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.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Roll

Barrels of fermenting wine at Claiborne & Churchill.
Summer rolled past spring, just in time for this past weekend's vinous event: Passport to SLO Wine Country. San Luis Obispo County wineries that stretch along the Santa Lucia mountain range—from Santa Margarita to Arroyo Grandetreated festival passport holders to wine tasting, tempting food bites, live music and astounding views.

In this neck of the woods, cool-climate grapes such as albarino, riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir wind across the landscape, sheltered by the imminent mountain range and graced by the cooling effects of the nearby Pacific Ocean. Over these two days I explored my own backyard, visiting several wineries in the Edna Valley wine region (and yes, I sipped and drove responsibly!).

This event happens but once a year, and when it rolls around...I love to be there!

 Notice the view from Tolosa Winery on the second day of summer. Yep, brilliant. 

Did I mention the food? At Edna Valley Vineyards, innovative delicacies prepared by Chipwrecked in Pismo Beach provided crunchy amuse-bouche for the tasters. The handmade potato chips pictured above, topped with lavender salt, goat cheese, honey, and sliced pears and strawberries were delicious and oh-so-amusing to the mouth. 

At Tolosa Winery, the pizza served by Bella Forno Wood Fired Cuisine topped with sausage, arugula and cherries was not bad. Not bad at all.

But let's not forget the wine. Tasting new (and some older) releases at the neighboring Edna Valley wineries does a palate good. And since every palate is unique, I let my senses guide me and brought home a few bottles. As they say: The best wine is the wine you best like to drink.

Hospitality goes a long way. When you visit a family-owned winery in this region of the world, life is good. The down-home friendliness and careful attention to their finished product just can't be beat. Wolff Wineyards offers panoramic views of their estate grown chardonnay, pinot noir, teroldego, syrah, petite sirah and riesling from their tasting roomand chances are good you'll meet a family member when you stop by.
How 'bout them grapes? If quality wine truly stems from quality grapes, then the Edna Valley soil, rich with sandstone, shale and limestone, gets the budding varietals of this region off to a propitious start.

On Sunday, "June Gloom" pushed aside the blue skies, but this serene view at Kynsi Winery seemed to meld with the gray horizon.

All in all? Not a bad weekend. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

St. Hilaire Vineyard

Merlot grapes growing at St.Hilaire Vineyard.
You know you've had a good time when you come home and notice that your shoes are covered in calcareous vineyard dust and your lips are stained red from barrel sample tastings. Such is the SLO life. 

I was recently approached to write a story for a new San Luis Obispo County publication focused on Templeton. Located halfway between Paso Robles and Atascadero, the Templeton region is full of rolling grassy hills, giant oaks, fertile vineyards, windy breezes and plenty of stories.

 I found my story several years ago when I visited Templeton's St. Hilaire Vineyard as part of a field trip for a wine tasting class that I was enrolled in. During this excursion I discovered the well-balanced, expressive, fruit-forward wines crafted by winemaker John Anderson of St. Hilaire.

Over the years I tasted many of his wines, enjoying his meritage blends, as well as straight varietals of zinfandel, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot. I've always considered his wines some of my personal favorites.

But not until recently, upon revisiting the vineyard for my upcoming article, that I learned the why. Why are John's wines so darn good? At the risk of spoiling the upcoming story that is yet to be released, I'll share a few tidbits with you.

John's got one of those hobbyist winemaker stories. A dentist by profession, in 1994 he and some of his tennis buddies started making wine at home. They received gratuitous, overripe wine grapes and John's realization that free grapes don't always make the best wine was right on the mark. As time went by and his winemaking skills grew, he knew that in order to produce quality wines he needed to start with quality grapes, but in the late 1990s had a hard time finding any available for purchase.

Eventually, he and his wife, Laural, decided to embark as viticulturists and purchased a 20-acre property east of downtown Templeton where they could grow grapes in North County's famed Templeton wine gap. With a hot growing season offset by cool afternoon and evening marine breezes, coupled with rich, fertile, loamy soil, they found the perfect spot to grow high-quality grapes. 

But there were a few details: even though John was an avid gardener and had worked briefly in a friend's vineyard, he didn't actually have any farming experience. So he learned. By doing. 

The Andersons brought in a vineyard consultant and John designed and developed the vineyard from scratch. His laborious, hands-on approach to growing, irrigating, fertilizing, grafting, pruning, training, "shoot thinning," controlling rodents and everything else that goes into raising flourishing grape vines ultimately contributed to the success of St. Hilaire. 

In 2007, they were bonded to make wine commercially and John retired from dentistry to focus on their vinous endeavors. Each year they transport their freshly-harvested and crushed grapes to a commercial winery in Paso Robles and produce around 170 cases.The Andersons continue to tend almost 6 acres of red varietals and sell directly to the consumer and to wine club members. Although they don't have a tasting room, you can find their wines on their website at:

"The wine is made in the vineyard," John said. "Winemaking is important, for sure, but 60 - 80 percent of the wine that you're tasting is from the vineyard."

The well-tended, dry-farmed zinfandel vines at St. Hilaire Vineyard.
Many of the vines in St. Hilaire Vineyard grow quadrilaterally; a downward-growing split canopy system.

Related Posts with Thumbnails
There was an error in this gadget