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...

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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.

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.


Teresa said...

Looks fabulous! I'm headed that way next weekend and can't wait!

Carrie said...

Great post! I'm also a central coast blogger and I look forward to reading more of yours!

Fresh Local and Best said...

This post highlights the number of great wineries of SLO that I've yet to experience. Wine tasting is fun, but I know what you mean about feeling beat at the end of it.

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