wine as well as bites from their deli. My pick of the day: 10knots 2006 "Moonraker," a lovely blend of Mourvedre, Grenache & Syrah with notes of fig and spice, red berries and plums. I also enjoyed the 2008 Zinfandel barrel sample. Aged for 18 months in Hungarian oak, this future release exuded enticing aromas of vanilla and black pepper, and notes of raspberry and bright strawberry jam left a rich mouth feel. Also, be sure to try their blueberry coleslaw.
Just a bit further into Edna Valley, I couldn't pass by one of my long-standing favorites, Claiborne & Churchill Vintners. Stopping for a few sips of their crisp Alsatian-style white varietals (my memory escapes me as to the particulars that I sampled), but I do recall that I couldn't leave without a taste of their lush, velvety 2007 Pinot Noir, Edna Valley AVA. This fruit-forward Pinot, bursting with berries and finishing with soft tannins, is one of my local favorites. The day's merriment continued outside of their straw-bale winery and tasting room, where guests meandered, nibbling on Tarte a l'Oignon and paté hors d'oeuvres, while live music played in the background. The lush hillside and bright sky provided a striking backdrop for these festivities.

Then my afternoon heated up. Heading over to Saucelito Canyon Vineyard, this fiery winery, whose estate Zinfandel vines date back to 1880, offered sips of 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 Zinfandel Backroads, 2008 Zinfandel Estate, and their 2008 Petite Syrah. I always enjoy their spicy Zins, and this day was no exception. I couldn't resist bringing home a few bottles of Backroads, a toasty, smooth, ruby-hued wine that exuded notes of currants, cherries, and soft vanilla notes that led to a zingy finish. Their Zins fared well with the hot, hearty chili and grilled garlic bread served up by local favorite: Jockos Steakhouse.
By this point in the day, I didn't really know if I could possibly eat another morsel or sip another drop, but I drove further out onto Orcutt Road to find out. I stopped at Wolff Vineyards, an artisan winery in Edna Valley that is ecologically friendly and committed to maintaining and improving the quality of their estate vineyard, which includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Terodelgo, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Riesling. I took my time atop their lovely winery, which bestowed tasters striking views of surrounding vineyards and hills. I worked my way through a few of their white varietals before settling on 2007 Brixie's Red, a lovely blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This friendly red paired nicely with the Syrah-infused specialty meatballs and hunk of French bread that I managed to devour. Even friendlier was the accordian player, who melodiously roamed the winery, entertaining guests.

As if six wineries wasn't enough, I kept on going. Continuing south on Orcutt, I couldn't resist coming to a halt at the 80-acre estate of Chamisal Vineyards (formerly Domaine Alfred), where sprawling vines of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Grenache and Pinot Gris dotted the landscape. Their party was in full swing; I stopped long enough to sample a few of their distinctive wines layered with "Chamisal Spice," a flavor character hinting of warm spices found in many of their varietals. I failed to take any tasting notes on this juncture, but do remember enjoying an intriguing flight paired with tasty food bites provided by the Neon Carrot.

Then I headed farther south to Arroyo Grande for Talley Vineyard's Open House event, where beautiful flowers, live music, light appetizers and stunning wines were the order of the day. Forgive me again for not providing tasting notes on this winery's selection, but I can tell you that I particularly enjoyed one of Talley's smooth Pinot Noir's and one of their Bishop's Peak tasty Syrah vintages. This day brought more than just wine and food as I ran into friends and acquaintances, bringing opportunities to chat and reminisce about the day's adventures.
Heading south back to SLO on Orcutt Road, I made a brief appearance at Baileyana Tangent Winery. Their charming Edna Valley tasting room, located in the historic Independence Schoolhouse, offered passholders four tastings and paella cooked outside by Chef Dallas Holt of 10th Street Vineyard Cafe in San Miguel. Unfortunately I arrived too late to imbibe in the paella, but look for my future blog post when I review Chef Dallas' new cookbook, Never Cook Bacon Naked. And no, I don't have tasting notes for this venue. However, I will tell you that this winery focuses on producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah from their estate Paragon and Firepeak Vineyards, both of which have earned the Sustainability in Practice™ (SIP™) Vineyard Certification. They own the most (SIP™) certified acreage in the state.

And last—but certainly not least—was my forray to Pithy Little Wine Company. Their noveau tasting room, tucked away in quaint, historic downtown San Luis Obispo on Chorro Street, provided the perfect opportunity to preview some of their soon-to-be-released summer wines. Their light, crisp yet perfumy 2009 Malvasia Bianca hinted of stone fruit and minerals, leaving a slightly sweet finish. I also enjoyed their 2009 Sangiovese Rosé, a fun rose-petal infused potion that hinted of blood oranges, cherry, and left a soft watermelon finish. They also offered a crisp aged 2006 Chardonnay; a 2008 Pinot Noir with notes of blood orange, sweet spices and toasted oak (paired with a cardamon ginger chocolate from Sweet Earth Chocolates); a 2007 Zinfandel that suggested blueberry, chocolate and clove (a classic truffle went well); and an array of their own premium sodas. In addition, they are pet friendly. Can't beat that.

But at the end of the day...I was beat. Tired and exhausted, I rested at home to prepare for more of the same the next day. After all, this inexhaustible weekend only comes but once a year.
Related Posts with Thumbnails
There was an error in this gadget