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.

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!

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